We have all heard of #thedress, right? The dress pictured above caused a world-wide frenzy when it was posted on social networking sites. Some claimed that the dress was white and gold, some (like me) were adamant that the same dress was black and blue, while some say it’s blue and gold. Some people have also claimed that they sometimes see white and gold, but can also see it as blue and black at times.
People have argued for days and eventually settled that although the dress was in fact black and blue, we all see it differently. The video below explains why:
So how is it that we can accept the fact that people see this dress differently to us, but cannot accept that other people ARE DIFFERENT FROM US?
Why is it so hard for some to accept people from different ethnicities, socioeconomic status, abilities, different sex and sexual orientations?
Isn’t the greatness of this world due to our diversity?
I know I am talking about a small proportion of society who has yet to open their eyes. I am hoping that by using a popular example such as #thedress will help them understand what I (and many others) have been talking about for years.
I have just bought this book from Waterstones today.The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism is a book written by Japanese writer Naoki Higashida, who himself has been diagnosed with Autism. Naoki wrote this book in 2005 when he was 13, and was only published last year. I have read the reviews which seem to be mixed. On the one hand, it is being praised as it shows the positive side of having Autism and the book is in-line with parents’ hopes for their children who are on the Autism Spectrum. However, some are critical as they argue that Naoki does not speak for all of those who have Autism.
I have not yet read it, but I am very excited to start. No need to ask me what my weekend plans will be!!
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals’ physical behaviour, communication and social skills. Recent figures published by Autistica stated that the UK spends £32bn a year, which is higher than heart disease (£12bn) and heart disease (£8bn). This £32 billion is a calculated fugure based on what is spent on treatment, care and support, as well as people’s loss of income as a result of being on the spectrum and/ or living with someone who has Autism. Autistica’s report also highlighted the importance of developing better interventions that are effective in order to make better use of resources that are scarce.
It should be pointed out that the figures have also revealed that there is very little money spent on Autism research compared to care. On average, only a mere £180 is spent on research for every £1 million spent on care. That is £6.60 per person spent on research. This clearly needs to change as effective interventions should be developed and evaluated as latest figures show that over 600,000 people in the UK have Autism.
Close to 90% of individuals in the Autism Spectrum have atypical responses and obsessions/ fixations with sensory stimuli. For example, some may enjoy looking at bright lights while some may actively avoid the sound of people scratching their skin. Previous studies have observed these patterns of responses in neurotypical siblings of individuals with Autism, but not in their parents- until recently.
In a research published in Molecular Autism on 3 April 2014, Uljarevic et al. set out to investigate whether parents (specifically, the mothers) of children and adolescents in the Autism Spectrum have unusual reactions to sensory stimuli. The researchers asked fifty mothers to complete the Adolescent and Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) which is a measure of people’s hypo-sensitivity, hyper-sensitivity, sensation-seeking and sensory-avoiding tendencies.
The study’s findings are as follows:
- 31 out of 50 participants (62%) recognize stimuli slower or weaker than the average population
- 22 (44%) were found to be hyper-sensitive but were able to tolerate unpleasant stimuli
- 24 (48%) actively avoid unbearable stimuli
- Only 2% of the mothers scored within the ‘average-range‘, i.e. showed ‘normal’ responses to stimuli
Treat these findings with caution
As with every scientific finding, it is important not to get carried away with these findings. They need to be interpreted with caution. Despite having similar patterns of responses to their children with Autism, the participants’ atypical sensory reactions could be due to anxiety. In addition, since this is the first study to investigate the subject in this population with such a small sample size (very few participants), more studies need to be conducted to fully support the findings. Lastly, genetic studies are needed to investigate whether or not genes play a role in atypical sensory reactions in Autism.
I was having a discussion with a friend of mine a few days ago about basic human rights when she said that ‘for equality to work, people with Special Needs and Disabilities should be treated in exactly the same way as everyone else’. She added that, ‘this means, no special treatments, such as Teaching Assistants in schools, free and accessible parking, and/ or other perks that disabled people have’.
As offensive as this sounds, I believe that she has a point. We should not be campaigning for equality in the purest sense of the word> rather, we should be campaigning for equal opportunities, inclusion and acceptance of diversity. I have previously explained my definition of equality, and why I think it is not the same as fairness (READ HERE). I personally do not want a society where everyone is treated equally. Let me explain:
Having worn glasses for over half of my life, I do not want society to wear the exact same prescription glasses as I do just to be treated equally. Conversely, I do not want to remove my glasses when reading just because I want to be treated the same as a person with 20/20 vision. In addition, I do not want people with Autism, Dyslexia or other Specidal Educational Needs to be subjected to the exact same treatment as others without Special Needs. My point is, we are all different and we should all be treated differently. We all need help in some areas of our lives, while in some areas, we could be exeptionally good that we could teach others. Nobody should be punished just because they are though of as someone having less or more than what you have.
Readers should take note though, that I am advocating for Equal Opportunities. ‘How can that be?’, you may ask. Equal Opportunities to me, means that anyone- and I mean anyone- should be allowed to try anything and everything. If someone with SEN wishes to be educated in a mainstream school (not a special school), then so be it providing that such placement will not hinder their-and others’- development and learning. However, nobody should be ‘forced’ to study in a mainstream school just because it is seen as good practise. There are pros and cons to studying in a mainstream school, just as there are pros and cons to studying in a special school. People should be free to choose. If a same-sex couple want to get married and/ or adopt children, let them, providing that they love each other and are responsible enough for each other’s well-being.
We should embrace each other’s differences. We should offer to help those who need help, in circumstances that would allow us to. However, with all these being said, I should emphasise that respect should be given to everyone regardless of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, religion and psychological state.
On the latest episode of the Autism Hangout, I, along with other panel members, discussed the intricacies of initiating, forming and maintaining friendships in individuals with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). We explored how people with ASC communicate with and relate to their friends. We also gathered insights from people with the condition on how they form and maintain friendships. We gave advice for individuals with Autism on what to do and where to go if they have any questions about friendships, other people and general social encounters.