This week is anti-bullying week in the UK and I want to share the things that I have read, watched and heard about how to fight against bullies. Also, I want to share how bullying affects everyone. Today, I’m posting a link to the film Cyberbully made in 2011.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been known to be characterised by an ‘inability to focus or concerntrate’, ‘restlessness’, ‘constant fidgeting’, and short attention span’. It has been found that between 2-5% of the population have ADHD, and to date, there is no known cure for it (although medications such as Ritalin are prescribed to suppress sympotms).
In the video below, Stephen Conti argues that people should change how they view ADHD. Instead of seeing it as a deficit in attention and activity, Conti proposes that ADHD is a difference in cognition. For instance, people with ADHD can hyper-focus on things that excite them. Stephen alludes to the fact that kids and adults with ADHD should be allowed to flourish, instead of giving them drugs just to keep them quiet.
Below are Youtube links to a fascinating documentary which featured the daily lives of three men who have Autism. I am sharing this because it highlights how different individuals with Autism are to one another. It also shows how challenging life can be if you or one of your family members have Autism.
What is it like to grow up with Autism? How hard could the transition to adulthood be? Is it easy to find a job? What about finding a girlfriend? If you want to find out, watch the clips below:
REMEMBER: It is important to know what it is like to live with Autism in order for us to understand them better. Knowing more about this condition will help us build better relationships, and communicate and work with them effectively.
This documentary features one of science’s enigmas, the Savants, a.k.a. ‘The Knowing Ones’. There are less than 100 known Savants in the world today and half of them have Autism. These people have extraordinary talents in areas such as Mathematics and Art. A lot of them have brilliant memories, too (check out my post on The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters). Scientists in the documentary below conducted experiements that looked at the workings of the brain to answer questions about how the brains of the Savants work. They also wondered whether geniuses such as Albert Einstein and Mozart had Autism. Watch and enjoy:
Below is an old-ish BBC documentary about Manic Depression, also known as Bipolar Disorder, presented by Stephen Fry. There are two subtypes of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-VI), a person has to have an episode of mania for at least a week in his/her lifetime in order to be diagnosed with Bipolar I. A diagnosis of Bipolar II on the other hand, requires an episode of hypomania and an episode of depression.
Over the past three weeks, the BBC has shown a documentary (WATCH BELOW) which featured musically talented individuals with Tourette’s syndrome (TS). Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterised by uncontrollable motor and/ or verbal tics. At the time of writing, there is no known cause of the condition and hence, treatments are still being developed.
In the programme, DJ/ TV presenter Reggie Yates interviewed each of the individuals to find out the severity of their TS and the extent to which their condition has affected their lives. Reggie also found that their tics however severe disappeared whenever they sing or play a musical instrument. Doing so gave them a sense of calm. These individuals were then brought together in a studio and over a period of eight weeks, they rehearsed for a concert which they performed in front of a lot of people.
I felt that the series showed how their diagnoses are only a part of their personalities. Each of them has an incredible talent which, sadly has been over-shadowed by their Tourette’s. More often than not, people tend only to focus on what people cannot do rather than what they can do. The reason why I wrote the last sentence is due to the comments made in Twitter. Almost every tweet mentioned how great, wonderful and gifted this group of people are and that their ability to stand up and sing on the concert was a massive achievement- almost a miracle. While I agree to all of those statements, I was amazed how surprised these people are with what they saw. To me, this highlights the need for us to get to know each individual that we meet, regardless of whether they have a physical and/ or psychological condition or not, as a whole person. We should not let others’ disabilities mask who they truly are. Yes, their conditions are a part of themselves and that we need to tailor our behaviours and language to their needs. But their conditions are a fraction of a whole person. Focus on what they CAN, not on what they CAN’T do.
Working with students with Special Educational Needs gave me the opportunity to see how each individual, regardless of their condition, have a unique set of strengths, limitations and extraordinary talent. Majority of students who were surrounded with people who have a clear understanding of their diagnoses and the willingness to get to know them have flourished beyond what most professionals expected. So please, open your mind, throw stereotypes out of the window and get to know each person as a whole.
Here’s the whole series:
People in th UK can also watch Part 3 on BBC iplayer: CLICK HERE
For more information on Tourette’s Syndrome, click on the links below:
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a form of Autism that is in the mild end of the autism spectrum. Similar to other forms of autism, AS is characterized by deficits in social communication, social interaction and imagination, but usually have average or above average IQ levels. People with AS always think literally, have little to no clue about facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures. They find other people difficult to ‘read’ (Theory of Mind), hence may view others’ actions as confusing and also fail to behave in socially appropriate ways. Most conversations with them are one-sided, with them leading and rarely taking your opinions. Finally, they stick to their routines and have a special interest that they may excell on.
Anyone who is familiar with the show ‘Big Bang Theory’ will know that all of the characteristics mentioned above describe Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons (pictured). In the show, Sheldon is a top physicist who works in a university and hangs out with his friends Leonard (who is also his roommate), Raj and Howard. Being a physicist is an ideal job for people with AS due to the literality of the subject (as supposed to social sciences). Most of Physics are underpinned by mathematical equations which are perfect for AS-affected individuals, as supposed to, say Sociology or Psychology which are founded on researching human-beings in ways that Sheldon will find repulsive.
Sheldon also does not understand sarcasm (see video below). To be able to get sarcasm requires abstract thinking, knowledge of varying tones of voice and a firm grasp of the social situation one person is in. Sheldon does not possess any of these- Leonard actually ended up putting a ‘sarcasm sign’ for him to understand. As seen in the video clip below, Sheldon struggles to understand the consequences of his actions and also Penny’s and Leonard’s emotions.
Also, he is incapable of ‘faking’ his emotions in order to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. In the video below, Sheldon does not agree that Raj is getting featured in Time Magazine’s 30 under 30 issue. As a result, he insulted Raj. His friends then decided to invite Raj to dinner. Notice how Sheldon asks how he can fake his happiness. Children who have AS are often given social stories which teaches them how to behave appropriately in different social situations.
Sheldon also voices his dislike in a change in his routines. The first video below shows Sheldon explaining why he sits in a specific spot in the couch and what difference it made when he tried to sit on a different space. In the second video, the group decided to eat Thai food instead of pizza, which Sheldon is used to. He explained how he likes consistency and in order to accept ‘anything can happen thursday’, he persuades the others to go to the comic book store. Getting others to agree to what they want is a common tactic employed by people with AS.
Although there was no mention that Sheldon was diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome and even Sheldon reasoned that ‘his mother had him tested’, all signs point to AS. We should note however, that even though Sheldon may have AS, he is managing to live significantly comfortably. He has picked a profession that suits his condition and most importantly, allows him to excel. He has surrounded himself with people who not only tolerates him, but teaches him how to behave in particularly difficult situations. His friends mostly agrees to what he likes, and even though they usually find being with him a challenge, they still see the positive side of him.
I believe that Sheldon’s situation in the Big Bang Theory shows us a good example of living with and being around people with Asperger’s Syndrome. It shows both the fun side and the difficult side of being with individuals with AS. Granted, not every episode shows the gang’s good side in terms of dealing with Sheldon, but never the less, it shows that people with AS can be brilliant and at the same time, a good friend to be with. Whether they purposely did it or not, I think the makers of the show is doing a good job.