Sunday, 29 May 2011

Autism..Sleep, What's that?

                   Mikey does not play with toys, does not watch tv, use a computer, play video games. Mikey is a hyper child and needs to be watched all the time. There is no break, Mikey must be kept occupied and it is exhausting.  At night when I am so tired, physically mentally drained is when, in a normal world, people feed and bath their children, tuck them into bed, maybe a bedtime story, not for us. After 5 years I managed to get Mikey to stay in his bedroom at night, at least. That equates to two years of Mikey screaming, kicking, scratching his face and causing absolute havoc until 4 am (most nights). His record so far is 72 hour tantrum with no break. Broken beds and smashed wardrobes meant all that was in his room was one big mattress. Curtains, then blinds, back to curtains pulled down and ripped every night. Holes kicked into the walls. Light fittings smashed, at night I had to trip the lights upstairs at the mains. Climbing onto the windowsill and throwing himself to the floor....the noise, so much noise, the screeching. Eventually he would fall asleep, usually in the corner or behind the door.
I would sneak into his room to make sure he was ok then sneak out and leave him to sleep where he was. To wake Mikey up and move him onto the mattress would mean no sleep at all and by this time I would be lucky to get two or three hours. Noise sensitivity in Mikey's Autism meant that even the slightest creaking of the floor boards would wake Mikey and send him flying into a rage. For the longest time I dared not flush a toilet when Mikey was asleep. I tiptoed and crept around like a ninja with blurry tired eyes.  The last time Mikey had a nap he was four months old. I tried so hard to calm him into sleep. I used to lay him down and comb his hair for hours on end just to get an hours sleep out of him. And the poop, so many nights cleaning and scrubbing sometimes four times in a row. Tried nappies, jumpsuits, all got ripped and torn.

        Toilet training took 10 years of constant battles, he is there but not 100 percent yet. Horrible subject but a severe fact of life for those of us having to try and cope with it. My hands were very often so raw, skin peeling off from all the cleaning. Latex cleaning gloves I'd developed a reaction to which means I got to choose from raw skin or small blisters everywhere...oh the joys! Nowadays when I see Mikey taking himself to the toilet, it makes me feel like a champion, victorious and so proud. So many told me he would never be able to do it, never make progress but he has proved them all wrong and those who care about him never gave up on him. To anyone who may come across this blog and are going through some of what we did, take heart dear reader because it does get better and everyone on the Autism Spectrum is a unique individual, they may share the same traits but are still as individual as everyone else on this earth.

I understand folks putting a brave face on, I also know that by not expressing just how difficult life with Autism can be, care givers have to work so much harder to get services and rights for their children because, hey, it's not that bad, is it? - Yes, it very often is.

Mother - Acrylic on Canvas 30" x 40"


                  The recurring nightmare. Every dream I had, over the top wonderful experiences like a endless water park with rides and rivers taking gleeful people down their gentle currents on big floaty happy tubes, trips to wonderful forests with good friends, a romantic evening in a park with a lover in the soft warm glow of japanese lanterns and blossoming cherry trees.....would suddenly take a turn into a scenario where  everyone was being pursued, hunted and viciously ripped apart and eaten by crocodiles.
For months the nightmares came then one day I saw the painting in my head, unfolding itself and I knew to paint Her would get her out of my dreams. I say "Her" where, in fact, Mother is a self portrait.
For weeks I studied saltwater crocodiles, watched everything I could on them. I knew what my composition had to be so I learned how crocodiles move, behave in order to render her without a reference photo. What you would face if you happened upon a crocodile's young...

In case you are wondering, ever since the crocodile made her way onto the canvas I do not have those nightmares anymore. However, I have to still get a hyper real life size bleary eyed Ninja to live at the bottom of my garden, I think I will call him "Guardian of the House of Flying Underpants".

Monday, 23 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011


Spider, WaterColour on Canvas Board

It was a fine day in autumn, 2007, bright and still warm enough for Mikey to be out in the garden. His favourite place to be. I can leave him outside there by himself for short periods of time, (short periods of time in our world never amounts to more than three and a half minutes, or so) the fences are high and the garden itself is small and Mikey cannot escape. Mikey loves mud and sand to the point of obsession. Fist fulls of mud usually get distributed on everything that has a surface which means practically, well, everything. Mikey does not like wearing much in the line of clothing and at every opportunity will gift my neighbours with a pair of flying underpants over the fence, the pairs that don't make it over to the other side end up in the trees and there they sway until nature swallows them. Fortunately my neighbours are very understanding, they wait until there are a few pairs then quietly drop them in a neat pile back over the fence. I used to get awfully embarassed about it, nothing quite like wandering around your yard in peace only to be hit by a pair of underpants out of nowhere. Mikey needs to be watched all the time.

                On this day I noticed a big spider spinning a web, an amazing thing to watch. With Mikey down at the bottom of the garden, happily drizzling dirt onto a piece of paper I went inside and got my camera and tripod. I love photographing scenes like spiders spinning webs! I carefully set the camera onto the tripod, take a few minutes to line the shot up, get the macro functions on the camera focused, the light is right and I could feel that little flutter of excitement you get when looking through a viewfinder and thinking "this will be a great shot!" I clicked off one shot and with my eye still looking through the viewfinder I saw one swift blur of a hand reach out and pluck the spider off its web. My head popped up and I felt my eyeballs bulge out of their sockets when, as if in slow motion but in actual time, Mikey turned the spider towards his face gave it a fleeting glance then placed the spider in his mouth, and swallowed. Mikey has swallowed a great ecclectic mix of items but never a living thing, well there was that time he bit into a snail but I got to his mouth in time to remove the unfortunate snail, a crushed shell but still alive.

This is the Photo, it did turn out to be ok, unlike the Spider!

Mikey went back to his spot and continued on his mud drizzling quest as if nothing happened. I felt bad for the spider, really bad. So I painted it, using water colours and the picture is hanging next to the kitchen door leading to the garden. As an apology to the spider world and a warning to others to avoid the sparkling blue eyed spider munching boy.

Monday, 16 May 2011



Wings and Silence. I was asked recently by an American Student who has Autism to explain some of my work to her for a school project she did on Autism and Art. Once I begun to explain my thinking in my work in relation to the world of Autism we live in, I realised just how many of my works relate to Mikey and I and Autism. Some pieces on a subconscious level at the point of creation.

      This picture I did in a photo editing software program not long after Mikey was diagnosed as having Autism. I was deeply sad at the time and trying to understand what we were facing. I had no idea what was to come in the years that followed. Everyone I talked to, every book I read was all about inability, disability, difficulty. It made me feel horrible beyond description. My precious child was taken away from me by one word, Autism. So alone in his world of I gave him wings.

      Everything I learned about Autism spoke of isloation, and can't do's. Mikey is the free spirit we all long to be, somewhere deep inside! When everything around him was dark he glowed, when the other children around him played with toys, Mikey played with shafts of light through his fingers, subtle shadows and textures around him that no one else noticed. Autism took the child I thought I had away and replaced him with a child so unique and magical. Creating this image brought me out of a dark time of acceptance and grief. Like a beam of light changing from cold to warmth.

Samantha, I was knocked for six when I saw this image. It is so very tender and loving yet so powerful at the same time. Only a loving mum could have done that. Phew! makes me well up inside.