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Stories that defy lockdown

It’s nearly the end of Week 4 on lockdown and I’m finding it helpful to read other people’s experiences. It kind of normalises the situation a bit, knowing that others think what I think and finding inspiration in [extra]ordinary humans.

If you are feeling it this week, here are some inspirational stories I found that may brighten your day, give you a different perspective or inspire you to help others.

Autism champion shares his tips for young people coping with coronavirus lockdown: “One of the symptoms of autism is that you don’t like change in your routine,” he said. It’s a massive culture change for somebody with autism, its like my life has gone on pause. But Richie wants to help other children and young people with autism who may be struggling too.”

How to help your autistic child cope with coronavirus lockdown

Autism assistance dogs trained in Banbury are a vital lifeline to families during coronavirus lockdown: “Dogs for Good provide these amazing and highly-trained animals to 50 families who have children with autism and many people with a disability or illness. And the charity is doing its best to support those who need them despite the significant challenges of the last few weeks.”

How to support autistic children and adults during coronavirus pandemic

I will be fundraising for the Smile Project by Autism Support Famagusta. Smile is the first and only day care centre for adults with autism in Famagusta, Cyprus – and it hosts my brother. 

So, read more about SMILE on the blog and pick a painting you like – info below. Make us an offer! These are difficult times, so I won’t price them. It’s up to you to bid and, once confirmed, donate directly to the school http://www.autismsupportfamagusta.com/.

I will post the painting to you on the weekend after you order it.

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Acrylic on canvas, 35x28cm because I love elephants and Christos loves the sea.

 

 

 

 

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Deer – acrylic on canvas – 51.40.5 cm

I love blue. Maybe this is why?

 

 

 

 

 

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Regal – Acrylic on canvas – 50×39.5cm

A clear blue sky here featuring a beautiful woman, a powerful pose and a regal bird.

 

 

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In progress – Acrylic on canvas 65×89.5cm

This is my interpretation of Kilmt’s Expectation. Klimt has been my surrealist guide and I draw inspiration from his love for women and nature. Here, instead of expectation, she strikes another power pose and opens herself up.

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Art in the time of COVID

I will be fundraising for the Smile Project by Autism Support Famagusta. Smile is the first and only day care centre for adults with autism in Famagusta, Cyprus – and it hosts my brother.  

In 2015 Autism Support Famagusta I wrote: “Their dream is to build a home within the community to provide care and a quality of life for people with Autism. The long-term goal is a specialised centre which will offer kids with Autism tailored education and pastime.” And now here we are. The Smile centre opened in September 2019 and currently hosts 3 adults, with interest from even more families.

But now SMILE, like all schools, has been closed due to Covid-19 and our boys are being home-schooled, it’s easier for some more than others. It’s distressing for us to stay at home, but even more when you rely on that sense of routine and repetition to get through the day. When parents have to divide their time to further the education of all their children, neurotypical or not, as well as keeping the peace, maintaining the household etc. Your donation can buy toys, art supplies, puzzles to continue their education or to help with paying rent or utilities so that the boys have somewhere to return to when all this is over.

So, read more about SMILE on the blog and pick a painting you like – info below. Make us an offer! These are difficult times, so I won’t price them. It’s up to you to bid and, once confirmed, donate directly to the school http://www.autismsupportfamagusta.com/donate . I will post the painting to you on the weekend after you order it.

img_5785

Acrylic on canvas, 35x28cm because I love elephants and Christos loves the sea.

 

 

 

 

img_5786

 

 

Deer – acrylic on canvas – 51.40.5 cm

I love blue. Maybe this is why?

 

 

 

 

 

img_5784

 

Life – Acrylic on canvas – 50×39.5cm

Blue again and women. Strong, powerful, shapely, pregnant, tall, short, beautiful women.

 

 

img_5787

 

Regal – Acrylic on canvas – 50×39.5cm

A clear blue sky here featuring a beautiful woman, a powerful pose and a regal bird.

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Hiding – Acrylic on canvas – 60×40.5cm

Another power pose by a magnificent woman. There is so much more than meets the eye.

 

 

 

img_5797

 

In progress – Acrylic on canvas 65×89.5cm

This is my interpretation of Kilmt’s Expectation. Klimt has been my surrealist guide and I draw inspiration from his love for women and nature. Here, instead of expectation, she strikes another power pose and opens herself up.

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Covid Coping

Aren’t you distressed by this lockdown?

Imagine the distress of people who find comfort in routine, people who need the security of repetition. Eating the same meal, going to the same shop, drinking the same brand of juice or going to school. We have had a schedule in our home since Christos started using PECS – details here. I talk about it extensively and often because it is central to keeping him calm and happy. The enormous amounts of work parents put into developing their kids communication skills either with PECS or otherwise and teaching everyone to use it is inconceivable – you can read about it on this blog or visit the web pages for autism organisations who share stories. (You can’t spell autism without family)

An autism family spends most of their lives educating at home because even though they may go to school and do homework, they can only get to the point of going to school and doing homework if the family has paved the way. They can only continue to grow, if the family keeps putting down those blue bricks and creating paths for them to take. You don’t understand the time and effort needed  our children’s education and every day life. The determination of family and the incredible teachers who contributed to Christos’ education created this 22 year old man who reads, writes, tells time, does math in his head, teaches himself (and us) to use technology and loves (with a bit of encouragement from us) learning new things (if it’s on the daily schedule).

Imagine the distress of those parents who have to home-school children who would otherwise be taught in a special unit or by a speech therapist. Think of parents who have both neurotypical and neurodiverse kids, who aren’t working at the moment, who can’t afford new toys or resources to occupy or educate their own for another 3 weeks. Parent’s who have to reiterate different schedules to persons with autism who don’t understand this sudden unexpected change and disruption to everyday life. By the way, if you or someone you know if having a hard time, there is a lot of information on coronavirus and resources that may help here

Even though we are all isolating, it is important to remember that some people are more at risk of not surviving social isolation or not recovering from it. Now, more than ever we need to think of others and, while staying home, find safe ways to help others who may be struggling more than you. There are so many ways to be kind – calling, texting, delivering supplies, donating to your local charity, giving away toys or books you won’t use etc.

My plan is to raise money by selling paintings I have painted over the last few years. I am raising money for the SMILE project which operates in Famagusta, Cyprus because “the Cypriot government, while responsible in making education accessible and available for all, has failed to …provide establishments which can cater to adults with autism living in the Cypriot society. Hence, it is left to autism societies, organisations and groups to create their own places of education and development of character.”

But what happens to areas where such an organisation doesn’t exist? Or it doesn’t have the funds? What happens when these schools close because of Covid-19 but some parents, who aren’t working due to the pandemic, still have to pay utilities and rent to keep the school.

“Every person involved in the SMILE project was once just like you. None of us knew autism until it burst into our lives. But we started learning, growing, getting stronger and stumbling the whole way here – to this moment when action was needed yet again. So here we are, getting back up and marching forward, hoping that you will be a helping hand (or smile) by our side” – Smiling September

“SMILE was created with determination to establish a safe, educational space for our kids where the state has failed. It is [operating]…because of the fearlessness and strength of those involved. Those who have done the manual work, donating time and money to ensure that our gentle giants do not suffer the consequences of a state that doesn’t understand them” – 21 and Atypical: The SMILE Project

So, pick a painting you like and make us an offer. These are difficult times, so it’s up to you to make a choice and donate directly to the school http://www.autismsupportfamagusta.com/donate . I will post the painting to you on the weekend after you order it.

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Silent Achievements

You may be familiar with famous autistic adults but it is important to remember that autism lives in the people around you, they lead their lives in comfortable obscurity.

Consider these people:

One child with autism touches the lives of countless others. He brings out the best in many of the people he meets throughout his life. He can be a source of inspiration for those around him as he leads a happy, healthy life in the process. This is the greatest measure of success.

World Autism Awareness Day is a group on facebook where every day people post their children’s success. Take a minute.

Create! for Autism is my favourite group. It aims to change the way people think about creativity. The Create! Art for Autism is a national art competition and art exhibition for young people aged 11-25 years old with an Autistic Spectrum Condition. Create! Art for Autism 2014 entries are looking very promising and the event is celebrating its fourth year of success.  Young people with an ASC are invited to enter the five main categories: 2D Art, 3D Art, Digital Photography, Digital Animation and Poetry.

Some of the 2013 winning entries were: (more)

WINNER – POETRY:

Radio Presenters
Danny Quinn – Age 15
Sperrin Integrated College

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WINNER – 2D CATEGORY:

Visage, Pica
Alexander Fox-Robinson – Age 16
Pembroke School

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WINNER – DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY:
Fading Words
Dangloush Brooks – Age 15
The Abbey School

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Some of this years entries are: (more)

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Take a moment to admire these pieces; these artists. Because when you look at art, you don’t see Autism, you see the soul of the artist; and their soul is just like yours.

Educate yourself, don’t look at Autism and “Aww”. Look at Autism and be inspired.

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University of Kent: Imagining Autism

Imagining Autism is a research project conducted at the University of Kent using a range of environments and stimuli and evaluating their encounters with such various interactions (ie lighting, sound, physical action and puppetry).

Sensory Integration Therapy: 

It has been found that people with Autism  have sensory difficulties. I know I’ve used this before but here’s a bit more about it. Again, not all autistic people have this difficulty because (say it with me) no two people on the spectrum are the same.

This sensitivity can be either over- or under-responsive to sensory stimuli or the ability to integrate the senses. It can cause extreme reactions (tantrums, hitting, banging of hands, legs, head) or it can be completely tuned out. So, for example, a sound is perceived differently by people affected by autism, it can be extremely disruptive to them and cause them to act out – because their sensors are overloaded. Another example is taste. Like I’ve said before, it is/used to be a ritual trying to get Chris to try food. He tries it, smells it, stares at it before finally deciding to eat it or throw it as far away as possible. These can also be examples of under-responsive behaviour. Where they don’t react to sounds or noise, which is also the direct cause for parents testing their ability to hear first before anything else. There’s are people on the spectrum that have no appetite for food. If it is not presented to them they wont ask for it, taste isn’t one of the senses that are developed and therefore any food is mundane. When taste is hypo its referred to as ‘pica’ and could also mean that they eat anything – soil, grass, play-dough – because it makes no difference.

SI therapy is similar to the Kent project in that it assesses the persons sensory capacity and it looks for ways to enhance or control it. In this case they looked at a series of sensory environments like outer space, under the sea and the Arctic through drama and performance based activities.

There’s no such thing as a lack of information on Autism. There is a general ‘meh’ attitude towards it though and I’m proud to be working for an institution that dedicates resources to such research.