The Feelings Tree – helping children talk about emotions

The holidays are often filled with an assortment of powerful emotions, for both children and adults. This can be related to loss or upheaval in our lives, to anniversaries of significant loss, or simply because the holiday period allows time for reflection which can bring up difficult feelings for us all. So we wanted to share a free activity from the lovely Seeds of Hope Bereavement and Loss Activity Book, which aims to help children deal Jay_Seeds-of-Hope-B_978-1-84905-546-8_colourjpg-printwith loss and/or change through nature, and will be especially helpful to those finding it difficult to cope with bereavement.

The Feelings Tree is a great activity to help you get started talking to children about difficult emotions, as well as all emotions more generally. The birds in the tree can be used as starting points to bring up difficult feelings you may want to talk about, or the child you’re doing the activity with may use the opportunity to talk about emotions they don’t feel comfortable addressing head-on. However you use The Feelings Tree you’re sure to have some fun!

Download The Feelings Tree here

Read an interview with the author, Caroline Jay, on what inspired her to write the book and how contact with nature can help us deal with loss, here.

You can also find out more about the book, read reviews or order your copy here.

Catching up with Ann Andrews – inspirational author of Positively Parkinson’s

Ann Andrews worked as a television and theatre producer, researcher, teacher and crisis counsellor. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in her fifties, and went on to write the informative, practical and inspiring guide to living well with Parkinson’s; Positively Parkinson’s.  We caught up with Ann to find out what she’s been up to since the publication of her book, how she’s managing her Parkinson’s symptoms now, and what she’s looking forward to in the future.

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Ann speaking to fellow Parkinson’s sufferers

Since the publishing of Positively Parkinson’s I have travelled through most of the North Island and some of the South Island of  New Zealand talking to groups of people with Parkinson’s. In doing so I have met people from all over the World and everyone has told me how important the book has been for them. It seems to have achieved what I most wanted it to do:  help us all have a better understanding of Parkinson’s and to become a do-it-yourself guide to helping ourselves stay well.

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Ann at a signing session

I went to New York last year and am going back again this Christmas. We have a daughter there and a delightful about-to-be-two-years old grandson. While I was there I tried to promote the book which is published in the United States with the title I have Parkinson’s. What should I do? I found not many people had heard of it. However, I got to know a great group of Parkinsonian’s, members of a Brooklyn group.

A couple of years earlier a NY dance company had visited Auckland and offered dance lessons for people with Parkinson’s. They were called the Mark Morris Dance Company. One of the dancers John Heginbotham features in Positively Parkinson’s (page 126). While in NY I got in touch with John and another dancer David Leventhal, and was thrilled to be invited to a dance lesson at the home of Mark Morris Dance.

John was about to leave to join the same dance company in San Francisco and I was able to be there for his last lesson. In doing so I met the Brooklyn group. I was fortunate in being able to attend about five dance lessons with David Leventhal and student members of the dance company.

Pamela and Ann chatting at Mark Morris NY, December 2012

Pamela and Ann chatting at Mark Morris NY, December 2012

I describe the New Zealand lesson in my book (page 127) but being there at the home of the dance company was very special. As well as dance lessons I went to some movement lessons with Pamela Quinn, a dancer who has early onset Parkinson’s. She is so fit I found it difficult to keep up with her in class, though most of the other members seemed to be able to.

You can see her and some of her exercises on YouTube.  If you would like to know more about the dance lessons you could get in touch with Maria Portman-Kelly who manages the Parkinson’s classes at the Mark Morris Dance School.

What these classes also achieve is to provide a meeting place for people with Parkinson’s. Attending class once or twice a week at Mark Morris or the Juliana School at the Lincoln Centre means New Yorkers can meet for coffee and a chat as well as exercise.

Ann reading her new children's story book

Ann reading her new children’s story book

This year I have written a bright picture book for children and grandchildren of someone who has Parkinson’s; a child’s guide. Called Grandma’s Brain, it is illustrated with drawings of me and my grandsons, my brain, a young space traveller and space pirates.  My son, a magazine publisher, is publishing the book which will be available sometime early in 2015. By then I hope to also have a website. The story is meant for children aged between 5 and 12 to read themselves or be read to. It is light, humorous, entertaining, yet informative and is colourfully illustrated. Look out for it!

In the last year I have had a few falls and my balance is not what it used to be. It has been both an eye-opener and a wake-up call.  I now use a hiking stick when out and about. I find friends and family very quick to offer an arm, which is nice and I take it without demur.

More of my friends have now had the deep brain stimulation operation, one as young as 43. They seem a lot better and have been able to reduce their medicine intake.  There is also a very different research programme here in Auckland which utilises the same initial brain operation, but for quite a different reason. I’ll try and explain it: To begin with… On an island in the Auckland islands group (far south of NZ into Antarctic waters) some pigs were left about two hundred years ago. Because of their isolation they have developed into a healthy virus free herd. Some of these pigs now live in a separate isolated location in New Zealand.

Pig tissue has been used successfully in medical treatments for many years, but this research is about pig cells. The programme entails removing some choroid plexus cells from deep within the pig’s brain. The choroid plexus in all brains releases a growth factor that repairs cells and makes nerves grow. Obviously we can’t transplant human choroid factor cells but we can use those from pigs, especially virus free pigs.

To inhibit the immune system from rejecting the pig cells they are placed in tiny capsules rather like Goretex which shield the cells while letting nutrients in and growth factors out. The treatment involves surgically placing the cells into the brain to encourage the nerves that have died back to regrow. A group of six people with Parkinson’s are taking part in this research. They will be assessed carefully and if there is no improvement after six months they will be offered the alternative deep brain stimulation.

I have tried to think of anything I particularly wanted to add to Positively Parkinson’s. There have been things that occurred to me, but which I can’t remember at this moment. I’m still experimenting. I have been on a course of hormone Andrews_Positively-Park_978-1-84905-411-9_colourjpg-printreplacement which is supposed to help me remember things. I’m not sure it does, but six months on my memory does seem better. I’m sure one of the most helpful things you can do is keep working on yourself. Hold a constant dialogue with your brain. Tell it to take bigger steps, make a bigger voice and do the exercise you’ve been putting off.

One group I don’t mention in the book is the nurses working in homes for the elderly. I have talked to a number of them and found they had little understanding of Parkinson’s in the people they were caring for. They had no idea that it could be the cause of a mask-like face, the inability to smile and the lack of a voice; with the result that many of them misjudged their patients completely.  To me this is dreadful.  I have tried to impress on them that this kind of ignorance would be what people with Parkinson’s fear most.

Not a good ending. On a positive note I’ve just completed another Lee Silverman Voice Training Programme and found I had slipped back by not practising at home enough. I’ve tried LSVT Big from a useful YouTube programme called LSVT Big home exercise video. It’s expensive to learn the complete programme here so I add some of the video exercises to the same ones I have in the book.  I have added weights to try and keep my muscle tone and then, of course, I have my new exercycle which I can ride inside when the weather is not conducive for walking.

So, think big, think positive and keep doing everything you can. Your brain will find new pathways.

Ann Andrews.

Find out more about Ann’s book, read reviews or order your copy here 

Are we too afraid to listen to disabled people’s desires?

Tuppy Owens, author of Supporting Disabled People with their Sexual Lives, has worked with and supported disabled people for over 35 years. She is the founder of Outsiders, a group providing peer support and dating opportunities for physically and socially disabled people, handles the Sex and Disability Helpline, and set up the Sexual Health and Disability Alliance (SHADA) for health and social care professionals. In this article, Tuppy examines how our attitudes towards the sexuality of disabled people have changed over the years, and shares some success stories she has witnessed as part of her work.

Listening to Disabled People’s Personal Desires, Taking them Seriously, and Supporting them in their Journeys to Fulfillment

The past few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for disabled people to enjoy sexual expression, either alone, with partners or commercially. Back in the old days, things were laiséee faire. Assisted masturbation was often offered by nurses and staff. There was an adventurous, experimental attitude to sex, and no strict regulations about prostitution. I am told a residence in Sussex for wounded World War Two veterans operated brothel-style!Owens_Supporting-Disa_978-1-84905-396-9_colourjpg-print

We now live in an era of transparency and risk assessment; one nurse described it to me as residential homes operating in a liability and blame culture, with loss of person-centred care, of which sexuality is at the heart. Only some health professionals are allowed or prepared to attach sex toys to the genitals of a disabled resident who is unable to pleasure themselves. Nobody has come up with a toy which the individual could activate themselves in the middle of the night without help, but I’m working on it.

Thankfully, more disabled people can go to accessible clubs and bars, and more of them are in work: all places  where they may find a partner. However, today most people use online dating, which is frought with difficulties. Disability dating sites sadly attract preditors and are unsafe to use, unless, like Outsiders, applicants are carefully vetted. Many residences have single rooms and don’t allow bed-hopping or residents to share.

A leading disability publication published an article in the 90’s stating that prostitution is illegal in Britain (which it’s not, and never has been in Britain) and then a false rumour circulated that the 2005 Sexual Offences Act criminalised supporting another person to find a sex worker, saying that it was “procurement”. People who should know better still come up with this nonsense. With that and the over-inflated publicity on trafficking, and threats of criminalising the buying of sex, few health professionals or local authorities will entertain their residents, patients or clients gaining the many benefits of a sex session with a professional.

What else holds health and social care professionals back? My book Supporting Disabled People in their Sexual Lives, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers on 19th November, looks at the issues in depth, as I have been engaging with disabled people to support them in their various sexual needs for over thirty years, in the Outsiders Club. Basically, as my book says over and over again, our governing bodies do not offer training, guidelines or policies on sex and disability. Myself and Lorna Couldrick, another long term activist, managed to get a short paragraph on the topic on the Royal College of Nursing website this year. SHADA, the Sex and Disability Alliance, which I run, is starting a project to change things around with the governing bodies. But I expect it will be a long battle, especially in the medical arena.

Our laws against discrimination make it illegal NOT to support disabled people to enjoy the same pleasures as others in the privacy of their own homes.

Many disabled people have received worse than useless sex education. Their sexuality so ignored, that their body confidence, sexual confidence and overall sense of wellbeing may be at rock bottom. Some feel their body does not belong to them, as it has only been poked and operated on by doctors. Privacy may have been been denied them. Having been abused, bullied, teased and sexually rejected, they may feel they are on the social scrap heap. They need a great deal of support to climb out of this hole, using body image therapy and sessions to discover what pleasures their bodies are capable of feeling, and to catch up on missed teenage experimentation.

Mat Fraser has workedtuppy blog - mat fraser 1 really hard on himself and his ‘thalidomide arms”, and he’s come a long way. He was photographed naked by Ashley Savage in one of Ashleys’s photo shoots designed to empower the subject and make them look sexy and strong. Mat learned Karate, became a drummer in a rock band and trained as an actor. All these things built up his sexual self confidence. He became the presenter at our fund-raising events, and even did his own striptease act, removing false arms and showing his real ones. He learned to love his own arms. Now he is married to one of New York’s top erotic performers and the two of them starred in “The Beauty and the Beast” which toured Britain this year.22/02/2011 NEWS: The Freak & the Showgirl. Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz Mat has now become a Patron of the Outsiders Trust.

One of our other patrons, Diego Soto-Miranda, severely impaired with spinal atrophy, gave us an excellent tip on how to bring a companion into your life, as a masturbation aide, lover and partner;

Finding a lover/partner is all about maximising circumstance:

  • make them laugh
  • be very polite, and
  • figure out what they want and give it to them.

A wheelchair does not come into the equation. Few say they want someone to climb Everest with them. Usually, they want respect, appreciation, someone to listen, but overall the best aphrodisiac is laughter. Make her/him feel like the centre of the universe.”

Diego worked on his own self confidence to work this one out and put it into practice. He is Brazilian, which might help! In Brazil, flirting and sex are taken seriously. It’s time we started taking such things seriously here.

Tuppy Owens
The Outsiders Trust

Our websites:

www.outsiders.org.uk

www.SHADA.org.uk

www.TLC-trust.org.uk

www.SexualRespect.com

www.AdvocacyProfessional.com

You can find out more about Tuppy’s book here.

Last post dates for Christmas 2014

If you would like to receive your purchases in time for Christmas 2014 we recommend placing your order before midnight on the following dates (depending on which country you want to ship to)

New Zealand – 5th December 2014

USA – 12th December 2014

UK – 15th December 2014

Australia – 15th December 2014

We regret that we cannot provide accurate dates for other countries but if you email hello@jkp.com or call +1 215 922 1161 (USA) or +44 (0)20 7833 2307 (UK and rest of world) we will do our best to find out for you. If you miss the last post dates it may be possible to express deliver your oder, please call or email to find out.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year from everyone at JKP!

Top 5 tips for entrepreneurs on the autistic spectrum

By Rosalind A. Bergemann author of An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship

For many of us on the autistic spectrum, employment can or has been a challenge. Whilst we may be intellectually capable (if not ideally suited) to do a particular job, the reality is that the workplace is centered around working with and through other people. Even a job that you might perceive as being undertaken in isolation will still require you to be part of a team.  ‘Teamwork’ is a workplace buzzword at the moment, and no matter how much that may be in conflict with the way we might work, this is unlikely to change.  For some of us the lack of required social skills needed for teamwork has resulted in our inability to secure permanent jobs and for others it has meant constant tension in the jobs we hold. It is also true that while we may be extremely Bergemann_Aspergers-Guide_978-1-84905-509-3_colourjpg-printcreative people with great ideas for new markets or products, corporate culture requires this to be presented in a certain way within an organization, and this can end up being extremely frustrating for those of us who can see the potential of something but are unable to directly contribute to its success.

For these reasons (and others) many of us make the decision to start our own businesses and become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a career that I believe suits people with Asperger’s extremely well – provided that we are properly prepared and have developed our coping strategies in advance.

So with that in mind here are the top 5 tips I would give to someone with ASD who wants to start their own business.

 

TIP 1. Ensure that the vision for your product/service and its unique selling point can be shared clearly with others.

Many of us will have a vision of our business in our heads that is very clear and logical to us. Whilst this is great it is important to recognize that when starting a business there will be times that you will be required to share this vision with others. To make sure you can do this, take some time to write down as much detail as possible regarding what your product or service looks like, and exactly what it is that makes your product/service unique. Ask yourself

  • What would make people come to me instead of more established companies?
  • What am I offering that is different to what is already out there?

Writing down or recording answers to these questions will help you put your vision into a format that can be shared with people you will be working with, such as potential investors.

Another thing to consider (particularly if you have experience in a corporate role) is that a plan for a small business does not require the same level of corporate documentation as a larger organization. You certainly need your plan, but it needs to be brief and to the point. A start-up business plan should really only be 4 to 5 pages long.

 

TIP 2: Do an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses

Before starting out, do an honest assessment of the strengths you have as a person with ASD, but also an assessment of the weaknesses you have.  This will allow you to develop coping or development strategies for areas where you have some weaknesses. Answer these questions as honestly as you can:

  • How well do I work with other people?
  • How important is it for me to have control of my work?
  • Do I have any sensory issues that may create a problem?
  • How are my written communication skills?
  • What cause me challenges as a person with ASD in the workplace? How could this affect me in my own business?
  • How am I at networking?

 

TIP 3: Consider sharing your diagnosis with those working closest to you

Since you will be working far closer with your own team than you might have as part of someone else’s, it is really important that there is no chance of you creating problems unintentionally due to some social skill problems.  It may be worthwhile considering whether you want to share your diagnosis with your team, possibly as part of a development programme promoting understanding and communication.

 

TIP 4: Don’t allow your new business to take over your life

As people on the autistic spectrum, we do not do things by halves. If we say we are going to do something, we tend to give it all our attention and energy. It is extremely tempting to fall into the trap of making our new business the totality of our lives. Whilst it is expected that we will spend a lot of time on our new project, please make sure that other parts of your life (such as your family and home-life) do not suffer as a result. After all you don’t want to start a new business but lose a family as a result.

 

TIP 5: Be prepared to experience change

Most of us on the spectrum tend to stick with things that have worked in the past, however as the owner of a small business you need to be open to adaptation and change.  If you are a person who struggles with change, I recommend that you spend some time developing coping strategies for change, and practicing when you have the opportunity.  Examples of coping strategies include:

  • Scheduling regular change adaptation breakaways where you can spend some time alone examining the changes that are happening or that need to be made, and coming to terms with them.
  • Developing a change business plan for yourself, where you can highlight areas of your business that may need change in the future so that it does not become sidelined or occur unexpectedly.
  • Assess how you have handled change in the past and highlight the coping strategies you used at that time (eg. at high school, when you first started work, etc). Think about how you can adapt these and write them down. Review these when you are feeling overloaded.

 

Starting your own business can be challenging, but it is also one of the most fulfilling and inspirational things one can do. People on the spectrum can make a huge contribution to the world in this way.

I wish you all the success in your new business!

 

Rosalind A. Bergemann is the Chairperson of Asperger Leaders and the CEO of a global change management consultancy. She is also the author of An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship and An Asperger Leader’s Guide to Living and Leading Change both of which are available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

 

Try out some exercises from the Autism Fitness Handbook

The Autism Fitness Handbook is designed to address specific areas of difficulty for children, teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Physical fitness – so often overlooked when helping people with autism reach their full potential – provides extended and far-reaching benefits for children of all ages on the spectrum.

Download this extract and follow ‘Coach David’ (Geslak) as he takes you step-by-step through a selection of his most engaging, fun and easy-to-do exercises, such as Frankensteins and Downward Dogs.

To read the full extract CLICK HERE

Frankenstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Autism Fitness Handbook by David Geslak is available in paperback from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Helping a Child with Autism Handle Halloween

Walking around the shops in October it is impossible to escape the ghoulish Halloween theme. The supermarkets are full of masks, deathly hands and creepy cobwebs. A child may shrug this off as you walk them quickly past displays, which are a little too creepy for comfort.

But let’s think about the child with autism. These children often have a different way of processing, heightened or jumbled perception and sensory issues. How might they perceive those costumes, decorations and unexplained changes?

The best way to understand is to try walking in their shoes…

HalloweenPhoto

Shops.

You are now a child with autism entering a supermarket.

The volume has been put up and every individual noise is becoming unbearably loud. The sound of a trolley is like thunder clashing, those sliding doors are nails down a blackboard screeching as they open and close, open and close. Colour is gone and the lighting creates a nightmare strobe effect coupled with a continuous, loud hum, which feels like bees moving about and buzzing inside your ears. Your senses are all muddled. Revolting shop smells of food and body odours, do not stop at your nose, but become sickening tastes. Your mouth is dry. The floor seems to wobble and your clothes begin to grate and chaff and burn into your skin. You anticipate these feelings, but at least you know this shop. You know the routine. You’ve been here before and survived…

But wait!

Suddenly there is an isle of terror where the toys usually are. That piano with the coloured buttons, which is the ONLY reason you’ve ever endured this shop has been replaced by a cauldron full of skeletons and black spiders. That Lego set you’ve been told to “wait for until your birthday” is GONE too! You zoom in and take in every detail – image after image like the ‘click, click, click’ of a camera. It’s fascinating, but also terrifying. You’ll think about it later. It is all too different and uncomfortable right now. Images will be stored for when are home and feel safe – maybe bedtime?

Dressing up.

Maybe you hate dressing up or seeing other people dressed up. Maybe you recognise people by what they wear and the sameness of style makes you feel more secure. Maybe dressing up makes you feel you must become that character. If you are dressed as a tiger then you feel like a tiger. Grown up’s don’t seem to get this and keep telling you off as you leap about roaring and scratching…

Face Paints

Maybe you find face paints frightening – the sad clown with a painted smile. Is it happy or sad? Good or bad? Facial expressions are already confusing, without throwing face paints in to the mix. Maybe someone wants you to wear face paints, but you have a sensory fear or do not realise that those paints are only temporary. Maybe the face paints are okay, but you have a deep, scratchy memory of the face washing after.

Trick or Treat?

Now there are knocks on the door after dark and you see Mum or Dad giving away your sweets to other children. When will it end? Maybe Mum and Dad turn the lights out and neighbours know not to knock on your door. But then there are the neighbours, who still welcome trick or treating. They make this clear with decorations – a friendly pumpkin or a full on fright house…

What can we do to help?

Whether you choose to get involved with Halloween or not it is important to prepare a child with autism for the run up to October 31st.

Here are my top 10 tricks to preparing a child with Autism for Halloween.

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Click Here to download a poster of the top 10 tricks to prepare a child for Halloween

Adele Devine is the author of Colour Coding for Learners with Autism now available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers 

Why some disabled people might deserve MORE than the minimum wage

Well done Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, for apologising for his recent “foolish and offensive” remarks where he suggested that people with disabilities could potentially be paid less than the minimum wage.  At least he has admitted to being so wrong.  I think forcing his resignation is a bit harsh however.  It seems to me that he was, after all, as many of us still are in our modern society, simply uninterested, unknowledgeable and/or unaware of the various and steadily increasing conditions that are or can be classed as a ‘disability’ today, such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Asperger’s Syndrome. I have a teenage son diagnosed with an ASD who is currently studying at college and the remark left me feeling, as a parent, very concerned, angry and frustrated.  Did this comment mean that my own son could potentially leave college next year to an ever lower wage than the current minimum – just because he has a diagnosis of an ASD?  Was I now to worry that these types of comments would lead to my son being either completely unable to find work in the future or paid less than the neurotypical student sitting next to him in class at college (who is not even as high an achiever as my son)?Obviously Lord Freud has never heard of the condition or bothered to look into ‘autism’, or the ‘autistic spectrum’- if he had I am sure he would never have remarked as he did.

Classed as a disability, autism spectrum disorders usually means diagnosed people will have difficulties in some areas, especially in communicating with others and social interaction, but other skills may develop typically.  Some autistic individuals have special abilities or talents – and I don’t just mean the autistic savants who can, as an example, amazingly recall a phone book from A-Z or count cards in Las Vegas (most of us have watched the fabulous movie Rain Man) – some, for example, especially enjoy and thrive in doing repetitive, or what others would describe as ‘boring’ work or tasks, and many others have amazing, advanced skills and knowledge of modern technology. An accepted fact these days andLonie_Online-Safety-f_978-1-84905-454-6_colourjpg-print a subject that I go into in more detail in my new book is that many people (both children and adults) with an ASD are extremely computer literate and some can show amazing talents in computer programming or even hacking.  I have worked directly with computers for over twenty-five years and my teenage son (with an ASD) is still able to teach me new technology related skills and frequently helps to enhance my knowledge.  In my book Online Safety for Children & Teens on the Autism Spectrum – A Parent’s and Carer’s Guide I explain why some autistic children (and again adults) can actually understand modern technology better than they can other people.

During my eleven year employment (2001-2012) with Autism Concern (a large autism charity based in Northamptonshire, UK) as their IT Specialist & Webmaster, I worked on a project in which we produced a simple interactive guide for employers or potential employers of people with an ASD.  During this research we found that in some cases hiring a person with an ASD was actually more successful than hiring a ‘neurotypical’ person.

Because of their condition, the benefits to the employer can be (but not limited to):

  • Some autistic employees exhibit extreme attention to detail – making sure the job is done right the first time!
  • Some autistic employees become very focused on a task – and enjoy repetitive jobs – meaning a high productivity rate.
  • Most autistic employees will work according to schedules and keep to them – i.e. they are typically never late and will not take more than the allowed time for lunch or breaks.
  • Because autistic people are very literal and often do not know how to ‘lie’, these employees will typically not take unnecessary or unauthorised days off absent.

So what if some need additional support or cannot answer the telephone, or prefer to sit alone during their lunch hour?  As long as the job they are doing is done well and in accordance with their contract of employment – surely we, as a society, are obligated to help these special yet disadvantaged individuals into securing employment and giving them the ‘normalcy’ that comes with working, such as commitment of hours and paying taxes, etc? It seems clear to me that some of these amazing individuals may even deserve more than the minimum wage – not less – after all they have to live with their disability on a daily basis as well as contend with the day to day struggles we all face in our modern society.  Try walking in their shoes for a day and getting £2 an hour for a hard days work while your ‘neurotypical colleague’ (who’s doing exactly the same job, and not as productive or reliable) is getting at least minimum wage. Why are we therefore not, as a society, grabbing at the chance to employ these talented individuals? Why are our computer industry giants, research and government agencies not hiring more autistic employees and developing their natural talents?

With reports worryingly showing figures as high as 1 out of every 68 boys (although not confirmed) are now thought to be on the Autism Spectrum, surely Lord Freud is also not thinking clearly about the future working population.  If we do not provide adequate education, training and work experience for the future generations of autistic children (and unless a cure is found the rate of diagnosis is only set to increase) there is a higher chance that there will be a significant rise in these ‘disabled’ yet fit for work people relying on benefits because they cannot find suitable employment, or no one has helped them to do so. In summary I feel we need to take immediate action as a society together to make sure we can employ these remarkable people in future generations to come – and not simply ignore the increase of diagnosis and hope it will go away, or think of ridiculous ways to save money – such as simply paying them less.

In my humble opinion I feel we need to:

1. Promote and support autism in the workplace – clearly explain to employers the benefits to them and reasons why they should hire that person with an ASD .  Highlight the positive not the negative and possibly initially offer financial help incentives for the employer.

2. Try to secure and offer more training facilities for ASD students, particularly those with high computer literacy levels, focusing on their individual skill set or talents and using these to secure future employment.

3. Demand that large computer companies (such as Microsoft/Apple), who make ridiculously high profits, step in and offer/provide paid (not government funded) apprenticeships/jobs for gifted young autistic individuals – and pay them at least the minimum wage!

4. Request that autism charities and other such important organisations be given more grants and/or funding to help them help people with autism secure employment and give them the financial backing to be more readily available with information/resources for parents and education professionals as well as employers.

5. Provide more free autism awareness training for ministers (before forcing them to resign), GPs, educators, social services and other such professionals.

 

Nicola Lonie is the author of Online Safety for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum now available through Jessica Kingsley Publishers