Representation Reads: Tower of Dawn – Sarah J Maas (guest post)

(Today, we have an amazing surprise – a guest post from the lovely Rebecca. She might be joining us for some events soon. She’s lovely, so keep an eye out for her, and enjoy this wonderful article from her. – Lauryn)

The young adult genre is the best place for the majority of us to get the representation we crave. This isn’t Lauryn here today so today’s post will be more focused on the physical disabilities some of us face. Many of us I’m sure struggle with the inner turmoil that comes with being physically disabled in some way and it’s especially difficult when people have a lack of understanding of those difficulties.

Sarah J Maas is a brilliant novelist for many aspects of representation, but her latest novel ‘Tower of Dawn’ – the seventh novel in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series – represents disability in a profound way. Now, whilst this series is a truly brilliant and thrilling fantasy, with elements of intense action, romance, friendship etc (it is truly an excellent series that I would recommend) Tower of Dawn focuses on a character called Chaol who finds himself in a wheelchair. Whilst the story has many layers, his arc is where our representation really comes through. We see him struggling to come to terms with his disability, throwing tumblr_osocxg8IRp1u0il5ao1_1280himself into any means to “fix” himself – which has a detrimental attitude towards his disability and what that means. Everyone who struggles with a disability has moments where they want it all to go away, where they wish they were like everyone else. These are hard times and it is welcoming, for me, to see this attitude understood through words, especially in such a popular novel.

This book shows those pessimistic attitudes we all have to push through – like physio therapy not always working, or set backs in how well you think you are doing – and shows how they are not faults. These are all thoughts and feeling we must process and deal with, in the same way that the character of Chaol deals with them. Struggling past our own pride and will to be better is a battle of its own. It can be a burdensome task and some will cope with it better than others, but getting ourselves to a good frame of mind is of paramount importance. My favourite quote in the book is this:

“’Using the chair is not a punishment. It is not a prison,’ he said softly. ‘It never was. And I am as much of a man in that chair, or with that cane, as I am standing on my feet.’”

I have never felt prouder to see this in a text before. To have this message that although we may operate slightly differently we are no different from anyone else, we have capabilities and we are strong is so powerful and important. We do not need to be defined by our disabilities. It is such a difficult thing for anyone with a disability to come to terms with, regardless of the nature it manifests itself. Also, furthering this mindset to those without disabilities will hopefully help them understand to not treat us with pity 74b841544b219e934bb7c64f4eee6491.jpgbut instead look at us as no different from anyone else because we have the capability to succeed in every way. It is so important that Chaol comes to this conclusion and it is not related to any sort of cure he has magically found. It is merely that he has realised that his predicament is not as dire as it seems. Because of all else that is encompassed in the novel, the representation of disability is not often talked about, so I would love more people to realise and see this for what it is; brilliant representation.

If you want to read a truly amazing series with some outstanding representation, then I cannot praise this book enough!

Stay safe, friends. x

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Shows making strides: The Good Doctor

A lot of people have been asking why I haven’t covered this show yet when it’s such an obviously brilliant show for representation. Honestly, it’s because I didn’t have a clue how to translate that brilliance into words. However, I shall certainly try, because this show has become my new vice.

Based on the Korean drama of the same name, The Good Doctor is an American medical drama about a young surgical resident, Dr Shaun Murphy (played by the Freddie Highmore who – if you grew up at the same time as me – probably dominated the cinema you watched) who is seeking to prove himself at his new job as a paediatric surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. That’s a pretty intense situation for anyone, more so for Shaun, who has autism and savant syndrome. Think Sherlock meets Bones.

If you’re already rolling your eyes, give me a chance to convince you of how wonderful this show truly is. This show is not based on baiting fans with an undisclosed diagnosis (I’m sorry, Big Bang Theory. I love you, but consider this a subtweet). Within the first few minutes of episode one, Shaun’s diagnosis is confirmed. Shaun’s mentor, Dr Aaron Glassman, has to fight hard to get the rest of the medical team to allow Shaun onto the program, despite Glassman being the president of the hospital, and despite Shaun being highly over-qualified in terms of knowledge. Why? Because of the intrinsic bias within the team that leads them to believe that Shaun, as an autistic doctor, will be inferior.

That’s what I love about this show; they handle the genuinely difficult things that come with being autistic. When a study in 2016 by the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and only 32% are in some kind of paid work, it’s interesting to see how viewers are reacting. There’s been a huge outcry from fans at the blatant discrimination Shaun faces in being hired, but that’s important! It’s letting the public see exactly why autistic people are painfully underemployed, and why we need to fix that as a society because – as Shaun proves – an autistic doctor is just as (sometimes more) capable as a neurotypical doctor.

Now, this is when I have a brief geek out. The Good Doctor has the thing I like most in the world – contrasting shots of neurotypical and neuroatypical views of the world. In Episode 1, Burnt Food, Shaun finds himself in an airport travelling to San Jose. This is – any autistic person will tell you – a sensory nightmare. Cue shifts from views of the lobby from the perspectives of other travellers to the experience Shaun is having of the situation. Lens flares, heightened sound, the sharpness of lights all contribute to making this a representation so realistic I was tempted to look away. But I couldn’t. The production of it was just far too good.

Already, stories are circulating the internet of The Good Doctor raising awareness of autistic spectrum conditions in real life. The normalisation of Shaun’s tics and idiosyncrasies is heart-warming, as is his co-worker Clare’s dedication to changing the way she behaves in order to engage with Shaun. I honestly cannot praise The Good Doctor highly enough. I had to pause the show midway through episode 1 to go and have a walk because I was just too excited to see a show with representation this good.

If you watch one show this Autumn, make it this one.

Stay safe, friends. x

 

 

Portrayal Picture Show – Power Rangers (2017)

Hands up who watched Power Rangers when they were younger? I remember narrating the stories for other kids to act out in the playground, running around in P.E. bibs the colour of their chosen ranger. Pink was always an issue because we never had pink bibs on hand. I can’t actually remember how we ever resolved that issue. However, this article isn’t about my playground escapades as a child, it’s about this year’s Power Rangers reboot which is (in my humble opinion) really freaking awesome. Nominated for not one but a jaw-dropping six Teen Choice Awards (but winning none – which is utterly unacceptable to me), I am so thrilled this brilliant franchise has been rebooted.

When three high school students in Saturday detention find themselves at an old mine with two mysterious strangers, a set of unusual coins, and a seemingly insurmountable task, a group of teens from completely different walks of life must team up to take down the villain Rita Repulsa before she can find the precious Zeo crystal.

So, what makes this movie so special? Well, this is the first blockbuster mainstream superhero movie to feature both an LGBT+ character and an autistic character both in the main superhero cast. I’ll talk a little bit about that first character, but I’ll leave links to some more in-depth articles specifically about the LGBT+ side of things at the end of this article. I’ll focus more on the latter character because this blog centres a little more around neurodivergence.

The Latin American singer Becky G portrays the yellow ranger, Trini Kwan, a high school student who is a trying to fly below the radar at school since she’s moved around so often whilst navigating the often confusing terrain of questioning her sexuality. Her parents neither accept or acknowledge her sexual identity, and the ‘perfection’ of the rest of her family only increases her own feelings of isolation. As I mentioned, I’ll link at the end of this article some posts from LGBT+ blogs about how immensely important Trini is as a character as I think they can do the topic greater justice than myself. However, I will say that it was really important to me that not only was her sexuality mentioned rather than mentioned in a panel after the film’s release, for example, but her character was so well-rounded and developed. It never felt like the writers were trying to force representation in the form of Trini – she simply is a queer character, as well as a total badass.

Continuing the discussion on well-rounded characters who are great representation, let’s talk about Billy, the blue ranger. Billy Cranston, played by African American actor RJ Cyler (who you may know from the 2015 film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), is autistic. A target for bullying due to his tendency to do slightly eccentric things (such as blowing up his lunchbox, which landed him in detention in the first place), Billy has problems with communication and socialisation. Because of this, when he becomes one of a team with the other rangers, he finds he can connect with his team in a way he’s never been able to with others.

Billy has also lost his father, and sometimes talks to him out loud when he’s doing something, particularly something Billy would do with him before he died. He doesn’t really enjoy jokes or sarcasm since his understanding of them is somewhat impaired by his autism. His father was his best friend as he had no friendships with his peers, meaning that after his father died he retreated into himself and began to lose all confidence in his abilities to make friends. Billy, however, has an amazing ability to enter a state of ‘hyper-focus’, something a lot of autistic people can relate to, where – when he is given a moment of silence in which to concentrate – he can solve a problem that seems almost impossible to the other rangers. Think Sherlock Holmes’s mind palace. He’s the catalyst for the team coming together, he’s amazingly intelligent, and is the most excited about becoming a superhero. With an unfailing loyalty, a tendency to become hyperverbal when stressed or excited, and a stim of clapping his hands when happy, Billy is honestly one of the most relatable superheroes.

Every single character in this film has a well-developed backstory that means you don’t just care about them because they need to defeat the villain, but because they’re characters you’re rooting for. They’re not perfect by any means, and all have their own significant flaws. But that’s what makes them interesting, exciting, and refreshing. Oftentimes, superheroes are presented as either jaded and with the potential for either great evil or great good, or as infallibly perfect individuals with unattainable levels of morality. Tackling issues like the sharing of explicit photos, the struggles of being a young carer, and what happens when pranks go too far, Power Rangers just got a new lease of life, and it’s about time we had a superhero team for the kids out there who don’t get representation; those questioning their sexuality, who are neuroatypical, who are carers for their parents. Hopefully, this sets a new precedent, and forces Hollywood to be a bit more mindful of their often shocking lack of representation. Power Rangers, it’s representin’ time. Shift into turbo, and give us a sequel for this superhero movie for the kids who never felt like superheroes. Thank you for letting us be the heroes for once, and showing everyone that not only are we just as good, we bring skills to the table that the run-of-the-mill archetypes just don’t have.

Stay safe, friends, and check out some links below to articles from some great LGBT+ bloggers about the importance of Trini Kwan’s role (I particularly love this first one from GirlyEngine):

https://www.girlyengine.com/single-post/2017/03/29/Go-Go-LGBTQ-Ranger

http://thelgbtagenda.com/2017/03/20/power-ranger-is-first-openly-gay-superhero-in-movie-history/

https://www.autostraddle.com/power-rangers-gives-young-queer-latinas-hope-for-a-superheroic-future-373954/

 

Tips for making friends at uni when you have a disability – and how to be a good friend to a disabled person

Before I begin this post, I want to say that I’m not writing this from some lofty mountain top, my phone pinging with texts and notifications, the social butterfly among a sea of caterpillars. I’m writing this because university is difficult for everyone, the social aspect in particular, and more so when you have a disability. Obviously, this isn’t something everyone who is disabled will experience; heck, some of us are the biggest socialites out there! But sometimes, things like autism spectrum conditions or selective mutism can make making friends more difficult. So, here’s a list of 3 things that might make that easier. And, after that, 3 tips for people who aren’t disabled for being good friends to people they meet at university who are disabled. This isn’t exclusive to university, of course, and applies all through life. But a lot of these are slightly more centred around the university lifestyle. However, they can be tweaked and applied to most situations in life. Now, after all that, on with the tips and tricks!

Tips for making friends when you have a disability:

1.) Find people with common interests

Finding people who like the same things as you is a really great way of making friends. One great way to do this is by wearing merchandise of the thing you like. For me, wearing my Sherlock sweatshirt not only lets people know I like Sherlock, but it’s also an item of clothing that makes me feel comfortable, and that gives me that little bit more confidence to put myself out there. A lot of universities have events for people who like certain TV shows. The University of Sheffield, during the first couple of months of this year, has (among many other fan-centred events) a Hogwarts disco, and a Rick and Morty quiz night. Where better to show off your enthusiasm for your favourite show, book, or movie than at an event dedicated to it?

2.) See what the university has to offer in terms of clubs and groups

A lot of universities, cities, and schools have social groups or clubs for people who have something in common. Sometimes this is that they all study medicine, or sometimes its that they’re all wheelchair users. Perhaps your establishment has an ASD social group. Sheffield Hallam has its own wheelchair basketball team. In an environment like this, you will be playing sports either with other wheelchair users, or with able-bodied people who want to be part of an inclusive team. It’s worth looking into if you want to find a hobby and make friends at the same time

3.) Figure out what your strengths are and use them

Something that often comes with having something like autism is that you might have a special talent for something like music, maths, or art. For a lot of people, maths (for example) is something they struggle with. One way to make friends might be to set up a study group or to offer to help someone out with an aspect of study they struggle with that you thrive at. Offering to explain a scientific principle, help with analysis of a book, or suggest a new way of approaching a project they might not have thought of is a great way to show people you’re helpful and kind. Just remember that friendship is a two-way street, and that if you are helping them and getting no kind of reciprocal kindness, they’re probably not a very good friend.

 

Tips for being a good friend to your disabled peers:

1.) Think about accessibility

The events you choose to do can often be the difference between whether your friend can participate or not. A lot of the time, disabled people can do all the same things able people can do; they might just do it differently. For example, iceSheffield is accessible to wheelchair users, and people who are in chairs can go on the ice in their wheelchair and a friend can get free entry. On some days, ice bumper cars can be hired too which are fun to whizz around in for everyone, wheelchair user or not! Remember that most things can be enjoyed by everyone; it just might take a bit of advanced planning. Before you book that trip to climb Everest, maybe just consider doing something to include everyone.

2.) Listen to your friend

Before you jump to any conclusions about what your new friend can and can’t do, ask them. They’ve lived as a disabled person their whole life and know exactly what they can and can’t do, and how they can and can’t do it. However, also remember to listen to them once they are doing something. For someone who has, for instance, cerebral palsy, a walking tour may have been okay in the past but on a day where mobility has been particularly difficult they might need to take a break. If your friend is letting you know they need something, make sure you listen.

3.) Be accepting

University is full of lots of different people. People of all races, religious beliefs, sexualities, gender identities, and every other difference come together in one place. Included in these differences, university is full of people of different abilities and neurology. In the past, you may have never met someone with Down’s syndrome, autism, or in a wheelchair. However, they might be your best friend! They might never have met someone with a pet tortoise, or who is a twin. We all have something that makes us different, so don’t judge someone before you get to know them. Be open-minded, say hi to them, and you might just meet someone you stay friends with all through your life.

 

So, I hope all students who are going back to school are having a good time. Make sure you say hi to us at the Showroom Indie Biz Fair on the 3/10/17. Stay safe, friends. x

 

Representation Reads: Mockingbird – Kathryn Erskine

I haven’t done a Representation Reads in a little while, but I have just been sent a large collection of books with neurodivergent main characters. This one was one that had been on my radar for years, but I’d never looked into what it was about. I’d seen it in libraries a lot, but recently it was really difficult to find it. Luckily, I managed get a copy so I could share my thoughts with you all about this National Book Award winning novel.

Right off the bat, I want to put it out there that this book has some challenging and possibly triggering themes, and thus I’d recommend this book for ages 10 and over. As an 18 year old, this was a perfectly okay read for me, but because of our political climate, you might be wary to recommend this to your child as a parent. However, I think it’s important children see these events represented in a medium like literature.

So, what was that warning even about? The plot of the book centres around a school shooting that has killed protagonist Caitlin’s older brother, Devon. Her father, as a single parent, is struggling to cope with the loss and Caitlin too is suffering. Caitlin has Asperger’s, and the book is almost reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in how the narrative shows the mind of an autistic person. However, as many readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Curious Incident’, and I far preferred this narrative voice. Erskine’s daughter is autistic, and thus Caitlin’s voice feels well-informed and with the kind of insight that comes from life experience.

“A movie is better than real life because in the movies only the bad guys die. Or you can pick the good movies where the bad guys die and only those. If you get tricked and a good person dies in the movie then you can rewrite it in your head so the good person lives and the part about death is superfluous.”
― Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird

Caitlin is fascinated by her dictionary, and is an amazing artist. However, she only colours in black and white because this is how she thinks, and it makes things less “fuzzy” to have them plainly laid out. However, her life has become very fuzzy overnight since the day of Devon’s murder, or (as it’s referred to in the novel) The Day Our Life Fell Apart. Caitlin is 11, and her counsellor is hellbent on helping her to make friends. But when recess makes her feel sick and nobody seems to “Get It”, how can she make friends? To try and find Closure, Caitlin decides to finish building the chest Devon was building for his Eagle Scout project, but her dad isn’t sure he’s ready to work through the pain of loss yet.

“I think about what Devon would say. You have to Work At It Dad. You have to try even if it’s hard and you think you can never do it and you just want to scream and hide and shake your hands over and over and over.”
― Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird

If you’re wondering why I’ve been randomly capitalising words, it’s because Caitlin does so in the novel. Phrases like Get It and words like Closure, things that are important to her. This little linguistic quirk is a really nice way of showing how Caitlin views the world. There are a lot of her quirks that I can identify with, and probably some other people on the spetcrum out there can identify with too. She likes to hide under tables and sofa cushions, sucks her sleeves when nervous, hates eye contact, and names her gummy worms before she eats them. These are all tics often associated with ASD…okay, well maybe not that last one. But anyway…

I’ve got a whole box of books with autistic characters to review on here, so prepare for a reboot of Representation Reads. Next up, The State of Grace. Get ready for that, because it’s a good one!

Stay safe, friends. x

 

5 YA books with autistic main characters

YA books are arguably one of the most diverse genres of literature right now. It’s not as difficult as it once was to find representation in books. However, that still doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It sometimes takes an immense amount of searching to find those books, but I thought I’d make it easier on those looking for books with autistic characters by compiling a list of 5 books for Young Adults with autistic characters that are either the protagonist or one of the main characters.

1.) The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas

A full review on this is coming soon, but here’s a taster: Grace is a teenage girl trying to navigate the world of family problems, boys, and fitting in at school. Those things are difficult for anyone, but they’re even more difficult for Grace, because she’s dealing with all of those things as a teen with Aspergers.

“Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.”

This story is funny, honest, and one of the best examples of representation I’ve ever read. Since both Lucas and her daughter are fellow spectrum-sisters, she’s well-equipped to take on the challenge of writing one of the most beautiful novels of recent years.

2.) Mockingbird –  Kathryn Erskine

What happens when you’re 10, your counsellor is determined for you to make friends, and your older brother/mentor/best friend has just been killed? Well, you look up the definition of closure in the dictionary and try to find it. Caitlin has Aspergers, a reading age far above her age, and a fascination with dictionary definition. Dealing with topics like school shootings, grief, and neurodivergence, this might just be the book we need for our time. Prepare for To Kill a Mockingbird allusions galore in this National Book Award winner.

3.) Mindblind – Jennifer Roy

It’s not a new concept that autistic people can have amazing talents. In Roy’s book, Nathaniel is no exception. One of the features I like best in this book is that flashbacks are marked by a file name for the memory, showing readers both the time jump and provides a glimpse into how Nathaniel’s mind works. This book presents the variety of views people typically have about autism, both true and untrue; that it’s just a quirk of character, that autistic people need to toughen up, that it can be cured, and all the positive reactions too. If you’re looking for  book with really wonderful dialogue and relationships between characters, look no further than Mindblind.

4.) Speed of Dark – Elizabeth Moon

One of the most popular genres in the YA market at the moment is sci-fi, particularly post-apocalyptic sci-fi. One of the hot button questions in the autism community for a long time is whether, if a cure for autism became available, it would be ethical to use it. In this novel, that’s exactly the question that the characters are exploring. Lou lives in a world where all divergence has been eliminated. However, Lou is autistic. His special talent is identifying patterns, and while the company he worked for has made money off of his talent, they want him to be “normal”. Raising questions about what normalcy is and whether it’s ethical to make all of us the same, this book gave me what I always wanted when I was a teen obsessed with the Hunger Games; a post-apocalyptic future where someone like me was the hero.

5.) Lady Midnight/Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare

I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll talk about it again. Tiberius Blackthorn, from Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series, was the first book I remember reading about an autistic character that took my breath away. Forgive me, this is one of my special interests. I’ll keep this as short and non-rambly as possible. From the author of The Mortal Instruments – which has brought us the City of Bones movie and the Netflix phenomenon Shadowhunters -, this new series about the shadowhunters brings a new era of characters. Ty, who is 15, is fascinated by Sherlock Holmes and bees, doesn’t want to be a fighter – he’d rather be a scholar. He has favourite words, flaps his hands, and has a pair of headphones permanently around his neck. If you loved The Mortal Instruments, you’ll adore this.

Why it’s important to have autistic actors playing autistic characters

Dustin Hoffman, A.J. Saudin, David Neilson; what do these three actors have in common, you may ask. Well, they’re all neurotypical actors who have played characters on the autistic spectrum. The one you might first recognise is Dustin Hoffman, who portrayed Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 film Rain Man, about an autistic savant. However, this character was based off of real life savant Kim Peek who many believe was misdiagnosed with autism and actually had something called FG syndrome, a rare genetic syndrome. For many people in the 80s, this film would be their first glimpse into what autism was, and has led to many misconceptions in the media. For example, please don’t throw toothpicks on the floor and ask your autistic friend to count them!

Undoubtedly, autism hasn’t always been portrayed accurately in the media. Many people who have no real life experience with the condition may imagine a very stereotyped version of what it is; a mathematical genius with no friends and an eidetic memory. While one or all of these may be true of an individual, that doesn’t mean this stereotype should be the only versions we see in the media for this condition.

In an interview for the new Netflix show Atypical, the call for an autistic actor to play Sam, the main character who is on the spectrum, was addressed in this comment:

thumbnail_IMG_2333The problem with this is not that neurotypical individuals can’t play neuroatypical characters, it’s that there are loads of brilliant autistic actors who could play these characters with the real life experience that could bring these characters to life.

atypical-netflix-premiere-date-video-keir-gilchrist.jpg

Hollywood, historically, has had trouble appropriately casting  a variety of different people; different races, transgender people, and neuroatypical people just to mention a few. With groundbreaking people like actress Laverne Cox playing a trans* character in the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black and there being a significant push for Disney to appropriately cast their lead actor for their live version of Aladdin, huge strides are being made into casting characters more responsibly. But the media still has a long way to go in being responsible sources of representation. People shouldn’t have to choose between poor representation and none at all. When approximately 1 in 100 of us are autistic, why are we still continuing the rhetoric that there wasn’t a single autistic actor to play the role of an autistic person?

Courtney Love, Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hannah, Paddy Considine – all brilliant, well-known Hollywood actors who’re on the autistic spectrum. So why are we still pretending autism and acting talent are mutually exclusive?

Stay safe, friends. x

Ear Defenders – what they are and cheap models

Ear defenders or ear muffs are PPE (personal protective equipment) designed to protect the wearer from extreme noises. They’re usually used by people like builders, mechanics, and other people who do work where they are exposed to repetitive loud noises. However, for some people like those with autistic spectrum conditions, noise sensitivity, William’s Syndrome, PTSD, or other conditions that might cause acute hyperacusis (noise sensitivity) ear defenders can be immensely useful for helping to dull the overwhelming noise of everyday life.

Some people use noise cancelling headphones instead of ear defenders. I plan on doing a post soon about cheap models of NC headphones, but for now I’ll just mention so-called passive defenders (e.g. ones without microphones that cancel noise).

So, here are 5 pairs of ear defenders under £10 (for comparison, most are £20 or over):

1.) Warrior 25 dB Ear Defenders (0114M) – £1.85 from Nationwide Workwear

Ear Defenders. Large padded foam-filled ear cups with height adjustment.
– Lightweight & Robust
– Cost Effective Protection
– Durable
– Adjustable Size
– ABS Cups, Polypropylene Head Band & PVC Covered Open Cell Foam Pads

2.) The new Classic GP® – £7.35 from Safety Supply Company

The new Classic GP® ear defenders have been designed with comfort in mind for those requiring hearing protection for extended periods.
– Twin point mounted cups for even pressure distribution
– Self adjusting cups for a perfect fit & a good seal against noise
– Close fitting wire headband for Comfort Adjustability
– Low risk of entanglement on machinery
– Soft foam cushions for all day comfort
– Durable Acylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) cups
– Conforms to EN 352-1
– SNR = 27
– H=35 M=24 L=15

3.) Ear Defenders by Earbudeze – £9.50 (exc. VAT) from Sensory Direct

These ear defender can also be folded to fit easily in your bag or pocket and they come with a padded headband.
Approximate Product Dimensions: (H) 10 cm s (W) 12 cm (folded); (H) 17 cm x (W) 13 cm (opened).
– Lightweight, compact and easy to use
– Ear Defenders conform to EN352-1 and are CE marked
– Fully adjustable
– Suitable for ages from 12 months to Adult
Available in Blue, Red and Lime Green

4.) 3M Peltor Optime Protective Ear Muffs – £5.00 from SafetyShop

  • Soft, wide cushions for comfortable wear
  • Slimline cups for a more compact design
  • Sealing rings filled with fluid and foam

Their slim design makes these ear muffs easy to store and carry, which means they’re more convenient than some larger models. With their bright yellow design, they’re easy to keep track of and they increase the wearer’s visibility.

5.) Stanley Premium Ear Defenders 26dB SNR – £8.99 from ScrewFix

  • Soft, foam-filled ear defenders with fully adjustable, padded headband providing all-day comfort.
  • 26dB Standard Noise Reduction
  • ABS Plastic Construction
  • Adjustable, Padded Headband
  • Soft Foam Ear Cushion

 

Stay safe, friends. x

 

5 accessible places to go with your children this summer holiday in England

(This article is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. I aim only to raise awareness for and praise the efforts made by them.)

1.) The PlayPark in Exeter

Does your child love the playground? Is it sometimes difficult for them to play there though? I know when I was little, I liked the park the very best when it was quiet and no one else was there. However, the PlayPark in Exeter is the ultimate accessible playground in the UK, and the 6th most accessible in the world! For physically disabled children, and children with ADHD and Autism, this playground is a must-visit. Just a few of the features are the AbilityWhirl (a wheelchair accessible roundabout), a wheelchair-friendly seesaw, and a swing set with Octavia (a device that provides pleasing noises to encourage children to keep swinging and being active).

You can download a PDF to make a social story here: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/37df48_ecb13b09e37f4cfa8b1f5fd7a713bbe4.pdf

Check out the website for more details on the playground here: https://www.theplaypark.co.uk/play-equipment

2.) Warrington Play & Sensory Centre

Warrington, in Cheshire, is home to the Warrington Play and Sensory Centre – an indoor soft play built to be accessible for children and adults with limited mobility, sensory problems, and includes a DVD player and chill out zones for easily overwhelmed guests. They have calm and active zones, a sensory room with a hoist, and a café (with a menu you can download beforehand on their website to prepare guests who need to know things like that in advance). As this venue is for both children and adults with disabilities, there is more room than there would ordinarily be in this kind of venue, so claustrophobia is less of an issue.

Their website is here: http://www.warringtonsensorycentre.org/

And their menu can be downloaded here: http://www.warringtonsensorycentre.org/media/1106/cafe-menu-new.pdf

3.) The Victoria & Albert Museum – London

One of the single most accessible places in London is this museum. If your child has autism, you can breathe a sigh of relief at how wonderfully inclusive they are here. The Museum has created family packs in the form of backpacks that can be borrowed for free from the Information Desk. They include maps, toys to touch, activity suggestions and ear defenders. PECS symbols and a photo booklet are included to help with communication, and have been created in collaboration with autistic children and their families. They have a quiet room, which you can ask the staff to point you toward in case of meltdowns.

People with autism can take a virtual tour before they go and download the pre-visit guide here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/making-sense-pre-visit_8ee53a5dd7448164b9c6a42b6ae7eee5.pdf

Their website page on visiting with an autistic child is here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/learning/sen/visiting-autistic-child/

4.) Ice Skating – Sheffield

iceSheffield has mobility ice sessions where wheelchairs are allowed on the ice, and stewards can be asked to push wheelchairs if contacted in advance. They also have bumper car sessions, which are very fun! A hoist is available in the downstairs changing room, and ramps and lifts mean the building is accessible. I have emailed asking for comments on when the next available session is, and I will let you know via Twitter (so follow @SafeCinemas and keep checking back!)

The website is here: https://siv.org.uk/ice_sheffield/icesheffield-disabled-access

5.) LEGOLAND Windsor

For any parent who has brought a child to LEGOLAND knows how much of an attack it can be on the senses. Huge primary coloured blocks, thousands of over-excited children, and you with your child in the eye of the hurricane. However, LEGOLAND have gone above and beyond to make their park accessible. Ride Access Passes are reserved for guests who do not understand the concept of queuing; have difficulties with everyday social interaction; have a limited capacity to follow instruction or to understand others’ emotional feelings or expressions, and may therefore become agitated or distressed if they had to queue for a ride for an extended period of time.

Wheelchair users may remain within their chair on the following rides and attractions:
LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display
Aero Nomad
Heartlake Express
Olivia’s House
Hill Train
Loki’s Labyrinth
X-Box® 360 Gaming Zone

You can read their full accessibility guide here:

https://endpoint914114.azureedge.net/globalassets/windsor-2016/pdf-files/disability-guide/uvid-49c6b8/llw-may-2017-accessibility-guide.pdf

I hope this has given you some ideas about what you could do with your child. All of these are accessible to any able-bodied or neurotypical siblings, so it’s fun for everyone! If you have any other ideas, leave them in comments or tweet them at us!

Stay safe, friends. x

 

Shows making strides: Parenthood

Usually, when I review media, it’s books. They’re my thing, if you will; my comfort zone. But when I began watching Parenthood, I knew I had to let you all know about it. So, I present a new series(? perhaps that’s optimistic for me) called Shows Making Strides, highlighting TV shows that have represented neurodivergent characters. This week: Parenthood.

The show centres around the Buckmans, a midwestern family all dealing with their lives: estranged relatives, raising children, pressures of the job, and learning to be a good parent and spouse. Max Braverman (played by Max Burkholder) is the youngest child of Adam and Kristina Braverman, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s in the second episode of season 1. The show follows many different storylines, Max’s being just one of them, but it’s his I wanted to focus on in this post.

Parenthood shows not just how Max’s Asperger’s affects him, but the rest of his family and the people around him too. His sister Haddie feels jealous of the attention  he is given by their parents, and gets frustrated when her parents have to miss important events in her life like sports games because Max needs to be looked after. Kristina and Adam note the effect so much stress has on their sex life as well as how Max’s strict schedule can sometimes be limiting. Regardless of all of this, however, what is also shown is that their family love Max not despite his quirks but because of them. His family would go to the ends of the earth for him. Though Max’s grandfather is very conservative and starts the season believing some strict parenting can “cure” Max, he soon comes to agree that Max is perfect as he is.

“Some people say that having Asperger’s can sometimes be a bad thing. But I’m glad I have it, because I think it’s my greatest strength.”  – Max Braverman, Parenthood.

Many of the challenges Max faces will be familiar to autistic children and their parents. In episode 3, he smashes a fish-tank in a meltdown and his mainstream school tell his parents they can’t cope with his needs. He finds making friends extremely difficult, though his therapist does begin to bring him out of his shell in this aspect. Subjects like bullying, meltdowns, phobias are all covered, as well as the abyss of finding out your child is neuroatypical and not knowing how best to help them.

Despite being a very realistic portrayal, that takes great pains not to sugar-coat or romanticise Asperger’s, there are moments that will definitely remind any viewer on the spectrum just how powerful it can be to embrace their neuroatypicality. When Max runs for school council in later seasons, he gives a speech about how his Asperger’s is sometimes really good, because he can remember things easily and is very intelligent.

Max Burkholder (who plays Max Braverman on Parenthood) has been very vocal about how important he finds it to play the character not the condition on set of Parenthood. In an interview with Disability Scoop (which I’ll link below) Burkholder said that “I just think what Max might be feeling. He has special interests, like he loves bugs, anything about bugs. So whenever there’s something about bugs I try to seem really interested. But he doesn’t like to be touched so I make myself think that if this person touches me, it’s going to hurt a lot.” He also revealed that every few episodes, he meets with a doctor who has experience with Asperger’s to discuss how his character would react in the scripted situations, and what he might be thinking, as well as the kinds of things he might say if Burkholder needs to ad-lib. He talks about how he is more aware of sensory things now, knowing that his character would find them far more intense than he himself.

(Disability Scoop interview here: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2010/11/09/parenthood/11084/)

If anyone is in need of a new TV show to obsess over during the summer holidays, look no further than Parenthood. If you have any shows/films/books you think Safe Cinemas ought to talk about, tweet us at @SafeCinemas and let me know!

Stay safe, friends. x