Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Guest post.....An Autism poem: a prehistory of autism

Hello again ! My name is Melinda Smith, and I am mother to two boys, aged seven and four. My seven year old has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am also a poet. Read more here
This is the second in a series of seven autism poems I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks as a guest poster on the Scottish Autism blog.

As the mother of a child with ASD I have often wondered how my son would be perceived if we were living in a different place and time – one without a mass education system, where the main societal unit was a small community or tribe.  Of course no one can ever know the answer to that question, but my hunch is that his ‘deficits’ would not be as much of a problem, and would be tolerated better because his ’gifts’ would be thought of as supremely useful. What follows is a poetic response to that thought experiment.  

I should also acknowledge that the poem below was written with the financial support of artsACT.

A prehistory of autism

This one can run and run, never tiring;
climb trees and cliffs until the gibbons are afraid for him.
Even when he falls he feels no pain.  He has little need for sleep.
He speaks only by repeating what he hearsTi
but he is the best of nightwatchmen
and in the hunt he is magnificent.
That one scents the lions on the wind;i
smells the poison in the berries.
If her special stone is taken away
she makes wounded beast howls
but she can spot a snake’s hole at forty paces
from three newly bent twigs and a fresh hollow in the dust.
This other knows the places of the stars by heart.
He speaks often of the wandering ones:
he can see their journeys as clear as the track to the waterhole
although he will not look any man in the eye.
He sits alone all day, dotting sky pictures on pieces of bark.
Only he knows the day when the wildebeest will move.i
That one over there has no love but for making spears.
He chips stone after stone until the sun is low;
walks far to find good wood for the shafts.
He does not join the hunt: he is slow and clumsy
and does not do what he is told – but in the hands of others
his weapons fly true and bring down many gazelle.i
Another has the gift of singing -
all melodies are hers at one hearing.
She has mastered the speech of those over the mountain
and of the fishers by the lake.
She will not let men come to her, although she is grown.
She screams and spits at any who try.  Her kind smiles are only for small children
and for those who bring her new songs.
(c) Melinda Smith 2011
Note: After writing this poem I came across an article published in the Journal of Evolutionary NeuroPsychology, hypothesising pretty much the same thing - i.e. that autism can be an evolutionary advantage in certain circumstances. Here is a summary of the article and here is the article itself. Dr Jared Reser, the author, weighed in on the comments when the poem was originally published on my poetry blog.  Great minds think alike…

Monday, 29 August 2011

Tune into Autism

St Andrew's in the Square is the venue for a Scottish music concert being held in Glasgow on Friday october 14th. The gig gets underway ay 1930 hrs and features music by three great bands. You can get the details on the line up from our facebook page and details of how to buy tickets is also over there.
MC'd by BBC Scotland's Fergus Muirhead, it promises to be a great night of Scottish music with all profits from the event going to Scottish Autism, the leading provider of support to families living with Autism in Scotland for over forty years...
Tickets are going fast. To get yours, contact Scottish Autism on 01259, St Andrews in the Square on 0141 559 5902, or

 We hope to see as many folks as possible at this great event :-)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Guest posts from Melinda Smith..

Hello Scottish Autism Blog Readers!
I will be your guest poster for the next few posts.  My name is Melinda Smith, and I am mother to two boys, aged seven and four. My seven year old has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In my 'other life' I am also a poet. For years I have deliberately stayed away from writing about ASD in my poetry (I did not want to be seen as 'trading on' the difficulties faced by my son and our family). However I have been coming by degrees to the realisation that poems from planet autism can actually do some good, because they can help all of us realise we are not alone.  They can also help explain to the uninitiated what our daily lives are like, in a way nothing else (short of, possibly, a documentary film) can do.
So now I have written some autism poems, and I am privileged to be able to share them with you here. 
If you would like to read more, keep checking the Scottish Autism blog :-). After that, come and visit me at CircleQuirk (, where I am stockpiling the poems in advance of their publication as a real world book in April 2012 (Autism Awareness Month). Or follow me on Twitter @MelindaLSmith.
Before we begin, I should acknowledge the support of  ArtsACT, without whose financial support these poems would have been much slower to arrive.
Ready now? Sitting comfortably? Here we go then:

I prefer
serious illness to surprise
computers to my brother
reading number plates to Christmas morning
straight lines
submerging my ears in a warm bath to waterslides
deep fat fryers to matchbox cars
torture to haircuts
libraries to birthday parties
standing ankle-deep in ocean
tenpin bowling to climbing trees
looking at things out of the corner of my eye
Sonic the Hedgehog to family time
death to dentist visits
my mother with her glasses off
plastic wheelie bins to petting zoos
not to see my school friends outside of school
cricket statistics to Toy Story
chewing clothes-pegs to talking
rules to freedom
truth to sarcasm
to be left alone
(c) Melinda Smith 2011
Notes on I prefer
This poem is in the voice of an autistic child aged somewhere between four and nine. 
The poem plays around with a common writing exercise, where you have to write a series of statements in the form of ‘I prefer x to y’. When you try writing one of these poems about yourself it is almost always BORING and unavoidably solipsistic. Try writing one from the point of view of someone else – say, an autistic child – and the result is, hopefully, more worth reading…
This poem will shortly be published in Quadrant magazine.  When it appears there it will have a different title: ‘Wish list for autistic primary schooler’ (I needed to put that information in the title because in the magazine I don’t get to write an explanatory note like I do with a blog post).


Monday, 22 August 2011

A wee bit about us and Autism...

  • Autism affects an estimated 50,000 people in Scotland, or 1 in 100 people.
  • Scottish Autism is the only Scottish charity to focus solely on autism support and services across Scotland.
  • Scottish Autism offers innovative and highly personalised services for individuals across the autism spectrum.
  • Scottish Autism consistently works to raise standards of education, care, support and professional development.
  • Scottish Autism provides targeted, individual support focusing on different priorities within an individual's life such as occupational, leisure and recreation, life skills, domestic skills, emotional support, coping with the impact of ASD, community activities.  They also help people at college and living away from home..
  •  Autism includes the condition known as Asperger Syndrome, which describes people who show the same characteristics of autism to a greater or lesser extent, but are of average or above average intelligence and seem to have good communication skills.
  • Autism is a lifelong condition which isolates the child or adult from the world as we know it.            It  affects the ability to communicate, form relationships and understand everyday activities

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Our book launch...

A writing group supported by Sottish Autism made up of writers who have Autism Spectrum Disorder are launching their first publication of work on Thursday 25th August in Glasgow City Centre. The launch, which starts at 5pm in the stunning venue at 49 Cochrane Street, is a celebration and promotion of "Write Not Wrong" the anthology of short creative writing.

The writers are supported by Scottish Autism through the West of Scotland Outreach Services, and the collection presents a superb collection of well-observed, witty and insightful writing which both educates and entertains the reader.

Billi Love, Chris Weatherston, Paul Ritchie, Darren Cameron and Jon Dixon meet weekly to explore in writing various experiences, emotions and themes. The West of Scotland Writer's Group provides a positive environment for them to develop their talent and let their creativity flourish.

In addition, there will be displays of some of the captivating art which the writers have produced in association with their writing.

The writers themselves will all be present at the Launch so it promises to be a pleasant, informal evening and a great opportunity to meet the supporters and users of Scottish Autism. The Provost of Glasgow will be coming along, as well as journalist and writer Gordon Darroch. An invitation has also been extended to Hollywood movie star Brad Pitt! We have created an !Event over on facebook so have a look and let us know if you can come along....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Energy Vampires - Who is Sucking the Life Force Out of You?

This is a guest post, written by Kate Cave. Kate is the creator of the Handling Autism Stress Program for parents of Autistic children.  For more details about this, visit Kate's site at

I have spent two weeks of the summer visiting family, I say summer as that is the official term but those of you in the UK will know that we've had very little sun! Everyone has to do it I know but it was time to visit the parent-in-law (cue scary music). So we packed up the car and trundled off, we were tense but we thought that it wouldn't be that bad when we got there ... except it was!
They're lovely people really but I am now an expert on the problems in the world according to The Daily Mail, I know about all the doctors appointments, how the surgery runs, what's wrong with it, the faults of each doctor at the surgery, what my sister-in-law is doing wrong in her life, I even know about their bowel movements - oh yes! All conversations lead to illness and death even though there is nothing seriously wrong with them. I wanted to shake them and tell them to enjoy the rest of their life, they could have another 10-15 years!
To top it all we knew that we had to follow that with a trip to see my parents the week after. Thankfully this turned out to be a lot more positive although I was amazed at times at how naive my mother can be about mortgages, jobs, money etc as our generation is different to hers. I am often surprised at how, after 18 years she STILL doesn't grasp my daughter's strange ways. My daughter said that she didn't feel very welcome in my mum's house and this (understandably) upset my mum. I knew what she had meant to say, she meant that she felt uncomfortable but despite her intelligence and being very articulate she still gets basic words wrong. A complication of her ASD that people don't grasp. I shouldn't be too hard on my mum, she hasn't lived with it on a daily basis.
Now, I am a positive person, I can take situations and turn them around. I frequently help people to see their problems from a different point of view. I do it as my job but also it's just part of who I am. Even so, I have to admit that I found this challenging.
People with negative energies will suck the life out of you, equally, people with very positive energies will invigorate you. I know that you cannot stay out of the way of people with negative energies but please consider limiting your time with them. Because we know this our family trips last no more than 4 days at a time, because that is when our tolerance runs out and you don't want to risk leaving on bad terms.
You need to look after yourself, you need to put systems into place to do what you need to do but put self-preservation first. You are important, without you to hold things together would your family be okay? What good will you be to anyone if you've had a breakdown?

We could have spent longer visiting but at what risk? It's the risk to your physical and emotional well-being, and to your relationships with partners and children. You have to know and understand that people are where they are in life, and that if they're not willing to move on then so be it. I've tried to put a positive slant on things when my in-laws moan and groan but at 78 they believe they're right about everything and they just don't want to listen. So if this is you then I would advise you just to stop flogging a dead horse and save your strength for people that may listen to you.

I could go on for hours but basically what I am trying to say, and what I hope you will remember is that People who are wrapped up in their own misery will bring you down, simple fact. There are methods to help you cope but I still want to remind everyone - look after your own energy, don't get dragged down to their level.

Kate has been a complementary therapist for over 18 years. Both before and during that time Kate has worked with many children and adults with autism, she has also worked with people a variety of people who have a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities in different situations.
Kate works with families to help them cope with the stress of bringing up a child with autism, something which Kate knows only too well as she is an autism parent too. Kate's 18 year old daughter has Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA).

The Handling Autism Stress Program for Parents of Autistic Children
Visit for an exclusive offer.  Act now as the offer is changing soon.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Guest posts on the Scottish Autism blog...

Over the next few weeks, we will be hosting a number of 'Guest  Posts' on the Scottish Autism blog. The posts will be written by some of our followers on Twitter and will cover all things ASD-related, ranging from personal experiences, through opinions, to poetry.

It's important to state that the views contained in this (and all guest posts) are those of the author alone, and not necessarily those of Scottish Autism, who do not endorse either the content or any of the opinions expressed within. The posts are purely personal reflections and viewpoints of those involved with or affected by ASD's published on our blog in order to stimulate discussion and debate about anything to do with Autism and related conditions.

Please enjoy these posts, and join the dialogue by leaving your comments, Liking us on facebook, or following us on Twitter

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

NAIDEX 2011 Press release

Scottish Autism to attend this year's NAIDEX Scotland

Scottish Autism has announced it will exhibit at this year’s Naidex Scotland event which takes place 14th – 15th September at the SECC in Glasgow.

Naidex Scotland stages its disability and healthcare exhibition only once every two years, providing a fantastic platform to promote independent living across the disability community in Scotland and the North of England. Previously known as Independent Living Scotland, Naidex is set to build on the success of previous years with thousands of products on display and a wealth of expert help and advice available. Scottish Autism’s exhibition will be at Stand B39.

Charlene Tait, Development Director at Scottish Autism, will also make an address at the event on the Thursday (15 Sep) about issues, challenges and opportunities in the field of autism in Scotland. She said: “We are delighted to be involved in this year’s event. Promoting maximum independence and a higher quality of life for people on the autism spectrum is one of the key focuses of our organisation. We welcome a major platform that Naidex Scotland will offer us to promote a positive message and build our network.”

Naidex Scotland Event Director, Liz Virgo, said: “It is estimated that in Scotland there is a disabled person or person with a long-term illness living in just over one in three households. As Scotland’s only disability, rehabilitation and homecare show, Naidex Scotland caters for a widespread need by providing access to all the latest independent living solutions and services available on the disability market. It is great to be returning to Scotland this year and we are certainly planning on repeating the success of 2009’s show.”

Naidex Scotland will showcase the best in independent living and mobility aids from over 150 exhibitors and promises to be an inspirational and informative experience for members of the public, trade buyers, retailers and healthcare professionals alike. The show provides a unique opportunity for people in Scotland and the North of England to test and compare all the latest products and equipment that can make a real difference to everyday living.

Visitors to Naidex Scotland can expect to see all the usual show features that make visiting so worthwhile such as the Inspiration Theatre, an interactive forum where visitors can listen to inspirational case studies and the Communication & Learning Village, home to the latest communication aids and assistive technology. New features that have now been added to the show include the Car Zone, where many of the UK’s leading vehicle converters, will be exhibiting the latest wheelchair assisted vehicle developments. Also making its Naidex Scotland debut is KideQuip, the must see zone dedicated to children with special needs, where visitors and healthcare professionals will be able to meet and discuss individual needs and products with exhibitors.

About Naidex Scotland
Entry is completely free to attend if you pre-register in advance online.