Latest Blog: "Introducing 'Ask Barb'"
Who do you think you are? Does it depend on who is asking and how? Is Johnny Carson inviting you to the couch or is a George Zimmerman making deadly assumptions?
My smiling shrink (SS) lives next door and I visit often. SS is nearly devoid of taste and employs decorators to help the place not look like a P.E. teachers’ closet. (This is no news flash to SS so save your pity, she has adapted well to her disability.) One hired fancy gun instructed them to buy a pair of huge gold painted broken chairs covered in insanely textured pink fabric the decorator spied in a junk store. Turns out, after being stripped, repaired, and upholstered by a more sane craftsman, the chairs are recognized as true antique museum quality mahogany masterpieces worth more than anything else cheap SS owns. We call them the “Who do you think you are?” chairs and I plop my plumpness on them at every opportunity, because that I can do. I can choose to think I deserve to sit at the head of the table.
Philosopher King Marcus Aurelius wrote, “The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”
As we consider the complexities and power of perspective, please allow me to give what I have to offer – my perspective, which is much safer to ship than Winston Churchill’s proposal, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. “
My hard earned perspective may be best packaged in my audio book and as the most recent Amazon review says, (5.0 out of 5 stars), I hope,
“You'll laugh, you'll cry but most importantly you'll look at the world differently!”
We are sending 5 free audio books to outstanding bloggers who help spread the message of hope. Please look for the giveaway soon on the following: Donna Williams “Donna William’s Blog
”, Ariane Zurcher’s “Emma’s Hope
”, Linda Stanley’s “Outrunning the Storm
”, Jessica Gordon Wilson “Diary of a Mom
”, and an exciting new blog by my autistic peers, “We are like your Child
For those bloggers who choose to participate, their readers are asked to simply click a link to the offer and viola - complimentary audio book. It is an early autistic bird special as only the first 5 entries from each blog get the bookworm.
What does a giveaway have to do with perspective? Everything. Life is perspective and life stinks without giving. (Getting does not suck either, so lets keep this going.)
What inspired me to do this was the recent controversy concerning the autism chapter in Andrew Solomon’s artfully researched bestseller Far From the Tree
. (The book took him 10 years to write. I can relate to that type of perseverance even though I suspect Andrew may type with all ten well manicured fingers and not just one autistically weird, nail bitten digit like me, but who am I to judge if he needs extra time.) Many in our autistic community wish to boycott his book as they find it to be filled with harmful parenting horror stories. I wrote on that below and have since heard the chapter. We non-verbal auts often enjoy learning with audio books as we can usually do so under our own steam. Which is why this giveaway is audio book specific.
Solomon is a master storyteller. He relays tales of parents in harrowing, sustained pain. He gifts these real people a voice. These overwhelmed parents are being heard. I write of the healing power of being heard, here
Below is my comment following Jessica Gordon Wilson’s “Diary of a Mom” account of this controversy. The next comment comes from a special education counselor (The kind of special, nobody, I mean NOBODY wants to be). See Dick run about his trouble with hardness.
it is true autism is hard. i have autism, the hard kind. but i have decided to be up to the challenge as my parents did because their is no other palatable option. andrew solomon is no enemy of those of us who are here with jess to “demystify the condition and to humanize the people behind the label in the public eye” because andrew is genuinely trying to know. so should we. andrew will learn from us and we from him. life is perspective. to live a balanced wholehearted life we are wise to learn how we are perceived so we may better connect with others and each respect who we chose to be. so, i just purchased “far from the tree” to learn more of those perspectives knowing they may be hard to hear. i hope andrew will repay my respect and purchase my audiobook, “i might be you: an exploration of autism and connection” so he may learn my hard truths. may we all transform “years of accumulated slights” to the now of empathy and compassion. sometimes hard to hear but listening b
July 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm
I’m skeptical that anyone can honestly write “i have autism, the hard kind.” I am a 50 y.o. rehabilitation counselor and I work with adults and kids with autism – the hard kind – every day. None can read. None can write. None even know what autism is. THAT is “the hard kind.” I also work with adults and kids that have autism – the not so hard kind – who read and write and drive. But people who have “the hard kind” of autism can’t write about it. They can’t even talk about it
July 15, 2013 at 10:50 am
dear dick, it is my hope you will be open to knowing that many of us who are disguised as poor thinkers are in fact more like you than you may choose to believe. we may have a variety of physical and mental challenges confounded by profound difficulties with communication which shroud our humanity. i invite you to please take a few moments to read this link about how some of us with the hard kind have broken through with lots of hard work and sustained focus. thank you for caring. real b
“a note on how this book was written” http://muleandmuseproductions.com/about-the-book-i-might-be-you/
I wrote the measured response to Dick above because I am learning we all do better when we know better. From my hard front row seat to autism, rehabilitation counseling, and special education, I learned that believing one’s students are mentally deficient and not capable of sentient thought much less writing leads to not teaching Dick. (Oh, did I leave out a comma? If only I could learn to write…)
Almost 100 percent of my teachers thought that way and treated me accordingly—as a lesser being. It only took one teacher who taught from her heart to my heart to change my reality and course. Andrea Reynolds assumed my value and competence. Then so did I. Others followed suit. Today, I choose to no longer allow myself to be excluded from humanity by such perceptions I do not share.
(Note to teachers—and we are all teachers: It just takes one. Be that one for someone.)
These days as awareness of my story grows, folk share their perspectives of me and my work daily. Some are hard to hear while others are beyond gratifying. Which perspectives are real? I learn from them all so they all are of matter.
Who do you think you are? (Please comment by replying to this email)
Really wanting to know,
Ask Barb: "Practical Implications for Teachers Who Wish to Know More"
1. Give us the benefit of the doubt
. Don’t assume mental retardation based on behavior and poor communication. One has nothing to lose by assuming competence and treating the different person with non-patronizing respect. Give us the freedom to rise to expectations……surpassing may come next.
2. Get to know us.
That should be the first order of business—not trying to fix or change us. Let the autistic person know that you are here for them and want to get to know who they are and what they do. Everybody has this knowledge about self, although most have it hidden under a bushel. Autistics traditionally have huge bushels weighting down their heads. It is challenging, but all are capable of discovering who they are and what they do. Let it shine.
With nonverbal or echolalic autistics, this seems daunting, but break it down. To listen means to make an effort to hear, take notice of, or heed. So, if folk are not talking or typing—observe. Study their past, proclivities, and how they spend their time. Find out what gives them joy. Once at least one interest is pinpointed, go from there and make learning opportunities and socialization related to that interest. For me, I was interested in history, science, and philosophy. I actually typed that fact many years ago, but that information was enough to get the ball rolling. Through books on tape and reading aloud, my curiosity came alive. Next, we slowly incorporated me discussing the readings with Lois or a tutor. To discuss, I had to type, so that increased my mental “on-task time,” communication skills, and reason to roll out of bed.
Barb and Davante choosing to sit at the front of the swing
4. Motivate. Motivation is often tricky for autistics. Curiosity jump-started my internal motivation rather than a burning desire to accomplish. Make participating in things outside of the autistic mind interesting, safe, and low-stress. Once you entice us out of the autistic mental house, we may find something worth visiting regularly.
Pull up a “Who do you think you are?” chair and join me, won’t you?
5. Smile. Smiling is not wasted on autistics. We sense and often take on the affect of those around us. People who are happy, confident, honest, energetic, and don’t take themselves too seriously help make mentally external tasks appealing to us. SS insisted that my team members work with me in only short blocks of time like two or three hours to ensure “freshness”. Burned-out, tired, listless, disingenuous, or pessimistic workers were not hired.
6. Be patient. What normals perceive as “waiting” and “wasting time”, we may view as stasis. Like well- seasoned Tibetan monks, we are in no rush. We understand the reality of impermanence. We understand the reality that nothing is as it appears to be. Please, consider here my hypothesis that there are more autistics now because of human evolution. Autism may serve to provide the individual time and space to contemplate and meditate more so than any convent or monastery. Non-verbals “waste no time” on vows of silence. We simply live it.
7. Persevere. Set specific short—and long-term goals. Each day, do at least one thing designed to make progress towards one short-term and one long-term goal. Keep a detailed account of precisely what was accomplished each day. Review this log at the end of each month.