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    World Autism Awareness day - books & films

    Awareness is important. I've written quite a few blog posts about this. The first Autism awareness day post was back in 2012. You can find all the autism-related posts by typing autism into the search box on the right hand side or by clicking the autism tag. The more people who know about the autistic spectrum, the easier my son's life will be!

    So here are some books & films that have helped me to understand more - and they are not academic tomes. There are very good academic books (I would recommend Tony Attwood) but this is a list of novels/films/TV shows that I think do a good job of explaining/representing the autistic spectrum.

    The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon is a novel that has been made into a play. I haven't seen the play, but the book made so much sense to me when I read it & resonated with me more than academic books about Autism. If you haven't read it, it's well worth a go. There are parts of the book that are ludicrously funny, and others that make a parental heart ache. Imagine collecting your child from a police cell and not being able to give them a hug. I can't tell you how thankful I am that Matt is an enthusiastic hugger!

    All Cats have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman. I bought this book to take into primary school to help Matt's class mates understand why he sometimes acted wierd. It's charming & lovely - great for explaining difficult concepts to younger children, but also a simple introduction for adults too.

    A different witch, Debora Geary. In fact not just this book, buy all her books! The main character in this book is an adult woman with Aspergers who is brave, funny & loving. I interviewed the author in this post, and I love to re-read her books often.

    Snowcake. I love this film. It stars Alan Rickman & Sigourney Weaver - need I say more? I know that the plot has some pretty big errors & there are a lot of missed opportunities, but the two actors make up for all of it. Alan Rickman being supremely grumpy & Sigourney transforms herself into a high funtioning autistic woman. There are some blurry OCD/autism overlaps that bother some people, but I love it. The main character was advised by Ros Blackburn. If you get the chance to hear her speak, do it! We (DH & I) heard her talking at a NAS 2 day thing and she was wonderful. Articulate, blunt, without a smidge of self pity, brutally honest about her disabilities, and inspiring. There's an interview with Ros about the process of working with Sigourney Weaver here

    Rainman - watch the film by all means, but please don't take it as a guide to autism! That film has probably done more harm than good for autism awareness, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film - just a very very narrow interpretation on autism that is regarded as fact because Dustin Hoffman does his usual wonderful acting job.

    The Big Bang Theory. I'm sure most of you already know about it, but just in case.... This is an American sitcom based around an initially unlikely friendship group of intelligent & socially awkward men, and the cute wannabe actress who moved in across the hall. The cast developed over time & now has 7 core characters;4 men, 3 women. The central character is Sheldon. The writers have (wisely) refused to label him, which gives them more scope for plotlines & development. However, Sheldon has a lot of very clear autistic-type traits. The show is funny & touching, and does a lovely job of showing the incredible irritation of living with Sheldon as well as the way that he becomes the group's centre. It's not really a show about autism, but it made geeky cool, and has an underlying acceptance of differences that has made it such a loved & succesful show.



    World Autism Awareness day - part 1. 

    As most of you will know, my oldest son is on the autistic spectrum & has a complex mix of diagnoses. These include PDD, PDA, ADHD, ODD, SPD.....lots of letters!

    What these letters mean is that he is an intelligent teenage boy who's mind is wired differently to most people's. He runs on a different operating system. Mac in a Windows world. Or for those of us who remember the 80s, Betamax in a VHS world.

    At the moment he's frustrated at everything. Societal, educational, parental expectations, the injustice of being expected to take exams that he doesn't care about, the rage at being told he has to revise in HIS FREE TIME, without the ability to rationalise the need for a few month's extra work in order to get GCSE exams out of the way. The pressure, the injustice, the unreasonable nature of it all is leading to meltdowns & despair. It's not easy being Matthew right now. Then again, is it ever easy being 15? Never mind dealing with puberty & exams, even without the added autistic spectrum challenges. 

    A few months ago he wrote about his school. It's a residential special school for autistic spectrum kids who don't have learning difficulties. Long term readers will know about the struggles we had to get him into the school. It looks like we have won the latest battle to keep him there, but I have a suspicion that we might have to fight again next year. I thought you might like to read an extract of what he wrote;


    "Firstly, one of the best things about the school are the teachers, who are well trained, and are able to make most of their subjects very interesting and engaging, they also break up the work really well- they don't just give you a sheet and say "do it" - they actually break up, say into doing 10/15 of one thing, then 10/15 of another, as to keep it fresh and engaging. One teacher in particular does this really well and can make the most boring parts of her lessons still engaging, while encouraging creativity and deviation from normality.
    Speaking of normality, that is something that the school does not have, in fact, most of the students dislike normality and everyone is completely different, yet we all fit in.
    After all, what sort of jigsaw puzzle has pieces that are the same?
    Continuing on the subject of students, they have so much variety, no two people are even close to being alike, we have our straight A students, we have those that attend few classes, but have massive potential, we have those that are friends with everyone, and those that have a small social circle of a few, but extremely dependable friends, we have our random people, and we have those that will stick to the rules like glue, we have  our sportsmen/women, we have our gamers, we have our artists and we have our engineers. but most importantly of all, we have no stereotypes, or people that conform to them."
    Doesn't that sound like the sort of education & acceptance that we should strive to offer all our children? And also - no, he hasn't watched The Breakfast Club
    I love the idea of a teacher encouraging 'deviation from normality'. I know which teacher he means, and she encourages the students to be original rather than derivative, but I prefer the way Matt put it.
    I'm going to do a couple more posts about awareness & how to learn more about AS. I'll tell you about books & films that I found helpful, and link to some videos that are only a few minutes long but do wonders in exploding some myths about people with AS. Let me know if there's anything that has helped you that should be included xx





    New pattern - Chevron wonders

    I have a hat pattern in Knit Now Issue 44, and it's a goodie :)

    Photo © Practical Publishing

    It's knit using JC Rennie Supersoft lambswool 4ply, which comes in a huge range of brilliant colours. It's a yarn that blooms & softens a lot when it's washed, so it's much softer worn than it feels in the ball. My favourite bit is how the crown shaping worked out:

    Photo © Practical Publishing

    The shaping is emphasised by the striping, and it's a really striking feature on an easy to wear slouchy beanie.

    This design changed quite a lot from the original submission - I was away from home when the call was sent out, so I raised my nieces crayons:

    As you can see, originally the stripes were going to be equal depth and there was going to be a corrugated rib. But when the colours came through, I found that they sort of killed each other's vibrancy when they were used equally. They are so lovely individually but somehow lessened each other. I swatched various combinations, emailed Kate Heppell, the editor at Knit Now with some different ideas. She said to just go ahead with my favourite - which turned into the hat above.

    Using the colours in different proportions makes them pop out & sing against each other. I decided to keep it simple, use single colour ribbing & highlight the texture with garter stripes. I kept the rolled brim as it brings in the contrast colour & softens the line of the brim. Originally the crown was one colour with a pompom. But the decreases formed such a striking star shape that I decided to celebrate it with narrow stripes to show it off! I really like this hat, and plan to make on efor me - I have some grey & yellow Navia wool that would look fabulous. I might try knitting the body with the stripes but not chevrons to see if you still get the star effect on the top anyway. Or maybe I'll see how the original idea works out!


    We've had lurgies descend here, which is why I've been so sluggish on the blogging front. I'll try to do better! Speak soon xx


    On and off the needles

    I managed to get quite a bit of knitting in over the holidays. I'm trying to finish some WIPs (Works in progress) and the first two I finished went to my Mum as late christmas presents: 

    The hat was requested to replace the one I'd knit for her in Woolyknits Aran a few years ago. It's a Sideways grande cloche, knit in Malabrigo Silky merino, in Blackberry held double. It took less than 2 skeins. I hadn't used the yarn before - but I will again, it was lovely.

    The socks are in lovely hand dyed sock from Fivemoons yarns that I bought at Wonderwool Wales 2014. I started the first sock straight away with an improvised simple slipped stitch pattern. I was so in love with the yarn that I ignored the fact that the sock was really a bit too small for me. I got onto the foot on the second sock before I accepted that the stitches I somehow lost on the cuff of the sock were really fairly critical and I had to rip back, almost to the cuff. I lost interest & they languished in the UFO (unfinished object) pile until I picked them up again this year. They were a really quick knit & I'll make them again. Next time I'll start with 66 stitches instead of 60. Luckily, they fit Mum perfectly.

    While I was on a finishing roll, I repaired a pair of favourite socks. There was a massive hole in the toe, so I cut the toe off, picked up the live stitches & reknit the toe with a different yarn. I didn't have any of the original, so decided that visible mending was the way to go. (Pattern is Pointelle by Cookie A. Sock perfection!)

    I also darn my handmade socks in contrasting yarns. I like the idea that something I've made has been worn so much it needs mending & I don't want to hide that. It's also easier than finding the original yarns! Have you been busy finishing things? And do you repair what you've made, or throw it away?

    There's more that I've made this year, including my zipped cardigan. I'll tell you more soon xx


    Finished objects and photos 

    There was so much I made last year that I didn't show on the blog. This was partly down to having a microscopic attention span, but also because I didn't get modelled pictures of a lot of things. A lot of those things have been worn to death, but a) it's hard to take pictures of yourself and b) I hate having my photo taken and tend to be hypercritcal of how I look. But not everything needs to have a modelled picture, does it? I'd rather post about something I made and show a picture of it folded up than not post at all. So that's what I'll try to do this year :)

    Having said that, remember my Icelandic lopi sweater? I wear it a lot, and love it. We went up to Scotland to visit friends on boxing day last year, before heading to Yorkshire for New Year. Neither place is known for their warm winter weather. And my coat didn't get packed. Luckily I had the sweater with me, so I got myself swathed in knitwear & ventured out with everyone else for a walk at the nearby country park & beach.

    The wind was chilly but I was ok - but felt the cold around my neck. Got that sorted for the next day though.

    Now an oversized hoody under my lopi sweater is not the most slimming outfit I've ever worn,  but since Scotland had gifted us the most spectacular - if cold - day I was not going to be stuck inside. I was toasty warm, and in no danger of being missed! 

    Lots of us are a bit scared of choosing colours for jumpers like this, or fairisle designs. But if an image appeals to you, why not try picking colours out of it to put together? I've got loads of inspiration from the beach that day.

    All of these photos have the blue of the sky & sea and the earthy tones around. But there's also the hit of white, and the zing of yellow or acid green to liven the whole. I'm sure these will make it into my knitting some day. You might even get modelled photos - but don't count on it!!