Meat-free Monday

Paul McCartney recently gave meat-free days a boost, using his fame to encourage people to forfeit the flesh for one day per week, as part of his Meat Free Monday campaign. Taking the concept a step further, March 23 sees the arrival of Meat Free Week – originally an Australian initiative – here in the UK.

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I’m a fan of the McCartney dynasty. I adore Linda and subsequently Mary’s photography, The Beatles are one of my all time favourite bands (Wings – not so much) and Stella does lovely clothing for kids (there’s no way in hell I would pay £4895.00 for a dress for myself, love – no matter how great it looks). So I was intrigued by this campaign and further investigation reveals that there is merit in it too.

Chatham House published a report in late 2014 drawing attention to how little public awareness there is regarding the links between livestock production and climate change. Currently, 14.5% of all harmful gases produced comes from livestock production alone. Diary and Meat consumption in the UK is rising constantly and by 2050 it is expected that there will be a 76% rise in consumption based in the increasing patterns emerging now. Meat Free Mondays seeks to lessen our consumption of meat and therefore, lessen our impact on the environment.

Start with making a commitment to reduce your meat consumption. If you’re currently eating a lot of meat, why not begin by taking meat out of your diet at least one day a week. Meat Free Monday’s is the perfect place to start, with lots of great ideas on how to make the leap.

Compassion in World Farming has produced a 24-page Compassionate Food Guide to help make higher-welfare shopping easier. The guide covers Beef, Pork (sausages, bacon etc), Poultry, Salmon and dairy. It really will assist with helping you make better and more informed choices.

When buying meat think about where you’re really buying it from. Whenever possible, shop at local farmers markets or free-range and organic butchers. Always ask questions. Getting answers about how an animal has lived before it was slaughtered will go a long way to helping you make the most informed, ethical decisions. It’s easy to make better decisions when armed with a few simple facts.

One day meat free a week could save you money, improve your health and of course, help lessen emissions.

Now I decided to write this post while the kids played wrestling (that should read wrestled until one of them started crying) so my Meat Free Monday recipe is rather dull. Nevertheless its real comfort food dish in this house and one that we don’t even think about as missing meat.

Broccoli, Chilli and Sundried Tomato Pasta

Serves: 4-6
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Ingredients
  • 1 lbs any short pasta
  • salt
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (I always add extra fresh chilli, do so if you have it, otherwise just use dried from your store cupboard)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Set a large pot of water on high heat and bring it to a boil, add salt, pasta, and broccoli separated into florets.
  2. Cook according to package directions, don’t overcook, your pasta should be al dente and broccoli tender but still firm. It should take between 7-9 mins.
  3. While pasta and broccoli are cooking slice garlic and cook it gently over low heat in a large pan coated with olive oil with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and chilli flakes for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Set aside.
  4. Drain pasta and broccoli, reserving ½ cup of water from the pasta.
  5. Add both pasta and broccoli to the pan with sun-dried tomatoes and gently toss together with freshly grated parmesan, add ½ reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  6. Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

An open letter to my father on his 60th birthday.

Dear Dad,

Today on your birthday, I’m taking this opportunity to write a letter to you to express how much I truly love you although I may not be able to put all of my emotions into words.

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Being a father is no easy task. A father makes a huge impact on his daughter’s life. He is the first man she says “I love you” to, and the first man to really show her what love is which you have demonstrated through your relationship and marriage to Mum.

As a young child I was very inquisitive and the majority of my memories of us together consists of me asking you questions constantly. To me as a child you knew everything. On our movie nights, a privilege afforded to the eldest child and the one with the latest bedtime, I would constantly harangue you to reveal plot details even though you’d probably never seen the film before, “what’s going to happen next Dad? Why is that man shooting that man, Dad?” On our adventure days around various museums and monuments I would ask what everything was and you would supply an answer. I say an answer because later in life I would realise that you made most of it up or guessed the answer, a tactic that I would then go on to use with both of my children and their relentless questioning. Thank you for always answering my questions and fostering my inquisitive nature.

You were always talking about music, your favourite artists, your memories associated with music. At family events we’d dance and you would execute your signature moves in the style of Mick Jagger and would sing your heart out to every Stones tune as if you were the embodiment of Jagger. I know it’s your birthday and I’m only supposed to say nice things but we both know that with moves and a voice like yours the Stones wouldn’t still be touring! You were and are always fun and our kids now know this too.

I know we’ve never been the touchy-feely types but I need you to know that you have deeply and significantly impacted my life. Most people in your life only get to call you friend, but my sister and I get the incredible privilege of having your genes and calling you ‘Dad’ and the grand kids, ‘Papa’. You are always there for us in your own unique way whether it was popping in on your way home from work when my son was little when we all knew you had to make a massive detour from your work in West Calder to ‘pop in’ or taking my son out for dinner to make sure he gets home from his drama class in Leith each week.

Happy birthday Dad!

I love you x

Like a Rolling (and extra couple of) Stone

d9cfc37367a35604f1e8a9c4b6284bb4 One of the many reasons I’m on a diet…

WARNING: diet bore! As I was finishing up work before the Christmas holidays I was becoming more and more aware of my burgeoning girth. A combination of bad habits, weather-induced laziness meant that things had gotten a bit out of control. I’m not going to be posting fatty selfies on here but to give you context I’m 5ft 2 and a 1/2 inches short, medium build and was rocking over three stone above my ideal BMI according to my beloved NHS. Being the food afficiendo that I am, I relish (often figuratively with copious amounts of cheese) the festive excess. The two week school holiday sees me cooking and sharing our table with a whole host of family and friends. I was dreading limiting myself it to be honest but I decided to try and watch what I consumed over this period with a view to getting my head ready for a proper official diet in the new year.

Two and a half weeks passed, I paid my subscription to a well known dieting company and hardened myself for what would be a tough and challenging time. Despite my Xmas excess I was pleasantly surprised to find that over the holiday I had actually managed to lose weight! Eating three meals a day must have made a huge difference. This gave me the boost I needed to start and stick to a plan. Obviously I am writing this from a position of smugness as in the last 45 days I have lost my first stone and a couple of pounds (I still work in old money).

A bad chest infection and two courses of steroids later, I have potentially plateaued. This week’s weigh in will be telling as I gained last week for the first time. I may have to subject myself to ritual humiliation and attend a local meeting of fellow fatties in order to strive to keep losing. I’m not even sure what my end goal is at the moment and don’t want to revert to my old eating habits after my goal has been reached. I guess I’ll figure it out and change the way that I eat, eventually. At the moment I’m still in the mindset where I’m constantly denying myself food and having to put my hands in both of my pockets, walk away and distract myself. Eating tinned fruit like a Cold War bunker dweller really makes a poor substitute for a chunk of fine cheese with a slathering of relish.

I’m also finding the hunger pangs pretty hard going. I thought they’d ease off after a while but they’re still as strong as ever and I’m really missing my extra portions of carbs. I sometimes dream of selling one of my children for some artisanal bread. I suppose the fact that all of my social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) is full of food isn’t really helping to keep my focus off food. Food suppliers, food producers, food blogs, photos of strangers’ lunches, even my favourite tv programmes all feature food!

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I’ll get there I suppose.

Small Reminders for the New Year

New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail but I do think we should reflect on the previous year and think deeply about what we want for and from the coming year.

Resolutions that fail make us feel inadequate so my reflection comes in the form of reminders, things I’ve already known and already forgotten. Things I should remember when too much negativity enters my life and I get bogged down with routine and responsibilities. Some are borrowed from a website I found when looking for resolutions (of which I forgotten the name and didn’t save the link!) and I jotted these down in my christmas present from my younger sister, a notebook for my famous lists.

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1. Choose a narrow path. The sooner you pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve in your life, what you want your legacy to be, the sooner it will happen for you. Don’t choose the well beaten path; create your own. Dare to be different and aim for the moon (in order to reach the stars).

2. Embrace change. If life were consistent and without ups and downs, it would be boring, bleak and monotone. We’re here to dodge bullets, get back up when we’re kicked down and make decisions for ourselves. It’s all about building your character. Never fear change, it could be exactly what you need.

3. Its okay to eat cereal for dinner. You only live once…

4. Own your mistakes. The only way to learn is to make mistakes. The only way to learn from mistakes is to own them. You’ll be surprised how much people will value you for owning your mistakes, no matter how small your role in them.

5. Appreciate what you have before you ask for more. Because there is always someone worse off than you.

6. Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. But never forget you don’t have a body, you have a soul. Your exterior will never define your interior.

7. Who you are is not what you have; its what you do with what you have. Ever noticed how some of the happiest people in the world have the least? It isn’t about what you have (material things or achievements), but what you decide to do with that. Your life is your legacy. How do you want to be remembered?

8. Be Loyal. In love, friendships, and most importantly with your family. Stay true to your word.

9. Laugh more.

10. Words are powerful. It takes just two to commit your life to another. Words are powerful – choose them wisely.

11. You can never be over educated. Want to learn another language? Its better late than never. Thinking about taking art classes? You never know what it will lead to. You are only limited by your choices.

12. Be gracious. Be humble. Be kind.

13. Live in a new place. You will be surprised as to just how much our surrounds shape us.

14. Live within your means. Life isn’t about keeping up with the Jones’s.

15. Have an opinion. Voice it, engage in healthy debate, but never be rigid and close-minded.

16. Be proud. Credit where credit is due. Learn to welcome compliments and accept them – by doing so you will provide value to them and soak them up like a sponge. It will lead to better work in the future.

17. Accept criticism. But know when to distinguish between constructive criticism and a genuine insult. If someone insults you, it says more about them than it could ever say about you.

18. Get outdoors more.

19. Spend time with anyone older than you. Age = experience. Experience = wisdom. Spend time with your grandparents and ask questions. No one stays on this earth forever – make the most of the time you have.

20. Be honest. People will value your opinion if it is raw, honest and made with consideration.

21. Don’t give money, give your time. There is no greater gift than your time.

22. Take a day off. Do something you have always wanted to do. By yourself.

23. Track your finances better. 

24. Work hard(er). Set your goals higher and higher… your limits are only those you believe to be true.

25. Smile at strangers.

26. Keep a journal. Sometimes the best way to clear your mind and keep a clear vision is to jot down your thoughts at the end of the day or week. Consider what you did, who you met, how you felt, what was on your mind. Think outside the box and sort through your thoughts rather than offloading your troubles onto someone else.

27. Escape into a film. Bad day? Don’t dwell on it. Escape to someone else’s reality or jump inside a fiction. Two hours later you’ll have forgotten the trivialities.

28. You are the company you keep. If your friends aren’t bringing joy into your life, maybe you’ve outgrown them. Don’t be afraid to make new friends that understand you (and where you’re at in life right now). Adapt. Change. Learn. Grow. Evolve.

29. You’ll never be as young as you are right now.

Why blog? Who cares?

While I’ve always liked writing, I’ve always felt tortured over blogging. Mainly I would ponder its uses, its purposes and what people think of it and truthfully, what people thought of me and my motivations for doing it. I would get carried away blogging,  write a load of posts and then suddenly feel self-conscious about what I had posted and whether or not it would be perceived as attention seeking. I always felt like I had to justify my existence online and I guess it’s something introverts struggle with who do things like this which are out of character. I’ve always been better on paper than face to face so it felt like a more comfortable medium for me to communicate through.

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A new study shows that humans have a strong tendency to affiliate with other people, especially in emotional situations and this provides an explanation for the basic human motivation to affiliate with others, particularly in emotional situations. The study demonstrates how sharing exposure to emotional stimuli with a friend buffers the impact of negative stimuli and enhances the impact of positive stimuli.

So while I may be sharing something mundane like a recipe and not recounting significant trauma, it is still this need for sharing that drives people to write blogs and mainly why I write. Whether it is on the level of sharing experiences or even just a love of aubergine based meals, it all counts. It all matters because someone out there cares.

Viva Mexico – Pozole Verde

I adore the food of Mexico and I’m pleased that I got Margarita Arronte’s new cookbook for Christmas. I haven’t had a chance to delve into it yet but thought I’d share a Mexican dish that I’ve been cooking for years, pozole.

Each year our family hosts a Mexican themed new years party for friends who have kids. As much as us Scots love Hogmanay, the reality amongst our friendship group or urban family is that often we find ourselves at home with the kids watching the bells on STV, having the obligatory tipple before heading off to bed. So a few years ago I devised this daytime event where folk could bring along their kids, who would upon arrival, disappear into the sea of toys in our kids’ bedroom while the adults would share food, talk and celebrate the new year.

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Pozole is a traditional hominy-based stew from the Guerrero region. I’ve no idea where I got the original recipe from and like most regional dishes the world over there are many, many variations of this dish. This particular one, the verde version, gets its name from the addition of green tomatillos and big fat poblano peppers. Most of the ingredients aren’t averrable to me fresh so I have to buy them in tinned. Comment below for some links to grocers.

IMG_2190Serves 6

  • 1.65L chicken stock
  • 500ml water
  • 4 chicken breasts (optional – on the bone), with skin
  • 450g tomatillos (fresh or tinned and drained – husked and halved)
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 poblano chiles (tinned or fresh – cored, seeded and quartered)
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and quartered
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • A handful chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp oregano leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Three 450g cans of hominy, drained
  • Finely shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced radishes, chopped onion, diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and lime wedges, for serving
  1. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, cover and simmer over very low heat until they’re tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred the meat; discard the bones and skin, if any. Skim any fat from the cooking liquid and reserve.
  2. In a blender, combine the halved tomatillos with the quartered onion, poblanos and jalapeños, smashed garlic, chopped cilantro and oregano. Pulse until coarsely chopped, scraping down the side. With the machine on, add 250ml of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season the tomatillo puree with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the tomatillo puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns a deep green, about 12 minutes.
  4. Pour the green sauce into the cooking liquid in the casserole. Add the hominy and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the shredded chicken to the stew, season with salt and pepper and cook just until heated through. Serve the pozole in deep bowls, passing the lettuce, radishes, onion, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips and lime wedges at the table.

Food Glorious Food – Moussaka bil Tahini

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So, I love food. I love to cook and feed people.

This is my first recipe outing on this blog. I love exploring different cultures and different cuisines. 

After reading an excerpt from a book called Comptoir Libanais by Tony Kitous. My mouth was watering at this one recipe in particular, Moussaka. This is Lebanese version (moussaka bil tahini) without the bechamel sauce and served with a delicious tahini and za’atar dip instead. The recipe here is the one that I’ve copied from the book and calls for salting the aubergines. I don’t always bother. Taste a piece of the vegetable first, if you find it bitter and it’s verging on being soft then by all means salt until your heart’s content. If you’ve picked up fairly fresh, young ones then the salting isn’t necessary.

I’d recommend serving with flatbreads and a green salad.

  • aubergines
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
  • large onion, finely chopped
  • garlic cloves, crushed
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 6 fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tahini dressing:

  • 125g yoghurt
  • 40g tahini
  • Couple of pinches of za’atar
  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Take one aubergine and chop into bite-size cubes, lay on a plate and cover with salt. Set aside for 15 minutes to draw out all the bitter juices. Slice the other aubergine into rounds then salt and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for around 10-15 minutes until it’s starting to soften and caramelise.

Rinse the cubed aubergine and add to the pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes until the cubes have softened and turned golden.

Stir in the garlic and cook in the heat of the pan for a couple of minutes until you can smell the aroma. Pour in the tomatoes, and tomato puree and bring everything to a simmer. Cover and cook on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.

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Rinse the salt from the remaining aubergine. Preheat the grill and oil a baking sheet. Brush the aubergine slices liberally with oil and grill until golden, turning halfway through. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas 6. (I griddled them)

Place a layer of the aubergine sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, then cover this with the sliced tomatoes, chickpeas and finally the grilled aubergine. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. To make the dressing, stir together the yoghurt, tahini and za’atar to taste. Scatter the chopped parsley over the moussaka and serve with the tahini dressing.

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This dish pops up in several countries (Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Serbia) with their own distinctive take on it. Do you have a favourite?

Hello World!

I’ve had a rebirth.

It wasn’t messy. I’ve just realised that I actually miss blogging. I had a Blog (with a capital B) once that had a few readers and was connected to a bigger blogger filled world. I enjoyed it at it’s peak and it served me well as an outlet while being confined to domestic life with a young child. Over the last four years, significant gaps in writing meant that I outgrew the blog. I evolved, I aged but the blog seemed to be frozen in time. I tried several times to pick it back up again but it never felt quite right. I wasn’t proud of the blog, it was just a reminder of another time  in my life and the person who wrote posts, well, I didn’t recognise her anymore.

The old blog in case you are curious can be found at http://omammy.blogspot.co.uk/

A few significant things happened during the writing of that blog that made it difficult to pick it back up again. My eldest child, of whom I had written many posts about, gained an online presence. This meant that I wanted to be careful about what he was exposed to and I wanted to respect his privacy. Most of the posts about him are still live as I was often writing about his autism and connecting with other people out there who were experiencing life in a similar manner to us.  He is growing into a fine young man and again, he has aged and outgrown various development phases as children do so he may not recognise himself in the posts. If he asked me to take them down I would. Another event was that a year or so after the birth of my second child I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. It seemed ridiculous that such a long time after giving birth, I should be diagnosed with that but according to the GP, there is no such thing as post-PND or toddler depression. I blogged about it a few times but more often than not during the dark days, didn’t speak about it or write about it. On reflection, this was the main reason for the long gaps between posts. I do feel though, looking back on some of the posts that I had written, that they were coloured with how I saw the world at that time and it was another reason that I felt disconnected to the blog as a whole.

I’m different now. This blog will be different.

Read it or don’t. I’m not bothered but I need somewhere to record things again and yes, record it publicly. I do this in the hope that a few people will read my posts agree, discuss, disagree or simply confirm that I’m not the only nutter out there with a head full of nonsense. My main hope is that by sharing my interests, people will share theirs and so enrich my life, my existence.

We are enriched by our reciprocate differences.

-Paul Valéry, a French poet and Essayist.

My interests are pretty wide ranging, eclectic, shall we say. I love music, photography, kids, ale, food, literature, history, philosophy, cartoons and so that will fill the content of this blog, my blog.

Welcome.

World Autism Awareness Day 2014

Hello. It’s been a while. 12 months to be exact.

I’m reviving my blog for WAAD 2014. What I’ve got to say about this day and the message I want people to hear is longer than a Facebook post so I’m putting my thoughts here.

“World Autism Awareness Day is about more than generating understanding; it is a call to action. I urge all concerned to take part in fostering progress by supporting education programmes, employment opportunities and other measures that help realize our shared vision of a more inclusive world.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Message for the World Autism Awareness Day 2014


Every day is autism awareness day for us. If you are not aware of the existence of autism or what it is and have been living in a cave then check out the What is Autism section on my blog.

So if you want to take up this call to action on WAAD 2014 then here’s what can you do for us to really make a difference:

1. Ignore headlines in the press regarding autism or at the very least take them with a generous pinch of salt. It is mainly sensationalism designed to promote and sell papers and rarely discusses autism in a positive way and if it does, it’s all about the savants.

2. Realise and understand that autism is a hidden disability. You cannot tell if a person is autistic by appearance alone. Do not judge a person unless you know the whole story (a mantra for life anyway).

3. Educate your children about autism. We have a hard enough time trying to educate our autistic children about their autism without educating yours as well.

4. Autism is not a childhood condition, you do not grow out of it. Look to educate yourself about autistic adults and try to find out how your business, university, your social groups can engage and include people on the spectrum.

5. Do not Light it up Blue for us.

Bad Press?




Over the last decade or so, headlines from the world’s press has often induced a major eye rolling fit in this household when reporting about autism. The reports are either raising an alarm of sorts over a new cause or reason for individuals being autistic or it’s a heartwarming tale of person X who cannot tie his shoelaces but can play Rachmaninov at age 8. While it is always fantastic to hear of stories where an individual has learned to overcome difficulties, but this is usually after lots of hard work from them, their parents and their support team. to develop strategies to cope with their difficulty. This special talent always has a price. The latest pseudo-scientific report to come out is the claim that children may ‘grow out of’ autism. Thanks BBC. Of course, this is nonsense and advances in educators and specialists knowledge means that children can, to varying degrees learn to cope with the world around them. That is not to say that the difficulty they face has disappeared but that they have learnt to use certain tools and methods, and have developed strategies to help cope with the problems this difficulty will cause. Autism can create a wide range of barriers in everyday life and these can impact upon an individual to varying degrees. Whilst some people are able to live relatively independent lives, others will require more intensive support throughout their lifetime.

What does autism look like?

I’m always being told “but he looks so normal!”. The ways in which autism manifests itself can vary from person to person but it’s never glaringly obvious from a person’s physical appearance. One person with autism may be very verbal, bright and engaged, while another may be non-verbal, and entirely introverted. People with autism tend to have a wide range of skill sets including different strengths and difficulties in the same way that a neurotypical person has, however autism is characterised by a triad of impairments and people typically find challenges with: social interaction, social imagination and communication. People with autism also tend to share common traits such as sensory sensitivity, repetitive and stereotyped behaviours and special interests. Autism can also be associated with physical difficulties and it is recognised that there can be a vulnerability to mental health and wellbeing. Some people with autism may also have learning difficulties like dyslexia and other conditions like dyspraxia  or epilepsy, some don’t.

As autism is a lifelong condition, impact will be likely to change throughout the person’s lifetime, and usually in relation to the support they are accessing. It is important to remember that the autism spectrum is not a linear condition with ‘high functioning’ and ‘low functioning’ ends, but rather a condition in which there are also impacts from the environment and sometimes from the stresses of daily life that affects their functioning.

Coming out?

A recent article in the Huffington Post reminded me about the experience we had when we first told A about his autism. I learned from our experience that it isn’t a big talk that’s needed but a constant stream of information. When you go through something like this with a person who processes information differently to you, it’s hard to control the outcome.  It’s a difficult subject to grasp and sometimes he sees it in a positive light but mostly in the negative. He is 14, in mainstream school and doesn’t want others to see him as different. I long for the day where he is no longer embarrassed and is proud of who he is and we’ll work towards that. It’s hard watching all of this going on and to see him struggle. Luckily, a new generation of self-advocates and autistic adolescents are finding their voices online and hopefully he will come to find them empowering such as this wonderful piece written by an autistic teenager on articulating a meltdown.

At the moment he’s so influenced by his peers that when they call him a weirdo, a freak, retard and autistic boy, he internalises how this makes him feel and carries it around with him. He feels ashamed because his peers do not understand why he does some of the things he does. He cannot articulate his autism well enough to make them understand. That’s a big responsibility for a 14 year old, one that society puts on his shoulders because we are too polite or embarrassed to do. So I implore you to ask questions of the parents and even ask the child, they may surprise you. Don’t try to empathise, it’s patronising. Often I am told “We’re all on the spectrum somewhere” which I find really frustrating. This comment implies that everyone has these kinds of difficulties, and that my son just needs to get his act together. That, it’s a case of won’t, not can’t and that’s a horrible supposition. 

What will the future hold?

Where we are is that our son is going to be sitting his high school exams next year. His peers are being quizzed about their futures and career prospects while they are drilled at school about how it’s a priority to choose the right subjects to set the right pathway for their future. Most of us with actual real life experience know this is not always true but as parents we are being given the same information as his peer group and so trying to plan accordingly. While trying to plan for his future I find it hard to get past reports and statistics published on future pathways for autistic adolescents is.  The future often looks bleak for children on the spectrum and those similar to my son who are not just socially impaired but also have accompanying learning and physical disabilities.

Currently, between 76 and 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed*. Adults with autism need access to post-school education, training and employment initiatives to enable them to join the workforce. Education and employment can also enable them to overcome the social exclusion they often face, taking more active roles in their communities, rather than being dependent on family and social support.  1 in 100 people are estimated to have Autism Spectrum Condition, which means there are over 600,000 people in the UK with the condition; only 12% have full-time jobs as opposed to 49% of people with general disabilities. A report from the London School of Economics recently stated that autism costs UK society £27bn annually with a large amount of that cost being derived from lack of employment.

I know it’s a few years off yet but I need to be prepared. So far my own personal experience is this. I sought advice about what help A could access post school. I looked at routes for study, possible places of study, I asked about whether or not he would be able access university, if he would be able to study elsewhere, what support would be available to him if he wanted to study in another city and needs to live on campus. Slowly I am discovering what possibilities could be achievable but through my own work. The services in the Lothians that I have been using firstly pointed towards benefits for him to access on leaving school. Then it was access to mental health services. One even mentioned alternative therapies, discounted cranial osteopathy and the likes. It makes me wonder if their first point of reference is state benefits to a lot of parents who have the same questions as myself. I was staggered by the amount of blank faces and pregnant pauses regarding employment support, independent living during university and the like. I’m lucky that I’m young and I am able to physically and mentally able to support him if he decides this pathway. Many aren’t so lucky and I’m been at this for long enough to know that eventually I will compile a folder of informations and specialists and organisations to seek out but it will take time and hard work. While I don’t intend to throw him out the door on his 18th birthday, I am trying to investigate possibilities for him to live (with some external assistance) alongside his peer group. The reality is though that having independence from me, may not be a possibility unless I can find adequate support for him in further or higher education and in employment. 

Don’t light it up blue for my boy.

Autism Speaks, the brains behind colouring autism blue is an awful charity. An organisation that promotes fear, hatred, anti-vaccine propaganda and in the past have claimed to offer a ‘cure’. The majority of people do not know that there is such controversy with Autism Speaks because most people assume that any organisation dealing with autism must be doing good things. Bob and Suzanne Wright are very wealthy people with many connections, which is certainly one of the reasons that Autism Speaks has grown to be so influential and powerful in the States and why now their influence is so far reaching. Most people who support Autism Speaks are unaware of how offensive and demeaning their practices and language are to actual Autistic people until recently where a whole stream of autistic adults and adolescents have voiced their outrage against the organisation. I cannot and never will be able to condone the support of any campaign launched by Autism Speaks.

The organisation offends and angers many, many autistic adults and adolescents, those who luckily have the ability to articulate and self-advocate. The Autistic Hoya in her blog, puts it like this: “Light it up blue” does nothing to help Autistic people or bring attention to the most important issues facing our community. The color blue in relation to autism can only be seen in Autism Speaks’s logo — a blue puzzle piece — and has nothing to do with us. We prefer to be thought of as people, not puzzles. This campaign is offensive and alienating to us rather than supportive of us. I strongly encourage you to consider alternative means of supporting the autism and Autistic communities, such as hosting roundtable discussions with Autistic self-advocates and our allies, sponsoring talks by leaders in the autism rights movement, showing documentaries such as Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic or Wretches and Jabberers, or adding material about autism rights and neurodiversity into any disability studies coursework on campus.

One example of the Autism Speaks message is this videohttp://youtu.be/O0vCz2KWMM0

Autism Speaks funded this video to raise awareness of the horror of living with autism and to raise money for their organisation. Naturally, this incenses the entire autism community. In the video which features a mother talking about her desire to kill herself and her autistic daughter in front of her daughter.

Again, The Autistic Hoya addresses the problems with this: ‘The interviews in Autism Every Day address—both directly and accidentally—very real and pressing institutional issues like the segregation of “special needs” children within schools, the lack of affordable and accessible support, a general lack of understanding and compassion within communities, and the pervasive construction of an “ideal” mother-child relationship as “joyful” and “easy.” The video also neatly encapsulates everything that is damaging about Autism Speaks’ rhetoric and agenda. Rather than addressing the aforementioned institutional problems, the organization centers the individual experiences of parents and care-givers, and silences autists by constructing us as pitiable and burdensome. It constructs autism as a tragic scourge that warrants panic and despair, and dedicates its efforts to eradicating autistic people via prevention or a “cure.”‘ So why would I want anyone to light anything up blue in my son’s honour? I wouldn’t.

Anyway, thanks for reading this.



* SourcesUN Enable and The National Autistic Society (NAS) via the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.