What do we know about autism?
We know from research that it's about 1 in 30 people, male, female, all ages, all IQs.
We know that autism is a sensory processing difficulty, with strong links to epilepsy.
Here's a fab 2 minute clip that needs sound turned right up. This is our environment. Look at how the boy behaves. Is he 'attention seeking'?
Wow. Yes, that. That's why we behave as we do in busy social places. That's how the world is. Autism is a sensory processing difficulty.
Here's a film I helped advise on, by the National Autistic Society. http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/film.aspx Again, couple of minutes, needs loud sound.
Is the boy 'just playing up', 'just needing a slap'?
We know that autism means we don't understand the motives of others. That means that we literally cannot 'manipulate' others. It's as impossible as a wheelchair user shinning up a 50 ft ladder to break into a building.
Any time people think they are looking at manipulation from us, several things could be. an explanation. For example -
The person is not autistic but has been misdiagnosed with it (which can happen in a few cases, where professionals were using the old mistaken criteria of 'lack of empathy', etc. A few other things got misdiagnosed as autistic).
Or they are pretending to be autistic in order to gain the trust of other autistic people....because we're easy targets for fraud, sexual assault etc (seen this done).
Or they are behaving in that way not through 'manipulation', but because of a terrible fear of an autism shutdown or meltdown happening. These, as we now know, are brain events similar to epilepsy, not 'temper tantrum' or 'trying to get our own way' or 'looking for sympathy'. Possibly they are desperate to make sense of the otherwise chaotic sensory environment around them by asking for clarity on what's about to happen next. Well, you would too, if the world looked like it did in those films, wouldn't you. Imagine if you had no idea what the sensory environment ahead of you was like, or how long you'd be in it. Gee whizz you'd want to avoid extreme brain pain and exhaustion.
The behaviourists really did think autism was bad behaviour that needed retraining. They spent hour after hour, day after day, punishing/coercing autistic people into behaving in 'acceptable' ways. It was like punishing diabetic people for having low sugar incidents (where they can behave erratically for a while). Or punishing Deaf people for using sign language instead of speaking properly.
But those myths of 'bad behaviour' keep following us round.
For clarity, I am autistic. I work with the top autism professionals nationally and internationally. Professor Tony Attwood. Professor Simon Baron Cohen. Dr Wenn Lawson. Sarah Hendrickx. Richard Maguire. Professor Skuse. I could go on for a very long time listing the fantastic people I work with as colleagues, for many years now.
I work with the Government, as their Vice Chair and adviser on the board for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism. That group has some 200 MPs and Peers who rely on me and my colleagues giving accurate, timely advice. Really lovely people to work with.
I'm an adviser to the teams behind the recent successes of the BBC and Windsor Castle in gaining autism awards. I work collaboratively with the most wonderful people.
I run a firm of Chartered Surveyors, dealing with some 1400 excellent clients who expect honesty, integrity and absolute accuracy. Those are the strengths that autism brings. Banks, Accountants, Solicitors. The major ones in the country. 16 solid years of integrity.
And I do dislike it when a group of completely unqualified people allege that people like me are just 'troublemakers' who can't be trusted. On the basis of some alleged 'bad behaviour' that they 'recorded'.
The thing is, if you put any autistic person into a social nightmare.... where they are being bullied, threatened and frightened witless, their brain is going to go into an autism 'shutdown/meltdown'. Our communication becomes erratic. It's a brain event, not under conscious control, during that short time. Bullies online know how to grab a screenshot of that moment and use it as alleged proof of how nasty we really are. This works when people are ignorant. And it sometimes means that bullies never get called to account for their behaviour in deliberately causing that painful, humiliating situation for the person.
Please be mindful of who you are getting information from, and what their own agenda might be. Because there's a powerful reason for some to continue to allege that it's 'all the fault of autistic people.'
It is never, ever OK to parade our communication when we are in meltdown/shutdown in front of others in ways that 'other' us more. If you see people doing that, call them on it. Because it's disgraceful.
We need a world where the bullying and othering of us stops.
Thank you for listening.