Why my autistic children don't need a "cure" | Vikie Shanks | TEDxLeamingtonSpaJun 10, 2021
Okay, like Ryan said, I have seven kids, six are
autistic, the seventh is severely dyslexic, and the youngest two also have brain pause in addition to autism. Thanks Ryan. I
needyou to humor me for a moment. Could you ask yourself to do it? Please just conjure up a picture in your mind of what that description looks like to you, just think, yes, I have a picture, help, I'm sorry, does it look like that? Yes, you meet a lot of people when I talk about my family or describe my
children. A large number of people see
childrenwho are completely socially inept and completely out of control who do not understand the real world.
They think my life must be almost impossible. They actually feel sorry for me and my children. I've even had people tell me that life. It can't be worth living, so here's a photo of my real kids. Now, when you heard that description, that's really what you imagined or it was more like The Adams Family and if it was more like The Adams Family, you're totally forgiven, it's a funny thing that words like autism, dyslexia, ADHD, OCD, bipolar, evoke quite negative images in our minds and it was because of those negative images that a lady named Judy Singer, who was a sociologist, in the late 1990s coined the phrase neuro or the word neurod Divergent and she hoped that in one fell swoop could change people's perception of the disorders and disabilities of people with atypical brains and more towards the talents and abilities that they have and my own children run, they founded and run their own business. successful and award-winning business, they are a girl band called Relatively Blue and they have also won so many sporting and academic medals and trophies that the cabinet I had to keep to house them all is full of tension, so singer Judy hoped she could change people's perceptions, but obviously it wasn't going to happen overnight.
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why my autistic children don t need a cure vikie shanks tedxleamingtonspa...
Changing one word wasn't going to change everyone's deeply held ideas about what these words mean, but what has happened is that neurod divergence has given people with artificial brains an umbrella term. which they can use to describe themselves if they feel more comfortable with that. Am I saying we should remove the labels? No, I'm not, but a label or a diagnosis should be a reference point, it should be a starting point, it should be a point from which we can say that this person is
autistic, so they may have difficulty in these particular areas so we can help you with that and none of these things should be a disease, none of these conditions should be seen as a disease and in fact if it were If it weren't for John Nash, star of the movie One Mind wonderful, who experienced extreme paranoid schizophrenia, we would not have many of the mathematical systems that our modern computer industry and military use even to this day.
It is a well-known fact that there are a disproportionate number of entrepreneurs who are also dyslexic and studies have shown that the reason for this is that because their brains do not function the same in certain areas, the brain develops in other areas. and they become extremely creative and my own daughter, Casey, is severely dyslexic, but that hasn't stopped her in her chosen field of fashion design. In fact, you could say that she actually let him make my dress, which I hope you like. Casey is extremely creative but she also has formidable spatial abilities, she can imagine an item of clothing in her mind and then she can turn that image into the reality of the item and I have to say that I am extremely grateful to Richard Branson for being so open about it. his dyslexia because he is He gave me an icon that I can hold up in front of Casey and say Casey, look what Richard Branson has done, imagine what you can do and now he says to me mom, if Richard Branson can do it, I can do it as if I formed a circle. me, but Richard Branson is incredibly creative, there is no denying that Richard Branson has brought us some of the most creative and different things we have ever known, he brought us Tubular Bells, now he brings us space tourism, he also brought us the Sex Pistols, whatever.
Your feelings about the Sex Pistols don't really matter because the reality is that they were extremely different for their time, but it's also a fact that they ended up defining an entire generation, so Richard got it right. Silicon Valley is full of people on the autism spectrum. Computers seem to be one area where their brains work extremely well in that type of environment, but it's not the only area where their brains work extremely well; In fact, there is an architectural firm near here that actively seeks out people on the autism spectrum. to work for them, they have recognized that his focus and ability to see patterns is extremely useful in their particular industry and it is now widely believed that both Mozart and Einstein were on the autism spectrum and that would certainly explain why they were both so focused. and those radical thinkers and we
needradical thinkers we desperately need radical thinkers we need people who are not only capable of radical and creative thinking we need people who do not let themselves be held back by social conventions people who are not afraid to express their ideas people who are not afraid of reaction of public opinion and, therefore, to a large extent neurod divergence drives innovation and ber Belin.
I don't know if it's Dr. Belin, but Bel Meredith belbin did a lot of research on teams and not just effective teams. teams and discovered in his research that an effective team is made up of numerous different components, but the one person without whom no team could be as effective was the one he called a plant and this person he called a plant because he planted one in every team he worked with. worked now in the plant was someone who was a radical thinker, very creative and what he discovered was that every team needed this person to be as effective as possible, so how do we nurture these people, how do we nurture our population? neurodivergent who so often feel so alienated in our world that they don't quite fit into our neurotypical way of doing things who find the way we live a little strange and it all a little too much for them I think we need to look at workplaces we need to make minor adjustments that allow them to feel more comfortable we need to look at our educational system we need to start teaching the person not the condition not to deal with the behavior but to help the person underneath and the skills that they have and there is a lot we could do to make these Few people feel comfortable and don't feel like they don't fit in, they don't deserve to feel that way, they have immense qualities and attributes, so we need a better understanding.
We need to value these people along with everyone else. Each person should feel valued for having something to contribute to society, and therefore we should enable them, not disable them. We need to make them feel that they have something valuable to offer. and I'm saying that neurotypical people are not capable of being creative no, of course I'm not, that would be ridiculous, but what I'm saying is that neurod Divergent people because of their differences are often overlooked or marginalized and They should be given opportunities because the perception is that they will struggle in all areas just because of some areas where they may have challenges, which is why my daughter Nikita, who I love, my dear Nikita, has autism. quite severe and when I was about nine years old we had a psychologist. visiting the house, who was actually working with Osborne, who was struggling with some of her difficulties with autism and while she was there, Nikita went into crisis, now this was a normal thing, it happened a lot and the psychologist told me that she never I had ever witnessed such extreme behavior in a child on the autism spectrum and that really scared me, but you see, Nikita, not only would she go into a meltdown, she would completely shut down, you wouldn't be able to make your way to her, no. could express his feelings.
She couldn't verbalize her needs, she couldn't tell you what she needed and her compulsions absolutely paralyzed her and I have to be, I have to be brutally honest, well, I'm so ashamed, I'm so ashamed now to admit that I actually wrote. Nikita, I didn't think I would ever live anything resembling a normal life and the professionals had told me that one day I would need full-time residential care and I think it's terrible to feel like you wrote your owning your own child, but because of her difficulties, I applied to the local authority and managed to get a statement for her and Nikita started at a wonderful special school near here in Warick and they were fantastic with her even though she didn't seem like it. to anyone or talk to anyone for months and months and months when she started there, they were absolutely brilliant at encouraging Nikita to participate in all kinds of different extracurricular activities, excuse me, and taking her to all kinds of events and taking her. at special Olympic events all over the country, sometimes in big stadiums, and she was at one of those events one day and I went to pick her up and everyone, the coach, the teachers, were jumping like two-year-olds and told me that Nikita had cattle. four gold medals that day now I was very happy because here was a girl who was struggling and failing in every way and maybe we had found something that she was really good at, something that we could focus on and raise her and give her something positive , but on the way home he started crying so I asked him what was wrong and I really wasn't expecting an answer.
Nikita normally couldn't tell you what was wrong, she couldn't explain her feelings, but on this particular occasion she could and what she told me was heartbreaking, she said I hate being disabled and I hate going to a special school and for me that was heartbreaking because There was nothing I could do to solve those problems, so I thought for a minute and I said, Nikita, you know there are some things that I'm good at that you're not very good at and you know there are some things that that you're really good at and that I'm really not good at.
I told him if there are things I'm good at and you're not and things you're good at and I'm not, that means I'm disabled too. She looked at me with her mocking look and said, Well, you're not. disabled I said 'no, I'm not, she said well, maybe I'm not then and that was a hugely decisive point in Nikita's life because I started to see an imperceptible change in her, I started to see her see herself as a person with abilities rather than someone disabled and then year 11 came and we were looking at what she would do next.
I had my own very definite ideas about what Nikita was going to do in year 12, she would stay at school, do sixth form and have a year to develop confidence and life skills. I didn't think Nikita had very different ideas and I certainly didn't think about her determination because Nikita had decided that she would go to a conventional university 20 miles away to do performing arts after I followed in the footsteps of three of her older sisters and there was no way make her change, so in the end I had no choice but to give in and accept the day I was supposed to start.
I woke up to the sound of Nikita vomiting violently in the bathroom. the anxiety had completely taken over I put her in the car we drove to the university we stopped I said okay let's go in she said no I changed my mind I'm not going so she was about to give up on her dream so No I was having that, so I cajoled and begged her and finally tricked her into going to college and she stayed all day. I didn't get the phone call and when I picked her up she came out of it and she looked pretty. pretty happy and I told her how it went she said okay I told her what did you do she said well we had to do an icebreaker we had to tell people something about ourselves and tell people what we thought was our greatest strength now before Before Nikita started college, her biggest concern was whether or not to tell people about her autism because she knew that potentially the people who knew that could shape her opinion of her for the next three years and she didn't want that, but she said that when her time came turn, she decided at that moment to tell everyone and told them not only that she was autistic, but she also told them that she saw her autism as her greatest strength and in that moment Nikita took full ownership of who she is and I know how much courage it took.
And how far has she come from the time I was told she would need full-time residential care? And I love, I adore all my children, but I respect them very much because each and every one of them has done the same thing, they have taken full ownership of who they are, they will happily tell people about their particular divergence, they have no problem with that and if they upset someone or say something inappropriate, they'll just tell people: I'm so sorry I didn't do that. I want to bother you, but I'm autistic and social skills are not my strong suit, so please, we have more than enough evidence that neurod Divergent people have a lot to offer society, isn't it time we started recognizing them for your talents and abilitiesand not only see their flaws, isn't it time we take care of them, bring out the best in them and help them?
Really, isn't it time we changed our perceptions and attitudes towards mental health at absolutely every level? Thanks thanks. you
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