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.

 

 

Build It Up, Build It Up, Build Us Higher.

Did you know that I’m building a tribe? Yes. I am.

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A tribe that offers a safe place to normalise our life experiences, emotions and provides real, honest, supportive advice when we stumble.

In a time where globally women are subjected to more censure and restriction than ever before, our tribe is supported by a constitution that builds us up and celebrates the similarities and our differences that are invisibly woven throughout each of our lives, connecting us like a giant tapestry.

The ultimate in a virtual network of friends and brains trust.

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Why?

Because being a Mum, a Woman, a Carer, in this day and age can be challenging, isolating and exhausting.

We are all time poor and trying to co-ordinate a catch up with trusted friends can be like trying to round up all the G20 leaders for a quick dinner – nigh on impossible, especially at short notice.

When shit hits your fan, sure you have the phone.

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Even then, grabbing 2 minutes to call a friend to chat, vent and unpack whatever is going on is still bloody difficult.

From your end, kids scream in the background demanding your attention, dinner needs to be made, washing wont do it self and neither will school lunch preparation for the next day. That is of course, assuming you connect with the person you rang in the first place!

Adding to the challenge, your friend may be facing a similar situation at their end. It’s a battle can that requires MENSA level strategists’ and their modelling algorithms. You’ve got to get your intended target intercept perfectly calibrated to the exact minute for successful contact.

Sigh. Attempting to touch base sometimes can feel all too hard.

Life pulls at us. Do you feel that?

Its continuous demands pulls us away from each other, apart.

Then before you know, time disappears. It moves so quickly like smoke through a keyhole. Vapours visible one moment, gone and irretrievable the next.

Work, family, ageing parents, young children, teenagers, after school activities, domestics. Not sure how many balls you juggle at once but my arms are exhausted from keeping those spheres in the air.

There is almost no time for me.

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I want to create a place for us to plug into at any time. All the time. When you need it most and at the moment you need it. With ease.

A supportive place to laugh, vent and be nurtured in understanding.

At the very least, to know that you’re not alone. Someone has been through what you’re going through and the experience can be normalised, rationalised and solutions offered.

No Polly Anna Perfect here. Our tribe is defined by rejecting the stereotype of women whereby we compete with each other to our detriment.

Aren’t you fed up with women negatively competing, combatting each other? I’m over it. Tired of women tearing each other apart, dissecting the pieces, spitting venom on the differences in an attempt to feel better about themselves. Real Housewives of Wherever has a lot to answer for. Yes it’s entertaining to a point. A voyeuristic, train-wreck-but-can’t-look –away-esque, escape. BUT that gets old and nasty real quick.

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Why some women think they can act that way towards another and believe that it is ok, is lost on me. I don’t buy bullying, shredding an individuals’ dignity, putting someone down because of their outfit as healthy or normal.

Sadly I have seen this behaviour transferred from the TV screen and played out in the schoolyard. Who gives a crap if Kerry’s Mum is wearing Gucci or Country Road? Whose business is it if little Clara’s Mum’s dress is a tad short – especially with those stumpy legs? Who made you judge and jury of Sara’s Mum “too blonde” hair or Jessie’s Mum’s car?

Listen Chickas; there will always be someone who is richer, prettier, bigger boobed, smarter, healthier, younger, whatever-ier than you. Concentrate on your own patch; tend to your own garden before you start crapping on another. And babes, if you do shit on another, pick it up. Retract it. It’s fucking ugly behaviour and unbecoming to your intellect, not worthy of your soul.

I have been a victim of the vultures.

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One of the most significant experiences that has burnt itself into my memory happened in my late 20’s. As a newly minted mediator, I was invited to a national conference. It was only for those who had been granted special accreditation for a preferred industrial relations panel by our federal government. It was an honour and an achievement and I was thrilled to be rocking this. I was the youngest there by an average of 20 – 30 years. I was also one of very few females.

It was held in northern QLD where it was hot, sticky and humid. I dressed appropriately for a conference – didn’t have my boobs hanging out. Don’t have much to hang out anyway but I wore conservative clothing.

And you know what! I was still marginalised, ostracised and spoken down to.

The women were the worst.

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Clearly threatened by a younger individual. Discounted by others as fluff. I had plenty of male attention but not as a colleague, as eye candy. It was uncomfortable, sexist, demeaning and exclusionary.

Have you ever been to a gathering of people you thought you admired and excited to be a part of, walked up to introduce yourself only to have people turn their backs – Physically. Turn. Their. Backs…. On you?

Have you ever held out your hand as a welcome only to have it left there in the air hanging away like a useless, dead appendage? Have you ever been told you were too young to offer any experience or value? “Close your mouth darling. Open it after you come out of the cellar. Or when you’ve been around the block a few times.” Snide giggles.

It’s hideous. I have thick skin but shit this was really, really awkward and disheartening. Akin to being the new kid at school and no one operating on normal social conventions like RESPONDING WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU A FUCKING QUESTION! Bitchy. Confidence crushing.

How is it I was so offensive that my sheer physical presence was intolerable? I asked one of the males that deign to address me. The reply: Go away and don’t come back until I had “aged” as I was too “beautiful” to be taken seriously. VOMMMMMM.IT. And sheer bullshit.

The behaviour unconscionable. Women taking delight in openly vilifying me. No mercy afforded, I was being metaphorically dismembered because I was different. As the perceived easy target, the frenzied, soul thirsty mob excited by my demise.

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F you all and f off. I have a lot to offer and your miserable insecurity issues are just that – your issues. Get over them or not. At the most basic level surely your conscience requires you to operate with a modicum of human decency and stop acting like a _________________? [You can fill in the blank. I know which expletive works best for me here……!]

This – this tearing down, trying to ruin another, being threatened by some illusionary threat, is what I want to change.

I want to challenge the marginalisation and fracturing of our female collectiveness.

We have mentors in business. Therapists for personal issues. Life coaches for Life. Why can’t we be real with each other and stop walking on eggshells? Say what we mean, be direct knowing that it comes from a place of genuine respect and care? Let’s act as a mentor, therapist, the loyal friend when it’s needed rather than directing energy to isolating and targeting those we don’t understand or pussy footing around with our truth because we are fearful of being judged, unleashing the piranhas in response.

I want to lift us up. Together.

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There is so much more within us than we allow to develop. Imagine how incredible we could all be, the power of it all if we pooled our collective knowledge, experiences, emotional intellect. Our potential and the possibilities are endless. The benefits so numerous as to touch us at every level.

I believe we all have something to teach and something to learn.

So let’s start by celebrating strong, amazing women who kick arse daily in their chosen field.

Oprah, Gigi Hadid, Malala Yousafzai you are A.MAZE.ING! Beyonnce, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Obama love your work. Christine Lagarde, Arianna Huffington you are on my ultimate chicks dinner invite list. Mia Freedman, Georgie Gardner, I admire the hell out of you.

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To all the young female entrepreneurs, you rock. Mum’s, Grand Mothers’ everywhere you can be fierce role models to your children and community. My friends, you are inspirational women who battle each day and come home winners. Exhausted perhaps, but still killing it.

And so I say this:

It is time for all of us to learn to embrace our female uniqueness, harness and channel it.

All women are beautiful, regardless of age. All women have something to offer, REGARDLESS OF AGE. There is strength in emotion and I claim that too.

Together, lets redefine ‘Da Sista Hood.

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Actively participate in the tribe to build a new constitution, where difference is awesome, similarities’ are comforting, and being a resilient, intelligent woman confident in the shape of your skin, what ever that shape is, is as sexy as hell.

Taking back my power and pushing women forward and upwards everywhere.

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Let’s do this.

Tell me which woman inspires you and why.  

Neve xx

I Am Who I Am

One of my nearest and dearest, my “Sister from another Mister” (figuratively speaking and literally, j’adore her so she may as well be), planted the seed. “You need to share you. Get that stuff outta your head and share it with others,” she said after a particularly challenging time with some hideously toxic family dynamics. “Write a blog. Get it out there. You helped me. Fucken share babe.”

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Having never thought myself a writer, I laughed. Have never thought myself terribly wise, insightful or all together, I snorted. Dismissed it. Drank some more wine.

But….niggling in the most primitive part of my brain stem came the whisper. What if? Yessssss. It hisses quietly. Yessssssss. It breathed greedily, audible now and subconsciously it spawned. Yesssssss. Do it. DO it. Do IT. DO IT. It began to irritate and itch.

Being a very private and at times socially awkward with debilitating shyness, I quickly squashed that Yesssss to no fucking way. I’ve been judged so harshly in my life and left emotionally bloodied, dismembered and broken.

The itch. The hiss. Yessssssss. DO IT.

Being acutely hypersensitive, could I? Would I? A perfectionist bordering on the obsessive neurotic to excel, should I? Yessssss. DO IT.

Fuck it. To quell the itch, here we are. With procrastination and motivational paralysis based in a fear of failure, weighing heavily on one shoulder and the middle finger to my insecurities on the other, I begin to write.

Laying myself bare, article after article. For publishing at another time. The question at the centre of it all, am I good enough? More honestly, am I enough?

At 40, is it normal to still question our deepest selves like this? Shouldn’t we have it together by now? Isn’t it written or universally known that when you turn 40, suddenly you’re hot, sassy and got your shit worked out? I think I may have skived off that lesson.

I’m a woman. A Mum to an 8-year-old boy. A wife of 10 years. Both incredible male specimens that are part of the Autism spectrum. I have been an OT (Occupational Therapist), a successful business owner, a senior business executive. I have an MBA, a post graduate in Risk Management and countless other acreditations. I am a qualified mediator. Managed hundreds of people of various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, helped others who have been most seriously and irretrievably injured from work reclaim their lives, sorted multiple large and small workplace conflicts, and managed “telephone book number” style operational budgets. On paper and impersonally, I am impressive.

But……but……still…Am “I” enough?

Intrinsically, I know.

Yes I am.

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The beauty of 40 is you become clear and accept that you are. I am sensitive, intuitive and smart. I know people and I value the individual differences that make you, you.

Not one person is the same and certainly not one person on the spectrum is the same.

We are all beautifully perfect and flawed to create the mosaic of our existence. Unlike my 20’s where my self doubt was masked by aggression and large shoulder pads, sharp tailoring and a French roll, today I mange it with quiet courage and measured resilience. I combat my fear of failure; need for perfectionism by embracing it as just a part of me.  Using and channeling it to help me achieve. It is one piece of the puzzle that makes me who I am.

And in the words of Gloria Gaynor, I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses.

Neither do you.

Has approaching or turning 40 changed your perspective? Do you still give much thought to other peoples opinions? How do you know that you are enough?

Neve xx