Monday, 13 June 2011

Autism, essential check list for Parents and Carers.

Ok, so you have a child with Autism. It helps a lot if you have the following list of skills..

A great sense of humour, An extra set of eye balls (preferably detachable), the ability to cook unusual and occasionally inedible food, at lightning speed. You must be able to juggle several things at once, at least two of which are bound to be on fire.  A set of strong arms, extra thick skin and be able to sprint faster than a gazelle with a cheetah on its arse, at the drop of a hat usually in a crowded area. Be able to apply eye make up to BOTH eyes before leaving your home in the morning after two hours sleep (harder than it sounds.)

Should you lack any of these skills, don't worry, just wing it.

Autism is very complex and Mikey is classified as severe. Difficult as that can be there is so much magic to his Autism, and a kind of purity. For example Mikey can never be nasty, or a bully. Mikey cannot lie or be deceptive or be purposefully cruel, he cannot be judgemental and never does he discriminate. Autism does not care if you are fat or thin or if your skin is magenta or green in colour. When Mikey shows affection, which is often, it is genuine.  Autism presents qualities that seem so rare in most. Original thought, ideas. One of the issues we have faced often is finding toys that Mikey is interested in.
Conventional toys that are mass produced have no use for Mikey and offer very little sensory stimulation.
What Mikey loves. Beads, Mud, Water and...Bubbles! Oh the magical shiny, reflective, wonderful, drifting quietly away bubbles.

Walking on Air - Digital Photo with some post production done in Photoshop

We are fortunate to have many surreal moments. Like this one. At the moment I took this photo. Mikey seemed to be to be walking on air, he was jumping gently on his trampoline watching the garden fill with bubbles, When he reached the highest high he seems to hang in the air for a second as the bubbles slowly drifted under him and all that really moved was one big toe lifting into the air. Silence except for the low hum of the bubble machine's motor and the springs of the trampoline expanding then contracting with each jump. I could hear none of the usual sounds like birds, traffic, people. Precious moments to cherish. Thank you camera battery for being fully charged just when I need you.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Screaming Mind A Silent Hell

Thinking in pictures, does everyone? I don't know, I know I do...feel emotions in pictures too. A painting like this one, I have spent no time considering composition, lighting,, an image fills my head and I put it down on canvas. After which I am able to understand what it is I was feeling, and why.

Pearls. Acrylic on canvas.

                           This painting is large and a powerful image, deeply personal as well as selfish. We all experience self pity and I think it is necessary to a point, doing a painting like this helps me to get away from self pity and move on. The Painting is all about consolidating my two great loves......a dream that will never be. Mikey and his needs come first, always. The anxiety, worrying, my mind screaming to find a solution to Mikey's care as an adult. What happens to him when I can no longer care for him, what do i do? I feel so desperate at times I could walk out my front door and stop the first person I see and say "Can you help me? Can you tell me what to do? Can you? No? I'm so alone.. Please will you then just hold my hand for a little while, please?"

Someday, being back where I want to be. Autism allowing no scope for that yet and the viper that is a constant threat, instead of being a helpful harmonious thing it is a venomous snake threatening to take. That, to me, was the so called children's services, an institution designed to be a beacon of hope and help but manage to do the complete opposite and most harm to the most vulnerable.

                     Living in urban jungle, assault to my senses, trash and noise and mean hard coldness. Working my butt off everyday to try and make it work......Loss and despair, and love and ache for family so far away is unrelenting. Africa, the kind of place that gets into your soul and beckons you back often a whisper on a breeze, sometimes a scream in a constant cacophony of sirens. The frayed animal fabric symbolises the decaying state of a country so beautiful but torn apart by greed and corruption.

Beads, orbs, pearls make their way into a lot of my work, these objects symbolise Mikey and my frustration at him having Autism, it plagues my mind and tears my heart into shreds. Mikey is very rarely without a string of beads, usually the plastic kids ones that I have to cut for him so it makes a long string. This is his comfort thing, to drop the beads onto a piece of paper, or cardboard (a flappy in autism talk) for hours and hours on end.

                    I wish I could slip into the coma of complacency that sees most people eke out their existences, not worry about the future but I cannot, I want more, I want a better life for my children and for them I will never give up. Autism has determined and dictated and I hated it at the time this painting was conceived. It is probably the most relevant to my frustration at Autism that I have done to date.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Autism and Social Etiquette..Bite Me! No, really could you bite me?

Around the age of four to five.

                At the very busy supermarket one fine day Mikey and I were doing grocery shopping. Mikey was attached to me via a wrist strap, the only thing that worked for when he bolts, which he does often and having no concept of danger has caused me several hundred mini heart attacks.
So, there we are at the fruit and veg, me looking for a lettuce "What the hell was I thinking?! Mikey will not eat lettuce! He has grazed my hydrangea almost down to the roots but put some lettuce on his plate will see it plastered to the floor, walls and probably my face!!"

                I felt a soft tug on the strap and looked at Mikey. In front of Mikey was, slightly bent over, a mini skirted long legged lady, Mikey had lifted her skirt up all the way to her waist and was having a really studious look at her now very exposed buttocks as was half the staff and customers at the supermarket. It was one of those moments where the world falls into a almost frozen in time silence. 
Before I could guide Mikey away the woman realised what was happening and spun around. I apologised profusely, she just smiled and said it was ok. Patted Mikey on the head and strode off.  All I could think was "Thank God she is wearing underwear! If I were you I would go home run a bath, and have a good cry! In Fact I think I will do that myself! Where is my genie's lamp when I need it to get me the F**k out of here? Arghhhhhhh!" .. Calmly, we went to the tills, paid for our lettuce, screw the rest of the shopping and left with what seemed like a hundred pairs of eyes watching us go.

Lesson learned, keep Mikey out of reach of innocent short skirt wearing people. Sadly for me, this fascination developed into lifting peoples shirts and also smelling crotches, oh so many crotches sniffed by Mikey I thought about carrying a recording of my voice, apologising.

               We lived in a small one bedroom garden flat for the first five years of Mikey's life. With all the difficulties we had, finding a bigger home to rent was impossible so I turned to my local council, I needed help to find more appropriate housing, I pay my rent but no private landlord would take us. Mikey is an escape artist, I need special windows and safety bars and gates and alarms and so many many things.
               The housing officer came to visit us and the interview went really well, the man knew of a housing association that dealt specifically with our kind of need, and he would make sure we got the help. A dead pan expression kind of fellow, not one hair on his head, big bushy beard and about six and a half feet tall (the man, not the beard). The man sat patiently on my couch and listened to me describe our lifestyle, and rattle on about the various difficulties we had, for about an hour during which Mikey attached himself to the mans head and shoulders and perched there, like a monkey and proceeded to lick the mans head. For 45 mind numbingly embarrassing minutes.
I laughed, on and off for about three years.

A rare moment where Mikey is looking directly at the camera