Sunday 29 July 2018

Neurotypical, Neurodiverse, Atypical ..... What does it all mean?

When talking about Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are generally a lot of terms thrown around. Neurotypical, Neurodiverse, Atypical and Neurodiversity being some of them.

The term Neurodiverse was first coined in the late 1990's by two individuals - by an Autism advocate and sociologist, Judy Singer, and by a journalist, Harvey Blume.

Judy Singer first used the term in her not well read sociology thesis that she presented in Australia (go you good thing!) in 1998. As Judy states in her book, "Neurodiversity: The Birth of an Idea," 

"I am generally credited with coining the word and Harvey for being the first in print."

Harvey Blume is credited with popularizing the word! In the September 1st 1998 issue of The Atlantic, Blume wrote -

"Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general."

But what do all these terms mean?

In the Autism world, Neurotypical refers to those individuals who have not been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Atypical refers to those who have a different way of thinking, feeling and being. Those who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Now let's talk Neurodiversity!

Neurodiversity is short for Neurological Diversity and it refers to the diversity that is present among us all in regards to our brains and minds.

To me, Neurodiversity is the idea that having differences in the way that we think and process the world around us is natural and this diversity is a valuable asset to the world in which we live.

When you think about it, there is a great deal of variation among human brains and human minds. No two people think alike. We all process the world around us in a different way. We all learn differently.

The way in which we think and process things is in part due to the differences in our cultural backgrounds and our personal life experiences. But it is also due to the fact that our brains are wired to work differently from individual to individual.

Neurodiversity should be considered as a natural form of diversity in much the same way that there are diversities among us in the forms of our ethnicity, our race, our cultural backgrounds, our gender and so on. And just like other forms of diversity, Neurodiversity can enrich societies and communities all over the world.

But unfortunately, just like other forms of diversity, individuals who are Neurodiverse are often met by hostility by those who think that there is a right and a wrong way to think, act or feel.

But and here is the kicker for all those who think that being Neurodiverse is a bad thing, Neurodiversity, just like Autism Spectrum Disorder, can be viewed as a spectrum. We're all Neurodiverse, regardless of an ASD diagnosis or not, as we all think differently from the next person.

It is important to recognise and remember that Neurodiversity doesn't only refer to Neurotypical and Autistic. There is a lot of different ways of thinking and being between Neurotypical and Autistic as well as on either side of both. 

Neurodiverse simply means that everyone's neurology is different and unique. No one person is more important or less important than the next due to the way that they think.

Let's embrace Neurodiveristy. It can only make the world a better place.

Sunday 15 July 2018

A Short Story by O - The Five Amazing Friends - Transformation!

The Five Amazing Friends - Transformation!

One school day, five friends were playing around the trees. Their names were Livy, Jemima, Harry, Xavier and Maximus. As Livy and Jemima ran around the trees, one of the biggest trees began to glow a bright iridescent blue so they yelled out to the others, "Guys, you HAVE to come and see this!"

Maximus, as always, he was the first one to come running over. Next was Xavier and last came Harry. Maximus asked "Whoa! What is it?"

Livy replied "I think it is a portal!"

Everyone nodded in agreeance and with a burst of light, they all got sucked into the tree!

When they came out, they were in a strange land. It looked nothing like their school playground. They also looked nothing like themselves. They realised that they had all transformed into a different animal. Livy had transformed into a tiger. Jemima had transformed into a unicorn, Harry into a hedgehog, Xavier an Owl and Maximus was a cheetah.

Harry with a hint of excitement in his voice yelled "Hedgehog, yes! I wonder, can I run as fast as Sonic?"

Everyone loved their new forms, and spent sometime exploring what they could do but they all wondered why they were in this new foreign land.

Time in this land seemed to fly by and before they knew it, night had come and gone and a new day had started.

The next day as they were exploring their new surrounds, they met a lone wolf standing at the entrance to a cave. The wolf begged them to help her. She told the five friends that she needed help to regain control of her kingdom from Draco, a terrible evil dragon.

Without any hesitation, Livy told her that the five friends would be happy to help.

Harry cupped his little paws in front of his mouth and went "Pfffttttt!"

As one, Livy, Jemima, Xavier and Maximus yelled, "Not the time Harry!"

In a small voice Harry murmured "Sorry, I was trying to get into the spirit!"

The five friends huddled together and thought of a plan. Harry said "We need a name! We should be the Furious Five Animorphs!"

Jemima said "Oh my gosh, that's a great name."

So it was decided, they would be known as The Furious Five Animorphs.

Harry and the wolf were to be the bait, they would wait at the throne in the castle. Xavier and Maximus would pretend to be guards at the entrance to the castle. Livy and Jemima would hide out of sight and do hand signals to the others - they would warn the others when Draco was at the castle and when they should attack.

Somehow Draco found out about their plans and he with his army of guards snuck up on the five friends and the wolf.

When Jemina spotted Draco and his guards, she dabbed and out of her horn came the most amazing rainbow which knocked the guards off balance. Livy touched one of her stripes and she suddenly had a sword in her hands which she used to send the guards back to the evil palace with one swipe. Xavier yelled "Owww, my eyes hurt," and at the moment laser beams shot out of his eyes. Xavier started shooting the remaining guards, knocking them to the ground.

Harry started zipping around Draco yelling "Fast not slow, fast not slow," causing Draco to become dazed and confused. Maximus became super strong and started to punch the ground yelling "Kapow, kapow!"

The five friends and the wolf fought and fought until Draco was sent back to the evil palace.

After Draco disappeared, the wolf turned back into the Queen and gave each of the five friends a badge of honour.

Then before they could celebrate their success, the five friends found themselves standing back in the school ground looking like themselves - five school kids dressed in their school uniforms.

Harry, with a hint of dismay, said "Oh man!"

At that moment they heard the school bell ring for third session, so they all wandered off to their next class whispering, "What will be our next adventure!"

A Short Story Series by O!

Where is this year going? We're midway through the year and the school holidays have come to end. O has been a very busy, creative little superhero this school holidays with writing a series of short stories as well as doing some research on various topics.

I had no idea that she'd been writing and the fist short story that she showed to me, blew me away.

Whoever said that individuals with autism have a limited imagination and no creativity, needs to meet O!

When I asked if she wanted to publish them on the blog, she jumped at the opportunity. Within seconds of mentioning about publishing them on the blog, the pencils and paper came out and she was drawing pictures to go with her first short story.

So, keep an eye out for them on the blog, I have a feeling that there will be more than one short story being written in the near future! I'll be adding links to each story as O adds them!

The Five Amazing Friends - Transformation!

Sunday 1 July 2018

Dear Ms Shanahan

Recently I read an absurd article in a major Australian newspaper in which the author states that autism should be removed from the NDIS. In essence, the author states that individuals with autism shouldn't be able to access funding, that autism shouldn't be classed as a disability and that disability funding should be given to those that really need it.


But before I get onto my open letter, I'll give you a little background on the NDIS.

The NDIS is the National Disability Insurance Scheme that is slowly rolling out Australia wide. The scheme has been in the trial stage in many parts of Australia over the last number of years and is gradually replacing other funding schemes Australia wide. In the last figures that were released about the participants that are currently in the scheme, it was stated that there are 142,000 individuals in the scheme. Of those 142,000 individuals, 29% of them are listed as being ASD. This is quite a large percentage and the scheme is yet to be rolled out nationally.

It would appear that the sheer number of individuals diagnosed with autism wanting to access the NDIS was grossly underestimated and the administrators are scrambling to "fix" the issue.

There have been several reports leaked to the media over the last month in regards to the NDIS changing the eligibility of Autistic individuals in being able to access the NDIS. If the proposed changes are put in place, it would mean that autistic individuals with a level 1 or level 2 diagnosis may find it much more difficult to access the scheme.

From a personal level, the NDIS has been instrumental for our family over the last three years in enabling L and O to access services such as multi-disciplinary therapy services and support services. Without the NDIS we would not have been able to pay for the level of support that both O and L have been receiving. And without the level of support that they have and still are both receiving, I doubt that they would be making the progress that they currently are.

I stumbled onto the most recent article quite by accident and as I was reading it, I could feel steam coming out of my ears. So here is my response to the author.

Dear Ms Shanahan,

For someone who has three adult children with health and subsequent disability issues, you are not showing any compassion towards others nor are you showing any knowledge about autism.

I am in a quandary as to which if your misguided, incorrect and downright offensive statements to address first.

There is no such thing as "mild autism." End of story. You either have autism or you don't. Mild autism is like saying someone is slightly pregnant. You either are or aren't. Autism presents differently from individual to individual. Yes the diagnosis of ASD is presented as a scale, but Autism itself is a spectrum. Individuals diagnosed with level 1 ASD still have struggles. The struggles may differ from those who have been diagnosed with level 3 ASD, but the struggles are still present.

We too sought and are receiving "practical help" for my children, as you put it, in the form of occupational therapy, speech therapy and child psychology sessions. Both of which are assisting my children to flourish both socially and in the education system. It's called early intervention therapy and the idea is that if a child receives therapy services early on in life, then they should not need as much support as adults. We are giving O and L the skills now that they will need as adults. We're setting them up to succeed as adults.

Both of my children were diagnosed in Western Australia and I can guarantee that we did NOT doctor shop for their diagnosis of ASD. We didn't choose to spend thousands of dollars on specialist appointments and assessments. It was a necessity and none of which we could claim through Medicare or through our private health fund. The assessment process took a good six months, three separate assessments and a lot of heartache. Times two. Why anyone would doctor shop to go through an assessment process amazes me.

And at no point during either of my children's assessment was "the parents level of stress," i.e. mine, taken into account. This does not form part of an ASD assessment. Period.

I have an idea Ms Shanahan, how about you sit in on an ASD assessment (from start to finish, so you may want to clear the next six months in your work schedule) just so that you can personally see what an assessment details. Keep in mind that most specialists are booked out for up to six months so you will be waiting in limbo until an appointment becomes available. You may also need to cancel plans with very short notice if an earlier appointment is made available. You will also need to factor in travel time, not all specialists are located in the same area so an hour appointment session may, in fact, take an entire day due to having to travel to and from the specialist.

You would have children like O and L go through a community education program instead of receiving vital funding and therapy. Pray, do tell, like what?????? And who will pay for such programs???? Who will run such programs???? Specialist sessions are not cheap. Where would community education programs gain the level of funding required to conduct intense therapy similar to early intervention programs for high numbers of children?

Without our amazing OTs and Speech therapists over the last three years, I highly doubt that my children would be making the progress that they are and continue to make. And without an ASD diagnosis, neither of my children would receive the support in school that they need.

You are incredibly fortunate that you received all the services that you did for your children. We receive very little financial assistance from the government. And many families that I have come to befriend through the therapy that my children attend, are in the same boat as my family. The small allowance that we receive, pays for fuel to and from therapy. I'd love assistance to pay for their various medications, very few of which are on the PBS list. We had to fight tooth and nail to receive the small amount of financial assistance that we currently receive.

Please educate yourself on autism before you next write an article on why Autism should be removed from the NDIS.

Yours Sincerely,
This very angry parent.