Autistic Pride day 2015

Today is Autistic Pride Day. It was initiated by the Aspies for Freedom  group 10 years ago as a way to celebrate neurodiversity. There are img_7205multiple events happening around the world to recognise the inherent potential in all people, especially those on the spectrum.

Bristol Autism Support is organising a city-wide chalk art festival. Those of you in Bristol, now or after work, grab some sidewalk chalks, find a good spot and draw a great big picture! It doesn’t have to be autism-specific, it just needs to be in the spirit of the movement.

This day is about being proud of being different, embracing uniqueness and defying what society tells you you are supposed to be. Today is about learning, about shifting views of Autism from “disease” to “difference”; from “strange” to “interesting”; from ignorance to awareness; from stigma to acceptance.

ARGH (Autism Rights Group Highland) is organising arts and crafts activities, speakers, information and a picnic Bellfield Park, Inverness.

There is usually a theme, in 2005 the first ever was “Acceptance not cure”, in 2010 it was “Perspectives, not fear” and in 2011 it was “Recognize, Respect, Include” .

Here are 5 things you can do today to celebrate:

1. Find out what your Council or the community is doing to aid awareness today and go along – Learn 1 new thing about Autism. Make conversation with someone there and ask questions, integrate and have fun.

2. Read one story on this blog – read one story anywhere on the Internet and learn 1 thing about Autism. The information is right there, all you have to do is take 5 minutes to watch, read, listen to something about Autism.

3. If you know someone with Autism, go see them. If you know what they like, take them something.

6a01a3fcefab2d970b01b8d103d65c970c-800wi4. If your kid goes to school with someone on the Spectrum, talk them about Autism. Don’t hide it, Autism is not something to be scared of, in fact, the less you know about Autism the more likely you are to trigger their sensitivity.

5. Get a book for that bus ride, the tube, before bed, or a lazy summer day. Books like “A Father’s Journey into the Lost History of Autism” by Paul Collins, “Delightfully Different” by D. S. Walker, “Remember Dippy” by Shirley Reva Vernick, “Screaming Quietly (Gravel Road)” by Evan Jacobs, “The Society of Sylphs” by Lea M. Hill.

Neurodivertials: Be proud you are different, be proud for raising someone who is out of the ‘ordinary’. Be proud of who you are no matter what society tells you you’re supposed to be.

Neurotypicals: Pity and denial doesn’t help; don’t stare at our kids, don’t “Aww” at us, learn more about us, give our kids the chance they deserve. Help us make Autism a conversation rather than a taboo.


The Mighty Article

I wrote an article for The Mighty recently, it’s a mashup of posts that appeared here from time to time – Christos’ Greatest Hits. The Mighty is a team of writers, editors, producers, developers who have worked at a lot of big media companies (The New York Times, ABC News, NBC News, MSNBC, MTV, TMZ, Warner Brothers, AOL, The Huffington Post to name a few) who decided to team up and make a company more than just business. They created a platform for people to share stories and help each other. I am so grateful to be part of this family.

You can read it here: 10 Confessions of an Autism Sister


UPDATE: 17 June 2015

Humbled. Christos’ story is being heard.
Shares: 316+
Likes: 1037+
& lovely comments from beautiful people.



King of Darts

My Christos has been learning how to play darts at school & apparently he’s pretty awesome at it!



Don’t stereotype, learn about the talents our kids have, don’t limit their potential with discrimination and stigma.

Learn about Autism.


On the Radar – First Responder Training

A group of law enforcement officers and first responders gathered in Homewood, to hear and learn about how they can better interact with people on the Autism spectrum.

11079653_1596759410564836_266828026138486476_nDennis Debbaudt, law enforcement trainer, has some very helpful tips that don’t only benefit officers but civilians as well. During the training, the officers learned how to identify the many, many signs of Autism. Police officers, fire fighters, teachers, everyone needs to be aware of Autism. Learning how to identify it and how to deal with it in a way which benefits what you are trying to achieve as well as with respect to the other person is the most important factor here.

Ask your employer to offer you training if you are in constant interaction with members of the public in your line of work.

Here are some things you can be aware of whether you are an officer, employee, employer, customer or just a stranger sitting at the next table or on the bus.

Sometimes they won’t initiate conversation, especially if they are in distress, or in a loud place. Don’t stare.

Speak slowly and use simple language. You may notice that the person isn’t making eye contact when approaching you or talking to you, or maybe taking a while longer to reply, make sure you have been clear in what you have said. Short and to the point is how our kids like it.

Use concrete terms.

Repeat simple questions. You may not get a response, you may have someone walk off, you may get a full on conversation. You never know with the spectrum, so you need to be prepared for all situations. Things you may consider rude coming from any other customer won’t be the same with someone on the spectrum.

Allow time for response.

Do not attempt to physically block self-stimulating behaviour. It might be a twitch, a flap, a noise, shaking, it could be anything. They are not going to attack you, that’s just how they move. You would try and physically restrict someone scratching, sneezing. It’s a physical reaction they cannot control.

Well done to the officers, a real tribute to make a commitment to get this training.

Educate yourselves about Autism.

Share your knowledge and experience with others, with your family. You can touch, change another persons life just by not staring at them, with a single work, or smile.

So smile, and learn about Autism.


On the Radar – Microsoft

image2Microsoft has launched a pilot programme to hire people with Autism, in full-time roles. They are offering 10 places on a pilot scheme based at the Redmond headquarters.

One in 68 children are affected by Autism. It only takes one kid to make a difference. That kid was senior executive Mary Ellen Smith’s 19-year-old son who said: “People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft… It’s a talent pool that we want to continue to bring to Microsoft.”

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has pioneered in the Autism field.

In 2001, Microsoft added coverage to its self-funded insurance plan to cover a pricey but promising therapy for autistic children. It started in the 90’s when everyone was talking Autism and vaccines. In 1999, Microsoft employee Jon Rosenberg and seven others, the Gang of Eight as they are known, who were raising kids with autism, asked the firm about applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy; it was still new this and had positive treatment results. In the US, it would cost $60,000 a year or more, without insurance coverage.

Then the rest followed; Apple, Intel, Cisco Systems, Oracle and Qualcomm.

image1The tech industry is leading the way in bringing awareness about Autism and  also in developing their products in an Autism-friendly way.

Specialisterne, the recruitment firm in charge of the new hiring scheme, operates in Denmark and the UK to promote the skills of people with Autism for specific vacancies.

Firms worth millions making simple adjustments paving the way for the rest. Just because someone has Autism doesn’t mean they cannot contribute to society, economy, or the workplace. We need to make it possible for them, we need to open the doors to this.

If you own a business, think about hiring someone on the spectrum. Tap into this pool of potential with targeted descriptions, clear demands and a touch of humanity. Just because they can’t speak clearly or exchange pleasantries don’t write them off. Chances are, you’ve already worked with someone who is on the spectrum, one in 68 are pretty slim odds. Making job interviews more accessible, providing support, giving clear instructions and not turning the workplace into a playground can help integrate Autism into the workplace.

Learn about Autism.


Seventeen Candles – afterparty

He got his presents!  

He drinks out of the mug, tea & fanta.

The t-shirts fit.

He gave me the thumbs up.

Happy birthday my Superman.



On the Radar – Spectrum Singles

kids-loveFollowing on from “PS Love?

At the start of April 2015 a mum and daughter made the news. This was because they had just started a unique dating site, created solely for people on the spectrum.
Both mum, Kristen Fitzpatrick, and daughter, Olivia Cantu, are on the spectrum. I mean out of all the useless, creepy dating sites that exist in this world, we needed one that made an actual difference. Instead of relying on shows like “The Undateables”, that matchmake for viewing rather than love, these two women took it upon themselves to create a forum for the spectrum rather than adjusting the spectrum to the society’s forums. The anxiety of dating usually stems from one question, “Do I tell them I am on the Spectrum?”. Do you put it in your profile description? Do you categorise it under hobbies? What do you do with that information? The fear of rejection and the social pressure to fit a lifetime into a single profile, for people to judge you can be unbearable. The problem with the Internet is that you can be anyone. It’s not a space that encourages you to be yourself, its a space that encourages you to pretend to be what you think you should be.

Autisticdating.co.uk says “Autistic people have problems in general when trying to communicate, that is why they need special conditions for dating as well. We completely understand that, having spoken with and gotten expert opinions from many social workers and experts on autism, and we have designed a dating site that will make the entire dating experience much easier on autistic people.


Point Number One: ‘Autistic people’ are not all the same – no two people on the spectrum are the same. It will make the dating experience easier on a fraction on people on the Spectrum, not all of them. Furthermore, not only does it generalise it also sheds a negative light on Autism by assuming that all people on the spectrum have communication problems. I tried to sign up for this, it wasn’t exclusive; it didn’t ask me if I was on the spectrum; it didn’t ask anything except it told me the website was over capacity. I wonder how long that has been the case.

A very, very similar site, AutismDating.co.uk says “Anyone who is on the Autism spectrum (or their close family members) all start asking the same question sooner or later; that is the question of love. Will I ever find someone to love who loves me? Will I ever meet that special someone? The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” especially if you give Autism Dating Service a try…. We have thousands of open-minded women and men from all over the USA and you could be among them, meeting them, setting up dates and exchanging experiences and details of your life with them, even right now”.


Point Number Two: You cannot sign up for this site. Much like its twin, AutsimDating.com targets people with Autism as a whole. The use of the word ‘open-minded’ bugs me a bit too, however once you actually sign up there may well be open minded people to meet. Both these sites were developed by people who are not on the spectrum.

Olivia, 18, got the idea because she was tired of being misunderstood by her “non-autistic friends”, as she calls them. She wanted a place “free of the stigma”, free of the anxiety of being on the spectrum.

Spectrum Singles is a dating site for people enhanced-30499-1427990487-9 (1)on the Autism spectrum, created by people on the Autism spectrum.
Unlike other dating sites, it brings together all people on the spectrum for dating or friendships, but it is also unique in that it is able to acknowledge and integrate a person according to their position on the spectrum. The Spectrum Compatibility Test™ narrows down the prospects to match individual spectrum characteristics with a select group of spectrum compatible matches. imagesFor example, one of the options when registering for this site is that it asks whether you are verbal or non-verbal. This innovative test helps bring together, as best it can, people that share certain attributes with whom it would be easier to communicate and build a relationship or friendship. The test is basically 184 questions long and includes questions about social skills, what makes you uncomfortable, sensory sensitivity or deprivation, sexual preference and many other focus points. The algorithm was created by Kristen and Olivia created the questionnaire. How amazing is that? The test gives you a colour which is associated with your answers, likes and dislikes and then you can browse the site and find other members with the same colour.

There is a YouTube channel which is a series of short funny videos on dating, and tips, for people on the spectrum; you can watch it here. Michael McCreary and Olivia Goudreault, are both on the autism spectrum as well. They also have a Facebook group with articles and funny memes for the members; you can browse this here

Spectrum Singles removes the stigma and anxiety of the Spectrum. It’s basically what the world should be – free, no pressure, no stigma, no pity, no fear.


Seventeen Candles 

IMG_7432Christos got a cake at his school today.

Chocolate for breakfast? YES,  PLEASE (Christos would say ‘se pakano’ – it sort of means ‘please’ in greek).

He feels happy. He knows it’s his day, but doesn’t quite know why. He waits for the song to finish, he blows out candles but only because he knows he’s supposed to and because he gets cake after. He eats cake for breakfast, who would complain? He sees his family, lets them hug him and opens his presents, he doesn’t really know why except for its been happening for the last 17 years, its routine.

But he does know, that on the 6th May 2020 he will be celebrating this day in Disneyland. Happy Birthday Christo my superhero, my extraordinary brother, my cup of tea, my heart.

On this day, think of people you may know that are on the spectrum and see how they are, say hello, even just a smile to someone you think is weird because they are flapping their hands or skipping or too old for the playground. It’s so important to remove the stigma of Autism, it’s so important that more people feel accepted, loved, understood. On this day, that my heart is filled with love for someone with Autism I think of Elspeth McKendrick.

Elspeth, 16, took her own life because she got an Asperger’s diagnosis. Elspeth felt alone, she felt like she had no one to talk to. Elspeth felt that sharing this with friends would stigmatise her. She thought she would be walking around school with a big blue ‘A’ target on her. Elspeth felt judged, overwhelmed and thought the diagnosis would deprive her of all the experiences she would have as a teen. She did not fail to come to terms with a diagnosis of mild autism, society failed her. We failed her. We cannot provide a universal support system for Autism, one of the fastest growing disabilities in the world.

Learn about Autism, please.

On this day, every day, with all my heart I think of Elspeth McKendrick. I think of Maxwell Webb, I think of Josh, Andrew Young, Faruk Ali. I think of of everyone that has felt alone, everyone that has felt like a victim because they felt like they didn’t fit in, i think of all the families out there who struggle every day with every single thing(even things you don’t think about – Socks, Teeth, DVDsRestaurants).

I think of you, my family thinks of you. We know you.


Seventeen Candles – Not everyones cup of tea

This is my favourite present.
Now, the fear with the t-shirts is that they will not fit, however, the fear with the cup is that it may never be used. In other posts I spoke about when Christos gets too excited he hides things until he is ready to use them.

When I lived at home we always had our tea in the morning before school, a tea when mum came home from work and then a tea before bed. Christos always has tea in the morning, he always has tea in the afternoon and always has tea before bed. Maybe if he accepts to change his cup to this, I can have tea with him. Maybe he’ll think of me like I think of him. Since we cant text, of Facebook, or have a chat on the phone, maybe that will keep his memory of me there. He had his birthday party on Saturday. The family gathered, they ate, they sang, he blew out candles, he opened presents.

Like I said last year, (One Six)

Chris wont get facebook posts wishing him happy birthday, he won’t get texts, he won’t go out and celebrate with his friends, he won’t ask for money to spend, he won’t ask for expensive presents, he won’t make a big show of opening presents. When I call him to say happy birthday he won’t say thank you, he’ll kind of mumble and then when i say i love you, he’ll say i love you too and continue what he’s doing.

He was happy, and at the end of the day all that matters is that he is happy. A seventeen year-old boy who grew to touch so many lives, who has overcome so many obstacles. A boy who couldn’t communicate with us, who has gone through all kinds of therapies and who now can empathise, sympathise, love, care, talk, joke.





Seventeen Candles – Normal

 This is the second present Christos will be getting tomorrow.

It’s black and white because Not everything is Black and White.

Because ‘normal’ is not black and white.

Because you, me we are not black and white.

Because Christos is not black and white.

‘Normal’ cannot and will not be defined – ever. ‘Normal’ changes as often as you change your shirt….That’s ‘normal’ now but in a few years who knows what ‘normal’ will be?

I wrote that July 30th 2013. What has changed?

‘Normal’ is hashtagging, ‘normal’ is that Suarez will bite someone every couple of years, ‘normal’ is that Australia will compete in Eurovision 2015, ‘normal’ is hearing about the growing number of refugees from Syria, ‘normal’ is talking about the number of transgender suicides, ‘normal’ is the risk of Ebola, ‘normal’ is a woman running for President of the United States.

Today he is still sixteen.