Tag Archives: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Boots Under The Bridge.

Yesterday, was all blue skies and glorious, golden sunshine when Geoff and I headed down to Sydney’s Kirribilli, lured away by the magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the harbour itself. This is the third post inspired by this trip. So, might I suggest that if you can get yourself down to Kirribilli (or your local equivalent), your efforts could be well re-worded.

Geoff and I photo bombing the view from Kirribilli towards the city and the Opera House.

After lunch, we walked down Broughton Street towards the harbour. After undergoing some nasty tests on my lungs and responding badly, I was naturally concerned about the steep decent and whether I could make it back up. Indeed, as we marched enthusiastically down the hill, Geoff even voiced these concerns: “what goes down, has to climb backup,” he said.

However, “oh me of little breath” powered ahead just like the the “Little Engine that Could”. I’ve done that: “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can” up many a hill or flight of stairs before. I might be turning blue and gasping for air, but you can’t “carpe diem seize day” from the couch. You need to have a go! Besides, (and I didn’t tell him this), he could always go and fetch the car. After all, even the best of generals has a “Plan B”. On the other hand, giving up before you try is, of course, an automatic fail.

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Above: Map of Kirribilli. The boots were on the corner of Fitzroy and Alfred Streets half way down on the left hand side of the map.

While we were walking back up the hill via Alfred Street, I spotted a random pair of black workman’s boots sitting on the corner of Alfred and Fitzroy Streets just back from the curb.

Now, if you’re someone who is focused and gets straight to the point, you’ll probably find my reflections on this pair of boots quite random. Or, you’ll even accuse me of over-thinking things again. However, on the other hand, it could equally be a virtue to find meaning and purpose in seemingly insignificant little things – especially in a place overshadowed by two of the great modern architectural wonders of the world, and one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.

The work boots’ neighbours are pretty impressive, making it hard to keep up with the Joneses.

Moreover, being “creative”, I couldn’t help thinking about how these worn, ordinary work boots must feel glancing up at the magnificent steel arches and towering granite pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Then, as if they didn’t already have a massive inferiority complex, across the harbour there’s the Sydney Opera House with her magnificent white sails glowing in the sunlight at the very top end of town! It must be hard for those work boots to feel that meaning and purpose aren’t just confined to the big wigs, and the flashy, strutting peacocks of life. That an old, discarded pair of work boots couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Moreover, you can also understand how people feel like that way too.

However, it wasn’t just their simple ordinariness which attracted my attention to the boots, and you’ve no doubt noticed this yourself. They’re round the wrong way, back-to-front. Mixed up. Odd. So, if you were mad enough to try to step inside these boots and see what it was like to walk in their shoes, your legs would be heading off at cross-purposes and you’d fall smack – face down on the pavement.

By the way, there’s also another reason why I probably noticed the boots. I’ve had to learn to walk again twice. In my mid-20’s, I found out I’d been born with a harbour inside my head, and I was a lot more than “anxious”. Indeed, when the hydrocephalus was at its worst before I had a shunt put in to relieve the pressure, leaving a pair of boots around the wrong way would’ve been the very least of my problems. I have definitely tried walking in a wonky pair of boots that made no sense to anyone including myself. I also know what it is to be THE STRANGER, and not just someone unfamiliar.

So, how are we supposed to respond to these boots? Do we look at those boots and judge?

For many, it would be just too tempting to simply rearrange them. Make them right, just like you’d re-adjust a crooked picture frame until it was straight. However, I didn’t rearrange the boots and much to my later annoyance, I didn’t move the dead leaves out of the shot either. Moreover, if we’re really getting stuck into straightening things up and going for all out perfection, I wish I’d had my digital SLR camera with me instead of my phone. I am a photographic snob from way back. I also wished I’d got down lower for the shot. However, the boots were right on the curb and I didn’t want to risk being runover on Fitzroy Street just to take a photo. (That’s a first).

In addition to thinking about how the worn-out, back-to-front work boot people of this world feel in the shadow of greatness, these boots also made me think of how we respond to the apparent rejects and oddballs we come across through life. Do we as individuals (rather than the “royal we” where we can hide) offer them shelter and invite them in? Or, do we lock them out by whatever means is at our disposal be it a glance, a door, harsh words, a diagnosis, prescription drugs or a prison cell?

There’s a lot of bridge maintenance going on at the moment, so maybe the boots belong to someone working here?

However, when you give these boots a second glance, they’re scuffed, but they’re not worn out. They’ve been positioned carefully beside the road as a pair, even if they are back-to-front. Anybody could just walk up to those boots and set them straight. It wouldn’t take much, although perhaps you might be worried that who ever left them there, is watching. That they might misconstrue your good intentions and attack. You might also pop back down and speak to the supervisor on the work site beneath the bridge and see if anyone’s lost their boots. Reuniting the boots with their owner would be a noble thing. Indeed, perhaps those boots aren’t so unloved after all. Their owner might just be careless…or a teenager.

Who knows?

However, that’s the point, isn’t it?! No one knows anyone else’s story without asking AND without listening. You can’ t even judge a pair of back-to-front boots by their cover, let alone a person.

I have been reminded over and over again about the capacity of people to show love and even self-sacrifice to a stranger, especially someone in need. I have had a couple of spectacular falls in public places well away from home. Both times, I was using my walking stick so it was clear I had mobility issues. Both times, I’d hurt myself quite badly and had nasty grazes on my knee, was bleeding and needing a plaster. Last year, I had a nasty fall outside a nearby school. Passers-by, were quick to stop and render assistance, along with the inevitable question about an ambulance. A man headed off to his car and returned with a medical kit. Gave me saline to clean it, and the big sticking plaster. You know… the only big one which comes with the medical kit. Meanwhile, a teacher returned with ice and drove me down to McDonalds where I was meeting a friend. They were so kind!!

Yet, at the same time, the so-called weirdo who might not put their boots together in quite the right way, probably gets a much harder time of it. Indeed, it’s not just the strangers who reject them, but their nearest and dearest. The people who know them. Or, more to the point, don’t want to know them – the rejects. Somehow, we need to ensure there’s a place for them. A place for them in our families, our schools, our Churches, our streets. We don’t need to lock them up. They don’t need to self-medicate because they feel unloved, misunderstood, outcast. Love might not be enough to save everyone from genetics, society, bad luck or themselves, but it certainly goes a long way.

There’s still so much life left in these back-to-front workman’s boots, and I really hope they’re not still sitting there beside the road. That someone has taken them home.

Meanwhile, our son has invited “the boys” over tomorrow afternoon. He has no idea how many are coming, but I’ve made a pavlova, Mars Bar Slice and figure we can order pizza. After all, home is where the heart is and where real connections are forged.

What are your thoughts on the boots under the bridge? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Closing The Curtain…Friday Fictioneers.

James was in trouble. The deafening noises outside were ricocheting inside his head like exploding bullets, driving him mad like an insatiable itch he couldn’t scratch. He knew the volcano was set to explode. Closed the curtains. Clamped his  hands over his ears, and locked himself away in his cupboard. Still, he couldn’t block all the noises out.  A rock smashed through his window, and the sound of exploding glass destroyed what was left of his fragile senses. Sounds, incomprehensible sounds, were all that came out, but there was nothing James could formulate into any kind of message for help.

…….

100 words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

In my take on this week’s prompt, I decided to reframe the #blacklives matter protests alongside an incredible rescue mission we had here in Australia to find a non-verbal Autistic youth who had been missing in dense bushland in Victoria for two nights. On one hand, you have a loud, demonstrative protest over a despicable act, but on the other, you have someone who is acutely sensitive to noise and is overwrought. As you may be aware, many people on the Autism Spectrum are exceptionally sensitive to loud noises and bright lights and can shut themselves away. However, the rescue team responded with incredible empathy and sensitivity. You can read more about it here: Finding Hope on Mt Disppointment.

Meanwhile, I hope you are all keeping safe and well. We’re coming out of lock down safely here in Australia with only very minimal transmission here. It’s a huge relief.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Finding Hope On Mt Disappointment.

This week, we had the best good news story here in Australia, which really warmed and electrified my heart. On Monday afternoon, word got out that Will Callaghan, a 14 year old, non-verbal youth on the Autism Spectrum, strayed away from his family on a bush walk at Mt Disappointment in Victoria, and had gone missing. He was lost in dense bushland, and it was almost like trying to find someone in a fog. You just wouldn’t know where to start, and the only way forward involved trying to think like Will and somehow trying to crawl inside his mind and body, and do everything they could to be like him.

No doubt, this is what Police and emergency service personnel are trained to do. However, trying to find Will was next level, but they went there, pulling out all the stops to lure him out. Will’s favourite song is the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine, and they were playing that from Police cars and loud speakers in the area. They also put food out for him, and warned locals to keep an eye out. That he could help himself to their fridge, or be asleep in a bed. They also encouraged locals to fire up the BBQ, as Will particularly loved the smell of frying onions or bacon and kept repeating how much he loved his food. The local response was so enthusiastic, they had to turn people away. Indeed, it seemed there was a real public surge of love and concern for Will and wanting him found

After spending two nights in the bush, Will was found by a volunteer not far from where he went missing. Despite all he’d been through, he only had a few scratches and was pretty much fine and unscathed. Indeed, on the way to hospital, the ambulance detoured via McDonald’s, and after a check-up he was allowed to go home. It was an absolute miracle, especially after being missing for 47 hours barefoot in sub-zero temperatures without food or water.

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It was like trying to find  a needle in a haystack. Photo: https://www.film.vic.gov.au/choose-victoria/locations/mount-disappointment-state-forest

I was so struck by the efforts Police, emergency services, community, the media, everyone made  to put themselves into Will’s feet (he doesn’t like wearing shoes and was indeed found barefoot), that I needed to write about and acknowledge it myself in my own words and share it in my little space here at Beyond the Flow. I’ve never seen acceptance, understanding or empathy for someone on the Autism Spectrum on such a grand scale before. Indeed, if you could write a wish list of how you’d like people to respond, this would have to be it. Moreover, I feel that this experience has embraced this community in a way we haven’t seen before. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. I hopeit encourages people to respond to people living on the autism spectrum with greater understanding, acceptance and flexibility in the future.

As a person living with disability myself, I know what it’s like to be misunderstood and be “beyond the flow”. I get sick of having to explain myself over and over again, and so frustrated having to make so much effort just to do this basics, and there are times where every day involves conquering an Everest of some sort. I have friends with children who are non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum, and they have their good days and their bad, but I can tell you, they adore their children and step out and advocate for them so passionately. They endure often experience discrimination, judgement, pity and being cut off from family and friends because oil and water don’t mix. Yet, they also experience a love for their child which knows no bound.

So, while I’m grateful that things have come such a long way for people living with disabilities and their families, we need to maintain this momentum and take it further. The Wills of this world are counting on us and so am I.

Lastly, I hope I have got all the lingo right through this. There are so many ways of referring to people living on the Autism Spectrum. Some are quite fine with being called “Autistic”. Others prefer to maintain the distinction between what was known as “Asbergers” and “Autism”. Others say that we’re all somewhere on the spectrum. However, the point I wanted to make, is that it’s possible for all of us to find out more about how people on the spectrum experience the world and how to relate to them without pressing any triggers. That love and acceptance should be for everyone and we need to look at ways at making community more inclusive, even if people choose to go their own way. These are difficult conversations to have without tripping over the lingo. However, we still need to try, and that’s where I’m coming from.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena