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Friendship

Friends are a funny concept aren’t they? You meet this stranger and you’re like “You. I want to do random things with you forever. I want to share my life with you. I wanna tell you all the stupid things I think of.”

I have three friends that I have known most of my life, and whom I adore beyond measure. These girls are the girls that cry with me when I talk to them about Christo, they get mad with me when I tell them a member of my family was mistreated, they laugh when I tell them I fell over, and check on me and my family when one of us is unwell.  These are the girls I don’t talk to every day but I would run to if they needed me. I love them with the kind of love you love your own. I love them because they love my family with a love you haven’t experienced before, and vice versa. One of them helped with #Project324 last year (you know its you papaokori). One of them makes me laugh like there’s no tomorrow and is my soulmate.

My point is that these people are embedded into my soul and they love my brother as much as i do. I want to tell you about something extraordinary one of them is accomplishing today. She currently holds 3 Guinness Records:

  1. The Longest time in an abdominal plank position (female) is 3 hours, 31 minutes and 0 seconds
  2. The Longest time in an abdominal plank position (female) with 60pounds on her back is 23 minutes and 20 seconds
  3. Most handstand pushups in 1 minute is 35 pushups in 31 seconds

These 3 records she broke to prove to the world that you can do anything you set your mind to, despite all odds.

Today, 21st July 2017, she is attempting to break another World Guinness Record. This time she’s doing it for a little girl called Stavriana. She will be attempting to break the record of 1206 knuckle push ups to 1300 knuckle push ups in 1 hour.  Stavriana suffers from Cornelia de Lange syndrome and Crohn’s desease. She is only 7 years old. She is the youngest of 5 siblings, all under 18, and is being raised by a single mother. She is in pain every day and the money is being raised to enable her to travel to Israel for an operation that will make life a bit easier for her and her family. The aim is 50,000 euros. You can donate through paypal at https://www.paypal.me/helpstavri

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I could write pages about how inspiring this woman is. But I will never be able to  tell you how she makes me feel. This girl is magic. People around her love her because of how unapologetically she loves people.

She has overcome medical predictions and countless hardships in life. Yet, she is always the one giving. She is always the wise one, the funny one, the one you go to. The brave one.

I know that our town, our island will embrace you and Stavriana today. I know that they will give, and make you proud. I know you won’t expect the love you will be suffocated with today. I also know that no one deserves this more than you.

No good luck needed. I’m with you,  my sister.

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Befriending Autism

I’ll go back to the flexible routine series of posts. I wanted to take the opportunity to write about this since in the previous post (Making Routine Flexible d) Chris & his Dad routine) I talked about the playground and kids or parents making an effort. Like I’ve said before: “It doesn’t scare me that he probably won’t have a friend. I know that if he wanted one, he would get himself one. He would want to go play with them – like he does sometimes – he would want to watch movies with them, or engage in their activities – like he does when he wants to. It doesn’t scare me because he’s happy doing solitary things, and he’s happy doing group things – when he wants to.” (Autism Every Day Part 2)

But here’s a few things you should know when befriending someone with Autism or with your existing autistic friends, or some knowledge you could pass down to your kids:

1) Don’t assume they don’t understand friendship: I have explained the communication challenges and their trouble with social interactions. But, again and again, that doesn’t apply to everyone with Autism. Some people with autism are exceedingly social, while others are significantly more introverted. Friendship can be defined in many different ways and at it’s core it’s based on mutual interest and respect, shared values and negotiated boundaries. Especially in the earlier years, you just want someone to play with.

2) Be patient. Don’t try to change them into someone you, or society, consider acceptable. They are who they are, and you cannot make them conform to silly, unrealistic societal ideals. Maybe they’ll drive you to change yourself, which means you will be more open-minded, more patient, kind and accepting – now what’s so bad about that? Don’t feel embarrassed by their individuality, embrace it. Feel embarrassed for the people who don’t have the capacity, or knowledge to understand them.

3) Communicate clearly. Use gestures, pictures and facial expressions, don’t expect an immediate response – give your friend extra time. For your kids, try to introduce technical games when with an autistic friend; puzzles, legos usually do the trick.

4) Schedule your plans. Make sure to include that someone with autism, because they might not know how to ask. Include your children in programs where they are paired with autistic kids and set up dinner or movie nights. This doesn’t just benefit the kid with autism, so don’t look at it as doing someone a favour. Your child will learn responsibility, it will learn that being different isn’t bad, they won’t grow up narrow- minded, they’ll be educated about it, they’ll gain skills that will help them develop later on in their lives, socially and personally.  Discrimination isn’t born folks, it’s taught. Once they learn, from a young age to interact, they can then interact outside those structured times. Real friendships are someone to sit with at lunch and a friend in gym class, as long as they are not seen as outcasts in school, they won’t get bullied.

5) Respect their uniqueness. People with autism are often unusually sensitive to sounds, sights, touch, taste and smells. High-pitched sounds like fire alarms may be painful, scratchy fabrics intolerable. Respect how they react to such disturbances.  Don’t assume people with autism are intellectually disabled just because they can’t speak properly or flap their hands when they get anxious. Learn to understand these queues and help them through it.

6) Having an autistic friend is not a project, it’s not community service. If you see it that way, or pass it on to your children in that manner – don’t bother. It’s not a charity; they definitely don’t need your pity. Also, don’t ‘look past the autism’ as autism is integral to who they are. Their identity is shaped by it whether we like it or not. You can’t look past it because there won’t be anything to look at, don’t compare theirs to your experiences because there’s no comparison; much like two people who aren’t autistic and two people who are. Look at your friendship with an autistic person is a positive, healthy experience, as opposed to a charity project. Change your perceptions of the person based on widespread stereotypes of autism or other disabilities.

7) Stand up for them!!! Bullying, abuse and other types of violence are prevalent in the lives of autistic people – from childhood AND adulthood. If you see someone teasing or picking on an autistic peer, take a stand. You’d be surprised at how many people remain passive to bullying. I personally judge people by their inactions rather than their actions. Remove the stigma that society instils in autism.

Educate yourself and your children about autism, embrace it and make it part of your life. Be aware of it and make the world a place where your child can make a difference. A place where our children can make a difference. Learn about autism and remove the stereotypes of society to make the worldwide community a place where everyone is accepted.