Updated: May 2
"Standing up for myself" by Autistic Author Evaleen Whelton
Everything I read or listen to, is to give me as much help as possible to provide Joe with the tools he needs to understand his body as an neurodivergent person.
I source all of this information from the neurodivergent community.
"Standing up for myself" is another addition to our tool box.
65 pages in total with 12 sections of content.
Why do I need this book?
Trying to get to a place where a child feels comfortable to express their most private inner thoughts can be scary and taxing for any child and adult, especially when comparing their feelings and how their body works to others. That is why identifying how the child's mind/body works early will be key to maximising their awesomeness.!!!
In order for Joe to really process any information, verbal or written, its really important that the content is relatable and not "boaring" and he understands the point of it. If he has to put his brain through the stress of processing, the info really needs to matter to him. In other words, what is he gaining from others peoples instructions apart from a stressed central nervous system?
This makes clear from the beginning what to expect. This works well for Joe.
Id provided an idea of what to expect before hand.
Now ordinarily Joe doesnt like to read books.
This is due to linking past traumas around traditional reading expectations when attending mainstream primary school. Anything related to reading at home is a massive trigger.
However hes happy to read on his phone/PS5 or my laptop on topics he has sourced and can spend hours researching/reading information he is passionate about.
Luckily for us, an on line version of the book was available which he was happy to use.
The first section, titled "what does it mean to be autistic"? was a great start.
What is the difference between this question and other info hes been given in the past?
Firstly ,this info has been written by an autistic person which of course influences the narrative. It doesnt begin with the so called "deficits" which in my opinion are not accurate anyway and makes clear that defining "autism" historically has been defined by people who are not autisitc. Great start, as this introduction enabled Joe and I to feel safe and confident in the content. As if we were being looked after by an experienced mentor.
The content( section 1 to 12.)
Each section has a heading focusing on a specific topic and relating questions to explore with your child about how they experience the world. If writing on the lines provided is too taxing then Evaleen suggests other alternatives ,talking, drawing, thinking, in our case singing. The point of the book is to help your child identify who they are as an autistic person so they (with your help) can inform others what they need to enable them to be autistic their way. I read the questions to support his processing and he replied via typing or texting his responce on his phone and also singing his answers. His phone is a valuable source of information for him in terms of fact finding via Google so this device brings great comfort to him.
Please look out for future blog
"The benefits of gaming, iPad, phone devices"
How these taboo devices enable Joe and how removing the stereotypical parenting strategies strengthen my relationship with my son.
Why is it beneficial for Joe to "stand up for himself"/finding out how he experiences the world around him?
Masking/shielding/hiding their autistic selves(pretending to be like neurotypical people) is a huge problem as children learn very early on how to hide their neurodivergence, this becoming more important than actually being themselves, leading eventually to not being able to access the school environment as the pressure to mask long term becomes unbearable leading to crisis.
Also, Children that become Situationally mute in anxiety provoking situations also known as selective mutism (which by the way is not a helpful term as there is nothing selective about it, in terms of the child making a choice) may have great difficulty when being put under the added pressure of answering a question or a child who is pathologically demand avoidant may see any kind of information as a demand. So the format of this book and the activities within would be really helpful as it removes all pressure to speak as the supporting adult reads the autistic led questions to support the child identifying the answers.
As a proffessional, working with a nureodivergent child who hated writting for example, meant that I would write for them, therefore removing the barrier. In the hope that the activity would become a chance for them to express themselves without the trauma of writting.
Completing a page/section at a time and showing peers, a Teacher/TA or any other adults/family to read the content might be easier to support the pressure of talking or becoming over whelmed.
Please look out for
"Educating other family members"
Why cousins and siblings are fundamental allies.
Again, because the content has been written by an autistic person this includes very specific questions to pull out certain information to help the reader with their response. Again referring back to my blog discussing Nick Walkers book and why language is important .
Speaking with my TA hat on, this would be helpful if I were to support a diverse group of children to talk about diversity in general and how difference is part of the human species and what we all have in common.
It would also be educational to showcase how autistic and neurodivergent brains enable certain learning styles to highlight the joy of diversity showcasing the diversity of human minds. This would be an opportunity to evoke conversation between peers.
This would also encourage healthy conversations around the neurodivergent child becoming the educator and learning to really know how to use "The voice of the child"(children and families act 2014).
Neurodivergent children should be enabled to become the experts on informing others to enable them to be their authentic selves!!!
I'm not going to go into too much detail as purchasing the Evaleens book would have far greater benefits. But from Mine and Joes perspective it was a great addition to Nick Walkers book previously reviewed on a separate blog.
Nicks book was great for me and will also be great for joe when's hes older(if hes happy to read books then) but Evaleens online version was great for Joe now.
Having said all that, advocating and talking to adults and peers is easier said than done... Especially when children are used to being told how to talk, listen, act, react and generally behave a certain way. Its hard standing up for yourself. I'm 47 and still learning!!!
You also need the person listening to your child to ACT AND FOLLOW THROUGH on the information being given. Other wise self advocacy for example will become counter productive and teaches the child the opposite. Which translates into, you are the child and I am the adult and what you are telling me doesnt matter. It teaches children not to trust adults/authority figures. In fact adults should be a supportive partner and not a dictator. Enable the neurodivergent child to teach you. TRUST AND FEELING SAFE IS THE KEY TO ALL INTERACTIONS.
I would also use this book to evidence the need to do away with "behaviour plans" ,"interventions"/ABA, tokens, points and rewards as learning about how a neurodivergent mind/brain/body works will be a good enough reason to stop compliance training to present/"behave" a certain way which is unhealthy.
I will be blogging about this topic next week.
No, I wont "Behave" so there!!
So thats it from me. I hope this was helpful to anyone wanting help to identify as an autistic /neurodivergent person or if you think you could use this resource to help a person to identify then know that you are becoming part of the neurodiversity movement by enabling and supporting neurodivergent children to stand up for themselves xx
Much love xx
Jenny and Joe