#Project324 Week 0

Week 0:

10 envelopes (USA, Scotland, Kenya, Canada, UK, Cyprus, N.Ireland, Iraq, Spain and Belgium) have been dispatched.

The only ones left are: Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Wales which will be sent this week – as soon as it stops raining and I get my voice back so I can go to the post office.

This is Week 0 because the cards haven’t been received just yet, there’s a last batch to cut up and I need to get more chocolate to put in the envelopes. Week 0 is being used as the week to alert people to the project, it’s being promoted, documented and finalised.

The project will launch officially on Tuesday 1st of March 2016 when I hand over the last two envelopes to Wales and Dubai. Then, I will have none left and it will be out of my control. I decided that I won’t be distributing any cards myself. Mostly because, I think that if I saw someone throw it away, step on it or just rage about it, I would probably retreat under my duvet until May. I’m too involved in this to rationalise and tell myself that people don’t read stuff any more.

The cards have started appearing in Belgium, Spain, Scotland and the UK.

Week 0 has begun with 12 emails in the inbox, 15 retweets, 1 pro bono offer 2 magazine articles (ant1woomonoianews.com) and an interview in the making. Now off to London for a week of exams – will recuperate at the end of Week 1.

#happybirthdaychristo in Scotland







2016 is a big year; Christos is turning 18 on May 6th. *cry*

In honour of this big year, this amazing boy and to celebrate his progress and never-ending improvement I’ve decided to launch an Autism awareness project through the blog.

The Preparation: 

The idea for the project took many forms over many many months. I needed ideas but nothing seemed to encompass everything I wanted it to; going round asking people was too intruding; doing a post about it was too small; asking organisations was too impersonal; and not doing anything was not an option. So, I started talking to my family about it and the response was what pushed me to actually make this real. It all came together in November, around the kitchen table with my family. 18 was the theme and with their help and support it didn’t take long to come up with 324. The next step was to find 18 countries; a whole morning scrolling through facebook and my contacts produced 25 countries in which I had some connection to; the four prominent ones are, of course,  Cyprus, Sri Lanka, UK and Belgium. The rest was me reaching out to people and asking for help. The response was better than I had imagined and so it all began. I set myself a timeline; ask people in December/January; figure out the text in January; get the cards translated to different languages by mid February; start producing them in February and send them off end of February/start of March. This would mean that the distribution would happen over 2 months, which is enough time for cards to be delivered late and takes the pressure off the people handing them out. I knew that the last thing I wanted to do was be an imposition on the people who are so kindly helping me.

The Project:324

I am currently cutting up 324 cards – my thumbs ache and every sheet of paper is cut a bit differently than the last but I tell myself that it adds character. These 324 cards will be divided in 18 batches, made up of 18 cards each (get the theme yet?). The 18 cards will be sent to 18 countries around the world. So far we have: Cyprus, Greece, the UK, Belgium, Scotland, Wales, Dubai, Ireland, Ukraine, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Iraq, Germany, Kenya and Australia + a pre-project project in Spain. The languages are English, Greek, Turkish, French, Spanish, Ukrainian & German. We are completely overwhelmed by the willingness of all these amazing people to help.

So, the plan is that I will send the 18 cards to our 18 countries. They look like the pictures on the right.

Then, from the time the cards are received, which will be March, until the 30th of April the beautiful people helping us will be leaving these cards all over their cities, in places where they are likely to be picked up. This can include touristy areas, sticking them on bus stops, leaving them on seats on the bus/subway, on tables at cafes, at the library, bookshops etc. I wanted the cards to be left for, instead of given to, people, because I didn’t want my brother’s awareness project to be forced on people, it needed to strike the balance between grabbing attention but not being imposed on the people who come across them.


The Purpose:

324’s purpose is to appeal to the humanity inside us all. It is discreet in nature but loud in purpose. It’s a project completely reliant on goodwill and benevolence. It leaves it up to the individual to choose whether to make the effort, to make the difference. If you were on your way to work and found a random card on the tube/bus, would you take the time to read it? And if you did take the time, would you follow up? How often do we see something, hear about something and think “Oh that’s a nice thing to do!” and then forget about it? How easy is it to get swept away in our daily routine and convince ourselves that we have no time to be kind?

324 is about a boy turning 18 years old, a boy i love, the boy who made me the person I am. No amount of cake or presents can ever be enough to celebrate 18 amazing years with the love of my life.

324 is about a boy turning 18 in a world where he is accepted, where he is embraced by his peers near and far, friends and strangers.

324 is about 324 attempts to get strangers to take a moment to read and learn about Autism.

324 is for Christo.

The Vision:

The vision is to get 1 reply. This isn’t about quantity, this is about changing perceptions and if we can change 1 then our work is more than worth it.

You can email JustABoyBlog@outlook.com


Four cards have already been left in Barcelona



I Believe In, Advocate For, Support & Love Someone with Autism

Autism Canada turns 40 this year! 40 years of support to the Autism community; 40 years of fighting for rights & awareness; 40 years of keeping hope alive.

I came into contact with Autism Canada through Twitter, when they retweeted me in October. It was so exciting to think Untitledthat an organisation like them would look and read about my brother. We have stayed in touch since and I’ve met some lovely parents and a sibling; all this through one retweet.

Autism Canada has now launched their “I Believe in, Advocate for, Support & Love Someone with Autism” campaign which sets out to prove that this saying is much more powerful than words.

These words give strength and bring hope to the future of those living with autism and their families.

You can see more about their campaign here: http://teesforthepeople.com/products/i-believe-in-someone-with-autism-2016
uploads-5802-11ab4b7b-65d3-4cba-a63b-d5217c90d02d-model+in+blackThe thing about awareness is that you have to put yourself out there to make it happen. That’s why these t-shirts are such a great idea! If people get them, wear them in their every day life someone will catch a glimpse of it, another might ask a question; that’s how we achieve awareness. I’ve already ordered two for Chris and I – we’d do anything for a good cause, would you?

Wear the t-shirts and help the world “See the Spectrum Differently”.


2016 Do Not Do List

Trying not to look at Autism as a bad thing can be a full time job. I was raised with this mentality that he is who he is, he’s your brother, love him. So, when he was annoying, when he yelled, when he scratched, I didn’t think “Oh it’s because he’s autistic”, I thought “I’ll get you back for this!”. He’s a little brother, he’s supposed to be annoying and it’s not because he’s on the spectrum. What people don’t understand is the damage these excuses can cause. Instinct will tell a family member to pounce when their own is threatened, not make up excuses for their behaviour. But somewhere along the line, the stigma weighed down on Autism so hard that the balance shifted from primal to subdued.

It’s difficult being an Autism family because of the Autism, but also because of the way society treats you. So, here are a couple of things that we did that may help you embrace the lifestyle you have been thrown into instead of condemn it.

  1. Speak about them like they are not in the room: It is so easy to do. When someone is in the room and they don’t reply to their name, they are staring at a game or lying on the floor; you don’t think they can hear you, because if they can, why do they not respond? Listening isn’t about responding. Listening is just listening; to everything. It doesn’t matter whether they turn around when you call their name – they can hear you there’s just too much going on in their brain at that moment that you are not a priority. If they have sensory overload, it might mean that a noise, a feeling, a colour is even more powerful than your voice in their ear. Don’t speak like they are not in the room – and if you have to talk about them make sure to be close to them, touch them so that they know they are acknowledged. This way they know you know they are there. This might stop you from complaining, and saying things that you wouldn’t dare say if your child was not on the spectrum. They can hear you; whether it’s praise, complaints, crying, yelling, lying.
  2. Blame it all on Autism: Their anger that the DVD is sticking isn’t because of their Autism; it’s because it’s annoying. Their irritation when it’s warm and avoiding hugs or touch isn’t because of their Autism, it’s because it’s irritating being hot and uncomfortable and the last thing you need is another warm hand around you. When they need ask where you are taking them, it’s because they want to know where you are takinf them. When they play the same song over and over and over again, it’s because they love that song. If they are good at math, if they don’t like small talk, if they are honest, if they are anxious, it’s not their Autism it’s their character. Make sure you and the people around you understand this so that they can grow up in an environment where they are not held back by their Autism.
  3. Hide: Be proud of your autism family.    t’s a lesson; it makes you stronger; it gives you dreams, ideas, perspective; it makes you appreciate little things, like silence or a lazy Sunday morning; it helps you empathise with the people you come into contact with everyday; it makes you a teacher; it makes you read, research; it makes you risk, dare and defy. Flaunt your extraordinary kid, show the world how living with Autism is so difficult but that you are handling it. Build up their self-esteem by working on yours; don’t let the world let you feel like you are deficient. Show the world that it would be deficient without you, and your family.
  4. Hate their Autism: Don’t hate their Autism. Their Autism is them. Loving them but hating their Autism is like saying I love you but I hate your character, I hate the quirks that make you unique, I hate how difficult it is to be around you. You don’t mean it, but saying i love you despite your Autism, or i just hate Autism can be so hurtful, so damaging to their development. It’s like telling them that there is a part of them, that they cannot change, that you hate.

Autism does not define them. Don’t let it define your love for them – define their Autism with your love.


Autism Advantages


Just because a computer is not running Windows doesn’t mean that it’s broken. Not all the features of atypical human operating systems are bugs” – Neurotribesimage2

Autism is either genius, aka unworldly/Rain Man – who wasn’t actually autistic FYI, or isolated, aka unsociable.

Laurent Mottron, a psychiatrist at the University of Montreal led research in the last year which has suggested that an autistic brain “prefers” some information over other; like verbal and social cues. It surpasses what is right in front of it and sees beyond it, that’s why some are so prone to understanding codes, patterns and numbers. This is because an autistic brain has a tendency to concentrate more on visual processing and less on tasks; ie planning or impulse control. Mottron found that people on the spectrum are up to 40% faster at problem-solving, in 2009; he calls them “perceptual experts”, which sounds much better than “weird” no?

His team includes researcher Michelle Dawson who is on the spectrum. He says in The Power of Autism that “Whereas the methodologies used in studies of face-perception in autism are for me terribly similar, Dawson can instantaneously recall them.” This is because an autistic brain can retain information that neurotypical brains will gloss over.

But! This doesn’t mean that people on the spectrum are all practical – some of these perceptual experts can be creative. You kind of think of creativity being abstract, but it’s not. Creativity is being able to think outside the box, it’s being able to ignore the obvious solution and to create alternative solutions. A paper called “The Relationship Between Subthreshold Autistic Traits, Ambiguous Figure Perception and Divergent Thinking” was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in December 2015. It says it “investigates the paradox of creativity in autism“. When did Autism and creativity become enemies? Who decided that? Well, this study took 312 individuals, 75 of which had a image1diagnosis, and tested whether people with autistic traits can be creative or whether they are at a disadvantage to neurotypical individuals.

Let’s put it this way so you can make up your own mind. The participants were asked to think of as many non-obvious uses for a brick and a paper clip as possible. Neurotypicals: used the paperclip to reset their iPhones; Neurodiverse: use the paperclip as a weight for the front of a paper airplane, or for heating up in order to suture a wound. What would you do with a brick and a paper clip? My first thought was – Oh i bet that brick will be heavy, I could use it to CRUSH the paperclip and then put it back together. No, seriously, that’s what I thought, it’s not even a use.

Dr Mottron believes that by continuing to see Autism’s differences as defects, researchers fail to fully understand the condition (Autism Can Be an ‘Advantage’), intellectual disability is not intrinsic to Autism. So, maybe education after diagnosis should be focused on figuring out each persons strengths and then allocated resources into harnessing and developing them with tailor-made programmes for each person on the spectrum. Rather than wasting resources on erasing the differences between neurodiverse and neurotypical, we should be helping them flourish.

Autism is diverse; there are people that are good at some things, and not at others, and  people that are good or bad at everything. There are people that are practical and people that are creative. How is that a different form just being a human? The sooner you start thinking of Autism as a character rather than a disability the sooner we can erase the stigma. There are so many articles and research out there just waiting to be read, waiting for you to find it instead of reading about Kanye West and Amber Rose.

Learn, listen, educate yourselves about Autism.


WICKED autism-friendly

The Wizard of Oz is my favourite musical/film EVER. We went to Australia to visit family in 1995 (correct me if I’m wrong mum?) and I watched this a lot apparently – so much, that when we were leaving my auntie gave me the copy of the tape, yes a videotape, to take home with me. I still remember the greyish cover which was held together only by vast amounts of tape by the time I finally parted with Savannah Stevenson and Emma Hatton in the West End production of Wicked. Photo: Matt Crockettit. I re-watched it recently and remember all the songs, all the lines, all the characters. I loved it the most because of the Wicked Witch of the West – she was so bad. Margaret Hamilton gives such a typical portrayal of the “bad guy” there was no way anyone could like her or feel remorse when she melted into a puddle of green goo. The flying monkeys, the horses that change colours, the ruby slippers, the audacity of the wizard, the lovable lion and the high-pitched munchkins and the wicked music combined made my favourite picture of all time. I used to watch it so often that Chris got into it too – he hated the Wicked Witch, when Dorothy landed in Oz and crushed the Wicked Witch’s sister he would always be so surprised and yell ‘ouch’. He would run out of the room when she was on screen and when we watch it now, he remembers which scenes she’s in and leaves before she even arrives.

It’s such a beautiful story. A girl from a loving home runs away only to find that she would do anything to find her way back. The story of 3 characters, each trying to conform or break out of the box that defines them. They follow the yellow-brick road to find that what they’ve been searching for was in them all along. Now, you can translate that into whatever you want but for me it was about loving what you have, accepting who you are and realising that the potential is infinite. When I was little it was about the magic, the escape. Now, it’s about knowing that it’s okay to be different, picking your battles and knowing that a victory is a victory no matter how small; it’s the journey that counts. Queue the violins.

The adaptations are endless – The Wiz, The Muppets, Tin Man, episodes in Once Upon A Time, Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy – and it’s timeless. Then, Hollywood made Oz The Great and Powerful where the Wicked Witch’s name was Theodora and I died.

But anyway, when I found out that there was a musical about Elphaba’s tale I was ecstatic.I saw it in London, 3 years ago today; January 27th 2012 for my birthday. Wicked has announced that it is to hold its first ever autism-friendly performance in May 2016.  West End and the National Autistic Society have collaborated to bring to theatres a performance measured and adapted to an audience on the spectrum. Sound and lighting in the performance have been altered to avoid sensory overload, there will be quiet areas, activity areas manned by trained staff where guests will be able to leave and re-enter the auditorium as needed.

“Autistic people and their families tell us that they would love to go to the theatre but
because of sensory issues are prevented from doing so. Wicked’s production team have taken great care in adapting the show which means that for some, this will be the very first time that they are able to experience the thrill of a live performance.” NAS chief executive Mark Lever.

With autism having a ratio of (more than) 1 in 100 in the UK isn’t it crazy that there are such few West End shows that people on the spectrum and their families can attend without being scrutinized by peers, shushed and tutted at?

“We’r­e delighted to be able to welcome fans of Wicked who wouldn’t normally be able to attend a standard performance, and look forward to what promises to be an inspiring experience for us all.”Wicked’s UK executive producer Michael McCabe

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, War Horse and Matilda are also staging a relaxed performance for audiences with learning disabilities.


Hot Sunday


It’s Sunday and Chris is with dad. They are up to the usual ‘Dad Routine‘. Playing with flat beans, cooking curry and going for walks. 

They will prepare his meals together, like i mentioned before there is a special recipe for everything he eats and he loves helping and contributing to the process.

They haven’t seen eachother for a while so Christos decided to overindulge and had two plates of curry.. Which turned out to be a little bit too hot for him. In this video, even though his face is on fire, he still smiles.


Happy Sunday!