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‘I’m a haemorrhoid warrior!’ Why Autism T-shirts and ‘Autism Warrior’ garments are insidiously wrong

‘I’m a haemorrhoid warrior!’ Why Autism T-shirts and ‘Autism Warrior’ garments are insidiously wrong

Do you remember the joke about putting a sign on someone’s back that says ‘kick me’? The idea is that they don’t know it’s there, and someone else gets to humiliate them. Isn’t a ‘knowing’ t-shirt a similar concept?

Would any child for example choose to wear a T-shirt that said:

“Warning – autism meltdown. Probability: high.” Or “I’m not a brat, I have autism.” Or “I can’t keep calm, I’m autistic.”

I doubt it.

Many of these horrible ‘autism shirts’ are sold in sizes for very young children who may not even know about their autism diagnosis. Or maybe they do know to a degree, but aren’t aware of the subtleties of some of the ‘jokes’, such as: “Ask me about my ADHD, or pie, or my cat, or dog…I saw a rock, hi.” etc.

Then there’s the ‘Autism Warrior’ or ‘Autism Mom’ shirts that effectively ‘steal’ the child’s identity or story, and scream ‘Look at me! Aren’t I amazing! I am an AUTISM MOM!’

What about the one that says: ‘This is what autism looks like. Any questions, ask my Mom’. Cleverly combing the ‘kick me’ sign with the ‘self congratulatory’ element. As clearly, asking the child themselves wouldn’t work, would it – the Autism Mom in question can clearly talk for her child.

As soon as anyone starts following pages on Facebook relating to Autism, jolly old Facebook will find you a delightful selection of crass T-shirts to look at.

Less offensive than these ‘novelty’ T-shirts are the pin-badges that say things like “Hello! I have Autism. Please Have Patience.” These at least have a purpose; asking for tolerance in a more discreet way.

To conclude, there’s surely something a little odd about wanting to shout about a family member’s personal issues. Would we for example wear a shirt extolling our own health challenges?

‘I’m a haemorrhoid warrior!’

‘I’m not limping, I have verrucas.’

‘This is what Athlete’s Foot looks like. Any questions, ask my daughter.’

The only way to stop the spread of these insidious ‘autism warrior’ style T-shirts is to NOT buy them. It’s really not big and it’s not clever!

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.

‘Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me’ – a brilliant and moving TV documentary showcasing life on the autistic spectrum

‘Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me’ – a brilliant and moving TV documentary showcasing life on the autistic spectrum

In the UK we have been privileged to have been recently provided with an excellent autobiographical TV documentary by wildlife presenter and conservationist, Chris Packham.

“My name is Chris Packham. What you probably don’t know about me, because I’ve been hiding it most of my life, is that my brain is different than yours, because I’m autistic. I’ve spent 30 years on the telly, trying my best to act normal, when really I’m anything but,” he told us at the start of ‘Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me’.

Chris was only relatively recently diagnosed with autism, in the mid-2000s – (the TV show didn’t state it, however Asperger’s Syndrome as a ‘label’ is rarely used) – and to UK audiences, the naturalist and Really Wild Show broadcaster has always simply seemed like a talented, enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter. He’s known for his presenting quirks, but to viewers, few could have suspected that he is autistic.

The BBC TV show showed Chris researching TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), both so-called therapies aiming to improve the social behaviours of autistic people. But, like many British people (where ABA is less widely used or advocated, and is seen as abhorrent my many autists, including this author), the Springwatch presenter was uncomfortable with the latter treatment, saying: “I don’t like the idea of comparing autism to a cancer that requires a sort of educational chemotherapy.”

An interesting segment saw Chris at America’s California’s Silicon Valley, where he discovers that a large portion of ‘tech’ employees are on the autistic spectrum; Chris was in fact emphatic in his belief that many autism ‘aspects’ can be seen as a gift.

You can read a UK press review HERE on the Telegraph Online, and also at this site, where the question is asked by ‘inews’, Why force autistic people to adapt to society, when we can adapt society to include them?

The film has been very well received, and is a credit to Chris and the production team!

In addition we can recommend Chris’s book, ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir’, described as ‘A beautifully told, deeply personal growing-up memoir from the BBC presenter about life, death, love and nature.’

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.

David Mitchell’s book ‘Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight’, featured on Jeremy Vine Radio Show (Autism)

David Mitchell’s book ‘Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight’, featured on Jeremy Vine Radio Show (Autism)

The essence of the recent interview on BBC Radio 2 was asking whether autism is essentially a condition of COMMUNICATION, and whether therefore the autistic person or child has difficulty ‘processing’ and ‘expressing’.

In a sense this is a great question to ask… as it pertains to the issue of processing, at autism’s core.

On the BBC’s website, David says: “Naoki Higashida is a young man who lives with his family in a small city outside Tokyo called Chiba. Like my own son, Naoki has non-verbal autism, and has never engaged in a spoken conversation longer than a handful of words in his life. Naoki displays many of the classic autistic “tics”: he vocalises looped thoughts in a high-pitched voice; repeatedly drums his fingers against hard surfaces – known as “stimming”; has a hard time concentrating; and occasionally endures meltdowns – loud, agitated, sobbing – caused by fixations that he knows are irrational even as he suffers them; for example, being unable to turn on all the taps in an airport bathroom. It’s full-on, relentless and sometimes dignity-shredding.” David’s book Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight was also Radio 4’s Book of the Week.

Naoki’s experiences are insightful and humbling, and we thought David’s description of autism as ‘a communication disorder with sensory processing trimmings’ was useful. Naoki is a widely respected author, and is obviously a highly intelligent and educated person – dispelling the myth that non-verbal individuals are necessarily intellectually challenged. 

Thanks Jeremy and the BBC for helping promote autism awareness and acceptance. We can’t wait to read David’s new book which is available via the link below.

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.