Category Archives: Autism

Kingdom of Us

After nearly four years of filming and production, the moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here!  It’s with a tiny bit of apprehension and a huge amount of excitement that we look forward to the World Premiere at the British Film Festival on the 7th October of our film about our journey over the last few years since Paul’s suicide.


Excitement because it’s been SUCH a long time in the making, and a tiny bit of apprehension because it’s such an intensely personal and real film which shows us ‘warts and all’.

We insisted from the very beginning that the film be totally real, no staging, no pretending to be something we’re not or vice versa, and that’s what it is…just us…as we are in real life.

We’re all so happy with the finished film and for that we have to thank the amazing Lucy Cohen (Director), not only a brilliant Director but an awesome person as well, we all love her dearly and really hope that the film may help in some way, if it touches one person it will have been worth every moment of the last four years.

Film trailer…

 

Tickets on sale here from 14/9/17

An Open Letter to Autism Sceptics…

This is an open letter to everyone who has heard my TED talk, seen me on TV, read about me in the press, or is familiar with my views on Autism.

I have, what are regarded by some, to be fairly unusual views on the subject of autism.

I make no apology for this!

I’ve lived with autism all my life (mother and two brothers on the spectrum and now numerous children on the spectrum), and have observed and analysed as well as learning from my experiences with them.  I haven’t followed ‘conventional’ views on how to bring up a child on the spectrum.

As with all things in life, ‘I did it my way’!

And how did ‘my way’ pan out?  Pretty good actually!  This summer holiday has seen most of them taking breaks (alone) in Europe.

Nikita flew to Madrid on her own, a long way from just a few years ago when the train to her new college was too much to ask of her.

Lorie will have been in Spain for a month with a family who speak very little English and, whilst she’s struggled, she’s consistently managed her anxiety well enough to enable her to stay.

Osborn is currently in Belgium with the Explorers and having a great time.

Kacie has been to Amsterdam on her own, flying for the first time in her life… on her own.

Would I have predicted this when they were young?  Absolutely no way!

People meet them now and assume they’ve always been able to cope – but that’s a very long way from the truth.

Nikita is autistic and also has learning difficulties. Along with that, her receptive language score is very low and she struggles to understand what people are saying to her.  And yet, here she is, defying everyone who told me she would need residential care by now, living the best life she can and, whilst having to cope with huge anxiety and communication difficulties.

Whenever I appear in the press, on TV etc… I’m always greeted with cries of ‘But, what about the non-verbal ones, the ones who will NEVER lead anything resembling a ‘normal’ life?”.

To them my answer is, “Why have you written your child off so readily?”.

Several of my children shouldn’t be leading ‘normal’ lives, and yet, here they are, confounding the experts’ predictions that they would never leave home, attend university or manage their lives without me.

In the same way that the ‘experts’ told Osborn and Pippa that they would NEVER be able to ride a bike because of their Cerebral Palsy… guess what?  Osborn is currently cycling around Belgium! Yes, he experiences pain, and yes, it’s a lot harder for him than his companions, but he’s never let small stuff like that hold him back!

I agree that there are people on the spectrum who struggle a lot more than most – but I still don’t believe they should be written off as not being able to have a good life.

May I point you in the direction of Carly Fleischmann?  Carly is totally non-verbal, has no control over her physical movements and struggles with the simplest of tasks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a beautiful person inside fighting to escape her limitations.

Carly’s father wrote a book called ‘Carly’s Voice‘. I read it years ago and it’s an inspirational story of parents who never gave up on their child.  To make life even more frustrating for Carly, she was a twin and watched her ‘neurotypical’ sister going to parties, playing dress up, learning to dance etc… all the things it turns out Carly was desperate to do herself.

How do we know that Carly wanted to do all these things when she’s completely non-verbal?  Her carers discovered one day that Carly could type, painfully slowly, with one finger that she had virtually no control over, but she was able to communicate for the first time in her life!  What she told the world was that she was very well aware of her autism and the huge limitations it placed upon her but, actually, her brain was working extremely well thank you!

How many other ‘severely’ autistic people are in the same situation as Carly a few years ago?  desperately wanting to tell the world that they’re in there, they just can’t get out?

How frustrating must that be, similar to ‘locked in syndrome’ but with a body that can move, they just have no control over it?

So many people in the world are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, Stephen Hawking being one of them.  He shouldn’t be a Theoretical Physicist, he should be rotting in some institution somewhere if we all take the view that our lives revolve around our bodies ability to function perfectly.

So, what did I do differently with my kids?  I pushed them, I believed in them, I constantly made them do things they hated me for and pushed them out of their comfort zones, gently and slowly, but I still pushed them.

If they wanted to try something, Explorers etc… they were never allowed to give up after the first time. I made them go again and again, tantrums, meltdowns, shutdowns and all.

they had to go on enough occasions that they acclimatised to the change and then they were allowed to decide they weren’t enjoying it.  And, guess what?  Most of the time they decided to carry on because they’d overcome the initial anxiety.

And it turns out that one of the world’s greatest autism advocates (herself on the autistic spectrum), Temple Grandin, agrees with me (see link).

So many parents are afraid of the reaction they receive from their autistic child and surrender immediately, most of the time. The meltdown is fear of the unknown, so if the unknown is never experienced, how can the fear possibly diminish?

I nearly gave up on Nikita. I was so close to accepting that she would need full time care in a residential setting, it breaks my heart to realise that I would have been doing her such a disservice.  I would have been ‘stealing’ her life because of my negative beliefs.

She taught me that we should NEVER EVER give up on anyone, no matter how severe their challenges and if we need further proof, I point you back towards Carly.  Watch the video, even just a few seconds, and then tell me that her life isn’t worth living; that her parents should have given up on her?  Carly has a wicked sense of humour and the video of her interviewing Chaning Tatum via her electronic voice on her computer is absolutely hilarious.

No doubt my views will annoy some people.

But maybe some people will start to understand the message that, we as a family, are trying to spread.  The message is:

  1. Believe in people; never write them off.
  2. Be open minded enough to accept that your own attitude will limit the potential of the people around you. Lorie believes her autism is a ‘Super Power’ because that’s what I taught her to believe.
  3. Disability is a word that should be erased from the dictionary.  To disable something is to ‘render it useless’, and I’ve yet to meet but a handful of people who fit this description.
  4. And don’t judge people who appear to be OK. their past and current  struggles could tell a very different story.

My children want to advocate for autistic people as well as those challenged with mental health struggles because they’ve watched each other overcome so much and understand what the possibilities are.

They want the world to focus on the potential of each and every person and stop comparing people when they do not have the knowledge to be able to judge.

My children appear to be OK, and on a lot of levels they cope very well considering how challenging their lives are.

Underneath it’s a very different story, and they struggle constantly with pretty much everything.

They’re just determined not to let their limitations hold them back if they can possibly help it.

Please don’t let your imposed limitations hold them back either.

TedX Talk

Book ‘Unravelled’

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’

The Mad Shanks Residence: The right tools for the job!

We have a family philosophy in ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’, if a something does the job ‘well enough’, it’s fine!  Hence the blog about using nutcrackers as pliers, hammer etc…the best multi tool ever invented and apparently a real ‘female’ tool to use for the above.

The eternal household hunt for the ‘proper tool for the job’ continues unabated, the tool box is full of useless and very bizarre objects that have an indeterminate purpose in life but never suitable for the actual job in hand.  Goodness only knows where all of the actual screwdrivers, hammers etc…that I seem to have to purchase over and over again end up, the house is, indeed, a black hole!

Hammer Drill

My children have been known to ask me if the ‘hammer drill’ actually doubles as a hammer!

Having found a single key in a sink full of water yesterday (no, I have no idea what it was doing in there), and a random, single Weetabix in the fridge (no bowl!), I am now immune to asking the question ‘why’, there really is no point, nothing equates to ‘strange’ in our house any longer!

Still puzzling slightly over the key in the sink I wandered into the sitting room to find Osborn cutting his finger nails, a normal enough task, although I would prefer he did it in his bedroom, but still nothing strange.  That is, until  I peered more closely at the implement he was using.  Nail scissors?   Don’t be daft!  He was using the cutters on  a multi tool that was complete with hammer.  (photographic evidence below!)

Osborn

In his own words, Osborn said “They do the job!”

Various people wander in and out of our house, some stick around, and, for others, it’s just too weird and they never come back!  I think I’ve become so used to the weird happenings that it all seems perfectly normal to me now!  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I think probably good, if I ever had the desire to live in a house that resembled the pictures in Good Housekeeping I would be well and truly ‘screwed’, so I think a brief shrug of the shoulders is the best way forward!

Long live weirdness I say.

Book ‘Unravelled’:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500593442&sr=8-1

 

My story: Love your Scars

I’ve joined Spaghetti Agencies ‘Summer Camp’, absolutely brilliant, I’ve learnt so much from it, so a huge thanks to Todd and Jo!  One of the things Todd has pointed out (and he’s so right to do so!) is that people buy from people, therefore, people are interested to know how it all started, what was it that set you on your road in business or whatever your life’s mission is.

Summer Camp!  Read my blog ‘5 Reasons for loving the gift of social media!’.

This set me thinking, I write a huge amount about all sorts of things but I’ve never actually written about how I came to be walking the path I’m currently on.  Tracing the beginnings of something can be tricky, you can think it’s one thing and then realise that something actually came before that, if you really get your thinking cap on you can often trace something right back to your childhood and one single defining moment!

Sadly I can’t go back that far but it’s pretty cool if you can!  No, my journey began with a tragedy, followed by a sickening scenario that left my, already traumatised children, reeling from its impact.  I will explain.

Pippa was 6 and Jamie 16 when Paul died

My husband committed suicide, and in these circumstances there is a post-mortem and an inquest to establish cause of death.  An inquest can take many months to be heard, as was the case with Paul’s, it was five months after the event when I found myself at the Town Hall in Leamington with a room full of people, some of whom I didn’t know.  The Coroner decided that Paul’s death was, indeed, suicide, but not before he’d gone through the pathologists report in great detail, talking about some of the things I had decided, at that time, the children didn’t need to know.  They were all still very young and the gorier details could wait until they were old enough to handle them, if ever.

In happier times…..

An inquest is always a harrowing experience, opening up wounds that have barely started to heal anyway and making everything feel as raw as the day it happened.  But, it had been hanging over me for months, so, at least I could heave a sign of relief that it was finally over and done with, or so I thought.

A week or so later a friend rang me to ask if I had read the local paper, I responded no and she suggested I buy a copy as the inquest had been covered by reporters who had attended (the unknown people) and she was concerned at the content.  When I read the reports, the way it was written reduced me to tears of despair, frustration, anger and anxiety about how it would affect the children.  The journalists had seen fit to report the findings in the minutest detail and in the most sensational way.

I was devastated but also galvanised into action when the children found themselves on the receiving end of a stream of bullying at their various schools as the story spread like ‘wildfire’ throughout the community.  But, almost worse than that, they had been exposed to traumatic details of the event that caused them even more pain and left them asking me why I had withheld the truth (the autistic mind needs to know all of the facts and excluding certain details had left them doubting me, however good my intentions), all this at a time when I was the only person they had in the world and I needed them to trust that I would be their rock.

Anxious, raw and angry I contacted the Press Association with a complaint about the way the inquest had been reported and, to cut a long story short, they agreed with my complaint.  The relevant papers had to print an apology and I got to choose where in the paper it should be.  A small victory, and not helpful to us, but maybe, just maybe, they would think twice before covering such a traumatic event in the same way, maybe someone else would be spared the pain we’d been subjected to.

That piece in the local paper and the subsequent apology was picked up by the national press and several newspaper and magazine pieces followed, I wanted to raise awareness of how that report had affected the children and why people need to be so much more aware of how different people are affected in different ways by such events.

This led to my Literary Agent finding my story online and him asking me to write the book which led to another person finding me through an agency website called ‘Find a TV Expert’ and the idea of the film was born.  As time has gone on I’ve done many TV, radio and press pieces all aimed at the same outcome, better awareness of Autism and mental health issues and I now speak at conferences and events far and wide.

For the first time in my life I’m actually doing what I want to do and really enjoying it, so, from tragedy sprang a purpose and a cause that needs to be fought by all, if I can spread the word a little faster and to a wider audience through everything I do, that’s great!

My favourite saying is ‘SCARS REMIND US WHERE WE’VE BEEN, THEY DON’T HAVE TO DICTATE WHERE WE’RE GOING’and this is the philosophy I’ve tried to bring my children up with.  Life will leave you with plenty of scars, both physically and mentally, but they can be used to hold you back or propel you forward….let it be the latter.

 

My TED Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA

My book ‘Unravelled’:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500593442&sr=8-1

Website:  http://www.vikieshanks.com

 

 

 

Autism: At last, help is at hand!

We need more help…

As the tired old saying goes, ‘If I had a pound for every time…!’

In my case, for every time an anxious parent had asked me to refer them to someone independent to get advice about their special needs child.

Help is thin on the ground, not only via the NHS but independently as well.

….and we need people like Leo who understand this!

I’m not knocking the NHS provision, nothing could be further from the truth.

They’re a committed, hard working, passionate group of people. But they simply have too many referrals on the waiting list, and far too few resources to be able to keep up.

They’re just as frustrated as you are, I can assure you of that. Their dream is to have no waiting list and to be able to help everyone who needs it.

Post diagnosis

A lot of the frustration I encounter via the Autism Support Group I run (Autism One on One), is the very real lack of support or help post diagnosis.

It’s for this very reason that I set up the group 3 years ago, at least it’s somewhere for people to come and chat, exchange ideas and meet other people in the same situation.

The children have a ball as well, they get to be themselves without judgment – and meet other people who think in similar ways.

 

But there is still a huge lack of professional support available for parents who just need to know the basics or urgently need advice about schools etc…

Someone with very real answers

Enter Leo Berry!  Some of you will have come across her via IDS and the Autism Team, if you have encountered her, you know that what Leo doesn’t know really isn’t worth knowing!

Say ‘Hello’ to Leo!

The extent of her knowledge regarding Autism is second to none and she’s the ‘go to’ person when it comes to knowing what strategies will work best in the school environment.

The sort of issues she can help with include:

  • Communication
  • Girls and autism
  • PDA
  • Sensory processing
  • Social interaction
  • Teenagers and autism
  • Understanding behaviour
  • The education system for pupils with SEND.

Leo has now founded her own organisation following her retirement from the authorities, which means WE can have her, all of us!

All of her knowledge and expertise is available and you can now reach her via her website www.autismsupported.com.  

Personally I feel a huge sense of relief and gratitude that she’s now free to help anyone who desperately needs it, and yes, of course she will need to be paid, but her knowledge and advice is priceless.

Leo will be one of the professionals now attending Autism One on One so everyone can chat to her about how she can help if they come along to the group.

Thank you for listing Autism One on One as one of your partners Leo, I feel very honoured and privileged, and on behalf of all of our members, I wish you every success with your new venture and look forward to seeing at the next meeting on the 17th May.

My TED Talk is here:-

Autism: But, they don’t LOOK Autistic!

This is a picture of Bear. He’s a Chorkie (half Yorkshire Terrier, half Chihuahua):

Here is a picture of his brother, Cody. They have the same parents and are from the same litter. He’s also a Chorkie:-

Spot the difference?

Another puzzle!

Which of my girls in this picture are the twins?  If you know us, then you’re a step ahead. Those who don’t, I would love to hear what you thought before you scroll down any further!

Which ones are the twins?

TADAAAAAAAH!!!
THIS IS MIRIE (left, stripy top) and LORIE (right), MY BEAUTIFUL 
TWINIES!

Did you get it right?  We have great fun getting people to guess which two of the children are the twins. People very rarely guess correctly so if you got it, well done!

So why am I bringing this up?

What’s in a look?

Well I’d like to talk about one of my pet peeves!

Those of you with children on the spectrum, or if you are on the spectrum yourself, will relate to this and I’m well aware of how upsetting it can be.

It’s THAT moment when someone learns about yours, or your childrens’, ASD.

It’s THAT moment when they look you or your child up and down and come out with immortal words: “Oh, they/you don’t look autistic!”

It’s that moment when you feel your blood boil and at the same instance have that sinking feeling of “When will people get it?”.

Even if the commenters mean it in a good way, it’s really annoying.

You can’t ‘see’ autism; it’s to do with brain wiring so there’s very rarely anything to ‘see’, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges aren’t immense and often life-changing.

It’s the same with mental health challenges; you can’t ‘see’ them but that doesn’t mean that they’re not causing the person a huge amount of distress.

People can’t ‘see’ that Bear and Cody are brothers from the same litter.

People can’t ‘see’ that Lorie and Mirie are twins.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that they are.

The front people put on can hide myriad challenges

Please stop judging on looks alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem and every single person deserves understanding and tolerance, whether they have hidden challenges or not.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and everyone deserves respect. Maybe if our world was more accepting and understanding of people’s differences we would all get along a lot better. Everyone has a story you know nothing about.

So here’s what I’m asking of you…

When my children tell you that they are autistic, please don’t respond with the words “You don’t look autistic”.

It’s taken a lot of courage to tell you in the first place, so don’t invalidate them by disputing the truth.

And for everyone else out there, I won’t stop banging on about understanding, acceptance and tolerance whilst I still have the ability to breathe!  I’m on your side!

Autism: 5 reasons for loving the gift of Social Media

Social Media…..love it or hate it?

I love social media, I’m just not very good at it, although I’m working hard to improve my skills with the help of the best in the business, Spaghetti Agency, Todd and Jo are the real experts in social media, if I had 1% of their knowledge I’d be rocking the internet!  Having said that, a lot of people seem to hate it, and I kind of get that, fish pout, inappropriate selfies and the constant stream of coffee and buns floating around on Facebook is enough to put anyone off.  Do we really need to know what you’re eating unless it’s relevant to a slimming group or similar?

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Take some time to look around properly, however, and you’ll find some gems that are definitely worthwhile, and I found one such post on Facebook yesterday.  It got me thinking (always a good thing), whilst also reinforcing my love of social media. It was a post from a guy called Bryan who has Aspergers Syndrome and is well worth having a look at, in one short minute he explains why social media is so important to him.

So, exactly why is social media so important to some people?

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  1. Verbal Communication can be a challenge

A lot of people on the autistic spectrum struggle with verbal communication for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, if they are feeling anxious, speech can be impossible, they just can’t get the words out.  I’ve seen this repeatedly with my own children and it’s incredibly frustrating for them, what we need to understand is that their inability to speak is physical, not just an unwillingness to use their words.  Secondly, some people on the spectrum struggle to understand face to face conversation, this is mostly because their brains operate at such a fast pace, and they see and hear so much more detail, that they struggle to process all of the incoming information.

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2. Detachment makes communication easier

Taking the face to face element out of the communication process actually works very well for those on the spectrum, whereas most of the rest of us find face to face a far better form of expressing ourselves.  This is an important point for people to understand, we’re all different, and as Bryan so beautifully puts it (and what my TED talk was all about), Autism is a different brain wiring, not a disability, ‘Different, not Disabled’.  Perhaps if we were all more mindful that ‘one size does not fit all’ our ‘differently wired’ friends and colleagues would find life much easier? I could go off on one here about the education system ( for system insert ‘sausage machine’!) but frankly, I could write a book on that and may well do so.

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3. Creating friendships

Taking some of the need for social skills out of the equation makes life much easier for autistic people to create friendships. That is unless you have access to something along the lines of the autism support group I created 3 years ago, Autism One on One.  I started it for numerous reasons, one of the greatest being the fact that the NHS rarely provide these  types of group, but another huge motivation for me was the fact that people on the spectrum and their friends and family needed a social outlet where there would be no judgement and everyone understood everyone else’s challenges. We actually have a very strong group of young adults who attend for the social element of being able to, as one of them put it, very aptly, ‘meet my own people’.  With each other they socialise very easily as the ‘normal’ expectations of communication are not there, they can be blunt and brief and no-one takes offence!  The great thing about social media is the opportunity to meet like-minded people and create a social group on-line without the pressures.

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4. No travel required!

Travelling can be another challenge for our autistic friends, again for several different reasons.  Sometimes the complexities of timetables (impossible for most of us I believe!) can just be too challenging, sometimes anxiety makes travel difficult or any number of other reasons.  Whatever the reason may be, the opportunity to make friends all over the world from the security of home and a laptop is immeasurably beneficial for all of us, but in particular, those of us who find all of the above a challenge.

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5. Bullying

A huge number of people on the autistic spectrum have experienced bullying…….there……I’ve said it, and it’s true.  They’re different and anyone different comes in for s**t from ignorant people who have no idea how awful the impact on the victim can be.  I was bullied throughout my entire school life for many reasons, I understand the pain and despair.  Bullying can make you suicidal, I totally understand that, and Bryan was bullied, bullying on-line is a lot easier to manage (you can block people on Facebook!) and therefore is a great way to minimise the risk of it happening again.  Not that I advocate people on the spectrum becoming hermits, far from it, they need to be challenged and to challenge themselves as much as the rest of us in order to grow stronger, but sometimes, taking the risk away for some of the time can be incredibly helpful.

Social Media can be a life saver

As is always the case, we need to see social media for what it represents to all people, not just our own personal dislikes. For many, it’s a life saver and should be respected as such.  Personally, I’ve been able to reach out and support/help many more people than I otherwise would have thanks to being able to talk to total strangers on-line and offer advice or suggestions that may help them.  Autism One on One is run from a Facebook page and members post challenges they need suggestions with as well interesting and helpful information and new studies.  Social Media is an incredibly powerful force, let’s treat it with the respect it deserves as well as using its power wisely.

 

The other perspective, why your life is more interesting than mine!

We all have a story!

I find meeting new people absolutely fascinating, I love hearing their stories and getting a better understanding of what their life is like and I’m a good listener, so people happily open up.  When the tables are turned however, and they start asking about me and my life, I struggle a bit!

 

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Who are you?

The first major challenge is when they ask ‘What do I do?’.  There’s no simple answer to that one so I normally, rather feebly say, ‘Well I’m an author’, I have written a book with another one on the way so that’s true.  I also do a lot of public speaking, so, I’m a speaker.  I do a lot to try and raise better awareness about the struggles associated with Autism and mental health issues, so I guess that makes something of a campaigner?  I also mentor people to try to enable them to better understand how the autistic brain works in order for them to be better placed in their lives to help those around them.  I also do a lot of work with the media so I suppose that makes something of a media commentator, and I blog a lot, so I’m a blogger.  On top of that lot, I’m also a mother to 7 wonderful but unusual children!

Who am I?

Do you get the dilemma?  Then, when they start aiming questions at me about my everyday life it gets even worse!  Having overcome the (it seems) shocking fact that I have 7 children, we then head into even muddier waters when I have to explain their individual mental, physical, autism and dyslexia challenges.  Then people ask how my husband copes with 7 women in the house, so I have to explain that he passed away. Tthen comes the total conversation stopper, ‘How did he die so young?’.  Do I lie or do I tell the truth? I normally figure that they asked, so I’ll tell the truth, he committed suicide.  Deathly silence normally follows that one leading onto profuse platitudes.

Are we in a competition that I wasn’t told about?

The worse thing though isn’t the silence or the awkwardness, it’s the fact that people always follow up with something along the lines of “Wow, and I thought I had problems?”, they then clam up and don’t feel they can moan about their lives because ‘what they’re going through is nothing compared to my life’.

This makes me sad, I’m not in a competition to find out who’s had the best or worst life, every single one of us have our own challenges which we deal with in the best way we can.  My life is no better or worse than anyone else’s, it just happens to be my life and my life has unfolded one day at a time to become chapters in rather complicated story, just as everyone’s lives unfold one day at a time to create their individual story.

And, to be honest, I’m grateful for my life, I have such a deep understanding of so many things in such depth and that has helped to mould who I am today, I think I’m OK, in fact, I quite like me.  I don’t hurt anyone intentionally, I try to help people with the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years, my kids are well behaved and chasing their dreams and I wouldn’t change a thing about my life.

A PLEA….FROM ME!

But, I would like to ask everyone a favour, if we should ever meet, promise me that you won’t compare your life to mine, don’t feel you have no problems compared to mine so you can’t share them with me, your own problems are very real and challenging to you.  If we ever meet I will learn from you and maybe you will learn from me….and, I desperately want to hear about your life, I find yours so much more interesting than mine!

 

TED Talks in China…….they can’t get them!

I’ve had my eyes opened in the last couple of days, in China, YouTube is blocked, everywhere!  You can’t watch a TED talk along with a whole load of other stuff….

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I may be ignorant but I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t know this and I was shocked to hear it!  How did I find out?  Someone in the USA has asked if they can transcribe my TED talk into Chinese, I was a little baffled as adding subtitles would be much easier until they explained that the only way to get my message out in China is via a blog, book etc….

They explained to me that very little is understood about autism over there and the attitude towards it is very negative, they want to spread my message that autism isn’t a negative thing and can come with huge benefits and talents.  I’m very keen to get my message out there to anyone who wants to hear it, as it’s my absolute passion to change perceptions about different brain wiring, I’ll happily do whatever it takes.

I now need to get the go ahead from TED to make sure this is ok, surely it’s fine, but my huge thanks to Yu, the person who’s contacted me for caring enough about the people of China to want to do this.  I await permission from TED…watch this space………

Apple Mac’s, Cats and Baths!

I think we all know that most Apple products don’t mix with water very well?  I certainly did, hence why in the 3 years I’ve had my Mac, it’s only been into the bathroom (very cautiously) 3 times!  On the third occasion THE disaster struck………yes, that one, the one I had nightmares about, the one that would end my world as I knew it!

I had started to run a bath and turned it off as 2 of my beautiful children had started talking to me about totally different subjects.  Only having 2 of them talking to me at same time was nothing I couldn’t handle, the cacophony is usually much worse, this was a walk in the park!

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These items should never be introduced to a bath full of water!

Having said that, it distracted me, after a few seconds I looked around the upstairs hallway looking for my Mac and iPhone that I knew were together……nothing.  The penny dropped and I rushed into the bathroom just in time to see Tabby, one of our……..errrrrrr!!!!……..beautiful cats, jump onto the cabinet next to the bath, right on top of my phone and laptop!  It might have been my involuntary scream that frightened her and caused her to launch herself off but before I could mutter ‘shit’ under my breath, she pushed herself off the laptop as I watched, in agonising slow motion, both devices float into 2 inches of warm bath water!

Did I panic?  Well, I guess that’s one word for it?!  Having just watched my entire life being destroyed, I don’t think panic is really the appropriate word……my world stopped turning….

As fast as I could I dragged both items from the water and grabbed the towel, screaming at the kids to Google what to do if your Mac and iPhone fall into the bath.  We followed what instructions we could find but to no avail, the Mac was well and truly ‘Dodo’d’……  Miraculously, the phone still works, one point in favour of Apple for managing to create a phone that can survive more than the most obsessively cautious individuals ownership.  No points for me for thinking everything I did was backed up to the Cloud only to discover that I’ve lost everything on the Mac.  Manuscripts, proposals, photos, my media stuff….everything……GONE!

My life is now in hands of Todd at Spaghetti Agency who has the power and the contacts to (hopefully) download the contents of my hard drive so I can get most of it back, that’s if the hard drive isn’t fried!

So, here I sit with my new Mac (courtesy of interest free credit and no deposit!) trying to piece my virtual life back together, except that these days my virtual life and my real life have become so inextricably linked that they are now ‘as one’, life as I knew it 3 days ago have come to an end, I am now re-building it.

The most traumatic events in life include bereavement, divorce, changing jobs etc…..they need to add the death of a computer to that list, I am definitely in mourning!

Please take this as sage advice, I took my laptop into the bathroom to watch a talk someone had recommended to me, I thought I was being super productive by watching it in the bath….killing 2 birds with one stone so to speak.  Talk about backfire, the 20 minutes I would have saved have become entire days of trying to retrieve stuff, setting up my new computer and crying……..

OH YEAH……AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING BACKED UP SOMEWHERE!!