Today I went to a free lecture at the University Sunshine Coast given by Rick Guidotti Director of Positive Exposure If you ever get the chance to go hear him speak do it he’s incredibly charismatic and interesting. His passion is changing the way people’s brains are programmed to associate any form of “disability” as bad/scary/wicked/evil and to view the “none-genetically-perfect” as people who are funny/happy/grumpy/loving/beautiful, basically to see them as humans not DIFFERENT.
However all the way through the lecture I had a little bit of the grumpies because yet again we the intended audience were being shown pictures of children with x,y,z disability. Rick (the lecturer) was gracious enough to admit that although he does work and collaborate with adults with disabilities he deliberately uses kids as his examples. He mainly uses kids because he really is passionate about helping improve self-esteem and give them a positive reference to view & show others. The other reason kids get used is because the general population is pre-programmed to emotionally respond to what I impolitely call “cute puppy syndrome”.
I first heard the term “cute puppy syndrome” off someone I worked with when I was helping out at a local none kill shelter for dogs and cats. I worked on the Sunday shift which is a not open to the public day but the animals still needed to be walked, played with, fed, cages cleaned and so on. I liked it because I didn’t have to deal with people apart from my fellow volunteers. One lady that I worked with was amazingly sociable and she had that type of personality she could have sold shares in property on the moon and people would have been lining up to buy it. So I was a little puzzled as to why she flatly refused to work on adoption days (days the shelter is open to the public). Took me a little while to work up the courage to ask her but when I did I was surprised at the answer.
CUTE PUPPY SYNDROME was her response and I went “ah what”. Basically being a passionate animal lover she hated the fact people only want to look at, play with and adopt puppies or kittens because they are sooooooooo cute. This leaves the older dogs and cats in shelters far far far longer then they should be. Worse is the older pets who are left at shelters because they need care as they now have stiff joints, bad eyes, have gone deaf or a just old but they are not sick enough for a vet to euthanise but because they are no longer a cute puppy or even an active dog they are discarded.
As an adult diagnosis of Autistic I’m seriously beginning to HATE the fact that 95% of resources are directed toward children on the Autism Spectrum. I’m also seriously getting pissed off that every lecture, news paper article, movie, book or talk focuses on children and the stress their families suffer with the message that more resources/funding is needed for the CHILDREN and associated families.
Don’t get me wrong the families of autistic children do it hard especially if the child is at the end of the spectrum of none verbal with behavioural issues.
CUTE PUPPIES EVENTUALLY GROW UP
What is going to happen in 5 to 15 years when the children that are currently the focus of all this funding for intense therapy suddenly become legally classified as ADULT? As an autistic child funding suddenly appears magically out of no-where to help with the cost of OT, PT, ST, Psychological family counselling, group therapy, Psychiatric services and other medical issues (autism loves to have co-morbid conditions).
The worlds happy 18th birthday present is that now you are legally an adult you are no longer eligible to access any funding and will now have to pay for your life long on going therapy and medical bills your self. If you are lucky private health insurance might take you on as a client with the dreaded pre-existing conditions and you might get some therapy or medical bills covered. Ironically to get government funding you will end up fighting to prove you are disabled, which is what your intensive intervention therapy was designed to stop happening.
So now you’re an adult you’ve had lots of intervention therapy growing up, with some disability educational assistance you got through school, university or trade school and are now ready to enter the work force. This is going to be ok I mean they’ve had somewhere between 5 and 15 years of intensive therapy to make sure they can cope in the real world. Yeah Nah! They’ve lived in a world where there were people to help them when things don’t go right at school, when they had to go to the doctor someone else did the talking and made the scary decisions, when they needed to do tests they were given a quiet room to do it, they were graciously forgiven for not wanting to do team/group activities, they were allowed to take time out if they get neurologically overloaded and so on.
Let me tell you – no boss on the planet is going to give you quiet space to work in, no you can’t have time out because you’re feeling overwhelmed, no you can’t be excused from the weekly team building exercise and no your now 75 year old mum can not speak for you at the HR disciplinary review happening because you had one to many melt-downs at work.
Getting a job when you are autistic is hard enough, keeping it is often harder and because you are now an adult there is no funding to help with anything, no specialised assistance, no intervention team and not a whole lot of people are going to care that you are autistic because you are now an adult not a cute little puppy.
PS – I did get permission off Toby and Nano to use their photo, it took 2 peaces of their favourite treat as bribery but they agreed. They are my families dogs both are rescuer-rehomers who are now aged 12 and 8 and have helped us cope through death, depression, serious illness, mental health crises and life in general.