Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than organising collective events across the UK National Play Day 2020 is focusing on children’s rights to play at home. We’re increasingly being told about the importance of play, and there’s copious research into why this is, however when you’re Autistic and/or the parent of an Autistic child, most sentences which include the word “play” in relation to your child are telling you about how they’re “not playing correctly,” or they’re “only doing parallel play rather than cooperative play,” all heading to the climactic “we need to teach your child how to play.”
Numerous dictionary definitions state that when people play they’re spending time doing enjoyable things; doing things for pleasure; doing things for fun. So how on earth can anyone be doing it wrong?
National Play Day state that:
Playing is fun and is central to children’s happiness
Playing helps children’s physical, mental and emotional health and well-being
Playing boosts children’s resilience, enabling them to cope with stress, anxiety and challenges
Playing supports children to develop confidence, creativity and problem-solving skills
Playing contributes to children’s learning and development.
Nowhere does it state that playing is prescriptive and must follow a set pattern. Neither does it state that “proper play” means pretending to drive a toy car down an imaginary road rather than lining it up, while also meaning that a banana is also a phone and not always just food.
I’d planned to write an article about the differences between non-Autistic and Autistic play, citing research as well as my own experiences as an Autistic parent of Neurodivergent children, however when I started to do search for things to back up (or disprove – I’m not shy about being told I was wrong) what my (and others I know) experiences are, all I could find were research documents pertaining to non-Autistic children, and hundreds of articles about how to “make” your Autistic child play like everyone else. At this point the plan went out of the window – I could say I threw my toys out of the pram, but that wouldn’t be very appropriate of me, would it?
Instead I want to use this as a springboard to start a discussion:
How did you play as an Autistic child?
How do you play as an Autistic adult?
What are your Autistic child’s favourite games?
Before going further, I just need to say it loudly for the people at the back:
Forcing Autistic children to “play appropriately” is a contradiction of play. You are making them work.
Play is important for so many reasons. It helps children practice skills they’ll need later in life, and current pedagogy uses play with younger children as the main basis of teaching: Learning Through Play seems to be the tagline of most Foundation Phase (KS1) departments. Play is so important that it’s article 31 in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which is enshrined in law in Wales.
Among the research, common themes of play being important for recreation and relaxation dominate the results, so why when we have Autistic children – who are often autonomy seekers in a world where they have to work hard to conform – do we turn their play into another therapy/learning opportunity/social skills lesson? Why can’t they play the way they want? Why must we steal what little autonomy and self-regulation they have?
Play is also described as a cathartic activity in which people (particularly children) express their feelings, get rid of negative emotions, and replace them with positive ones. Do you think that by telling a child that they can’t solo-spin on the playground because they should be playing tag with the rest of the class is cathartic for them? Are they going to be able to express their feelings? Or are they having to ignore their needs for the sake of your tick box exercise?
Instead of changing the Autistic’s method of playing, join them! Spin, jump, flap, line up toys, play a couple of hours of Minecraft, whatever it is that they want to do. The main focus should be on having fun.
It’s the International Day of Disabled Persons, and I don’t know what to say anymore. I was hoping to write something far more professional – but this day doesn’t feel like it’s ours anymore.
I’ve spent most of the day thinking about what precisely to talk about today in regard to autism and disability. I could use this time to talk about how media representation of autistic people is consistently poor, how it’s a symptom of the consistently poor representation of disabled people within the media. I could talk about how multiply-disabled people still find it hard to find their place within the autistic movement, how we’re still pretty dominated by white, cis-gender, male, straight and able individuals outside of social media. I could talk about how we are still forced to ‘debate’ whether autism, and other neurodivergent conditions, are in fact disabilities, or how we’re still bogged down in this needless conflict over person-first and identity-first language, when our views across the community are clear.
But I’ll do all of those throughout the month. Today, I’m going to take this day, tear it apart and put it back together.
We’re talked about but aren’t given the chance to speak. Businesses flash their purple emblems and their Disability Confident labels, whilst we can’t find work with them and they refuse to develop policies and implement support that actually allows disabled people to be a part of their workplace. Governments promote this day and show support our causes as they cut welfare and support. Charities laud this day whilst they put children like us in solitary units, forcing families apart and destroying our physical and mental well-being. Parents still want to cure those who do not want fixing, putting us through medically sanctioned torture in order to make us “normal” to them.
I recently had a conversation with a close friend about business events like “Purple Tuesdays” and “Autism Hours”. How, to me, they feel patronising and that it makes disabled people feel like they only exist for one day to these places. How autistic people and other neurodivergent people feel they’re allowed to shop by abled people for an hour every so often. How it’s another example of how our needs are only met when it’s convenient.
How this is an example of how we’re often treated in education – if funding isn’t there, if we’re doing academically okay, we won’t find support. How documents supporting educational support can be so easily taken away from disabled and neurodivergent young people. How this is a cruel way to make us realise that this is the life we’ll live, and how whether it’s an EHCP as a child, PIP as an adult, pensions as we get older, we’ve got to constantly fight just to have our needs recognised, never mind actually supported.
How do we feel comfortable supporting an international day of disabled people when people can’t even say “disabled”, or when “autistic” is a dirty word, a slur used across the board online and in public? We have to crowdfund to get access to materials that we need to survive – and people think lighting up purple is enough?
I’m multiply-disabled. For me that includes being autistic amongst other things. Today doesn’t feel like my day any more. I want to see and support disabled people, not companies with purple t-shirts. I want to see access improvements across the board. I want to see autism recognised as something acceptable globally. I want to discuss autism as something that’s more than white – because it is overwhelmingly white people like myself leading these conversations, and I recognise that.
This day is about us – our rights, our experiences. Outside of social media, it doesn’t feel anything like that. We’re an amazing bunch, and we exist every other day of the year.
I want any autistic and/or disabled person to use this post to promote themselves in any way possible. Tweet us (@AutisticUK) a link to your work or what you like to do. Join our Facebook group (Neurodiverse UK) and share your story on accessing benefits or accommodations. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to send us a blog post for our web site to discuss disability and autism. We want this to be your space; your network. We want to promote you.
This is a statement regarding the National Autistic Society’s decision to remove information from Mermaids, a trans youth support network, from their website. This also discusses their decision to reinstate it after mass objection online. This occurred over the week commencing 01/10/2018.
Over the last year or so, I and a few others have been ghosting our way around the online autistic community with good intentions. Not to be all stalker-y here, honest, but we wanted to find a constant thread that the authentic, Actually Autistic voice spoke. I’m the one who got the job of sticking his head above the parapet and revealing our efforts and their results. I always get the short straw; Is it ‘cos I is Autistic?
This is not intended to be just for April. The idea is to have a common thread that runs through all groups, advocates and supporters that was easily recognised, different and came from the autistic community, not from those who think they speak for us.
The Gold Infinity is for use on ANY work, event, campaign, fund raising, whatever! It is meant as a symbol of authenticity, declaring support for acceptance all year round and stating this message came from an authentic autistic voice. We can self-police those who may abuse it. Social Media is a wonderful thing…
The Âû suffix has become quite common in its use as it uses the Autis(tic)(m) = Au* = Gold idea to self-identify and as a community had started #LIUG, Light it up Gold, in response to Auti$m $peak$ (A$). This was not the only use of Gold or Au we found, but it was the most common and seemed to have struck a loud chord in many groups and individuals in other countries as well as the UK.
*Au is the International Chemical Symbol for Gold from the Latin name Aurum.
The only other colour in serious contention was the Red Instead idea, also formed as opposition to A$, but without the larger base of support Gold had acquired. Nor did we really find a reason for red past expedience, its opposition to blue (A$) and it makes for a great hash-tag. There was no direct symbolism with Autism we could find amongst its supporters.
I should take the time to make it very clear that the idea here is not to replace or ignore others efforts and campaigns and symbols. We support them for their commitment to acceptance and the work they do to achieve this. We ALL contribute to the whole; we ALL support efforts in raising awareness of Acceptance from any who support Actually Autistic people.
The use of the infinity symbol came from the growing popularity of it in spectrum colours to promote Neurodiversity. The idea of endless possibilities and untapped potential resonate through this symbol providing a simple and recognisable concept in one.
Autism is itself a spectrum, but we were looking for a unique identifier (without needing to ‘cure’ it). So the idea of combining the two came to the fore. If Autistics use Gold, then other Neurodiverse communities can use their choice of colour too. Slap it on an infinity symbol and it makes up part of the Neurodiverse Spectrum.
We hope this concept is also pleasing to the other unique Neurodivergent communities out there.
At the end of the day, you can design your own version and use it how you wish as long as it is an authentic voice using it to promote acceptance and abides by the guidelines. It is Gold and it is an infinity symbol. It is for Acceptance.
Autistic UK and other organisations and advocates have banded together to support ‘Going Gold’ for Autism Acceptance. However, there are guidelines…nice and simple ones.
You use the gold infinity symbol on ‘Going Gold’ campaigns and fundraising stuff. Design and size does not matter just as long as it is gold and an infinity symbol. I have put Autistic UK’s version, which reflects our logo, below as an illustration, design your own if you like.
Call for Autism Acceptance. Awareness is spreading and UK local authorities and housing associations and Service Providers etc have finally got the hang of awareness, so time to turn to the next, Acceptance.
Please Note; The autistic community does not support ANY abusive, quack ‘cures’ like MMS/CDM, GcMAF, Chelation, turpentine, ABA (Dog training for kids-see research on PTSD below) or any other abusive therapy used to obviate our autistic identity. If you support any of these things, please do not use the gold infinity symbol as you will be stealing our voice for your own purposes and not benefiting autistic people at all.
Finally, and not a guideline but a constant; No one person or group owns this campaign.
It is a gift to all user led groups, autistic advocates and allies whoever they may be from a collective of autistic groups and individuals. This symbol comes from a collective autistic voice and is given freely to the autistic collective out there.
So grab your gold infinity symbols and start pushing. Have a Gold theme to your events, Go Gold and spread the word, wear gold and share on social media, it is up to each group and individual to spread the symbol, message and colour of acceptance as they wish.
There are no political boundaries here, so anyone in any country who supports Autism Acceptance is invited to participate. One last request; please do not put your gold infinity symbol on a puzzle piece or combine their use. We don’t like puzzle pieces. Like awareness, they are sooo last year!