28 Mar 2010

Repost from the bus on Irish Blog Awards 2010

I've got free wifi and a bit of battery time left so here's the short, link free version.

In summary, it was excellent. I didn't win the best blog post award, but had zero (well not zero since that would be mathematically illogical since I was nominated) expectation of getting in and the winning post (and winning blogger) was a stunner. Best part of the experience as ever was spending time with a load of intriguing, articulate, provocative and funny people.

Myself a selection of other lovely ladies meet in the presidential suite of the well posh g hotel for the Ladies Tea Party, organised by the force of nature that is Sabrina Dent. We had lovely pink wine and delicate snacks and there was nail painting and nail polish remover and it was all fabulous. The women I met with, some I knew already but most of them I hadn't, were without exception amazing, friendly and warm. I had my nails painted a vampy deep red, most unlike me it was. But I have to admit, they looked good with my blue dress. The didn't even get too damaged as the night progressed, and neither did I(!)

The awards were distributed efficiently and I was especially pleased by 3 wins; Red Mum for photoblog, Irish Autism Action for group blog and Xbox for personal. The best part of the evening followed with all the chatting and a little bit more drinking (mostly tea) into the morning. The clocks went back depriving us of an hour of either sleep or fun. I chose less sleep. Eventually I made it to my bed for a few hours sleep.

Today I joined a few more bloggy types for brunch in a pub and now, knackered, I'm facing the long trip home. But sure I can read for hours uninterrupted. I don't really mind this voyage.

Links and maybe more spouting about this to follow, probably.

26 Mar 2010

Westward Ho

It's the weekend of the Irish Blog Awards and I'm off bright and early to Galway tomorrow morning to join the party. Amazingly, I'm a finalist in the best blog post category for a post I wrote last June when Duncan and I had spent a beautiful few days away together, just the two of us. It's a post that flowed out of me, one that expresses my feelings of love, pride, contentment and joy in my child. I'm really happy it was selected to be among the final few posts, astonished too! But it was a lovely surprise in a downer of a week so thanks very much to all the judges for getting it this far. I hope a few people will have read it and consider that parenting a disabled child isn't less than, just different.

Here's the list of posts in the category which is sponsored by KRO IT Solutions
I know which one I think is the best among that lot and hope it wins tomorrow.

But the prizes are a very small part of what makes the blog awards great. It's the chance to meet people and chat, eat, drink, laugh, renew old friendships and make new ones. It's just a great big party. I am looking forward to it very much.

I CAN'T Wait

Duncan had another appointment with the dentist this morning. Lady and Thomas have both started school now (more on that later- but it's going well) so it was just the two of us. The 1st time we were at that dentist it was a huge struggle to get him in the building. He stood outside crying for ages while I tried to reason with him. We made it into the waiting room where The Tweenies was playing on a tv, henceforth that room was known as "The Tweenies Room." Duncan utterly refused to leave the room so the dentist came to him and after Thomas modelled the procedure, Duncan consented to allow the dentist a brief glimpse inside his mouth right there. On the next visit he made it to the examination room but not onto the chair, though he did enjoy moving the stuffed dinosaur with the big teeth up and down on the chair. Then the dentist got another kick look but didn't see much. Today however Duncan was an absolute star. We entered the Tweenies Room and he dashed about a bit checking out the books and wall posters, seemed pleased that there was no smoking allowed, then got ready to leave again. An old woman and a younger man, probably her son, arrived. The man might well have been autistic himself. Duncan was restless and I said several times, "we will wait."
"I can't wait!"
"Look at the door, read the sign. This is a waiting room."
He read it and seemed a bit happier to do what the sign said, for a while at least. He got ready to move again and I said, "wait for a little while. The dentist will be ready soon."
Duncan replied softly, "I don't want to wait. Listen to me, pal!"

I just asked him about the book he had picked up. The woman most have had very acute hearing as she snorted a bit then said, "oh, that's a strange thing to say."
Now was thinking that her sticking her nose in was strange, but reasoned that she might not have known better and said, "it's a phrase he picked up from a video. He doesn't know what it means." (I regret saying that with him right beside me now.)
"Well one thing I will say, in my day we respected our parents."
"That's nice. He respects me and I respect him too."

We were called to the dentist then. I suppose I should be glad she only felt it was her right to comment on my son's words and wasn't tempted to stick a pen into his or my eye unlike the wish expressed by a "home-schooling" mother I read about on Liz's blog. This "christian" (I won't capitalise the word, this woman doesn't deserve it) clearly hasn't heard about "suffer the little children." It's hard to believe she could possibly be so ignorant about autism as she obviously is for unless she's living as part of an able-bodied people only cult, she surely knows of other non-school educated families with autistic children; there's loads of us out there!

But forget her, my boy did well today, Lady and Thomas are settling and happy in their new school, I'm off to Galway for the weekend. It's going to be just fine.

22 Mar 2010

It's not the reward

Last week after his gymnastics class, Thomas came to tell me that he'd managed to do a back flip without help and on the floor. He was very proud of his achievement. Lady also "got" her back flip (to use their terminology) a few weeks ago. As I'd done for his sister, I shared his joy, expressed my pride in his hard work and hugged his beautiful and strong little body. Later when I was downstairs I noticed a new gymnastics trophy on the shelf. "Oh that," he said easily,"I won it today for getting my back-flip."

I was really happy to see he had taken more pride in sharing the accomplishment of the move instead of the reward, relished the intrinsic satisfaction and not the extrinsic prize. Just getting his back-flip was all the reward he needed.

Wish I'd been less focused on the praise and the prizes when I was his age and I might be less influenced by how I think others see me now.

21 Mar 2010

Trying School

Lady and Thomas were taken by their dad to visit the local Integrated primary school last Tuesday and both liked it so much that they decided they would go to try it out. So after I spoke on the phone with the school principal, we've arranged that they will start this Thursday so they go for a couple of days before the Easter break. I'll be visiting the school myself tomorrow morning to look around and meet with the P4 and P7 teachers to talk about what they do and to tell them about my children.

Lady's decision came as a complete shock; she announced a few days ago she wanted to visit the school with the others. She had previously always been adamant when questioned that she was not at all interested in going back to school for the foreseeable future. But she just realised that she wants to try out primary school again before she's too old. So, fair enough, off she goes.

Thomas has been thinking for a while about going to school for the first time in his life. He'd originally said he'd start next autumn term so we could all enjoy the summer together instead of being stuck in a classroom for the few months we have a year when the weather is half decent. But after seeing the school he changed his mind and wants to go right away.

We're trying to decide how best to arrange how to travel to and from school. It's one stop away from here on the train and they could easily manage to travel there and back together but I have a notion that wouldn't be allowed by the train company; unaccompanied minors etc. They could walk, cycle or use a scooter and go along the coastal path. Or I could copy almost all the other parents and drive them there.

I hope they enjoy this experience. I still think home education is a better way for children to learn; school is so very inefficient and takes up such a huge portion of children's lives, especially when you consider that even after they have spent almost all day in school, they then have homework to do. I don't know how the children will manage all their activities; Tuesday - Thomas has gymnastics then jujitsu, Wednesday - they both do gymnastics, Thursday - Lady has 2 gymnastics classes and Thomas goes to Beavers, Friday - Lady goes to the local youth club and the gymnastics coach told me yesterday she wants Thomas to start a class on Fridays soon, Saturday - Thomas does jujitsu and hurling and Lady has cheer leading, Sunday - Thomas does gymnastics. How are they going to have time to spend with their family, go to school, do homework, continue their sports and activities, play and hang out with friends, chill out and read/watch tv/learn an instrument/master a computer game/draw a picture/write a letter or blog post? How does everyone manage without bursting from the pressure?

I do want them to enjoy it and to gain from the experience. They are free to remain at school if they so choose, but if, having given it a good couple of months, they decide they want to be home educated again then they will be deregistered. This is not now the most straightforward of manoeuvres as some of the education boards are trying to fool parents wanting to home educate that legislation exists (it doesn't) to prevent the deregistration process.

I am keen to know exactly what they make of the whole thing, and think that for Thomas especially, he'll either love it or hate it. I don't expect him to merely tolerate it. Lady only wants to go for one term but she may discover that she wants to go on to secondary school too in which case I will have to try to find a place for her in one of the schools not requiring a pass on the transfer test.

I'll be here for them no matter what and boost them and help them know what they need and how to get it. Duncan and I will have more time together and that's always nice, though he may be going to school some time soon himself. Until he does (if he does) he's going to miss his siblings terribly.

Elf Spotted in North Down

This afternoon, I was driving with Lady and Duncan when Duncan said something that had us roaring laughing. A woman crossed the road in front of us and Duncan, sitting in the front passenger seat beside me looked at her very closely, brow furrowed. Then he announced, clearly referring to the woman, "it is NOT a human."
I protested, "It is a human!" (I found myself using the same pronoun as him, he uses the gender pronouns interchangeably anyway.)
Duncan disagreed. "No. It is not a human."
"Well what is it then?"
His empahtic response;"it is an elf."

I could see why he thought that. The woman had short dark hair, was wearing a furry sort of pale coat and had very red cheeks. She did have a bit of the elf (like those in the film Elf) about her. And Duncan was deadly serious, thinking he'd just pointed out something as obvious as if he'd shown me a white van or a black bird.

It was a nice wee bit of sunshine in the day.

3 Mar 2010

Words, language, attitudes and actions

There's a campaign to encourage people to rethink the words they choose to write and say. Today, March 3 2010, has been chosen as a day to focus on these issues.

Words matter, language matters. When people decide to use as slurs and insults, words that originated as diagnostic labels for various disabilities and/or for various categories of mental illness, real and manufactured ("hysteria") then they contribute to a culture that marginalises people. Disabled people are dehumanised by these words. A society that tolerates the use of slurs like r*t*rd and sp*st*c as equivalent to stupid, useless, pathetic, hateful or annoying, legitimises the hatred that leads to the abuse, murder, forced drugging and sterilisation and discarding of so many disabled people in this country and all around the world.

Some people whine about the "language police," "PC gone mad," their "right to free speech" and how "no one has a right not to be offended." They make a case to keep insulting, belittling, minimising and dehumanising people like my son who have developmental disabilities just so they can slag off their mates or sound hip and cool on someone's blog or YouTube comments. But if someone wants to keep acting like an entitled and callous arse, that's their call.

There's a fantastic series on Ableist Language at the FWD/Forward blog discussing specific words, their origin, the damage they can do and suggesting alternatives. As expected, the usual arguments in favour of the right to offend and destroy and display your laziness and lack of consideration say whatever the hell you want are raised. These are deconstructed in this great post.

There's one argument the non-creative who prefer to keep right on insulting and degrading developmentally disabled people use that isn't in the list. It's the "euphemism treadmill" argument, and it's explained in this blog comment;
This sort of process (words becoming offensive and being replaced by new terms that end up becoming pejorative over time only to be replaced by more and more cumbersome and ridiculous expressions and so on and so forth ad infinitum) is known as the euphemism treadmill. And people who keep insisting on keeping this treadmill going are fucking retards (I hope the actual innocent retards forgive me for using this innocent word pejoratively).
The Blog owner responded to this inanity with, "Fucking right!"

Can I have a facepalm?

OK, that's me shut up then. I wouldn't want to contribute to the "euphemism treadmill." Keeping all hip and raging against the PC police is far more important than listening to the people whose lives are directly negatively affected by your words and committing to making a few simple substitutions.

My understanding of what this commenter calls the "euphemism treadmill" is the positive effect of disability activists who have influenced the language used to describe people with their attributes. "Wheelchair bound" is out because people who use wheelchairs find the term fucking ridiculous and limiting. If people who are blind prefer not to be referred to as a "the blind" and people who have epilepsy quite reasonably don't want to be called "epileptics" then should those of us who are not in these groups get all bothered by their "disgraceful assault on our right to speak as we see fit"? Should we return to a more paternalistic era (as if this one's not bad enough) when we allowed doctors, psychologists educators and others with power-over to dictate the terms used to describe people, or might it be seen as fairer that, as people gain more agency over their lives, they and only they have the moral authority to dictate the language used to describe these lives.

There's more about this on Here Be Dragons post; Ban the R-Treatment:
A lot of people think that The R-Word campaign is just about a disablist slur, but it’s the medicalization of atypical learning and social behaviour that’s dehumanizing, hence the basis of all slurs for people considered inferior are medical terms which caused the euphemism treadmill in the first place.
Another thing about the previous comment is the distinction made between the "fucking r*t*rds" behind this drive to substitute language that demeans with the language of their choice and the "actual innocent r*t*rds" whom s/he hopes will forgive such pejorative use of this "innocent" word.


They're the same people, these "innocents" and the ones who annoy you (and confuse you?) so much with their attempt to improve they way they're discussed and to stop people using using their discarded diagnoses as the epitome of the put down. And what makes them "innocent" anyway? They're almost all adults so in all likelihood, they're as much of a sinner as you or I! I hate this trope that developmentally disabled people are seen as innocent and child-like even when they're full grown men and women. It's another way in which they're dehumanised.

If you want to, go ahead and use r*t*rd and similar terms as insults. I reserve the right to think of you who do as arrogant, rude, insensitive twerps. To the rest of you who might decide that on reflection, it might be decent to chose other words that don't have such power to hurt and harm, please pledge your support to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-word.