(c) Melinda Smith 2011

Posts Tagged ‘ASD special interests’

#autismtshirtslogans

In Autism Poem on January 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm

The following poem is the result of my one and only attempt to start a Twitter hashtag.  If you have no idea what that last sentence means, don’t worry, you can still appreciate the poem.  For those of you down with the TwitSpeak, suffice it to say it did not really take off.  But I did get a few retweets and comments, which helped me work out which were the funniest slogans.

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Here they are – Happy New Year !

#autismtshirtslogans

I’m not melting down, I’m venting

At least my Chewy Tube doesn’t cause lung cancer

So I like to climb things.  So what ?  Higher is better.  There are no haters up there

I understand NASCAR racing on a much deeper level than you

Your need for spontaneity is exhausting me

Time for a trampoline break !

School?  Hell?  Tough choice.  At least you get to do fun stuff before they put you in hell

Well ?  How many digits can *you* recite Π to ?

If you can read this, you need to gently remind me about personal space

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Asperger’s diagnosis : a fugue

In Autism Poem on November 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm
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This poem is in the voice of an eight year old boy who  has recently discovered he has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. It is difficult to explain, so I’m going to resist the urge to commentate and just say: read it. Think of it more like a piece of music than like a story with a beginning, middle and end. Comments welcome.

Asperger’s diagnosis: a fugue

The cup finishes. I see. I look and look and hold on to it. It makes sense now. Cup. Hand. It finishes.
In my football draw there will be no elimination matches
I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome.  I was terrified the horses and cows would fall off the hill
Here comes the Schumaker-Levy 9! Here it comes !
We called for hours and hours, why didn’t you answer?
I was being under a pyramid

The cup finishes. It makes sense now. I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome
David says I do but he’s wrong.  In my football draw the only elimination match will be the final
If there were no gravity we would all float up into the air and the oceans would leak away into space
We called for hours and hours, why didn’t you answer?
I dreamed there was a big chicken in my room trying to eat my legs

I don’t have Asperger’s syndrome. I look and look and hold onto it.
You say I do but you’re wrong. In Me-land money, the notes start at seven cruzlaks
Elimination matches are REALLY unfair
Roman baths were a lot like our health clubs
We called for hours and hours, why didn’t you answer?
I was terrified the horses and cows would fall.

Cup. Hand. Cup. Hand. Aspergers’ syndrome is dumb.
I don’t think there should be any more elimination matches, ever. I don’t.
The doctor says I do but he’s a baddie !
The notes start at seven cruzlaks because there is a five cruzlak coin
We called for hours and hours, why didn’t you answer?
The elephant bird was the biggest bird that ever lived

We called for hours and hours, why didn’t you answer?
I knew where you were.

I should mention that parts of this poem are a poetic response to the book Smiling at Shadows (Junee Waites & Helen Swinbourne, HarperCollins 2001), about Junee’s amazing son Dane and their journey so far.

all magpies are autistic

In Autism Poem on October 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm
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This poem pretty obviously takes as its starting point the picture book All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman (and its companion All Dogs Have ADHD). However my poem experiments with another animal which is not quite cute enough for a picture book – the Australian Magpie.

 Readers from the Northern Hemisphere may not know about this bird, a beautiful but quirky creature about the size of an adult forearm, with black-and-white plumage (like its northern namesake) but with markedly different behaviour. They nest in eucalypt trees and are supremely comfortable in suburban gardens.  In spring, adult magpies defend their nests by aggressively swooping on all perceived intruders (i.e. passers-by) within about 300 yards of the nest.  Not only does this include pedestrians, but cyclists and cars as well ! Springtime magpie attack is such a public safety issue that many local councils erect signs like the one pictured at left.  This feature of magpie behaviour is alluded to in the poem, as are many other interesting magpie peccadilloes.

On another level the poem, like both of Kathy Hoopman’s picture books, plays with the idea of labelling of behaviour: what looks aberrant to one group looks perfectly normal to another. This idea may resonate with you if you have ASD – or if you know, care for and / or love someone on the spectrum. Enjoy.

All magpies are autistic

odd body postures and limb movements, such as twisting or flapping

                flutter-flutter. puff. flap-flap. stand. stalk. stop. hoppy – hoppy – hop. stop. waddle-potter. waddle-potter. stop. step. step. step. head on one side. stalk. stalk. stop.

misinterpretation of the intentions of others, causing antisocial behaviour

                Warning…Warning…Birds swooping! Birds are nesting in this area. If you come too close, they may attack !

failure to recognise social concepts such as personal space

                ‘Mum! The magpie’s trying to stand on my sandwich !’

appetite for substances largely non-nutritive (pica)

‘Muuuum!’ Now it’s trying to eat the plastic wrap!’

seemingly random outbursts of speech and noise-making

                ‘Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle, the magpies say.’*

extreme absorption in one restricted activity with apparent obliviousness to surrounding environment

                stock still. stock still. listen. listen. statue. statue. stock still. stock still. listen. listen. statue. sta – STAB THAT WORM !!

frequent self-stimulation by viewing shining, sparkling or rapidly oscillating objects

                pretty pretty alfoil. twinkle. twinkle. crinkle. love to watch. shiny bottle cap. light. light bouncing everywhere. pretty.

failure to understand social boundaries and lack of concern for the views of others, leading to transgression of behavioural norms

                pretty alfoil. want. take it. take it ? take it ! SNIP !

 

 

(*from Denis Glover‘s poem, ‘The Magpies’)

Shechinah – or God meets Temple Grandin

In Autism Poem on October 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm

This is a poem about the spiritual journey of Temple Grandin, a famous designer of humane livestock abbatoir technology who also happens to have autism.  She writes about the evolution of her faith at length in her book Thinking in Pictures. I have tried here to condense it to poetry – please comment if you think I have failed ( or even if you think I have succeeded ! ).

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For structure I have used a quote from Albert Einstein (a quote which Grandin also cites with approval in her book).  If you look carefully you’ll see that each stanza has one word of the quote in it somewhere ( in order, of course – this is an autism poem, after all 🙂  ).

The Hebrew word ‘Shechinah’ in the title means ‘the in-dwelling presence of God’.

This version of the poem has been revised substantially since it first appeared on my other blog back in September.

Science without religion is lame.  Religion without science is blind.
                                  – Albert Einstein

Shechinah – or God meets Temple Grandin

I find Him first in logic: in the science of snowflakes;
in the patterns silver makes on platinum.

Then entropy terrifies me, chaos as telos.
Without order, I worry: where can He dwell ?

Perhaps if He keeps the gate, shepherding each atom
on its path from heat to cold ? In this image I remake my religion.

I discover Him also in libraries: my serene heavens of silence
and infinite shelving. My dearest wish is an afterlife of browsing,

tasting the bliss of the Great System – the halt and the lame reclining
in the silent reading corner; angels bringing them books.

Then: a swim in a dip tank drowns my religion,
organophosphates douse my pillar of flame.

The hangover leaves me without my wonder.  I am Dorothy, aching for awe,
raising the Wizard’s curtain, staring at the little old man.

At long last I find Him in science again, not in order but in the mystery
of entangled subatomic particles: their synchronised vibrations

span universes in an instant.  He is everywhere at once ! And again, after all my seeking
He comes to me where I am: He is with me in the slaughterhouses,

with me in the daily work of death. He blesses my sacred charge:
to ease each animal, calmly, with love, through the blind valley of the shadow.

autism crumpets

In Autism Poem on October 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm
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I have been having fun with anagrams this week. Did you know there are 107,143 possible anagrams of the words ‘autism spectrum’ ? I picked a few of my favourites and made a poem for you. It does actually make a kind of alien sense if you read it through like you would a normal poem – as a story told from the outside, from the perspective of observers and carers.

By the way, pica (mentioned in the poem below) is a condition where a person has an appetite for things that aren’t food – e.g. soil, nails, paper, etc. Some ASD folks have pica in addition to their other challenges. Note it is different to oral sensory-seeking behaviour where the person sucks and chews things – with pica, they actually want to eat them.

PS : If you want some anagram fun of your own, go play with the internet anagram server.

 

autism crumpets

Static ‘me’ rumpus.
Imp tutu screams.
Mute. Strums. Pica.
Eat up! Mm! Tics-r-us.
Mute Mac purists.
Um…miscast erupt?

Up came mistrust
(rips Mum acutest).
Impact: muse rust.
Tacit ‘summer’s up’
captures its Mum.

Sure must impact,
must impact user.

Mum stirs teacup.

First…Then…

In Autism Poem on September 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm
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This is one of the hardest poems I have ever had to write. I say ‘had to’ because I have tried several times to abandon it but it has kept on coming back to haunt me.

The poem is for parents. It is a pretty frank account of living through the first few years of life with a child with neurodevelopmental problems, including diagnosis and starting therapy. If you yourself have lived through this you may need a kleenex or two handy (although the poem ends on a positive note, it doesn’t pull punches about how dark things can get). If you have people in your family or circle of friends who still don’t get why you’ve been acting so weird since your child with difficulties was born, make them read this.

Please feel free to comment below. I should also acknowledge that this poem was written with the support of artsACT.

First…Then…

First change nappy
Then Thomas the Tank Engine

First clothes on
Then sandpit

First wash hair
Then chocolate frog

First the only baby crying all night in the hospital
             Then the only baby wailing for the whole of mothers’ group
First the only mother convinced her child was permanently angry
             Then the only one holding him in her arms and doing deep knee bends to calm him down

First thinking it was normal to scream until throwing up whenever we changed routine
             Then shocked when I realised other families didn’t have to live like that
First astonished he could read at eighteen months
            Then astonished at his shrieks every time his baby brother cried
First proud of every fact he could recite about the planet Jupiter
             Then wondering why he needed twelve weeks of physio to learn how to jump

First hair cut
Then play with spray bottle

First stop biting Mummy
Then play with sliding door

First poo *in toilet*
Then flush

First letting his father talk me out of it
             Then talking myself out of it
First knowing those therapists just didn’t get my child
             Then googling autism with a chill in my heart
First joking about ‘our little Rain Man’
             Then realising the joke was on me

First paralysis
             Then fear
First incomprehension
             Then overload

First Music Therapy
             Then Homeopathy
First Triple-P Parenting for Parents of Children with Disabilities
             Then Encouraging the Reluctant Eater
First Occupational Therapy
             Then the social worker
First trusting the system
            Then realising the system didn’t care enough or have enough money

First sit at table to eat
Then spinning with Mummy

First swallow medicine
Then build washing machine from cardboard boxes

First reading lots of parent testimonials
             Then feeling like scum for not doing six hours of therapy with him every day
First wonderfully affirmed by Welcome to Holland
             Then convinced Welcome to Holland left a lot of shit out
First talking to happy well-adjusted mums of older kids on the spectrum
             Then terrified our family would disintegrate before our kids ever got to that age
First poring over Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome for those who love and care for three-to-seven- year-olds
             Then realising the only book I needed to read was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

First joining support groups
             Then walking out of meetings because the horror stories people told at them could not possibly be true
First counselling
             Then drugs
First sobbing to my friends
             Then avoiding my friends and hating their normal uncomplicated children
First hearing that carers of autistic children are as stressed as soldiers in combat
             Then bawling my eyes out

First thread beads on string
Then letterbox-counting walk

First stay at special needs soccer for ten minutes
Then computer time

First nearly destroying my marriage
             Then clinging to my marriage
First regretting the second child
             Then realising the second child would probably save us all
First wanting my husband to see things my way
             Then grateful he didn’t
First mourning my old life
             Then understanding you never really get it back anyway
First obsessed with getting the whole family to accept the diagnosis
             Then learning to take what help I could get and live with the elephant in the room

First shame
             Then resentment
First desperate for pity
             Then desperate for respite care
First whining
             Then laughing

First crawling through it
             Then writing about it
First today
             Then tomorrow

A prehistory of autism

In Autism Poem on August 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm
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This poem is in the voice of a tribal elder from long ago, describing some of the special members of the tribe who display ASD-like behaviours.

As the mother of a child with ASD I have often wondered how my son would be perceived if we were living in a different place and time – one without a mass education system, where the main societal unit was a small community or tribe.  Of course no one can ever know the answer to that question, but my hunch is that his ‘deficits’ would not be as much of a problem, and would be tolerated better because his ‘gifts’ would be thought of as supremely useful. What follows is a poetic response to that thought experiment.

UPDATE: Since writing this poem I have come across an article published in May 2011 in the Journal of Evolutionary NeuroPsychology by Dr Jared Reser, hypothesising pretty much the same thing. Here is a summary of the article and here is the article itself. When this poem first appeared on my other blog, Dr Reser was kind enough to comment on it (in a good way).  Great minds think alike…

A prehistory of autism

This one can run and run, never tiring;
climb trees and cliffs until the gibbons are afraid for him.
Even when he falls he feels no pain.  He has little need of sleep.
He speaks only by repeating what he hears
but he is the best of nightwatchmen
and in the hunt he is magnificent.

That one scents the lions on the wind;
smells the poison in the berries.
If her special stone is taken away
she makes wounded beast howls
but she can spot a snake’s hole at forty paces
from three newly bent twigs and a fresh hollow in the dust.

This other knows the places of the stars by heart.
He speaks often of the wandering ones:
he can see their journeys as clear as the track to the waterhole
although he will not look any man in the eye.
He sits alone all day, dotting sky pictures on pieces of bark.
Only he knows the day when the wildebeest will move.

That one over there has no love but for making spears.
He chips stone after stone until the sun is low;
walks far to find strong wood for the shafts.
He does not join the hunt: he is slow and clumsy
and does not do what he is told – but in the hands of others
his weapons fly true and bring down many of the running herd.

Another has the gift of singing –
all melodies are hers at one hearing.
She has mastered the speech of those over the mountain
and of the fishers by the lake.
She will not let men come to her, although she is grown.
She screams and spits at any who try.  Her kind smiles are only for small children
and for those who bring her new songs.