Paul Isaacs an autistic trainer, speaker, consultant and blogger who has been hosting workshops for Anna Kennedy Online was announced as the UK Ambassador at the Autism Hero Awards. 

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The following article below has been written by Paul for Anti Bullying Week:

The word “autism” is a describing adjective of and “experience” and multi-layered condition of “conditions” a “fruit salad” as the late Donna Williams had noted from looking at her own autism and observation of others through her consultancy work.

So with that in mind what can bullying be down to? Many factors of course can be noted such as perceived vulnerability and/or threat, a noted and/or varied amount of insecurities within the bully themselves and of course any other contributing environmental factors that propel and/or ignore or not acknowledge that bullying is happening so what can be the contributing factors? Within a person’s “autism fruit salad”?

Social emotional agnosia

This is to do with social perception so if someone doesn’t read body language, tone of voice or facial expression all they have left is facts this could lead the person to being picked on, left out and struggle to integrate into conversations between their peers and/or left overwhelmed.

Simultagnosia (Object blindness) & Prosopagnosia (Face blindness)

The person may perceive things in pieces and not wholes making visual tracking of the environment difficult to manage meaning they are “lost” and struggle to find connections and visual coherence. 

They may also have face blindness as well meaning blindness meaning that bounding with the peoples via their peers faces is difficult. Leading to errors in communication and not knowing who people are, this may lead to teasing and/or bullying by their peers.

Semantic Agnosia (Meaning blindness)

Seventy percent of information is visual so what if a person on the spectrum is only using thirty percent information to perceive? They may use their hands, feet, tongue and body to externalise their surroundings in order to internalise, this includes objects and people.

As this system may not be fully understood by their peers around them it may lead to social misunderstandings, fear and/or exclusion due to a person being highly tactile.

Integration of “Self and Other”

Some people with autism may struggle with a “shared” sense of “social” the developmental underpinnings are to do with development of language and possibly having a more multi-tracked system of bringing together multiple forms of information at once.

So the person may only be able to do “all self no other” meaning the person may seem to not listen to others and project, and/or not project and not answer when it’s the other way round “all self no other” this could lead to teasing because of the lack of fluency between the “switching” by peers.

Meaning Deafness

Differing levels of language processing means that the person may not be able to keep track of what is being said, its relevance and or significance. If the person is resorted to just hearing “sounds” and not bridging the sounds into “meaning” the person may struggle with interpretive language.

Exposure Anxiety

EA was first described by Donna Williams in her book “Nobody Nowhere” in 1991 and later and hand book on the condition in 2003. EA creates involuntary diversion and retaliation responses when a feeling of “exposure” is triggered the nervous system then reactions with such responses as echolalic litanies (that go nowhere), spitting, hitting (others and/or themselves), swearing, running away and/or freezing (mutism).

People are directly confrontational in their language to one another with EA the person may benefit from an indirectly confrontational approach. Peers may be baffled on/or even confused by the differing responses this may lead to being teased, left out and picked on.

Other Things To Consider

  • Personality Types
  • Learning Styles/Variations
  • Dietary Disabilities
  • Mental Health Co-Conditions

Conclusion

If we are looking at advocacy we must first look at all perspectives of what is being experienced by the person on the autism spectrum and their peers and bringing a hopeful inclusion tailored by

  • Information sharing
  • Perspective taking
  • Healthy validation 
  • Inclusion

Advocacy of Autism as a “Fruit Salad”

By looking at the multifaceted nature of the word “autism” one must look beyond the stereotypes, beyond the rhetoric and once a person does open up  to being healthily challenged, empowered and acknowledged.

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