17 Aug 2007

Daily Mail; 'My son is a monster with autism'

I know I shouldn't. It's in the Mail..ignore it! They always print junk. (Melanie Phillips, anyone?!) But this article is just too horrible. I left a comment which will probably not be published. I have left critical comments before on Mail articles, (autism and MMR junk usually) and they have never been published. So I wanted to copy the comment here instead.

'My son is a monster with autism'

I wrote;
This is a very disturbing article using horrible language; 'monster', 'the end of safety, normality and reason', 'I have felt, at times, like killing Luke when he has hurt her.' There are no words of love or understanding for her son's needs and differences.

I have an autistic son. I have worked hard to understand his needs, his sensory preferences. Perhaps the boy destroyed the M&S coat as it felt horrible to him? Did this mum try to make things easier for him, for example, offer him a quiet room or headphones when his baby sister's crying was bothering his extra sensitive hearing? He is absolutely aware of she feels about him and it will no doubt have caused him so much stress.

Having an autistic child is tough and causes you to change your expectations of family life. Parents who adapt and accept this, and their children, are more likely to thrive.
Good luck to Luke in his new school. Be proud of yourself, and you'll find a community of people like you out there to embrace you.

There I ran out of characters.

But I did so want to say, '*edited bit. Go read a bit about your son's condition, learn from people who's brains are wired like his (NOT 'wired up wrongly in many ways'). Have you ever heard of the concept of diversity?
I managed to restrain myself, until now.

(PS, We're all going on holiday for a week from tomorrow. I will pack my children's favourite foods and toys, take familiar comfort objects and it WILL NOT be a nightmare!)

OK, breathe...feeling calm. Bye!

*I have edited this post to remove an personally insulting comment I had written.


kristina said...

I'm so glad you wrote the letter----I was beyond appalled to see that title and then the article was even worse.


mumkeepingsane said...

Wow, I couldn't finish it. I felt like I was going to vomit.

It's really all about her though isn't it? She really wants every one to feel badly for her and give her tons of "you poor dear" attention.

I could comment more but I just can't right now.

Allie said...

Sheesh! I don't like to judge but she does seem like a Merchant Banker! If he didn't like the coat then don't wear the blinking coat - the stamping and peeing sounded like the actions of someone not allowed to say no, or maybe not heard. She has obviously suffered a lot but couldn't someone have advised her a little on flexibility... That's pretty high on my list of necessary parenting skills, no matter who your child is.

Sharon McDaid said...

Yes Kristina, bad title, worse article. How must her son feel knowing that she's written a book about how awful he caused her life to be.

MKS, it is all about her. One of the 2 comments on the Mail site is giving her the 'poor dear' reaction she seems to crave. Perhaps no-one has told her yet to get over herself and start parenting.

Allie, you're a better person than me! I have judged her by her words. I know this is a newspaper article and journalists can twist the story to fit the template that sells more, but she has written a book, and I can't see a single positive word from her in the whole article.
But what you say is true, when you become a parent you have to expect the unexpected. You cannot plan it all out in advance. Some people realise that in pregnancy, when they have premature births or difficult pregnancies. Some realise it at birth when their detailed birth plan is tossed aside as circumstances change. For some, it happens later when the child gets sick, has an accident, is diagnosed with autism or ADD, isn't good at music like his concert pianist dad...
The post you wrote a few days ago demonstrates exactly how we have to keep adjusting for our families.

Club 166 said...

The author posts that the good news is that her son will be starting a new school for autism as a border.

I guess she's glad to be rid of him, so she can get back to her "normal" self-absorbed life.

What a shame for her son.


David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

Makes me wonder... is she really a fit person for parenting any child?

Her attitudes are less than encouraging.

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

"How must her son feel knowing that she's written a book about how awful he caused her life to be."

And won't he be justified in disowning the obnoxious cow when he finds hiw first copy (I can't believe he'd actually have been privy to the content of the book... )

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...


I'm typing in the dark here... my girlfriend's sleeping still....

Joeymom said...

We take Joey to the beach every year- twice if we can afford it- and even when he was only eating six foods and had only 25 words, it wasn't a nightmare. In fact, we all had a grand time, and always do. Yes, there are meltdowns and problems that need to be solved and thouoght out and things to prepare for- but then, couldn't we say that of any child? I have to prep for Andy, too.

This lady needs to take Kev's advice: "Grow up you silly sod."

Anonymous said...

Its not often I can't blog about something but this article did it. Thanks Sharon for ploughing on and responding so well.

Ed said...

Great response Sharon. I hope they do post it.
I wish it had allowed you to say more so you could have added more of your true feelings. :) This kind of thing makes me feel the same way.

Also,the "Get over herself and start parenting." might have added a nice touch as well.

Ed said...

and as I think I hear you saying, if this parent is going through an adjustment phase, I hope she moves past it or through it both safely and swiftly for the sake of everyone involved. Then I hope adjusting to the unexpected can become a pattern.

Anonymous said...

I thought the mother was autistic??

Ed said...

O.K. one more.(sometimes it takes me a while to come up with the words I want to express.)

I appreciate that you as a parent who is parenting a child with special needs is concerned when another parent describes such an experiance as a terrible.

I understand and apreciate that it would upset you to hear a parent describe their son or daughter as a monster. I am grateful for you letting others know that this is very different(opposite) of how you feel about your experience and that you believe that parents owe it to their kids to treat thier kids with more respect.

When you act on the way that you feel about such matters in the way you have described it, hopefully it has some effect on the people directly involved, but ultimately you bringing attention to the matter and letting people know how you feel about it helps us all. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just imagine growing up in this world having an Autistic child and then not having self awareness to the fact that as a mother you are autistic and that your understanding of children is some set of NT social beliefs that where inposed upon you by parents. I think this story in the mail is very sad.
TYes i aslo felt a strong reaction to the story and as a parent of an 13 yrs AS person. I have learnt to read my own strong reactions as a means to information that maybe i was not communicating to him clearly as to my want and wishes. there is always a bigger picture and that gut reaction maybe telling you somthing more than what you are feeling. Are not many autistic people just very honest! and that as parents of autistic children should we not no better than to ASSUME the intentions of this boys mother.

Attila the Mom said...

How unbelievably awful.

Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!!

Anonymous said...

i didnt think the article was that bad . we all cope differently with what life throws at us . somedays i think my serverly autistic son is a monster he can make our lifes and his sibblings life hell, and we do everything we can to please him and take into account is autism but when your being spat at, stratched,hit on a daily basis for the past ten years then i feel entitled some days to think poor me.it dosent mean i dont love him as much as you love your children, and want what is best for him.

Sharon McDaid said...

Thanks for the comments, especially Ed's.

Anon. 1 and 2, I don't know if the mum is autistic. Also, Anon 2, you wrote;
"I have learnt to read my own strong reactions as a means to information that maybe i was not communicating to him clearly as to my want and wishes."
The difference between what you've written and this woman, is that you are trying to examine how what you are doing or saying is affecting your child. She is saying that all the blame, all the problems, all the communication breakdowns, are her son's fault. She doesn't mention anywhere what strategies she has tried to help him. No doubt she has tried various things, but it would give a bit of balance if that was mentioned.

You also wrote, "Are not many autistic people just very honest! and that as parents of autistic children should we not no better than to ASSUME the intentions of this boys mother."

I don't think that even if she is autistic, it excuses her from being so 'honest' in a hurtful, demeaning and wholly negative way, in one of the UK's most widely read newspapers. I don't know what her intentions were, i just know what the outcome has been; a nasty piece of writing that demonises her son and hence, autistic people in general.

Anon 3, yes we all cope differently with what life throws at us, and some days i think my severely autistic son is a ...well, if not a monster, difficult to understand and deal with. Some days I feel drained and stressed and at the limits of my abilities to parent.
You mention the difficulties you deal with. And yes, i understand the days when you feel 'poor me'. I know it doesn't mean you don't love him. I wouldn't dare to suggest that I love my son more than you love yours. But there's a difference from just saying to yourself, 'man, this is hard today', and writing a book and article in a major newspaper which is unremittingly awful.

John Best said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jan greenman said...

If you read the article you would see that it was credited to me but was written by Mandy Francis of the Dail Mail. I didn't write the article, nor did I choose the headline. Newspapers sell papers so they sensationalize and pick out the bits they think people want to read. When I asked them why they had chosen that headline they said that the title 'Love Conquers All' would have been more appropriate to the overall context of my book which is a very positive but honest account of Luke's life. However, 'love doesn't sell papers, monsters do'. That is a reflection on society and is such an unfair and inaccurate picture of the content of my book has been endorsed by Nigel Mansell. Would he have done that if the book wasn't a good book? I am self-published and it is very hard to sell books without some kind of publicity.
Luke is an amazing character and my book is a very positive account of the difficulties he has overcome and where we are now at. It also highlights what little help and understanding there is for people like him in our society. Everyone who has read my book has been very positive so please don't judge my book by its newspaper coverage, judge it on its contents abd then if you want to call me a self-obsessed merchant banker bitch, go ahead. I've been called worst most days!

Sharon McDaid said...

Hello Jan Greenman and thank you for responding here.

I can see, if you look carefully at the end of the on-line article, it's stated in fine print that it's adapted from your book. Yes it's sad that negativity sells more than happy stories, but your name is right there at the head of the piece. If the article is such a misrepresentation of your views, as detailed in your book, have you contacted the paper to complain? Were you paid a fee for the article? I didn't imagine that you chose the headline, but the article was even worse than the headline. Have you written or spoken anywhere else to try to counter the damage that article may have caused to autistic people and those who care about them? Did you try to get a comment or letter published on the Mail site to dispute the thrust of the article? My comment, like that of loads of people I know who also found the article abhorrent, was not one of the 3 published.

It's nice for you that Nigel Mansell liked the book, but why should that influence me? Does he know about autism?

I've read that the book is self-published, and presumably the Mail article was a good promotional opportunity for you, though it would put me right off buying it. I'm glad that here at least you have something positive to say about your son, and I'm relived for his sake that the book is, by what you say, very different from the article. Perhaps it's a pity that more people won't read it instead of such a popular newspaper as the Daily Mail. Not many read this blog, so they won't see what you really think here!

I do apologise and retract the 'bitch' comment I made. I should not have resorted to personal insults.

jan greenman said...

Thank you for your apology. I was really pleased that the Daily Mail contacted me back in May and said they were interested in doing an article about my book because I have tried so hard to get people interested. They sent a photographer to take a photo and that was that until 8pm on the 15th August when I had a phone call to say that the article was going in the next day. I was so excited, assuming that it would be in the form of a book review and give people, as my book does,the truth about Luke's life with labels. I have written a book about all the aspects of Luke's life and the book is NOT about me, although the Mail have written it from that persepctive, picking out probably all the references to me in the whole book!
Nigel Mansell is Luke's all=time hero and he has met Luke,given him time and self-respect, something which is priceless for my boy.
I really don't care what people think of me but I do care very much that the reality of my book has been misrepresented from Luke's point of view. I have posted a comment on the Mail article which hasn't been shown yet and I have been invited on Gmtv to talk about the article. I was on BBC radio Bristol on wednesday and have been asked to speak for the National Autistic Society. It was really hard writing such an emotionally honest book and by the way, everyone who knows me knows I would never say "I am proud to say..." I am not proud of myself but I am so proud of Luke. He is funny, a great character, articulate, a brilliant mimic and the book is about him. I would have written the article on how hard Luke has had to work to overcome his difficulties (and there are many) and I talk honestly of them in the book to demostrate just how far he has come since those dreadful days and how much respect he deserves for the way he has retrained his behaviour. He hates the Monster headline, as you would expect him to but he loves the book, as does his dad, and that speaks for itself!
Thank you for your comments, I will do everything possible to make people aware of the truth for Luke's sake.

Sharon McDaid said...

Thank you Jan for clarifying further and for accepting my apology. I appreciate your taking the time to explain exactly what happened and I'm glad you are taking steps to get the truth out. I'm very glad to read that Luke likes the book. It's shocking that the newspaper could have misrepresented its content so much.

jan greenman said...

Thank you. Luke is so brilliant at talking for himself anfd expalinging how it feels to be him. He has written tips at the end of each chapter for parents to try and understand what was going through his head when he behaved in a certain way and everyone who has read the book says that they laughed, they cried, they couldn't put it down but they understood so much more at the end of it and had so much respect for Luke. He has had the toughest time at school and I have fought tooth and nail to get him any kind of help and recognition of his differences and how they affect him. He has many sensory sensitivites and he is acutely aware of who likes him and who doesn't and acts accordingly. He wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome until he was 10yrs old, which is why I didn't understand him properly and he didn't cuddle me until he was 11. Because he was my first child, I just didn't know what had hit me and yet I loved him utterly.
I wrote in the book that when he was 5yrs old and I was struggling so hard to cope with him 'You don't want to convince people that your child is a monster but you do want to tell them what a nightmare you are living'. That is where that awful monster headline came from and like most sentences in the paper, tells only half the story. if you email me I'll send you a copy of the book so you can read it and judge it for yourself and see just how far off the truth the article is.

Sharon McDaid said...

Jan thank you again for writing here and explaining more. It gives an entirely different view of things. Why couldn't the Mail have chosen a few quotes like you've written here instead of misrepresenting you so badly. I feel ashamed that I fell for the story they wanted to sell.

I would love to read your book, now I understand better. Please e-mail me; thefamilyvoyage at yahoo dot ie.