Friday 6 April 2018

GUEST POST by Phil - Autism: A parent's perspective, "from the outside looking in"

My boy is now fourteen. He leads a seemingly happy life with his mother and permanent companion for them both, his Aunt! I say seemingly happy as to many he is spoilt, has a mother who goes the extra distance for him and works through situations with him that have caused any kind of difficulty. Hard to explain succinctly but let me try with a little pre-history.

Michael was diagnosed with autism at a very early age. What age now I cannot say, but an early diagnosis was possible due to signs that his mother explained were exactly as she had experienced throughout her own childhood, and it was only as an adult she finally understood when the dots became connected- she had autism herself!

So this was a great help for Michael because his mum knew how his complex mind was processing information and she was also very articulate at putting this information across to others (such as school teachers and even health and social workers). Sad thing I have to point out here though is how brain dead (I should apologise for such words!) the authorities have been in their dealings with Michael! Something that shocks and amazes me especially as claim to have his interests at heart.

How wrong and how cruel it is then then that my boy goes to school quite happily only to arrive to find out there is a test everyone except him knows about. He has done no preparation whatsoever and has to sit down with his class mates who have knowingly kept information from him and he tries to perform to the best of his ability. What must be going on in his mind emotionally I dread to think as he tackles this situation that is by no means isolated.

Whatever school Michael has attended, he has had to struggle with teachers who have sadly put their own emotional welfare above Michael's. I was informed of one incident many months after the event (as Michael's mum knew I would have marched into the school and caused an incident of my own!) The story goes like this: 

Michael was sat in a handicraft class. He was quietly making something he was happy with and was using navy blue thread. It ran out and he asked the teacher for more. Sadly there was none left and he was offered purple. Michael weighed up how his work would look should he continue with another colour and he respectfully declined. (He is very polite and was courteous in his refusal). The teacher was unhappy with Michael's response and actually have him an ultimatum- either use the purple and take a detention. Once again Michael weighed up the options before him and also once again remained polite and calm. He explained that his work meant more to him being correct so would take the detention. This really rattled the teacher. Her response though was despicable and shocking (although sorry to say I must warn you it managed to get worse!) She said to Michael to go and sit in the corner and twiddle with his thumbs!! You may guess where this is heading! 

To Michael's mind this activity must have been part of the lesson. He would not be able to work out (bless him) that the teacher was being facitious! When she saw Michael twiddling his thumbs as instructed, she really lost her temper. She ripped Michael's handiwork from him and proceeded to use the purple thread he was so against!

Now. How would you be on hearing that story concerning your own little child? I was beyond livid. If that is not abuse I don't know what is! And the truly terrible thing? The head of the school said you also have to view this from the teacher's angle. Yeah right!! How on earth does poor Michael cope when adults have no clue even how to act rationally? Who is able to stand up for him and fight against such idiocy? Well luckily his mother fights for him! The result? The school, the health authorities and social services all see her as unreasonable and difficult and in turn take it out on Michael. Absurd!

So what mesaage was I hoping to get across by digging not very deeply into some of Michael's day to day issues? I guess only that appearances are massively deceptive. Michael is a happy, sincere and very polite young lad. He is hard working and diligently performs his tasks yet inside he has to deal with irrational adults and authority figures while negotiating a minefield of thoughts and emotions no one can truly comprehend. To this end I truly believe Michael is such a treasure and I am so proud of all his achievements as none of them come without sacrifice and commitment on his part. Inspiring is what it is!