I’m a Board Director!

Yes, it’s true.

I’m on the Board of Governance of AMAZE.

And I wonder if I am experiencing internalised ableism or imposter syndrome or both because part of me thinks it’s funny. Although, I take the position very seriously and it fills me with trepidation (because I now represent autistic people on the board of an autism organisation) part of me finds the appointment of ME to the position amusing.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am very knowledgeable about autism and being autistic (just check out my old blog posts and follow me on twitter and you’ll see that disability and social justice are my special interests) but I still feel like a child on the inside (that’s the internalised ableism bit).

Although, my overall skills have improved due to practice and life experience, I still have the same essence of me that feels child-like. I still daydream, I giggle at my sons jokes and unexpected observations, I like games (board games, kicking a football or shooting hoops) and watching our pet chickens roam around our backyard simply being chickens. Sometimes, I still jump off a swing or climb an obstacle with my nieces and nephews, at a park, in fact often I do. When I visit my nan, I want to lie on the floor instead of sit in the chair while she talks and on long car trips I put my feet up on the front passenger dashboard. I forget that I’m forty and that’s unexpected behaviour at forty although, more-and-more, I am aware of what’s expected but I just disregard it because I’d much rather do what I like. I think to refer to those characteristics as child-like is prejudiced. It’s not child-like, it’s being carefree and my sense of what’s comfortable and fun is different and uncomplicated. I am not a child, I am an adult who doesn’t conform to adult culture.

Then, there is the fact that I need more guidance to accomplish tasks successfully. A perfect example is how I almost always get lost (with the exception of routes I take daily because they can be completed without conscious thought). I watched the movie ‘Finding Dory’ with my children, a few days ago, after reading this piece on how the movie covered the themes of disability surprisingly well. After watching it, I realised that Dory and I, although having different disabilities, had a similar need for a lot of support with following and remembering directions. Children need more help than adults usually, so there is the risk that I could be thought of as child-like (which would be ableist) because it is not acknowledging the fact that adults require supports too. Disabled adults need more support in an environment that does not follow the guidelines of Universal Design.

After writing this (which has served as self -exploration), I realise that laughing in disbelief, over my appointment to a Board Director position, is actually very ableist and when you are ableist against yourself (internalised ableism) it automatically has flow on effects to others. I apologize for that.

So now it’s time to redefine what it means to be a Board Director and all those other titles that have long been held by primarily privileged non-disabled adults so that people like me, don’t think that positions like those, are not for people like us and that they do accommodate our needs.


Disability and Australian Politics

I was shaking from the cold. Trish* told me to put my jacket on and I wondered if she was trying to get me to cover up my bright green shirt and logo and the oversized ‘Vote Greens’ badge but she was twice my age and appeared to suffer worse from the cold than I did and was probably just looking out for me. She told me that she likes to “mother” people. As I handed out flyers for the ‘Australian Greens Party’ she handed out flyers for her political party of choice and chatted to me about her family and the dramas in their campaign.

The whole situation amused me. This was the first time I had ever handed out flyers at an election and the experience was a unique one. Here I was standing next to and chatting to a seasoned ‘Liberal Party’ (a conservative party in Australia) supporter when I would never in my life vote Liberal.

Usually, I was the one dodging the people handing out flyers, avoiding eye-contact with the party volunteers and saying “No thanks” and now I strongly felt the discomfort of others approaching as their eyes darted side-to-side for the quickest and least confrontational route to the end of the queue. I was feeling equally uncomfortable as a result and not sure when to make eye contact either, if at all, but they say some people are undecided when they arrive and they are not likely to vote Green if they don’t have the flyer in their hand while making the decision. I wish they had signs on their foreheads saying ‘undecided voter’. I just tried to be as friendly as possible without exposing my weak conversational skills.

Earlier that morning, when I had been standing alone, I was approached by an anxious looking woman who told me that it was not the Government that was running the country but that it was her family that ruled the world. While she talked she kept asking if I understood. I nodded my head politely and tried to understand what she was saying but her conversation was erratic and I have auditory processing difficulties. She was talking a lot and I didn’t know if she would stop if I couldn’t find a way to end it. She mentioned something about Judaism and said that religion ruled the world. I thought about mentioning that I wasn’t religious but I wasn’t sure if that was the right approach. I said “What can I do for you?” Eventually, she mentioned how literacy has changed the world for the better and how important health and education were. Bingo! She’s right. I said “I agree that health and education are very important and see here on our flyer where we make it a priority”. She smiled at me for the first time because that was the message that she was so desperate to impart. I thanked her for talking to me about it and wished her on her way.

After being stuck in some glare from the sun (I have sensory processing difficulties), I had asked to swap spots with Cath (the other Greens volunteer) and I had found a safety net in Trish who was on my left. Next to me on the right were two extreme right-wing party volunteers. I couldn’t bring myself to make eye- contact with them because of the hate and division they create in our communities. One of their right-wing signs said ‘Multi-ethnic. One culture’ and something about making ‘Australia more Australian’. I wasn’t listening to what they were saying because I didn’t want to feel sad right then but I had no plans to move. They were the first to hand out flyers to voters coming from one of the carparks and I wanted to follow that up with a Greens flyer for those people like me who get upset by the cruelty and racism of right-wing politics. It’s ok, I’m here and I don’t hate. At one point, I overheard one of the right-wing volunteers say to the other “People think our party is racist but we have people from different nationalities in it” as if the presence of people of different nationalities means that it must not be racist.

Trish had greeted an unhappy looking guy in a flannel shirt with “You don’t look very impressed to vote today” in a joking manner and he was ready to let us have it.

“Well, none of the parties are any good!” he said “I’m an environmentalist but the Greens keep contradicting themselves on that (I made an assumption that he was a hunter/ fisher kind of guy) and the Liberals are only interested in putting money in the pockets of the rich.”

He turned to the right-wing volunteers beside me and said “You are more like it! At least you are looking out for Australians!” Trish tried to settle him down by talking about democracy generally but I strategically spotted some people in the distance and moved away to hand out flyers to them. When I came back Trish apologized to me and said “I’m sometimes too friendly and I didn’t mean for that to happen”. I told her it was fine. I liked her friendliness, it prevented me from having to stand alone wondering when to make eye contact with people. Next to her, she could talk and I would just hand out my flyer as if it was a second thought to passers-by, which seemed much less confronting for me and them.

At one point, Trish disappointed me. A women was pushing the wheelchair of a young man who appeared to be quadriplegic. She rejected all of our flyers. Trish said “Probably a donkey vote.” She didn’t say that about anyone else. It seemed like she made an assumption based on the disabled man. I acted as though I didn’t understand what she meant although deep down I suspected she had wanted me to laugh about it or accept the statement as likely, which would make it an ableist joke at worst and an ableist assumption at least. People who are quadriplegic can vote too.

Disability rights is one of the reasons I decided to hand out flyers for ‘The Greens’ today. I’m autistic, disabled and proud. Here’s what the Greens have to say about disability: Parties respond to **ACDA election platform

*Trish: Not her real name.

**ACDA: Australian Cross Disability Alliance

Talking to kids in the classroom about Autism

I had an awesome day today. My son Damian has been very anxious attending school recently for a number of reasons, which we are seeking appropriate help for. It occurred to me that it might help him to feel more understood by his classmates if I had a chat to them during class about Autism, diversity, difference and disability.

Initially, Damian was concerned that I would be telling the class all about him. He is very conscious (and rightly so) about people talking about his vulnerabilities. So I asked Damian if I could talk about my Autism (I am Autistic) and Autism generally and then mention him briefly at the end. He was much more keen on that idea. I let Damian read what I was going to talk about and he was very happy for the talk to go ahead. I will paste the talk below (and the kids’ answers and questions in brackets – at least the ones I can remember).

When the day of the talk finally came, Damian was as excited as I was to be talking about my favourite topic, only his reason for being excited was because I was his mum (he is only 7 years old; his classmates are 8 years old) and I was going to be talking about how being different was cool.

After the talk finished, Damian told me he loved it. He had sat wide-eyed at my feet and completely focused for the entire talk and this is a boy who was also recently diagnosed with ADHD. When I asked if he thought the other kids had liked the talk too he said that they might have been more interested in the toys and books* that I shared around.

I think the talk was well-received by both the teacher and the kids in the classroom. There was lots of interest in what I had to say and I was very interested in what they had to say too. There were some great discussions. The kids of tomorrow are going to rock this world!

Good morning everyone,

Some of you may already know me but for those of you who don’t, I am Damian’s mum. I have come to visit you today to talk to you about being different especially one type of difference called Autism. Can you say the word ‘Autism’ with me? Saying it out loud will help you remember it. Try it now. 1, 2, 3, “Autism”.

Before I start talking to you about difference, I am going to hand around some books about being different and you can flip through the pages quietly while I am talking and look at the pictures. I will leave the books in the classroom for the week, if you want to read the books but for now I just want you to look at the pictures and share the books around to others in your class.

A word some people use to mean difference is ‘diversity’. Can you say it with me? 1, 2, 3, “Diversity”. What does that word mean again? Can anyone tell me? (No-one could guess except Damian who said “Black people who aren’t treated well by white people!” I said that skin colour was one example of diversity and gave a few more examples. Some of the books I had shared around had themes of racism in them.)

Diversity, which means being different, makes the world a better place. Imagine if everyone was exactly like you, looked like you, liked the same things as you, wanted to borrow the same library books as you and brought the same things to ‘show and tell’ every week. Imagine how boring and even frustrating it would be.

In this world, there are lots of different people working and playing in different ways to make things more interesting, fun and better for all of us. We are pretty lucky that there are so many different, interesting and exciting people and things for us to do in the world.

You will notice in some of those books that some differences are differences that we can see. Some of the people in those books wear glasses like me, some have guide dogs, some use wheelchairs to get around, some people have brown skin and some people have white skin, some people are young and some people are old, some people live in different houses and some people wear different clothes.

But some differences cannot be seen. Can anyone guess what difference I might have that you cannot see? (One child guessed different blood-type, which I told him was a great guess because you can’t see blood- type. Another few children guessed other things that could be seen. Finally, I let my son answer because he already knew the answer.) That’s right, I am Autistic.

Even though I am different because I am Autistic, I am also a lot like you and I was even more like you when I was younger. I used to like playing with friends, swimming in our own swimming pool, climbing trees, riding bikes and reading books. Sometimes I was happy like on my birthday and when I played with my younger cousins and sometimes I was sad like when other kids teased me or I fell over.

In fact, everyone in this room has some things the same as each one of us and other things that are different.

But because I am Autistic, I am even more different to you in some ways. Kids and adults who are Autistic may sometimes do or say things that are a lot different to most other people their age because our brains work differently sometimes. Soon I am going to read you a book that will explain how our brains work and think differently.

Some things about Autism are really great and those things are different for each Autistic person. I like that Autism helps me to say and spell lots of really big words like ‘Autism’ and ‘Diversity’. Autism also helped me to be great at maths at school, whereas other Autistic kids found maths hard but found that Autism helped them with art or music or writing or certain sports.

People with Autism can sometimes be just as different to each other as you are from each other but there are some things we have in common and this is explained in this book ‘Inside Asperger’s Looking Out’.

‘Asperger’s’ is just another word people used to mean Autism. People don’t use the word ‘Asperger’s’ much anymore so I am just going to use the word ‘Autism’ instead of ‘Asperger’s’, wherever it is written in the book.

While I read the book to you, I’d like you to put your books upside down on your lap or on the floor and pass around these squishy toys to squeeze and stretch gently while I read. Kids and adults who are Autistic often use toys like these to help keep them calm when things are getting difficult for them because sometimes it can be hard being different. Many other people find the squishy toys relaxing too.

(I read the book but skipped a few pages because it’s very long. I asked the kids about what the ‘senses’ were before reading the pages about how our senses can be different and one very smart girl answered the question better than I could. I also paused on other pages to clarify.)

Does anyone have any questions about the book? (A couple of great questions were asked like “How do you know if you have Autism?” and “Where does Autism come from?” Of course, I answered relating it to my own experience.)

You know, I am not the only one in this room that is Autistic. Autism is something that you are born with that is passed down from your parents or grandparents or other relatives. So Damian, who is my son, is also Autistic. You might notice that sometimes he finds things easy that you don’t and sometimes he finds things harder than you. It is important for anyone who is different to be understood and treated well especially when they are finding things hard.

Our school classrooms and playgrounds can sometimes be difficult for kids who are different because they are not made in ways that suit them best. They often have too much noise for us, too many bright lights or too much movement and this can stress us out. It is called ‘disability’ when our classrooms, where we work and live and the rest of the world is not built to support our different abilities.

Can you say the word ‘disability’ with me? 1, 2, 3 “Disability”. Our buildings and the way we do things is built for most people but not all of us and we need people to make our schools and lives easier by changing things to make it easier for all of us. It’s only fair.

Can you think of ways we could change the classroom or the playground to make things better for kids with disabilities like Autism or any other disabilities that you can think of, so that it is better for all of us? (There were some great answers to this question. Some about not teasing or bullying kids who are different and some about having quiet areas that kids can go to.)

Now you can understand why some people and kids look or act differently and you can just be cool about it. It’s cool, it’s Ok to be different and we need different people in our lives and in the world and we need to remember that even though Autistic kids can be different they are also kids just like you who want to play, learn and be treated well.

(Then the classroom teacher asked the class if they found squeezing the squishy toys helpful for listening. Many of the kids did. The teacher said that he finds that if he draws patterns while listening he finds it helpful to listen and learn and he asked the children if anything helped them to learn better. A couple of kids answered.)

*These were books that I bought for my boys to read at home to increase the diversity of their bookshelves. I have reviewed many of them in previous blog posts here and here.

More diverse books for kids

If you are passionate about diversity and you have children, you might be interested in these children’s books. I have written about other diverse books that I bought for my children here.


A photo of the front cover of the book ‘Ugly’ by Robert Hoge. Background is light-greenish yellow. A rough sketch (as if done in black texta on white background) of a young man’s face. He has thick ears, short straight black scruffy-looking hair, big bushy eyebrows and small black eyes set wide apart. There is an uneven line drawn down the middle of his face (suggesting an uneven bone structure) passing through a wide asymmetrical-shaped nose. The word ‘Ugly’ is at the bottom of the page, slightly to the left, obscuring the chin of the sketched face. The word appears written with crooked block letters and looks as if it is coloured-in poorly with red pen.

It is a true story written for children probably from around ages 8 and up, although I found this book captivating to read myself. The blurb at the accurately refers to the book as “engaging” for readers but it was a bit disappointing to see it also refer to it as inspiring given that ‘inspiration porn’ is considered problematic by many people with disabilities. Regardless, this book gives some great general and specific life lessons about the stigma of disability, the unnecessary and cruel nature of teasing, about how dedication and practise can lead to success and about believing in the competence of people with disabilities. A must read!


Photo of the front cover of the book ‘I Love Being My Own Autistic Self!’ by London Bryce. Background  colours are bold yellow, black and red. A blue cartoon character is situated near the centre of the red part of the background, from the chest up. The character has no hair, thin long dark blue eyebrows, thin closed dark blue eyes, small almost egg-shaped dark blue nose and an open wide mouth in the shape of a smile with two white bottom front teeth slightly visible. There is a speech bubble leading to the characters mouth (which is white fading to grey at the edges with black print) with the words ‘I Love Being My Own Autistic Self!’ in black. Across the bottom of the front page on a light grey background are the words ‘A thAutoons Book by Landon Bryce’.

This book is written for autistic children to help them make sense of their own identity and the contradictory messages they receive about autism from others. It is unique from other children’s books about autism in that it uses identity-first language, the preferred language of many autistic people.

This book is written from the perspective of a fictional autistic boy called Vector who introduces us to other characters in the story such as his autistic friends, neurotypical friends and family. All the characters appear as simple cartoon characters.

Vector explains the differing thoughts and feelings about autism of himself and each of the characters, including what Vector considers to be the “good” and “bad” parts of his own autism.

I actually scribbled out the words “good” and “bad” because it didn’t sit well with me and instead I wrote ‘strengths’ and ‘vulnerabilities’ above where those words are. Everybody has there own preferred language and I’ve never been a big fan of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

What is best about this book is that it puts Vector’s thoughts and feelings about others’ perspectives at the forefront of the story and would probably help neurotypical readers to be less ableist and more supportive (if they were open-minded, which if they purchased the book, they probably are).


Photo of the front cover of ‘If the World Were a Village’ Third Edition. By David J. Smith. The front cover has a mottled dark blue background. A fuzzy circle approximately 15cm in diameter representing the world is in the centre of the page. Dark green colour represents the land mass and dark blue the sea. On the upper right hand side of the largest section of land mass there is a forest of lush green trees interspersed with groups of buildings of differing sizes with red roofs, white walls and blue windows. Outside the circle in the upper right-hand side and lower left-hand side is a large (2cm) yellow star with 5 points. The star on the bottom of the page has a triangular strip of yellow leading to it from the right- hand corner of the page. The title of the book ‘If the World Were a Village’ is at the top of the page in large yellow print. At the bottom of the page in slightly smaller yellow print is the text ‘A Book about the World’s People’.

Quoting directly from the book:

“This book is about “world-mindedness,” which is an attitude, an approach to life. It is the sense that our planet is actually a village, and we share this small, precious village with our neighbours. Knowing who our neighbours are, where they live and how they live, will help us live in peace.”

It condenses the world into a small village of 100 people in order to make comparisons between people in the world easier for children to comprehend. Each person in the village represents 71 million people from the world. The comparisons range from nationality and language to money and food security. For instance, only 9 out of the 100 villagers speak English; 21 speak a Chinese dialect.

The illustrations are quite stunning with bold colours and show a diversity of able-bodied adults and children throughout the book (although I might have seen a couple of walking canes- the pictures do not focus heavily on detail) as indicated by skin colour and clothing.

I found the facts very interesting myself and think this book would have to be one of the best ways to help children to understand that their experiences are just one of many ways that people are living in the world. There is not one way to be.


Photo of the front cover of ‘Sex is a Funny Word. A book about bodies, feelings and you’ by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth.The background is purple with a brick pattern representing the wall of a house. In the top half is the title of the book ‘Sex is a Funny Word’ in yellow block print, outlined in black, on a rounded square-shaped sign with red background. The sign is flush with the wall and directly above a rectangular window (with green background and pink curtains drawn to the sides). Four children are reaching up out of the window smiling. On the left-hand side, in the open window, is a child with an orange shirt, blue hair and light purple coloured skin (Omar). Omar’s right arm is raised in the air, his crutch is leaning against him and his left hand is resting on the window sill. To Omar’s left is a child with blue skin and shoulder-length straight black hair (Mimi). Mimi is wearing a red shirt and her left arm is raised in the air. To Mimi’s left is Zai, Zai has dark purple skin and hair. Zai is wearing a striped red and orange shirt with a green cardigan. Zai is resting both hands on the window sill. To Zai’s left is Cooper, Cooper is wearing a yellow shirt with a cat print. Cooper is wearing glasses and has red curly hair and freckles. Both Cooper’s arms are raised in the air. Omar, Mimi, Zai and Cooper are all smiling. In the bottom right-hand corner of the page are the words ‘A BOOK ABOUT BODIES, FEELINGS, AND YOU’ in white print on a red background. In the top right-hand corner of the page are the right side of two windows, one on top of the other with green backgrounds. On the window sill of the lower window is a pot plant containing two pink flowers and the upper window has green curtains.

This book takes four main characters (Omar, Mimi, Zai and Cooper) on a journey of discovery about their bodies, their rights, their preferred gender expression and their gender identity. The characters are diverse in appearance, gender and opinions. The only sexual activity covered in this book is masturbation, mostly referred to as “Touching Yourself.”

‘Sex is a Funny Word’ is LGBTIQ inclusive.

“Most boys are born with a penis and scrotum, and most girls are born with a vulva, vagina, and clitoris. But having a penis isn’t what makes you a boy. Having a vulva isn’t what makes you a girl. The truth is much more interesting than that!”

This book is also inclusive of people with disabilities. One of the four main characters has a visible disability and other characters pictured in the book also have visible disabilities.

What is also good about this book is that it also shows a variety of pictures of different looking “middle parts”. We don’t all look the same and the appearance of our “middle parts” changes with age. This is likely to be reassuring to some children or at least prepares them for change.

This is an excellent book to help children be accepting of differences in bodies, gender expression and gender identity. It also encourages further discussion by posing age -appropriate questions to the reader.


Photo of the front cover of ‘Our World Bardi Jaawi, Life at Ardiyooloon’. One Arm Point Remote Community School. The background colour is bright yellow, on which are painted simple dark yellow flowers.Taking up most of the centre of the front cover is a rough- edged circle of dark blue with a continuation of the painted flowers but in a lighter blue colour. In the centre of the circle, in large capital letters of yellow are the words ‘OUR WORLD’. On a line underneath in smaller more creative print (black print with thick yellow line containing black dots down the straight length of each letter) is the text ‘BARDI JAAWI’. Underneath this in smaller print again but the same style as the line above are the words ‘LIFE AT ARDIYOOLOON’. Finally, underneath this line in plain black capital letters of much smaller print is ‘ONE ARM POINT REMOTE COMMUNITY SCHOOL’. Various sea creatures inclusive of crabs, fish and turtles are simply sketched in a child-like way, in black, at the bottom of the circle under the text. At the top of the circle, above the text, partly extending into the yellow background, is a simply sketched boat with a motor. In the boat are three characters, in black and grey, fishing with fishing rods. Fish are attached to oversized hooks on two of the lines at least. A bird perches on the edge of the boat. In the top right hand corner of the page is a brown circular sticker with the words ‘THE CHILDREN’S BOOK COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA, SHORT-LISTED BOOK’

This book documents activities undertaken by the children of One Arm Point Remote Community School (Western Australia) as part of the One Arm Point Culture Program. The program was initiated in 2008 to “find ways to pass on their knowledge and ensure that Bardi Jaawi traditional culture and language was kept alive for future generations”.

This book is beautifully designed by Tracey Gibbs. It includes photographs, drawings and recounts by the children of their experiences participating in various cultural activities from fishing and crabbing to looking for bush onions.

Clear, step-by-step directions with accompanying photos are provided throughout the book for some of the activities such as ‘Cooking Pandanus’ and ‘How to make a bough shelter’ in a recipe-like format. However, it is recommended that the reader does not repeat these activities without adult supervision and checking that they do not contravene local law (the Bardi Jaawi have Native Title over their land, sea, reef and islands).

Traditional stories and words (along with guidelines for pronunciation) are also shared in this very thorough book for children on the Bardi Jaawi culture.


Photo of the front page of the book ‘How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story’ by Eve Bunting. The front cover has a pale yellow border about 1cm thick. At the top of the page are the words ‘How Many Days to America?’ in large black print. Underneath are the words ‘A Thanksgiving Story’ in smaller black print. The text is justified to the right. To the left of the text are several pale yellow ropes extending up next to a light brown mast of a small wooden boat. Part of one end of the boat is seen below the text, containing people all standing closely together. They look as if they could topple over the side of the boat easily in poor weather. There are two children nearest the edge of the boat, central to the front page. The girl in a pale pink dress, with a white shirt underneath, looks up at the boy in the collared white shirt. Behind the children stands a man and a woman both with serious expressions. The woman is wearing a bright pink long-sleeve top, blue shall and green skirt. The man is holding onto one of the ropes and is carrying a small sack on his left shoulder with the other arm. He is wearing a white-collared shirt, brown trousers and brown wide-brimmed hat. The sky is pale blue and the water appears choppy in shades of blue, purple and white.

Although it was published in 1988, this book is very relevant today. The story is narrated by a child, who’s family, after being visited by soldiers, needs to flee their home country so quickly that they take no possessions besides the clothes on their backs and jewellery to be traded for safety.

Their journey on a small, dilapidated boat, with other people seeking asylum, is harrowing. As each obstacle confronts them, the child’s parents reassure their children that they will soon reach freedom. Eventually, they reach the shores of America and are warmly welcomed with a feast to celebrate Thanksgiving.


Photo of the front cover of the book ‘My Brother Martin: A sister remembers. Growing up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King JR.’ By Christine King Farris. The background of the book is pale grey. The words ‘My Brother’ are in the top right corner, in lower case, in such a way that each letter appears as a product of rough colouring-in (in black) of a small uneven square and the uncoloured part forms each letter. Underneath ‘My Brother’ is the name ‘Martin’ in red block capital letters outlined in black. To the left of the page is a large head portrait of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King JR. The head portrait is a side profile and it is a slightly darker grey colour than the background and appears almost as a shadow. He is looking slightly upwards with his hand in a fist against his chin, which he holds between his thumb and forefinger. He has a neat moustache and the top of his white collar can be seen at the bottom of the page. To the left of the head portrait is a small blue square with rough edges, inside of which can be seen a young girl with her hair in a plait, tied up with a long, thick bright pink bow. The girl is wearing a bright yellow top. She is smiling and looking up into the eyes of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King JR. side profile. Below the girl are the words ‘A sister remembers’ in blue and below that in smaller print is ‘Growing up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King JR.’ At the very bottom of the front cover, justified to the right, in red print, is the text ‘NAACP IMAGE AWARD WINNER. A CHILD MAGAZINE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR’

This book is beautiful. It is beautiful for it’s illustrations, it’s message and it’s celebration of family.

It is narrated by Christine, Dr Martin Luther King JR.’s (M.L.) older sister. Christine recounts innocent childhood pranks, which are beautifully illustrated including the priceless expressions on the faces of their adult targets. However, their innocence is tainted when neighbourhood friends tell them they are not allowed to play with them because they are “negroes”.

The realities of racism to which they had been mostly shielded from were described and explained that day by their mother (Mother Dear). Christine and their siblings were given an excellent education on how to speak up for themselves, with the examples that their father gave when regaling them of tales of his day over the evening meal. On the day of rejection by the neighbourhood children, M.L. was heard by Christine to say to his mother “Mother Dear, one day I’m going to turn this world upside down.”


Photo of the front cover of the book ‘Nelson Mandela’ by Kadir Nelson. A head portrait of Nelson Mandela covers the entire front page, which has a reddish black background. He has short thick white hair perhaps an inch long all over and cleanly shaven face. His brown skin has warm orange red undertones. His face is illuminated by bright light, which reflects mostly down the centre line of his face. Several deep, long wrinkles line his forehead. Fine and feathery wrinkles are under his eyes. His thick red lips as neither turned up nor down. However, deep crevices either side of his mouth and nose may indicate an expression that relies on slightly raised cheeks. His shirt collar is bright white with straight edges with the top of his black jacket difficult to see against the dark background.

I find it hard to appreciate this book with a fresh perspective because I have read ‘Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom’. This children’s book manages to simplify his very eventful life into a story suitable for children. However, you don’t really get to know the man like you do in ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’. His character has to be imagined from his deeds, which were exceptional.

Mandela’s childhood and his experiences with the chief and elders are a wonderful introduction to the book. This book briefly covers his studies and work as a lawyer defending people who had been unjustly treated, his life as an organised activist, in subterfuge, during imprisonment and finally when he was released from prison a free man and true leader. It’s a fair introduction to apartheid and one of the key figures in it’s dismantling.





Shoes and humanity

My (early) contribution to the ‘Walk in our shoes’ flash blog

“Every time media reports about the abuse and/or murder of an autistic child, we are told not to judge. We are told to walk in the perpetrator’s shoes. Most of the time, the perpetrator is the autistic child’s parent.

But we have shoes too, and no one ever asks anyone to walk in the victim’s shoes. This flash blog invites people to walk in our shoes for a change.”

I’m tired. In so many ways and for so many reasons, I am tired. Today, I feel tired because I had to repeat myself again.

I carefully crafted my words (to the best of my ability), I researched statistics (to back them up), I tried to refine a logical explanation (as concisely as possible for your convenience) and I even told you how you made me feel (I’ve heard that helps?!).

I’m tired because I feel as though I’m wasting my time, my creativity and my hope for acceptance on you. Hopelessness is exhausting.

Why can’t you understand?

Maybe ignorance and denial is more comfortable. Majority opinion means majority support.

Maybe you disregard us as haters or PC police, without a second thought (I am not a troll and I am concerned about the well-being of others).

Maybe you think I am minimising your experience as a parent of an autistic child (there were times I really wasn’t coping as a parent and I sort help for ME. I did not abuse my autistic children when I wasn’t coping).

Maybe you want someone to blame for the wrongs of the world; a convenient ‘other’.

Maybe you have been responsible for more than your ‘fair share’ of oppression (there is no ‘fair’ share) and shame prevents you from further growth and connection.

Maybe you can’t handle the idea of being wrong. We all make mistakes, we are human.

Maybe you are missing a deep enough understanding of ableism, intersectionality and oppression. Please read about these concepts and keep reading.

Maybe empathy is not your greatest strength (not your fault) and you refuse to believe in anyone else’s experience besides your own (meet more diverse people, go where you haven’t gone before and do what you haven’t done before or read books and blogs. Learn to trust.)

You can never truly walk in my shoes.

Perhaps it’s more helpful if you work on the basics of your humanity: trust, vulnerability, acceptance and connection. But don’t apply your humanity without care because it’s the oppressed that need your support the most and abuse is never justified.


Ableism and homicide

“The media tend to report on hearsay… and not facts. They take pieces of a story or a perception of a story, link them together and then use engaging and emotive language to sell their own interpretation of a situation. The circumstances of what happened that day are unknown. The Police have not released any information…I think we, as a society, need to have respect for the family and the community who are experiencing something we could never imagine…Who knows what, why or when it occurred. I hope this doesn’t offend you. I too stand up for and speak up for people with disabilities and who experience DV (domestic violence) in families of all shapes and sizes.”

I had posted an article written by Stella Young, on my Facebook page, in the wake of an alleged murder/ suicide, which occurred several towns removed from where I was raised. The article was a damning criticism of the media’s response to it. Stella Young wanted to bring to our attention the ‘victim blaming’ rhetoric that was used by the media with respect to the murder victim’s disability and so did I.

The message above was sent to me by someone I love so I decided to remove the post for her sake, with massive feelings of guilt that I’d also committed a social fopar and caused people more pain. FYI the family were not Facebook friends of mine nor to my knowledge were any of their friends. One person commented that she knew friends of their friends and that they were grieving (implying that I should not have posted it).

This year in Australia a unique campaign against domestic violence was started and it has received significant media attention. It is referred to as the ‘Counting Dead Women’ campaign * and it gathers statistics on women as they are murdered. They report it immediately as it happens. The point is, this is happening now. Why do we need to wait a certain amount of time before commenting on it? As Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, said in her speech during the launch of the ‘HeForShe’ campaign “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Let me tell you something, I have never been a victim of domestic violence. However, if my husband ever kills me, I want everyone who ever cared about me to condemn his actions not sympathise or empathise with him.  If anyone refers to me being autistic as an additional stress on the relationship, I would like someone, anyone, preferably everyone to be ‘calling it out’ right away. Because ultimately, I will be the one who’s feelings should be considered foremost above the murderer and above the family and friends.

Over six months has passed since I posted Stella Young’s article and nothing more is reported nor will it ever be, as it is no longer news. However, Stella’s words still stick with me: “Some media have reported that police believe it was more than likely the ongoing strain caused Geoff Hunt to snap”.

Some of you will buy into the story that the burden of caring for a person with a disability could very well be a mitigating factor in any murder/ suicide. But there are by far more carers that do not murder or abuse the person they care for. I put to you that it is sexism / ableism/ racism in fact a long list of isms and phobias that are by far the mitigating factors. When the victims of domestic violence in Australia are predominantly women, with an even higher proportion of disabled women and indigenous women being abused, a pattern emerges. The statistics are similar in America for disabled women and women of colour.

It would be nice if everyone understood intersectionality. Intersectionality, as a concept, helps us to understand how the consequences of discrimination get greater for you when there are a greater number of things you can be discriminated against. Ultimately, the odds are not good for your mistreatment if you fit within more than one category of oppression within society (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: Hate Violence Report).

A parliamentary research paper on the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence in Australia determined that

“The full extent of violence against people with disabilities is unknown, but it is estimated that women and girls with disabilities may be twice as likely to experience violence as those without disabilities. Women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological violence due to their situation of social and cultural disadvantage, and increased dependence. There are particular forms of abuse that are unique to people with disabilities, such as removal of an accessibility device, withholding medication and threatening institutionalisation. Adults with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities are particularly at risk of sexual assault and exploitation. When the abuser is the main carer, individuals suffer neglect, isolation and intense vulnerability to abuse; it may be impossible for them to get help.”

Note that no-where in this report do they say that it is the “burden” of caring that leads to an increase in violence against them but that women with disabilities are more vulnerable to violence due to their situation of social and cultural disadvantage and that there are additional forms of abuse available for them to be exploited by.

Thanks to the scare campaign about autism, led by Autism Speaks, autistic children are particularly at risk. We are essentially being told by Autism Speaks and compliant media that to be a carer is a burden that can lead us to murder. It’s almost beyond belief that Kelly Stapleton was given a platform to humiliate and blame her autistic daughter who she attempted to murder, on the American talk show ‘Dr Phil’.

Making excuses for murder no matter how well-meaning, effectively accepts it as inevitable thereby unintentionally condoning it. As Jess from ‘Diary of a Mom’ so eloquently explains when a life is devalued by violence it is time to judge. I contend that if we don’t judge privileged violent offenders and worse still if we judge the victim, we are complicit in supporting systems of oppression that exist within society in it’s very worst expression.

*and in an ironic twist, disabled women have been excluded from this campaign (refer here for details). This just helps demonstrate the depth of the problem.

The last man standing

Munch, crunch, slurp, burp! That is what I have learned in the past month or so. I’ve been volunteering, for a couple of hours a week, at my sons’ primary school. In particular, I’ve been given the task of helping a student with her writing but I strongly doubt that I’m actually helping.

It turns out that you learn, at the age of 7, how to engage your readers by starting with action words and clues, to some dramatic event. My student’s narrative was titled ‘Mr Mac ate me’. I find this ironic because a year or two ago, I attempted to write an Autobiography (just because anyone can, right?!). I went as far as to source an experienced author to look at a draft of the first few chapters and she was honest with me. She tried to be constructive in the short time she could spare a complete amateur in her busy schedule by telling me the exact same thing those 7 year olds are being taught right now.

I was also told that the story of being Autistic is no longer unique. We are too normal to publish it seems. Oh the irony! The third and final nail in the coffin of my Autobiography (besides not being able to write and being boring) was that I didn’t want to jeopardise any relationships that I have by being truthful about them and without the truth (or more accurately the truth the way I see it) the most interesting parts of my life can’t be told.

And now, I have a conundrum. My most recent blogposts have taken on a different angle because I feel I can no longer blog about the most interesting people in my life, my Autistic sons. Given that my sons’ truths are different to my truth, is it right for me to interpret their experiences and share them with everyone (even for the sake of sharing what I have learned)? Is it fair to them? Is it empathetic to them?

A cousin of mine recently said to me “I miss all those Facebook posts about the funny things your boys say and do. I used to show my friends and they thought they were hilarious”. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with my mum sharing stories with some of her friends, about the funny things I did or worse the personal awkward things and the upsetting things (closer friends I would have been ok with if discussed respectfully).

Maybe there is an age limit where the private stories stop, like when you stop taking nudie pictures of them playing in the bath or something. Maybe, I shouldn’t have started at all. Anyhow, from now on it stops and you are left with just me.


(P.S. I’ve reinvented myself on Twitter @rachelmcnamar15 as a retweeter of the writings of others on all sorts of social justice issues. Don’t follow me unless you are seriously interested in social justice and keep in mind that many posts are Australia- specific)