Wot you looking at, with your #JudgeyFace?

“The expression people pull when they are making instant judgements about James and me.  JudgeyFace”.  That’s a quote from an almost-annoying-cool-and-funny woman-blogger-mum called Louise Williams speaking about the contempt and hostility that she and her autistic son James face when out in public.

judgeyface.png

I would recommend you check out her blog, but don’t tell me if you think it’s good, I’m still dealing with irrational childish jealousy that I didn’t come up with #JudgeyFace.

Seen it often enough.

Beatrix is slowly coming out of all-season flip-flop wearing.  I took her to school in flip-flops for the best part of three years, whatever the weather, even the slushiest icy snow watching her toes in panic for signs of frostbite.

A large three-form entry primary school, that’s about 700 kids and their parents, grandparents, childminders, etc doing the JudgeyFace every day.  I was starting to get borderline Jeremy-Kyle-guest about it but somewhat fortunately the start of home education spared me from a minor assault charge and several weeks of community service.

As I wrote in I Stand Quietly, I’ve stood at the checkout in Waitrose many times whilst she wolf-howled due to the sensory impact of the environment.  Suburban middle-class 4×4 Conservative-voting JudgeyFace is my favourite.  Watch out you don’t wilt your micro salad or turn your artisan hand-cut wild boar pancetta rancid with that sour expression, biatch.

Louise is so not alone in seeing JudgeyFace.

74% of families living with autism told The National Autistic Society they regularly face tuts and disapproval. 87% said people stare at them.  As part of the Too Much Information campaign, Louise has put out a call on social media for people to “show us your #JudgeyFace, then lose it for good”.

Beatrix and I are getting behind Louise’s idea and so should you.

You’d be joining famous faces like Leigh Francis (aka TV’s Keith Lemon), Strictly’s Arlene Phillips, Fresh Meat’s Kimberly Nixon, and of course #pinkhairdontcare Alan Gardner who have been sharing their most severe JudgeyFaces this week.

 

(I’m trying to be grown-up about it, but freaking hell, she’s even got cool celebrities doing their #JudgeyFace for her, Rick Edwards could JudgeyFace all over my arse right now.)

I wasted much of yesterday trying to take my own JudgeyFace selfie that didn’t make me look like too much like a scary fat witch-munter seeing as it was going on t’internet.

Starting with The “Did Someone Just Fart” Not-Very-Judgey-Just-A-Bit-Lame Series:

…and then Beatrix decided to photobomb with her artistic interpretation: #JudgeyFoot:

It took me a while to find a clear distinction from my NotInTheMoodForSexFace and my general StrainFace but finally… please meet my JudgeyFace!

You’re welcome.

No one looks good with a #JudgeyFace. So show us yours by uploading your most judgey selfie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder or Grindr and whichever other trendy social media channels you frequent with the hashtag #JudgeyFace, nominate your friends to show theirs too and then LOSE IT.

Too Much Information: by Beatrix, aged 8

To mark the end of World Autism Awareness Week, Beatrix, my amazing autistic daughter, would like to share her personal experiences of Asperger’s.  She would really like to make a difference, to make her own little mark on the internet, so please share…

To some of us autistic people it’s like a big dangerous world out there that we just don’t understand: having Asperger’s is like constantly having a heart attack that can’t kill you.

Walking into a room full of people is like trying to look into the sun.  I would just have to walk out, I wouldn’t be able to bear it.  Being in a busy place is really hard, I probably wouldn’t be able to cope, people are zooming fast and coming out at you all the time.  I have to try to keep myself hidden.

I don’t like to be looked at a lot of the time, for me that feels like it’s rude.  I like to be hidden because I feel like lots of people stare at me and it makes me feel worried.

If there is a loud noise, it feels like a big boom that can kill you.  I also don’t like super-quiet noises because it feels like a really terrible thing, it tickles in an unpleasant way.  I’ve super-sensitive hearing so when there are tannoy-type announcements (at the supermarket or at the train station), it is really scary and hurts my ears.  I am always very scared that a fire alarm or a siren might go off.

When people touch me, it feels like a spider or something else that you are absolutely afraid of and it makes you go crazy, it’s just a horrible, horrible feeling and people need to respect that and it’s one of the things that they don’t.  They think I’m the mean one.  I can’t go into a lot of shops and restaurants because they smell too strong and because the waiters and assistants come up too close so I don’t want to look at them but I know they think I’m rude so I have to try and suffer it.

If there’s a weird texture it can make me feel sick or crazy, it can make me do something that wouldn’t be “normal” like wriggling my arms or jerking about because it makes me feel like I need to make my actual bones shake, to get air onto me, and to get rid of the bad feeling as quickly as I can.  Sometimes I have to scratch feelings off my skin.  I can see how things feel, it sounds crazy but it’s true.  For example, I don’t like carrier bags for how they feel so I can’t even see one without feeling sick and angry.

Sometimes if there are too many things going on at once I can feel crazy and act mad like a dog or a cat or something… I can make noises to make myself feel better as I feel more in control but that makes people look at me and that makes me feel worse.

For me, a surprise can make me rage.  Even tiny things can make me really badly cry.  Sometimes I feel like my body has a mind of its own.  Something happening suddenly that I can’t immediately explain can make me run away, even if I might be putting myself in danger.  If I have been out somewhere, I might need to spend a couple of days in bed to try and recover and get my sensories under control.

Some people think that because some autistic people don’t wear clothes, or wear ear defenders, they think it’s rude or annoying and bad and think we’re bad people or we have bad parents but that’s just not true.  For example, I like to stick my tongue out because it feels really good, I’m not being rude.

BUT IT’S NOT A THING THAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED, NO ONE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF ME OR ANYONE LIKE ME, I’M JUST ME.

If you would like to make a donation to the National Autistic Society who support and advocate for autistic people like Beatrix and our whole family, please click here.

To learn more about the #AutismTMI (Too Much Information) campaign, how it feels to be autistic, and how you can help, please click here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Please share.

US readers: please note that autistic people would like you to Boycott Autism Speaks and choose not to “Light It Up Blue” this April, Autism Speaks spends 12% of budget on autism prevention research (eugenics) and only 4% on support for autistics.  For more info and how you can truly contribute to create a world where neurodiversity is accepted, then check out the Twitter hashtag #RedInstead. where you’ll find amazing #ActuallyAutistic adults to follow…  Thank you.

Beautiful Eyes… seeing beauty in details

Ever since she was little, Beatrix has been allowed to use my iPhone.  I have always loved uploading photos to my mac and seeing her pictures in amongst mine; little insights, perhaps, into the world as she sees it… here are some of them.

I am sharing these as part of World Autism Awareness Week, I do not claim that these reflect everyone on the autism spectrum, or even autism.  Just one little girl, her artistic sensibilities, the things that have captured her eye and that she has chosen to record.

Of course, I have selected these images from many so it is a curated view of her world.  I have not chosen them because I “like” them or because I think they are the most “wowwy” just because they are the most representative of the themes that have repeated themselves over the past several years: light and shadow, contrasting colours, ears and feet, lines and circles.

Please don’t misinterpret Beatrix by the absence of people in these photographs, she takes photos of her family and her pets too, as do we all.  I have chosen these images as they are the ones that many of us wouldn’t take, images that she has captured solely for herself.

 

If you would like to make a donation to the National Autistic Society who support and advocate for autistic people like my daughter Beatrix (the beautiful fierce tiger tamer in the image above) and our whole family, please click here.

Find more information about the #AutismTMI (Too Much Information) campaign, and how it feels to be autistic, and how you can help, please click here.

US readers: please note that autistic people would like you to Boycott Autism Speaks and choose not to “Light It Up Blue” this April, Autism Speaks spends 12% of budget on autism prevention research (eugenics) and only 4% on support for autistics.  For more info and how you can truly contribute to create a world where neurodiversity is accepted, then check out the Twitter hashtag #RedInstead. where you’ll find amazing #ActuallyAutistic adults to follow…  Thank you.

If we were having coffee…

I’m writing this to everyone but especially those who blog on WordPress (and in this case follow the hashtag #weekendcoffeeshare).  I know from past experience of my post “I Stand Quietly” that WordPress bloggers can help things to go viral globally… and I hope that you might choose to make that happen again, but this time, it’s not my words I want to share…

If we were having coffee, today, I would probably mention that it is World Autism Awareness Day and, perhaps, you would switch off a little.  That’s OK.  Either it’s something that you are interested in, or not, I’m not interested in a lot of things that others feel passionately about…

However as bloggers I hope that you are interested in writings, feelings, expressions of self.  Humanity in all forms.  I hope that you understand the fear and loneliness of being misunderstood, discounted, ignored and the yearning desire to be heard, believed, accepted, included…

I know that if someone dismissed your words, out of hand, without justification or explanation; if someone argued against your words (feelings, beliefs, your very self) then you would be outraged, bewildered, devastated and more…

Below I have linked to the words of an autistic called Jim Sinclair, words that I admit I only discovered recently.  I wish that these words were more widely known, so that if/when autism enters someone’s life, they are already aware that it’s OK, specifically so that parents of a newly diagnosed autistic child know that it’s OK.

The most important thing about these words is that they were written in 1993 – nearly a quarter of a century ago – since then revolutionary things have happened in the world; the internet, blogging and mobile technology have given so many a voice, a community, access to information, knowledge, the ability to communicate and advocate and still, we are mostly frightened and ignorant about autism, spending fortunes on searching for reasons, interventions, treatments, cures, and worst of all, prevention.  Autistic people don’t want that, they want acceptance and support.

So please, sit back, enjoy your coffee and a read… let’s talk afterwards.

Don’t Mourn For Us – full version

Extract:

Autism isn’t something a person has, or a “shell” that a person is trapped inside. There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person–and if it were possible, the person you’d have left would not be the same person you started with.

This is important, so take a moment to consider it: Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism.

Therefore, when parents say,

I wish my child did not have autism,

what they’re really saying is,

I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.

Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.

Don’t Mourn For Us – full version

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

If you would like to make a donation to the National Autistic Society who support and advocate for autistic people like my daughter Beatrix (the beautiful fierce tiger tamer in the image above) and our whole family, please click here.

Find more information about the #AutismTMI (Too Much Information) campaign, and how it feels to be autistic, and how you can help, please click here.

US readers: please note that autistic people would like you to Boycott Autism Speaks and choose not to “Light It Up Blue” this April, Autism Speaks spends 12% of budget on autism prevention research (eugenics) and only 4% on support for autistics.  For more info and how you can truly contribute to create a world where neurodiversity is accepted, then check out the Twitter hashtag #RedInstead. where you’ll find amazing #ActuallyAutistic adults to follow…  Thank you.

My life in Charideeee (Can I Haz Money Plz)

We’re just a couple of days off the start of World Autism Awareness Week and I would like you all to consider a small donation to the National Autistic Society – you can donate here at this link – I somewhat accidentally raised over £14k + Gift Aid with ‘I Stand Quietly’ over the past year; I would really love to build that total to £20K by the end of 2016.  Go on, go on…

Why?

There are many autism charities, of varying calibre and ethos.  I have chosen to raise money for the National Autistic Society as they are big enough to have influence and they listen to autistic people, ironically not all autism charities do.  They aren’t perfect I’m sure but I believe their intentions are good.

What am I going to do to justify asking for your money?

Fuck all.  I daren’t risk it.

I know I bang on about it but that ‘I Stand Quietly’ shizzle is by no small margin my most successful foray into “Charity Stuff”, and I think that’s probably my luck all run out.

For the last decade, my charitable deeds have been limited to the anonymous-safe-distance-direct-debit variety as previous attempts at ‘getting out there’ have ended in bitter scenes of very dark tragicomedy, so this year I am going to ask you to donate to keep me off the streets.

Confession time below – very dark comedy warning – if it makes you laugh, please donate, if it offends, apologies, but I’m not sure what you would have been expecting…

1. Grapple-and-Grannygate

As a teenager, I volunteered at a residential “hospital” for “mentally handicapped” people (you could call it that then and so I use the term deliberately for that reason).

I did have a genuine desire to help but I admit there was also a strong motivation to hang out with my mates who also volunteered there, smoke the odd illicit fag and discuss boys.

So this is perhaps 25 years ago.  At the time, I didn’t overly judge or analyse the methods or surroundings, perhaps that was rather unsophisticated of me but I was quite busy being a moody teen.  With a more educated hindsight, a lot of the accommodation and treatment of the residents was pretty fecking basic, bordering grim, but maybe not unusual for the time.  I don’t know.

Importantly for me, I never saw any malice or lack of effort from the volunteer team I worked with, there were a lot of very loving people, trying their best to make a difference.

Mostly the volunteers helped with outings.  I wasn’t very good at it.  I also generally tend to attract unfortunate events.

One of the low points was a trip to the park with a tiptoe-walking girl who had no speech, no eye contact and couldn’t bear to be touched (I was informed she was autistic, I’d not heard that word before that).

We were lagging behind the main group already, I was out of my depth, guiding her in approximately the right direction by semi-circling around her with my arms out whilst she made angry warning noises at me.  It probably looked slightly like a goose courtship ritual gone wrong.

She suddenly went to walk into the road in front of a car and I grabbed her arm – an impulsive reflex and I’m still not sure how else I would have handled it – and caused her to have a meltdown.  Awful.  She screamed and screamed but I was too scared to let go of her arm in case she ran in the road again.

Before I could do anything about it, still in the throes of panic and adrenalin, an old lady rushed up and started hitting me with her handbag because she thought I was beating the poor girl up.  (Fair enough, I looked pretty dodgy, I was in a bit of a Goth phase.)

So there I was, outside a parade of shops, down on my knees being bashed about by a pensioner, desperately hanging onto a screaming girl and absolutely crapping myself.

Everyone laughed it off bar me and the girl, I don’t think anyone considered that she might have complex feelings, let alone that non-verbal doesn’t mean non-cognitive and that she was probably desperate to communicate how she felt by another means.

I reflect on that often, with all that I know now, thankful for how far we’ve come…

2. Mr Race-For-The-Cake & Mr What-Am-I-Going-To-Bake

We also used to go on “special bus” trips to Asda and wander around the aisles then maybe have a cup of tea in the cafe if no one had got too agitated.

I was a brilliant wheelchair pusher and conversationalist and on those trips both I and my assigned resident generally had an ace time once their feet, fingers and elbows were protected from my crap cornering ability; but if given walking charges – especially on the typical 2 to 1 ratio – it generally went royally wrong.

I hadn’t the experience or talent to get one independent mind with limited reciprocal communication skills to agree to go in the same direction as me, let alone two.

The last time I went, my limitations partly acknowledged, I was buddied up with two lads who were reasonably articulate, good sense of humour, needing a bit of guidance rather than full on supervision.

We were negotiating well and mostly going in the same direction.

One preferred to proceed more slowly, interested in looking at what was on the shelves; the other basically saw the supermarket walk-round as a mandatory race to complete as quickly as possible so that you could get to the cafe and have that cup of tea and a cake.

In the end I decided it would probably be OK to let Mr Race-For-The-Cake go slightly ahead of Mr What-Am-I-Going-To-Bake and I flitted backwards and forwards between the two…

I was just asking Mr Race-For-The-Cake to wait as we’d reached the last aisle when there was the most horrendous shouting and hollering and I raced back to find Mr What-Am-I-Going-To-Bake in one of the freezers stuck face down squidged in the produce with his legs kicking in the air; he was fairly short and stocky and I can only assume that as he’d reached over into the freezer to look at something more closely, his centre of gravity must have shifted just enough that he pivoted in and then he couldn’t right himself.

Unsurprisingly there were no offers of help.  In the end, I part-climbed and was part-pulled in there with him.  There was no other way to free him, I’d already accidentally pulled his trousers down trying to yank him out.

I was “spoken to” by the chap in charge of the expedition who had been berated by the supermarket manager as all the produce had to be binned because I’d put my shoes on it.

Worse, I was getting the silent treatment from Mr Race-For-The-Cake as he didn’t get his beloved cafe stop as we’d all been sent straight back to the bus because Mr What-Am-I-Going-To-Bake was understandably distressed by the freezer experience and worse still, was also now hysterical at the sight of me.

I quit.

3. Jingle Bollocks

Several years later, husband and I: double-income-no-kids, decided it would be a good idea to give up our typical indulgent Christmas and help at a homeless charity’s temporary ‘Christmas Centre’ in London.

Please be aware that this is just my unique, biased, experience, no reflection on the charity as a whole…

My first impressions when we arrived were overwhelming.  Guests were welcomed in with respect, warmth and affection and shown towards well-equipped shower blocks; there were then tons of new clothes and shoes to choose from, hairdressers, doctors and so many other services, hot food and drinks and plenty of people to talk to… an amazing achievement.

Shift one, I worked mainly as a server at the tea and coffee “hatch” and revelled in letting out my inner Barbara Windsor (my husband is adamant that I was born to be a barmaid).

I met people of all natures, backgrounds, intellects and beliefs, normally superficially disguised by the same outer crust of “homeless”, now washed clean; all with a unique story of why they were there, several by choice, and I learned A LOT.  Everyone I met was lovely, some broke my heart.

So it wasn’t until my second shift that I really met many of the other volunteers.  To be candid, some of them were freaks beat the homeless guests on ‘diversity’ by a country mile.

No one and nothing else to do that Christmas, some very aggressive, some with terrible histories to tell, needy and generally with no boundaries.  I didn’t much enjoy working up a sweat mopping out the toilet block whilst a fellow volunteer stood and pointed out the bits I had missed in between telling me I was a sinner and on my way to hell.

Nor did I particularly enjoy listening to graphic tales of sexual abuse and prison violence and would you like a surreptitious swig of neat vodka out of my hip flask from the bloke who was technically my supervisor.   He was a really nice guy dealing with a lot of baggage but ho fricking ho hum…

Shift three: a night-shift.  Many hours pretty much just sat still on a chair in a dark warehouse watching the vague shapes of loads of homeless people sleeping in lines on the floor, listening to the breathing, coughing and sounds of nightmares, waiting to offer help or intervene if something kicked off, knowing that earlier that day someone had thrown someone else down a flight of concrete stairs.

Crapping myself, listening to my heartbeat in my ears, I had to make my excuses and get out into the yard to get some air.

I was greeted by a cheeky-faced lad who seemed nice enough, struck up a conversation, he was pretty funny.  After a couple of minutes, he asked for a hug – it was Christmas! – I felt it would have been really rude to decline.  He held onto me really tight for ages, it was a bit uncomfortable, his body started jerking and he seemed to be wracked with painful sobs.

I felt so bad for him as he apologised and ran off.

A couple of minutes later, my supervisor came up to me and warned me about a young lad who had been barred from the centre because of his behaviour, but who they suspected had somehow got back in.

Apparently he wasn’t homeless, he was “a local pervert”.   He’d been repeatedly caught trying to masterbate through a hole inside the pocket of his tracksuit bottoms whilst cuddling female volunteers who’d been charmed by his seemingly innocent cheeky-faced banter.

Had I seen him?

Yes.  I believed I had.

Supervisor kindly offered to go find husband leaving me, wailing and rapidly losing my composure, in the protection and care of my old mate “you are going to hell” who (despite the temperature being just above freezing and me wearing several fleeces and a padded jacket) berated me that it was my fault for being such a brazen temptress by flaunting my ample bosom.

I quit.

Please just give some money, don’t make me do stuff for it.

Aspie Life: By Beatrix (and parenthood by Mum, The A Word episode 2)

Beatrix wrote the following after we watched episode two of The A Word together… she began reviewing the programme but quickly lost interest (it was mostly about crap parents, wasn’t it) and decided to just put some quick thoughts together as it was late and we have an epic play date with her bestie planned for today…

An aspie’s head needs to be full like a day dream, I am thinking of several other things while I am writing this for you, an aspie can put him/herself in danger without realising because he/she needs something to interest them when he/she gets bored like his [the boy on The A Word] music or games or writing.  I dunno but it could be ANYTHING!!!  It’s nice and relaxing it’s like taking a nice warm bath “ooo” that sounds nice, anyway hopefully you get the idea😀

He looks at little things that are really complicated, like that ring pull, things that are tiny but amazing… How did someone make that?  It’s small but it takes so much hard work to create it.  How does the grass grow?  Does it grow from seeds?  Yes but how were the seeds made?  Is it just naturally there, is it a weed?  What is a weed?

He needs to be gently guided to do what he wants; he needs a life goal, something to keep him going and right now that’s his dad’s music.

I would think he would be possibly creative because when he looks at something he knows everything but its about writing it to remember it, I believe every person in the world knows everything you just have to memorise it to know it. *

But everyone is different, if someone says you’re weird because you are different, they are the weird one.

!!!I HOPE EVERYONE ENJOYED LOVE WRITING HOPEFULLY I WILL WRITE SOME MORE!!!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* This is a brief reference to a new concept that Beatrix is currently exploring, she’s still working it out, I have already been berated for misunderstanding it.  But here goes, I will try to articulate it: I see it as her thinking about the huge mental potential we could unlock if we allow ourselves enough time to observe and think and process and let our brain explore… All the answers are out there, waiting.  She is fascinated with ‘learning’ versus ‘inherent’ or ‘inherited’ knowledge and “potential” – I think it’s really interesting (and appeals to my love of mindfulness) – are all our new ideas already embedded somewhere in our subconscious, or even just somewhere out in the world, are they truly just novel and spontaneous or do we just have to unlock them from somewhere deeper first?

Maybe she is onto something quite interesting: are we ever really having new ideas?

Artistically, are we just selecting our preferred aesthetic from an infinite combination of available materials and configurations?

As we make advances in science or technology, perhaps we are not really inventing or discovering something new, perhaps we are just finally controlling and/or conceiving of, articulating something that has always been there…

Look at the new ideas about our solar system: scientists now think that the current configuration of planets is not the original one, that there was another super-sized planet that has now been ejected out of a conventional orbit, creating the asteroid and ice belts, setting up the solar system as we now know it.  This breaks such a long-held belief, one we all thought was simply a fact, but through careful considered observation someone’s mind realised that this couldn’t be the case – a new truth emerged from looking closely at the little details… and maybe it’s still not the ultimate answer.

awrdringpul

Having been with Beatrix 24/7 mostly for a long while, I know that she is the diametric opposite of what one might assume about the relatively blank stare of kids like Jo in The A Word: they may not appear to be right here right now with you but they’re definitely somewhere, consumed in things more in-depth and vivid and complicated than perhaps we can imagine.

Perhaps it’s time to reflect on the superficiality of a lot of our neurotypical preoccupations and be a little more mindful.  When your child isn’t concentrating on the busy road or turning off the tap before the cup overflows, rather than berating them for not focussing on what you are: things that may appear to them to be arbitrary or less interesting aspects of their environment, why not choose to go to where they are?  If they will let you (and you may have to be very patient to earn that privilege).

For me, this week The A Word has brought another perspective… I hope that all parents are watching it and learning something about how they interact with their children, not overlooking the message for them in that “it’s an autism drama”.  Beatrix and I certainly saw it as a lesson in observing and listening rather than assuming and just wading all over someone without appreciating their perspective.

There isn’t an autism distinction here, all parents can be guilty of pushing their own aspirations and agenda and overriding their childrens’ wishes, if they are even aware of them.

I think it’s something many of us have to consciously be aware of and resist every day… I have been so excited about Beatrix’s first contribution to this blog and to be very honest, I don’t feel that her few paragraphs are at all representative of how articulate she can be and I would be lying to say that I wasn’t tempted to edit and tweak…

windmill…but as she is already well aware (although I am still learning), it’s not about what other people think.  Acting in an expected way.  The greatest minds need to be left to do what they do best, to quietly deliberate, without being interrupted to do things that we think they should, without any pressure to outwardly demonstrate certain behaviours that make us feel better, without a mandate to do the “show and tell”, to have to present stuff, or themselves in a way that reassures or appeases us, a superficially judgemental audience.

Maybe sometimes we can’t understand why some kids (all kids) are caught up in the little things, the ring pull, the ant, the twinkling reflection of the sun off a glass of water, or Thomas the Tank Engine series 2 episode 5 but we must not value judge.

Parents hold such power: our closed-minded dismissal and derision could be enough to destroy the confidence of someone who may have otherwise become one of society’s great minds; we must all, regardless of our child’s neurology, limit and/or fulfil our parental role as/to what it should be: infinite, unconditional support, belief, nurture and love.

Will God forgive them? For they do know what they do.

I wanted to put my energies into a really funny post for the Easter weekend that shared some goodfeels… like when you find a little chunkette of chocolate in your cleavage as you take your bra off at bedtime and pop it in your mouth with a greater sense of success than you’ve felt all day.

But then Facebook spewed up this horror onto my timeline: a teacher kneeing a special needs kid in the back – caught on CCTV – the teacher has resigned and is being charged with second degree cruelty to a child.  Let’s hope appropriate justice is served but for me, the bigger issue is that, deep down, we all know she only did it because she thought she could get away with it.

She thought that whatever that kid had to say about it, she would be able to add enough doubt and confusion to his account of the assault – he’s special needs, he’s mistaken, he’s special needs, we can’t take what he says seriously – that she could get away with it.

At this point, I’m going to beg you to read on.  This isn’t something you can glance over knowing it’s fundamentally wrong but maybe thinking that it’s a special needs issue – apparently some of those special needs children are pretty challenging, aren’t they – this is everyone’s problem.

This is a humanity issue.

That vile woman was wrong in thinking that she could get away with it but I’m sure many, I wonder how many, other so-called caregivers have managed to get away with similar abuses of their power and privilege, against children, disabled people, the elderly, prisoners, refugees, anyone who is in a life position where they have to truly rely on others, to trust, to have faith.

…including, one might argue, our current government.

As an atheist it would be easy to presume that Easter is all about the eggs in our house but for me, it is still a time where I choose to reflect.  I have been becoming more and more devastated at the state of the world, specifically the humans in it, in recent months and it feels like we’re headed for an apocalypse.  I choose a religious word deliberately.

I am an atheist.  I don’t feel like it was a choice.  I can’t “believe” any more than I can grow wings; at different times in my life, I’ve tried both.  That is not derogatory, that is the best description for how I feel.  It might be nice but it’s just not happening.

Whilst I do not share the Christian faith that has shaped the very foundations of Western society, holidays, constitutions, laws etc, I abide by them.  I like to think that I generally live by a strong set of values and morals.

And that’s what really kills me at the moment.

Specifically in the UK and in the USA (I am a lot less informed about other countries), I see our leaders and future wannabe leaders doing a lot of terrible stuff at the moment and saying a lot of terrible things whilst still professing to be Christian.

I don’t understand what it means to be Christian but I understand what it is to be human.  I know how it feels to be me.  And that’s enough for me to know and understand that all humans are equal.

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members – the last, the least, the littlest.”

I love that quote, it’s from a man called Cardinal Roger Mahoney,  a good man who took a zero-tolerance stance to child abuse during his tenure as Archbishop of LA.  He stood up for what he believed in, but more importantly, what was simply right.

Somewhat ironically as an atheist, I still struggle to find a better saying than “there but for the grace of God go I” to describe the delicate temporal nature of each of our individual existences.

We’re rushing round Waitrose filling baskets with Easter eggs whilst other parents, who love their children no less than us, are struggling to keep them warm in refugee camps.

I look at our world and how the majority of decision-makers and power-brokers are religious, or claim to be, and I despair.  Leaving the freak-show horror of Trump to one side, why have no Christians called out David Cameron?

He was quoted in The Guardian a couple of years ago for being evangelical about his Christian faith, more specifically expounding on the role that religion can have in “helping people to have a moral code”.

I don’t know how he reconciles that with the recent ‘achievements’ of his government, specifically with regard to disabled people.  He’s no better than that woman kneeing the child in the back and watching him fall.  Inhumane.  Inhuman.

I am not normally politically outspoken but I’m not speaking as a disenfranchised voter, nor a Christian, nor the mother of a disabled child, I’m simply speaking as a human.

Motherhood, middle age, atheism, autism, equality, mindfulness, being happy.