Letter from the North

Letter from the North Fri 1-Sep-2017

In the news?

So, I’m back in my new usual spot here in The North, and I’m Ok with that; not happy, I doubt I ever will be, but Ok.

I saw an article on the BBC news this morning (or was it yesterday, I forget) on how an individual discovered art as a way of working with his autism.

The man from the NAS (National Autistic Society) talking about it never missed an opportunity to name-check the NAS, which seemed a bit over the top. Well it did to me, but then they and I disagree, and I’m inclined to be somewhat critical of anything they do. In other words, I understand that I am biased. However, entirely unprompted, Teresa thought the same about the name-checking, so I don’t think it’s just me.

Anyway, back to the article. The tone was about those who need support and help, i.e. those are already in the system; I remain convinced that there are a lot of us who are outside the system, who in many cases don’t even know what they are, and are just coping. I’m also not convinced that the best people to support autistics are non-autistics!

These letters are very much for them, people who are considered a bit odd, but have no need of, or desire for, medicalisation.

So, that BBC article knocked me sideways because it feels like there is a whole industry that is invested in autism being a problem and people with autism needing diagnosis so they can get access to services and support and then there are those (non-autistics) delivering those services.

I can’t fight that medicalisation model, I have no power or influence and the biggest organisation in the UK (the NAS) was perpetuating the model on national TV.

Oh well, I’ve cracked my problems with getting my Arty FPGA board working last weekend, which was three-day weekend and I was happy with that.

And that’s it, I could go on for another page or two on how and why the TV article knocked me sideways and how long it is taking me to recover, but Teresa would say ’enough Bean’ and she’d be right. So, I shall refrain, muttering my protests …

I’m sure there’s a lot more I wanted to write, but it’s all disappeared from my mind.

So, back to my theme this week ‘In the News’. I regularly read the BBC News website and when an article catches my attention,  I save the link.  Since the BBC News had already attracted my attention, it seemed like a good idea to explore some of those links.

As always, my opinion is my own and, being autistic, it may well seem rather extreme, unusual and ‘wrong’ to you. Sorry about that, but I think and feel the way I think and feel.

The following two articles were both about missing people. In no way would I minimise the stress those affected go through and in no way, would I think that I understand ANY of the background or what happened. All I have is what I read in the news and I am sceptical that that is all there is to it.

In both cases there seems to me to be issues of neuro-diversity. Whenever I see words associated with mental illness – e.g. Bi-polar or words that are often used about autistics, even when the autism word is not used – e.g. ‘gifted’, I worry. There is a long history of misdiagnosing autism. ’gifted’ can, and often does, mean that the individual is so good at hiding the effect of autism that everyone just sees the gifted and nothing beyond that.

Anyway, here are the two articles:

First, on 25 August 2017 there was an article entitled ‘ My partner vanished without warning. I had to find him‘. A 28-year-old man left home and didn’t return. Apparently, he texted saying he didn’t want to be found and the article says “there was concern because he’d been diagnosed as bi-polar”. In my experience being diagnosed as bi-polar doesn’t mean you are, but it is a warning sign that neurodiversity is happening. I can imagine that article being about me, I can easily imagine doing that, indeed for short periods I have done exactly that. Fortunately, eventually, the missing person was found. The reason, speculated on, for his going missing was ‘because of the upheaval of having a new baby and moving house at the same time.’ How stress affects someone like me is not how it necessarily affects others and when neurodiversity is involved an ‘NT’ explanation rarely works.

Whilst I was updating my rough notes on this letter I came across another missing person article, there are rather a lot and I know it is incredibly distressing for those involved.

14-Sep-2017 Andrew Gosden: The boy who disappeared – BBC News. This was an article about a 14yr old boy who disappeared on 14 September 2007, 10 years ago at the time of writing this letter. Again, whilst not diagnosed, reading the characteristics of the boy, I would suspect neurodiversity being a significant influence on his disappearance. Reading the article, I was reminded of the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ‘ by Mark Haddon ()

Again, I know nothing of the world of the boy and his family and I’m just looking at a news article, but again it reminds me how I do things, how I worry about things that make no sense to most people and they are then surprised by what I do.

I often hear in the news how some people do things which are a surprise – like these disappearances – and I wonder if sometimes what we are seeing is that not everybody works with within the same emotional and mental framework and when you don’t, people think you are over reacting, making mountains out of mole hills, …

A friend of ours, who in retrospect was clearly autistic, killed themselves. They were diagnosed with mental illness because they couldn’t handle noise from a neighbour. I can totally put myself in their place, I know just how totally disabling that can be and how death can seem to be the only solution. I have moved house, twice, due to noise disruption that the rest of my family couldn’t even hear. At times, I have become totally obsessed by noise to the point where it has taken over my life.

Accepting diversity means more than tolerating a man in a frock or a person in a wheelchair or someone’s race, religion or ethnicity. It means being willing to accept that they think differently, react differently and can have very different motivations.

AND, that is OK.

A few more bits in the news that caught my eye:

29 August 2017: What I wish I hadn’t said to my colleague. I love the statement early on ’Basically, I was born with the social skills of a used teabag.’, yup, tick! The article illustrates how easy it is for someone who is neurodiverse to commit social faux pas (at least a faux pas as defined by the majority). I loved this article for the author’s friend who ‘understood’ and didn’t take offence.    

28 August 2017: Unearthing the legacy of Harvard’s female computers. Far too often the contributions of women are ignored, especially for the work they did during the second world war. The inbuilt assumption of male supremacy in anything technical is so entrenched that as males we are rarely aware that we do it. I am always reminded of Shirly Adams, the person I competed with to come out top in maths at school. I recall it was 50:50. Her gender was irrelevant to me, she was just ‘the competition’ ????. I work at the engineering end of computing (rather than Web or IT) and there are far too few women present. There is a lot of talk about addressing this in schools and from time to time we have girls paraded in front of the cameras as the ‘new wave’ but the reality is that society continues to view science and engineering as male. I watched a documentary on the Cassini mission to Saturn (just finished) and many the lead engineers were female, brilliant.

I love space and yet I didn’t know that, how could I not? Well look who is the big science person on TV – Brian Cox, if you see him all the time then you cannot help but assume it must be a male thing.

31 August 2017, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale ‘was outed as gay against her will’. We are now back to the problem of othering! The concept of ‘outing’ is always applied to those who are different, the sexual and gender diverse, I’ve never heard of a heterosexual male or female being ‘outed’.

I originally wrote about my Chilli (see last week) at the beginning of this letter, but Teresa felt it should be an “oh and also” item, as the news often does with a “and finally” piece of fluff. So here is the ‘and finally’ that should be at the start because that’s the first thing I thought of and I am a very linear sort of person ????

And finally, that Chilli I talked about last week went through a metamorphosis. I got my recipe wrong and cooking the beans on their own didn’t work, they would have ended up overcooked once the chilli itself had a slow cook. The original idea was to cook the chilli slowly along with the beans, not the beans on their own. So, I put those beans aside and started again. The new chilli took about 12 hours in the crockpot (slow cooker) but was very nice.

I used the ’hot’ kidney beans plus some left-over pasta plus a bit of tomato, …, and that was a lot of lunches sorted. No waste in our house, I can (and will) use anything for my lunches!


The ‘conventional’, those who consider themselves to be ‘the norm’ don’t have to announce their sexual and gender preferences. Neurotypicals don’t have to be diagnosed and declare themselves. The neurodiverse have to justify thinking differently and get medicalised because they don’t follow ‘the rules.

I have said and will continue to say – respect for diversity is respect for people, for individuals, we are ALL different, there is no such thing as ‘normal’, we need the right person for the right slot in the world doing the right thing and we don’t need labels identifying those outside of a socially constructed ‘normal’.

The Bean, The North, Fri 1-Sep-2017

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