Autism, Bullying and the Child

Emily Lovegrove:
Autism, Bullying and Me.
The Really Useful Stuff You Need to Know About Coping Brilliantly with Bullying.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2020

This is not a review — but it is a notice about a useful and accessible self-help book for those who feel different, written by my partner and published tomorrow.

It’s not always easy to stand out from the crowd, especially if you’re a teenager. There’s a lot of information out there on how to deal with bullying, but a lot of it is contradictory or seems like it won’t work…

But this guidebook is different! Helping you sort fact from fiction, the book looks at the different forms bullying can take and debunks commonly held myths such as ‘bullying makes you stronger’ and ‘ignore it and it will stop’.

You’ll learn techniques to clear your mind so that you can respond to bullying situations calmly and confidently and be positive about who you are.

Finally, it’s packed with self-empowering strategies for coping with being autistic in a neurotypical world, and practical tips so you can handle any bullying scenario.

Emily is a psychologist whose doctoral thesis was on appearance and bullying, and on strategies to manage bullying. Being only recently diagnosed as autistic means she writes from experience and with insight on how feeling — as well as looking — different can affect how others treat you; and as a professional she’s well positioned to advise on how to cope positively to that treatment.

She previously authored Help! I’m Being Bullied (Accent Press 2006) which sold out its print run. She tweets and blogs as The Bullying Doctor — a passive aggressive title foisted on her, I should add!

Published by Jessica Kingsley
ISBN 978 1 78775 213 9
eISBN 978 1 78775 214 6

Published at £12.99 in the UK, it’s available from all good outlets such as indie bookshops (eg Book-ish, Crickhowell at http://www.book-ish.co.uk) so do support them at this difficult time, especially if they take online orders.*


* If you order from Book-ish you could ask for a signed copy with a personal message from Emily

The Phoenix and the Fossil

archaeopteryx
Source: Florida Center for Instructional Technology http://fcit.usf.edu/

Phoenix-like, from stone
it rises, wings raised, renewed,
the stuff of legend

Paul Chambers
Bones of Contention: The Archaeopteryx Scandals
John Murray Publishers Ltd 2002

A few years ago I had a notion about the legend of the grail as it appeared in medieval Germany. The Bavarian poet Wolfram von Eschenbach described the grail (grâl or graal he called it) by the strange term lapsit exillis, by which he meant a stone rather than the more familiar dish or chalice. Wolfram has his own conceit about this object:

By the power of that stone the phoenix burns to ashes, but the ashes give him life again. Thus does the phoenix [moult] and change its plumage, which afterwards is bright and shining and as lovely as before.*

When reading this I had a sudden vision of the deceased phoenix on its stone as an archaeopteryx fossil, the first of which had been discovered in Bavaria in the middle of the nineteenth century. Checking the map I later discovered that Wolfram’s home town, now re-named Wolframs-Eschenbach in his honour, is not that far distant from the Altmühltal, a river valley where the limestone quarries that first revealed these winged and feathered creatures are situated. Was it possible that this medieval poet had seen a now vanished archaeopteryx fossil, that it too reminded him of the legend of the phoenix, and that he subsequently co-opted that legend for his version of the wondrous quest object?

I included this notion in a short story I wrote, and passed the hypothesis by the odd mildly intrigued expert, but it remains mere speculation, however much I’d like to believe it may be true. And there it stayed until this account of archaeopteryx (from the Greek for ‘ancient’ and ‘wing’) by palaeontologist Paul Chambers started me wondering about it again. Continue reading “The Phoenix and the Fossil”

“Rook, read from your book”

Bodleian crow
Crow, from an illuminated manuscript in the Bodleian Library

Mark Cocker Crow Country:
a Meditation on Birds, Landscape and Nature

Vintage 2016 (2007)

A long ellipse of shapes, ragged and playful, strung out across the valley for perhaps half a kilometre, rides the uplift from the north wind directly towards my location. The birds, rooks and jackdaws heading to their evening roost, don’t materialise gradually — a vague blur slowly taking shape — they tunnel into view as if suddenly breaking through a membrane. One moment they aren’t visible. Then they are, and I track their course to the great skirt of stubble flowing down below me …

A short paragraph from near the beginning of this ‘meditation’ includes much of what I loved about this book: the prose poetry in the language, the evocation of a moment in time and the willingness to share a worthy obsession. Mark Cocker describes himself as author, naturalist and environmental activist (in that order) but I liked the way he melded all those roles into a seamless whole in producing the eighteen chapters of this book. There’s some autobiography here, there’s also travel writing, science, historical perspective, literary allusions, potted biographies of contemporaries and predecessors who have laboured in this field. And yet he wears much of this learning and experience lightly, inviting the reader into the warm glow of campfire anecdotes mingling with facts and figures.

Continue reading ““Rook, read from your book””

Females with ASD

No. VI / Composition No.II 1920 Piet Mondrian 1872-1944 Purchased 1967 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00915 Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported) licence
No. VI / Composition No.II (1920) by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) Purchased 1967 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00915
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported) licence

Sarah Hendrickx
Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder:
understanding life experiences from early childhood to old age

Foreword by Judith Gould
Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2015

Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is.aspx

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was for long considered a condition solely characteristic of males, but thankfully it is now recognised that girls and women get it too. That not all professionals are up to speed on this is illustrated by the author’s own experience: only recently diagnosed herself (and this after several years studying the condition closely) she found to her distress a male clinician not only incredulous that a woman could have ASD but also questioning the reliability of the diagnosis. For females however there are many differences in their manifestation of the condition; because diagnosis of autism was traditionally based on male behaviour patterns, female presentation of those behaviours didn’t necessarily conform to male norms. In addition many females soon learn — usually better than males — how to play the game when it comes to social expectations, and this can mask their underlying condition.

But the crucial point to make is that women and girls are statistically just as likely to have the condition, and Hendrickx’s work aims to contribute to the pressing need for an “account of the female phenotype to better identify and help ASD females.” In her own case despite an IQ of over 150 and years of being a consultant on ASD (not to mention a parallel career as a stand-up) she still came late to a diagnosis; how much more pressing must it be for females who have felt they were different from what scientists call a neurotypical (NT) population but had never been in a position to establish why?

Continue reading “Females with ASD”

A mountain to climb

John Keay The Great Arc:
the dramatic tale of how India was mapped
and Everest was named

HarperCollins 2001 (2000)

At the edge of the Welsh town of Crickhowell in the Black Mountains of Wales lies the Georgian manor house of Gwernvale, now a hotel. It was built by Greenwich solicitor William Tristram Everest, and local lore claims that his eldest son George was born here: his baptismal certificate attests that he was born on the 4th July 1790, but there’s no supporting evidence as to where. As it was not till several months later that he was baptised at St Alphage church, Greenwich — on 27th January 1791 — the legend appears plausible until one considers the likelihood that the present building was only constructed between 1797 and 1803. Be that as it may, there is a neatness about George Everest’s possible connections with the Black Mountains and the mountain named after him in 1865, with the added irony that he never actually set eyes on the world’s highest summit.

Lieutenant, later Colonel, George Everest — the name should be pronounced Eve-rest, by the way, not as three-syllabic Ever-est — succeeded William Lambton as principal surveyor of the Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, which in time became the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. The Arc closely followed the meridian 78° east of Greenwich, spreading its triangulated tentacles east and west in its effort to accurately map the whole of British India, from Cape Comorin in the south to the Himalayan foothills in the north and beyond. The rate of attrition for the army of surveyors, their assistants and support was equivalent to the decimation of an army over its half-century of existence; malaria, fevers, animal attacks and sheer exhaustion exacted a heavy price for the inch-perfect survey.

The epic story of Lambton, Everest, their assistants and successors as told by John Keay is one of slow but steady success despite Continue reading “A mountain to climb”

Passion, poetry and … biology

Lynn Margulis The Symbiotic Planet:
A New Look at Evolution

Basic Books 1998

I’m a sucker for popular science books. As a minor member of one of C P Snow’s Two Cultures, I am respectful of but in no way conversant with the scientific mind (and even less so with technology), so popular science writings are my way of consuming regurgitated scientific principles without too much indigestion. (Too many mixed metaphors, methinks.)

Lynn Margulis is a celebrated microbiologist who has, by all accounts, done sterling work on the relationships between bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Her main contribution to science is her endosymbiotic theory, which postulates Continue reading “Passion, poetry and … biology”

To boldly conceive

robot

Mark Brake, Neil Hook FutureWorld
Boxtree/Science Museum 2008

FutureWorld is a popular account of the interaction between science fiction and pure science, published in association with the Science Museum in London and aimed at a general audience. Structured by division into four broad themes — space, time, machine and monster — the book’s main thesis is that bold imaginative concepts have to precede insights into real science, and that science fiction, of whatever period and whatever label, both stimulates scientific investigation and the developments of technologies while itself being stimulated in its turn by science and technology.

This being a Science Museum publication, it is primarily designed to communicate science to the public in an entertaining way without literally blinding them with science, and what better way to hook that public than with themes from popular culture. To that end there is no end of references to popular SF books, films, TV shows and games, with one hundred short entries broken up by wittily-captioned photos and illustrations.

The whole builds on the increasing realisation that Continue reading “To boldly conceive”

Winter fuel

garden

Jonathan Elphick, John Woodward,
RSPB Pocket Birds.
Dorling Kindersley 2003

As I write this there is a female Great Spotted Woodpecker on the bird feeder, hammering away at the fat balls. I don’t hear it early morning now as it taps the bark on the dying Scots pine outside – maybe there’s no live food available, or maybe I’m not waking early enough – but it’s got bolder and no longer flies away in fright when we appear at the window, as the occasional shy jay does. The woodpecker is a sight to swell the heart, with its striking pied plumage and the bold splash of red under its tail clearly visible as it feeds.

As it’s winter now, with the first appearances of sleet and snow, it’s vital to keep the feeders replenished with mixed seed and fat balls to provide fuel for wild birds. Continue reading “Winter fuel”