When it came to collecting autism related news for November 2017, it seemed all the most important developments were coming from one place: Parliament. As a result, today’s article may seem slightly political to begin with (and light on laughs), but bear with me.
Divided by priority and featuring everything from Postman Pat to Ol’ Saint Nick, here are the autism headlines from November 2017 (links to the full stories can be accessed by clicking on the bold red in the bullet points):
Developing Stories Within the Autistic Community:
- Jeremy Hunt to Look at Diagnosis Waiting Times: Following on from last month’s story regarding how a diagnosis of autism can take up to 44 months, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has spoken out in parliament about how he is now committed to recording and publishing waiting times across the NHS. This should help to raise awareness of the issues regarding A.S.D. waiting times and could eventually create a platform of publicity, in which a change for reduced waiting times can not only be requested, but demanded – As of the 30th November the government has also pledged to double the number of work coaches helping disabled people find employment.
- Autumn Budget 2017: The autistic community was dealt a hefty blow this month when it was revealed that the government would be providing no extra funding for social care in their Autumn Budget. This has sparked a large backlash, particularly on Twitter, with users protesting the new budget plans by posting pictures of themselves, with a personal message stating why it is important for social care to be reformed. For example ‘so people with autism can live independent and free lives’ and other basic rights.
- House of Commons Mental Health Debate: During the same day in which the disability employment gap was discussed at Parliament, there were further talks regarding the low level of support people with autism are receiving for their mental health. Facts were read out to Parliament, such as how 40% of people with autism have two or more co-existing disorders and how fewer than 50% of students with autism are ‘happy’ at school. The debate then turned to a discussion on diagnosis waiting times and concluded that this issue will be looked into further.
- A Good Month for Autism Arts: Autism in the entertainment industry is often a controversial subject, however, this month there were few things to complain about. With various well received autism related projects popping up in every area of the arts, November was certainly a high point in the on-going battle for autism representation, with a few of my favourites being:
- ‘The A-Word’: an autism related family drama returning to ITV
- ‘Night of Too Many Stars’: a variety show, which offered side splitting entertainment, to raise money for autism awareness
- ‘A Badge’: an autism-centric radio drama aired on Radio 4
- ‘Uncommon Sense’: a New York stage production which features 4 characters, representing various points on the spectrum
- ‘Escape and Return’: an art exhibition by autistic artist (and friend of the site) Patrick Samuel.
- Hilary Reyl’s ‘Kids like Us’: an autism related coming of age story which, those who follow me on Twitter will know, has become my book of the year
- Boycott ‘To Siri With Love’: Proving that you can’t have the sweet without the sour, this month, To Siri with Love was released and it has caused quite the stir. Written by Judith Newman, To Siri with Love is a newly released book which discusses life with the author’s autistic son and his infatuation with the virtual iPhone assistant Siri. Receiving both high praise from book reviewers as well as scathing criticism from the autistic community, To Siri with Love has become extremely controversial due to a quote which has been circling the various social medias:
- ‘I am still deeply worried about the idea that he could get someone pregnant and yet could never be a real father – which is why I will insist on having medical power of attorney, so that I will be able to make the decision about a vasectomy for him after he turns 18’.
Currently I have not yet had chance to read To Siri with Love, so I do not as yet understand the context in which this was made. However, I can’t help but pass judgement on what I have seen, as it appears to be advocating the sterilisation of people with autism.
The Autism News ‘that happened’ (and I have nothing else to comment):
Here are the headlines which, like a support act for Michael Jackson, were destined to be forgotten the moment they left our sight. These articles are by no means without merit, however, in my opinion they have already been well covered or I have little/nothing to add to the current discussion:
- A non-verbal autistic child surprised parents when he spoke in public to make a Christmas request to Santa
- A father with an autistic child and a bone to pick went viral, when his wife posted a message he had sent out to his friends, criticising them for not inviting his son to parties (Warning: the message contains strong language)
- The Autism Hero Awards took place, honouring those who make a significant difference to the autistic community (I’m assuming my invite was lost in the post)
- New research provided further evidence of the positive outcomes for treating autistic people with melatonin
- One man’s hunt to find a rare Postman Pat VHS for his autistic son, had a happy ending after his request spread like wildfire across the various social media sites
- The women and girls of the autistic spectrum conference took place in Manchester, offering information, inspiration and leading advice from experts on all things autism – link will take you to the next women and girls of the autistic spectrum conference (which is in March 2018)
Naming and Shaming Articles on Autism:
This month’s ‘name and shame article’ comes from an interview reporter Paul Lewis did with ex-Google employee James Damore. Although I’m aware some may disagree with what I’m about to say, I believe that, despite Damore being well worthy of a public shaming, it is journalist Paul Lewis who is more at fault.
The article follows up on Damore’s dismissal from Google; after he posted a 10 page memo in August which criticises women’s place at the search engine juggernaut. I do not feel sorry for Damore receiving the blunt of the uproar regarding this article (after all the guy is a jerk). However, it irritates me that Lewis seems to get of scott-free, even though he is solely responsible for blaming Damore’s actions on his autism.
The reason I believe this makes Lewis even worse than Damore is because, despite Damore being a jerk, being a sexist and being autistic, he freely admits that he himself does not believe these things to be linked. It’s Lewis who constructs the article in a way which makes Damore seem like a victim to his condition and then further escalates things by twisting facts, to make it seem like Damore’s tirade actually held some merit.
The issue I have with this article is reminiscent of last month’s name and shaming article, as Lewis trys to link a horrible act with autism. What I find particularly bad about it this time is that Lewis comes from a place of authority, having won a reporter of the year award in 2010.
To me, this comes down to more than just a case of ‘don’t believe everything you read’ but also links to how we should be more careful and observant of what an author is really trying to say. Maybe I’m wrong though and Lewis is just misinformed, but, given that he was ‘Reporter of the Year 2010’ I can’t help but feel he is well-aware of his actions, earning him a prize in November’s name and shame section.
What’s to come for Autism in December 2017:
That’s it for November’s new round-up. Now let’s cast our mind forward to the most wonderful time of the year CHRISTMAS!! Ahem… December:
- Stars Shine for Autism: On December 6th the National Autistic Society will be holding a Christmas Concert with the EC4 Music Choir and Celebrities readers, at St Clements Danes Church in London.
- Autism and Sensory Issues Conference: Join the National Autistic Society at Leicester on Tuesday 5 December 2017 to hear the latest insight for supporting autistic individuals with sensory processing issues.
- Derek Paravicini, a blind autistic pianist ,performs at the Beacon, Watage on December 14th 2017.
- Sensory friendly Santa’s Grotto: Thoughtout December multiple locations will holding autism friendly events where kids of all ages can meet Santa in his grotto, I don’t have a definitive link for this, but just google ‘Sensory friendly Santa’ followed by your location and something should show up.
Carry on the Conversation:
As always, I have almost certainly forgotten to include some articles so please do not hesitate to tell me what I have missed and I will amend the article asap. Today’s question is fairly precise but I am extremely interested to hear your responses: have you read To Siri with Love? How bad is it? Let me know in the comments below. Alternatively you can help me brighten up this article by sharing what you have planned over the Christmas period.
I can also be found on Twitter @AutismRevised and via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thank you for reading, and I will see you next Saturday, for more thoughts from across the spectrum.