“Its a shame that the Manifesto launch was cut short, even at one hour it was perhaps a bit too short? like a few others I never got to give my little speech (and might have struggled to do it in one minute LOL), but for anyone who might be interested here is the script for my speech:
Hi I’m Graham Hanks, and I have Asperger Syndrome, Dyspraxia and ADHD.
I would like to talk today about high functioning autism, and the difficulties experienced by people like myself, who are autistic also have a very high IQ.
There is an assumption that because we can eloquently express ourselves and have a high level of intelligence, that we can’t possibly be disabled by Autism. I would like to Dispell that myth.
I was told last year that the worlds largest sheltered housing project for Autistic people is run by NASA! NASA need the detail oriented scientific and engineering skills of autistic people because we can spot mistakes that other engineers would miss.
This can be taken in two ways:
The obvious point is that modern civilisation needs autistic people to power the technological revolution, our skills are invaluable to modernisation.
So of course we need to enable Autistic people to function where their skills will work best, and we need to do this by accommodating their special needs.
But the other less recognised point, is that these genius engineers and computer programmers, NEED sheltered housing.
Despite their amazing intelligence, they cannot safely manage their everyday lives, so need to be assisted in a specialist setting.
They are like the archetypal Professor who can solve incredibly complicated quadratic equations, but can’t find his slippers or even remember to eat.
I myself am a bit like that, I am very intelligent, very good at expressing myself, I can do all kinds of complicated projects, and am even able to teach art very successfully.
But I can only manage to do that for maybe 4 hours a day, after which I simply lose the ability to think clearly, and become very exhausted.
I cannot manage a household budget, or everyday housework tasks, I won’t answer the phone, I forget to eat, I cannot drive a car, I am basically rubbish at everyday living.
At one point my social difficulties were so great that I actually became a hermit for ten years, completely shutting myself off from society because it was too difficult for me.
My own sister called me the mysterious brother who lived in the attic, and my mother was lucky to see me once a week despite living in the same house.
Yet people assume that because I am can make intelligent conversation then I cannot possibly be Autistic, or not enough to be disabled by it.
It took me two years of fighting to get a Community Care Assessment done, because they said ‘oh you are fine, you don’t need an assessment’.
This despite the law saying that a CCA should be done as soon as someone get diagnosed with Autism (I was diagnosed at 50 years old).
I was eventually assessed by an Autism social worker, and awarded a personal budget for my care needs!
Last year I lost my PIP, my score dropping from 17 points to 2 – despite my giving identical answers to identical questions.
The difference? I was coherent and intelligent at my so called ‘medical’, so the young nurse ignored all the medical evidence to say that I was just inexperienced.
At 54 years old I was old enough to be her father, even with my Autism I am still way more experienced than her.
But she made prejudiced assumptions based on my Articulate answers, despite not being a qualified Psychologist.
At the Tribunal I was ripped to pieces in a sustained attack that left me nearly in tears and gave me nightmares for weeks afterwards.
I was asked stupid and demeaning questions like “do you know what a pound coin is” – yes, “do you know what change is” – yes “then how can you say you can’t handle a budget?”
Then at the end the judge said: “I’m sorry that you are Autistic, but a lot of people would like to be autistic wouldn’t they – because of all the gifts it brings”!
As soon as he said that I knew that I was doomed before I even entered the court, because he was so dismissive about autism that he thinks we should be grateful for it!
Because any attempt to explain my difficulties was going to fall on deaf ears because they would never accept that Intelligence can come with disability.
I’m not telling you this story to get sympathy – there are plenty with stories even worse than this, I use my example simply because it is familiar to me.
To conclude, I think that it is important for us to fight against the prejudices that say Intelligent people can’t possibly be autistic or disabled.
Any assessment should be based on the difficulties and mental heath problems that come with Autism, not on how intelligent the subject is.
Until we can dispel these misconceptions we will never convince people to provide the help and support we need in order to give our best to society.
It is not just the humane thing to do, it makes commercial sense to help and accommodate those who can potentially provide so much to the prosperity and standing of our country.”
What do you think?
Comments and ideas all welcome, please…