Autism Spectrum Australia

Breaking, belonging and blogging!

  • Posted: 10/07/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Aloha viewers! Welcome back to Aspire. So, what’s been happening to Tommy K? Well I finished watching Breaking Bad. As much as I want to reference the end, I can’t, because my boss hasn’t seen the REST OF IT YET! But for now, let’s just say I am the blogger who knocks! I also had a brilliant date, I mean WOW! But this isn’t who dates wins, this is my blog, so as they say ON WITH THE SHOW!

Just this week, when I wasn’t ‘Breaking Bad’ I was re-watching a lovely series of videos I was a part of called ‘We Belong’. I was thinking about what it means to be an adult and to have High Functioning Autism. The world can be tricky for us ‘High Functioning’ adults.  We basically have an invisible disability. To some we may come off as rude when we do something we don’t understand and when we come out as people who have these conditions, we are talked down to and treated like children.

This can be excruciating when we are trying to find work. Because you are trying to communicate to employers who want only the best for their company, not only do we have to think about social cues, but also about making sure you sell yourself to the company. This might mean answering any questions that seem to come out of nowhere, or trying to compete against others in group interviews.

So what hope is there for us on the spectrum when it comes to belonging in today’s society? What is all this discussion about ‘We Belong’?

A Professional Opinion

As I searched for a place where ‘We Belong’ I talked to Debra Costley about the report and everything that happened around it.

“We Belong reports on the research project that interviewed 313 adults and 300 parents of adults about their hopes and aspirations for the future.  The most important thing the report tells us is that adults with autism want exactly the same things out of life as their friends and family. They want a fulfilling job, friends, somewhere to live and to be happy. It is our job at Aspect to try to support people to achieve their goals.

"We had a meeting at Aspect to discuss what community services we should provide. One of the outcomes was that we should ask people with autism what they wanted before we made any decisions about how we could work with them in the future.

"For We Belong, Aspect worked with a committee of adults and school age children on the spectrum, parents and professionals that could help advise us on what could be a part of the program.

"We had seen the research other people had been doing and realised that very few people were asking adults themselves what mattered to them. So we asked adults with high functioning autism and their families about their experiences of education, employment and social life.

"I think the report has made a difference. I have noticed a number of projects that adult services have put together. When they’ve asked for funding from someone, they use the results from the ‘We Belong’ study to say this is what adults tell us what they want. So it’s not Aspect saying this is what we think you should do; this is 300 adults saying this is what we want. It has made a difference to some of the programs and the way we are starting to work with adults as well and actually listening to what they want to do.

"Our advisory group gave us advice and let us know about what worked on the online questionnaire. We had responses from every state in Australia. The message we wanted to get across to the world was that people with autism were saying ‘we belong’, which is how we came up with the name for the report.

"The most surprising result was how many really bright and talented people were finding it difficult to get a job that used their skills and abilities.

"When we began planning  ‘We Belong Too’ (looking at adolescents) we used the same process. This time we had some extra students from our satellite classes join us. We went to one of the schools and asked them about the questionnaire. We took out things about employment, except for a few questions, because we know some people have Saturday or holiday jobs. We replaced more adult questions with what related to adolescents.

"We are thinking about doing another research project in this series. We want to interview aging adults in the 50+ age range. For example, how it is to age with autism, are there things that are different or that you are concerned about? So stay tuned for more.”

My Two Cents

Now I’d normally say how I hate every ignorant ape I see from chimpan a to chimpanzee, but I realise now that it’s up to us to be like Dr Zaius and help those who don’t understand. Now before the Charlton Hestons start banging their hands on ground, let me tell you my side of things. I have spent a lot of my life trying to fit in. Primary school was easy, you could say “do you like baked potatoes? NO WAY, ME TOO!”  and instantly become friends. In high school it’s a lot different. You have to worry about the difference between bullying and just having a joke, body language, eye contact and sarcasm.  Thank God those days are behind me. It seems that when we grow up we end up having a combination of the two methods of finding friends. People will find friends in their work place, at book stores or events; they will talk but if you like fishing and your co-worker likes carpentry, then you have nothing to talk about.

I’m lucky enough to be so obsessed with movies and tv shows that I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone. It being a visual medium that almost anyone enjoyed helped me fit into the community of today. For instance, I could talk to a scientist about things I saw on Breaking Bad, a lawyer what I saw on Boston Legal and a poker player about ‘A House of Cards’.

But conversation can’t be restricted to what we see on the screen. We have to find out how Auntie Judy is doing, why Dan’s dog is digging a ditch or how the current crisis in Syria might mean death and destruction around the world.

In Conclusion

If we were to split up the world like the high school in Mean Girls, we would all wear pink on Wednesdays and talk about Regina George. One of the great things about humanity is that we are accepting of other people; whether it’s their race, age, sex, economic status, religion, or if they have a disability. Well, hold on, that might not be true. There’s always war between religions, sexism is still a major problem in today’s society, the rich and powerful rule over all and racism is still very problematic.

This might be what we need to help turn society around. If we can show how people on the spectrum live, how they behave and what they would like to do, maybe we as a society can learn from that and grow as a whole.

So this is why we need reports like ‘We Belong’. They show us how people on the spectrum live their lives, behave and what they would like to do. When we stop shutting off the world and start listening, we can find out something beautiful, something great.

So that wraps it up for another blog folks, just remember to take a look at the world around you, who knows what you may find.

4 brothers come together

They surround a thing of beauty

Shielding it from laws of nature

They are hung for their duty

comments powered by Disqus
Please leave a comment
Breaking, belonging and blogging!