Chris Packham - Aspergers and Me
Oh wow this programme was just great, one of the best I've seen for a while. Chris Packham is just one of the nicest people around and perfect as the new ambassador for the National Autistic Society.
There is nothing like learning about Autism from someone who is living with it. He talked frankly about how he feels in certain situations, how his Aspergers affected his younger years and his coping strategies. I could listen to him for hours and some of what he said I could really relate to myself.
I did worry when he started to look at some of the therapies available in the US which are designed to eradicate Autism. This is only because I am very sceptical about them. Like Chris I also don't believe in cures to get rid of Autism, I do believe in research but I think there is a very big difference. I am a parent of someone with Autism so I have been in the situation where I have wondered about a magic pill, would I want it to go away? Sometimes it is a yes but for other times I would never want to change my son. I understand that in those cases where Autism becomes debilitating and a constant struggle then there is a tendency to grab at anything to make life easier.
I loved the drive he took into Silicon Valley in the US where Google lives and Apple, that was just technology paradise and I got so excited about the positivity of welcoming the strengths of Autism into these companies rather than casting them aside. I saw a quote the other day which said something along the lines of 'You may tease me about my Autism now but I will be your boss in 15 years'. A lot of people with high functioning Autism are not to be underestimated in their ability to work, it just means they may not join you in the canteen or they may miss a works night out but that's ok.
I went to a talk the other day about Sensory Processing and one of the points that I admire about this talk and I have seen it four times now is that it focusses on working with a persons coping mechanism, whether it is flapping, tapping or going through some routine and running with it rather than trying to stop it. People need this process to help them cope and wouldn't it be great in society if everyone understood this and was able to just accept it. Try not to stare at someones behaviour, try and think 'oh that may be Autism'. Are they safe? If so they need to do this to feel ok and that's fine.
When you get home from a busy day you may go to the fridge and pour a glass of wine, or reach for a piece of chocolate, does that make you feel a little better? Relaxed? My thing is a cup of tea, I'm at 'one' when I've had a cuppa so we all need our little habits that help us cope. I maybe shouldn't condone alcohol as a coping strategy but come on, I'm being realistic here - everything in moderation, that's what my grandad would say.
I know it's not always that way. Chris's story about his life is one account of Autism. There are many different people with different levels of Autism which is why we call it a spectrum. What he does do is just allow us into his life and see how one person can cope and how life can be ok if the people around us choose to let us live the lives we want to. It's ok to be alone, it's ok to not go to parties if we want to. I loved it when he was asked to a party in Wales and said 'why would I want to go all the way to Wales and stand in a room not talking to anyone'. I kind of get that and it made me chuckle. We would all love him to go to Meg's graduation wouldn't we? The truth is we can't make him, there's no point in him being uncomfortable and he has a choice. She may be disappointed but she will still love him even if he doesn't go and that's what it's all about.
If you didn't see it, you can catch up on BBC player and I can recommend it if you are affected by Autism or would just like to try and understand a bit more. We need more people talking about their experiences, I'd love to see more women with Autism speak out only because there used to be this myth about Autism affecting more men than women but we know this not to be true. Just a thought.
Anyway I will stop now otherwise I will waffle on forever. I find Autism a fascinating subject and I suppose you could say it's become my special interest, but get me talking and I would probably bore you after a while. I love that I can use this interest though to hopefully help others.
Thanks for reading today, catch me again tomorrow for Pass the Remote, my chat about the weeks tv. For now though........
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Every Saturday will be about Autism, family and life.