Australia: Is not the lucky country if you’re different.

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On June 21, 2017 Pauline Hanson, one of our federal politicians who holds a significant level of influence, spoke out against including Autistic and Neurodivergent children in mainstream schooling.

She stated that “we need to get rid of those people” and there was a strong implication that “those people”….. “do not want to get ahead”,  that they hold their neurotypcial peers back and take all the attention of the educators as they disrupt the class.

Her language was divisive, crude and her personal opinions whilst clearly ignorant, were also morally contemptible.

Public commentary has widely condemned her. There have been those who have white washed her comments with excuses that she was generalising and just being clumsy with her rhetoric.

She has refused to apologise for any offence and staunchly maintained her position.

That position: Autistic children should be removed from mainstream schooling.

As a mother of a child on the spectrum and a wife to a husband on the spectrum, both high functioning for what that is worth, I am beyond annoyed, disappointed, incredulous and FUCKING ANGRY!

Her comments are discriminatory, out-dated, and most of all, so hurtful.

I am not on the spectrum. I am the odd one out in my household. Even my dogs have issues. That’s not to say that I don’t. I am considered neurotypcial and “normal” whatever that means. So why am I hurt?

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I am hurt to my core because this politician is denigrating and promoting segregation of the people that I love. People whose difference is the norm in my home. People who love and adore me and would take a bullet before seeing me hurt. People who are incredibly smart, successful, productive members of our community. They are kind, passionate, quirky, funny as hell and craving love, connection and purpose like we all do.

My son, now 9 is thriving in mainstream school. There was a time when he was very young (baby – around age 6) when we were facing significant challenges with his behaviours, his sensory issues, his inability to sleep for long periods, his determination, his inflexibility. This all lead to catastrophic meltdowns, hitting, punching and screaming. I didn’t believe we could ever toilet train him and was a firm believer that he would be attending a non-mainstream, supported education centre. It was a time of intense emotions, crippling fear and a level of fatigue that I have never, ever known before. (I think I am still recovering from that actually but that is another post for another time.)

 

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Through earliest intervention and committed daily work at home, my son has managed to understand in part his regulation issues, to a point where they are exhibited less frequently.

Melt downs are never demonstrated at school. The age appropriate strategies we have taught and over practiced, help him to be manage his emotions like any other child in his cohort. His school reports exemplary. The teachers’ comments: he is a gentle, compliant, polite and a good, hard working student.

That is not to imply that he is “cured”. I would never insult my child, my husband or anyone on the spectrum in that way. What I mean is that he is now more able to manage, to regulate his behaviour at school and meet the behavioural expectations set.

What I am saying is that my son is on the spectrum and therefore different.

He is different but not less.

He is as different to his peers as I am to you or you are to your friends.

Tall, short, intense, anxious, happy, clinical, analytical, warm. All traits and in our household, we see Autism like a trait. We celebrate its strengths, focus on capabilities and understand where it presents as a challenge.

Whilst your child might be having extra coaching with maths, my child will have extra coaching with social skills. Where your child may be quiet and shy, passionate about ballet and music, mine is reserved, analytical and passionate about space and the human digestive system. As with our own friendship circles, we all have areas of similarity and connection and yet we are all very different too.

People living on the spectrum or with other special needs do not deserve mandatory exclusion. They require understanding, tolerance and your acceptance. Just because some people look and think differently, whom are marching to the beat of their own drum, doesn’t automatically equate them to being a threat. Their diagnosis is just a medical term for the challenges they face.

Clearly the decision to be mainstream schooled or attend alternative supported education is a decision that parents DO NOT TAKE LIGHTLY.

Parents want the best for their child and best is where their child learns, thrives and develops towards independence. Best does not mean what everyone else is doing.

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Parents of special needs children choose schooling like neurotypical parents do. Private or public if funds allow? Single sex or co-ed? Travel time from home? Are we in the right catchment area? However, the decision for my family was also made more complex and layered by these questions: Can he cope with the demands of mainstream schooling? Academically yes, but what about the fluidity of un-structured play; the level of unsupported social interaction at recess and lunchtimes; independent toiling; independent eating from a lunchbox; non assigned seating in the classroom????????

Will the school we choose understand and support his needs? That means, do they have the knowledge, time and empathy to do that? Will the school want him? It has to be a decision based primarily on the child’s capacity and function and then, in conversation with the prospective school.

There is a brilliant rainbow of children in every Australian classroom.

Children the vibrant elements, the colours that make up the beauty that can be seen when the sun comes out after the rain and causes you to wonder whimsically where that pot of gold is at. Children can and do, come to school without breakfast, hungry, angry, from hurt homes, from stressed homes, from a myriad of issues that have a direct impact on their behaviour which the teacher then needs to diagnose and work to resolve, before individual learning can begin. If we are going to scapegoat Autistic children as the reason for disruptive classrooms then surely this precedent means we have a segregated classroom or special school where troubled children are also shunted off as they take up too much of the teachers time when they lash out, call out or disengage.

Going along this line of thought whilst we are at it, the latest research says that in any classroom, there is up to 7 years emotional age difference within that single classroom cohort. So, those children that are emotionally immature compared to their peers, who have some issues with self regulation because of their age, the precedent is set where we must pop them on the conveyor belt outta there and offsite to their segregated special room until they grow up and can re-join the norm.

Out-dated, archaic and ridiculous thinking.

We have anti-discrimination laws in this country to protect the vulnerable, the different, the marginalised. Laws that promote equal rights for all. Pauline Hanson is a beneficiary of those laws as she is a woman in power. Something that was very difficult not so long ago. She should know what it is like have stones thrown at you, to be bullied and dismissed because of her difference – in this case, her gender.

I would like to remind us all that the diagnosis DOES NOT DEFINE AN INDIVIDUAL.

Rather, a diagnosis is part of the make up of an individual. And when you have met one person on the Autism spectrum, you have met one person on the Autism spectrum. It is a spectrum like the rainbow. Each parent must consider the child and their individual needs when it comes to education decisions.

All neurodivergent people are individually beautiful and add to the tapestry of our existence. Many neuro-atypical people are hugely successful and some eclipse even the most notable billionaires if that is your yardstick of measurement.

“These People” are voters Ms Hanson. “These People” are future voters Ms Hanson. You are elected to represent “These People.” Our children, our partners, our lovers and your countrymen.

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With great power, comes great responsibility. Words must be carefully crafted as they change community perceptions and normalise attitudes either positively or negatively towards difference. Pauline Hanson knows this.

Difference does not equal threat. Blind stupidity does.

So controversially I say this:

People living with Autism, ADD or other “special” needs, you have a medial diagnosis to help explain your challenges. (Not that you need to btw)

There is no excuse for stupid.

So given that, now the question should be this:

Pauline Hanson, what’s your F’ing excuse??

Neve xx

Apols for the rant but this is too important in this day and age to let pass unnoticed. I will always stand up for my child, my husband, my friends and anyone else who is marginalised, excluded or discriminated against on the basis of bullshit, ignorance and ill-informed people who unfortunately hold positions of power and influence in my country.

 

 

Puberty Smells, Bells & Whistles Update: I found Instructions!

I found some INSTRUCTIONS!!!!!!!!

God I love Google.

Look at what my internet trawling discovered…..

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That’s right People.

Some instructions on how to address the onset of puberty AND its tailored for our Mini Male Munchkins with special and extra needs. I know, right? Celebration time.

Whooooo Hoooooo. [Sound of the champagne cork popping]

So excited that this is in part, the guide and the answer I was looking for.

I have ordered my copy and will let you know once it arrives if it is worth the hefty price tag.

EX.CITE.ED  Yes, Indeedy I am.

If you wish, you can order yours from Booktopia which I did (Australia) or visit Secret Girls’ Business direct.

And as the name suggests – yes. They have books for Special Girls’ too. Actually, they have 2.

Please still send me your nuggets of info about how you approached this topic with your child. Books are a fabulous guide however, nothing beats personal experience for me.

Lot of love everyone,

Neve xx

Puberty Smells, Bells & Whistles

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Hey Mum, smell this! MG is standing there proudly with his arm held aloft and pointing to his armpit. Thinking it was a prank – ok, I’ll play along. Nose dive in, take a deep whiff and I almost pass out. WTF? MG stinks. Ripe and sour. Sweaty pong. He’s not yet 9.

Brain on FFwd. OMFG MG. It’s happening. Is it happening? Puberty what? Panic rises quickly into my throat and I swallow it down. How is it that my MG smells like the typical male putrid teenager on a hot, sweltering 40 degree day after an hour of sport?

I am not ready for this. This is my baby. My little boy. My mini munchkin….only; only he is not.

Banishing the fear to the background and swallowing down the urge to barf at the stench, I laugh with MG and we giggle about the stink. I mean seriously. If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. I tell MG that was a good one and he tricked me well. I march him firmly to the shower and celebrate the fact that he can now use deodorant like his Dad.

Well done Mini Giant. You are growing up and on your way to becoming the man you are meant to be.

Except what is happening here?

 

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Everything normal for my MG? Check. Marched him off to his GP to ensure that it wasn’t abnormal or please no, precocious puberty (where puberty starts before age 8 in girls and age 9 for boys). Perfect health. His body is just ready to grow. I should be happy.

The signs of puberty are a fraction early so then why was I fearful? Because his body is changing, telling me he is changing and emotionally we are BOTH. NOT. READY.

Yet are we ever ready?

I’ve had the where do babies come from talk. I even purchased the book. I just haven’t broached the subject of puberty yet.

When we had the more detailed talk about babies, MG was 6. In his uniquely ASD special way he was interested in the process and the micro level mechanics of the information.

How does that work? Does it hurt? What if your wife says no? Why does that need to happen? How do you put it in? Why does it go hard? What happens to the blood when it leaves my head and goes to my penis? Will I faint and die? OMG MUMMY WILL I DIE? Does the blood go back to my heart? WILL I DIE? How many babies can a woman have? Why can’t I have one? Sheesh mate. You’re six. Chillax.

So am I ready for the puberty talk?

Hell no.

I struggled with the sex talk. Not because of the information. Not because I am uptight or shy. Not because I have hang ups about sex. But because my smart bunny asks me questions that I am trying to answer honestly, in an age appropriate way and that satisfies his deep and different modes of thinking. Something that is foreign to me.

I want to do this right for him.

 

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Got my homework ready but this book aimed at older boys…..

 

I want to celebrate the changes and for him to be proud of his growth. Not like my parents who tried to be all scientific but wound up projecting their Roman Catholic strict “sex-is-naughty-and-you-will-become-pregnant-if-you-so-much-as-look-at-a boy” issues.

I need to bridge the imbalance between his emotional immaturity and his physical changes whilst providing enough information to satisfy his intellect. All this without scaring the bejessus out of him or worse, embarrassing him. There is no book for that.

Of course, there are book’s that can guide me but not provide the much needed examples of scripts to employ when he asks me curly questions. In an attempt to understand, he’ll will throw me many curve balls. (Ha ha – ok no. No inappropriate pun intended). Like Emmit in the Lego movie, I need THE INSTRUCTIONS. I probably don’t but it would be a F of a lot easier if I did.

For now, we talk about hairs that will start growing in places. MG examines his bald skin searching for those elusive tuffs of fluff that signify he’s A Man. We talk about getting taller and stronger. We celebrate today as an almost 9 year old and I tell him how excited I am to meet the man he will become.

Seriously tho: I could really use those instructions ………

Neve xx

ps – this classic over-thinker did much research and has her beloved Stylish Chic Fashionista Advisor to the Stars, Mon_Rue_ to thank for pointing us in the direction of MooGoo. Shameless product plug. It is our preferred deodorant. It is age appropriate and contains no hidden nasties for young and developing skin.

GIVE AWAY TIME

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Whoo hoo. I’m giving away a Moo Goo deodorant to 10 lucky readers.

To win:

Follow @mynoctilucent on Instagram

and

 Share below some of your best nuggets of wisdom instructions on navigating the puberty journey with your ASD child.

Please submit your entry by August 10, 2017.