Exploring life through the autistic spectrum

Earth and Moon from Mars Reconnaissance Orbite...

Earth and Moon from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter taken by HiRISE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Either you subscribe to the view that we are all spirit and are temporarily engaged in playing an elaborate game called Life or you don’t.

I’m not attempting to make converts here – just discussing this Life the way I view it.

I’m reaching the end of my professional career now, but have been working in education long enough, and had enough encounters with children and young people to have formed some interesting ideas.

So the way I see it is this:  Before you or I were born, we existed as consciousness/spirit which made a conscious choice to head for Planet Earth and spend a few decades in a skin-suit, exploring and expanding our experience in a way that only physical life allows.

Some of us chose to completely forget our greater, spirit selves and to become so utterly immersed in The Game that we remain unaware that there is anything of us beyond the skin.

Others started off that way, but through spiritual, ritual or religious practice over the years, have rediscovered that greater consciousness and have linked back to their spirit selves.  People who are able to do this – mystics, gurus, saints, shamans and the Hay House brigade amongst others – are often revered and followed by those seeking enlightenment.

A third group, and these are the ones who fascinate me in particular, have chosen a third path.  In LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE I called them the Version 2.0 kids, because they appear to be playing this Life Game in an enhanced and updated form.  Many in this – very loose – grouping display, from a human perspective, features that have been labelled as autistic spectrum ‘disorder’ or one of the range of ‘disorders’ and ‘syndromes’ which roughly translate as ‘not like the rest of us’.

The ‘skin-suit only’ brigade work tirelessly to cure or alter the Version 2.0 lot and force them to conform to the skin-suit-enclosed way of perceiving the world.

I’d argue that many of these very specialised humans have arrived on the planet with a far greater awareness of their spiritual origins, and are far less strongly tied to their human existence than those around them.  That’s not to say they are gurus and saints, just that they are exploring the Life experience in very different ways.  They have by-passed the years of meditation practice or other paths to opening up to their greater selves by refusing to become so besotted with the Earthbound experience; they’ve retained a sense of perspective, if you like.

Consciousness Awakening on Vimeo by Ralph Buckley

This would explain why so many so-called ‘disordered’ people have skills and gifts the rest of us don’t.  I once taught a whole class of ‘special needs’ children who were able to communicate telepathically with each other – and eventually with me – although (or maybe because) they had not developed speech and language skills.

Interestingly, a sizeable proportion of these children start to develop spoken language in typical fashion and then stop at around 18 months.  Although devastating for their families, this seems to me to be because they find themselves losing the pre-verbal language they had been using – the one that depends on intuition, telepathic skills and subtle sensory signals the rest of us have largely forgotten.  This language dwells in pictures, thought forms and ideas, and provides a clarity and subtlety no human spoken language can achieve.

English: A little autistic girl.

Our Version 2.0 brethren are not prepared to relinquish their spirit selves as completely as the rest of us have.  They have chosen to explore the Life experience in a new and – to my mind – exciting way, although their path, like everyone else’s, is far from easy or straightforward.

They wear their skin-suits loosely.  They do not need to seek enlightenment because they have never moved fully out of the light.  They are here to test – and perhaps to show us – another way of playing  The Game and one of our challenges is to allow them to be as they are.

In my opinion, this lady has got it right:

 

 

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Thirteen and on crack

One of several versions of the painting "...

‘So here’s the deal,’ I told the kid.  ‘I’m going to take a huge risk on you.  I’m not going to tell social services or your school at this point.  I’m going to gamble that, as you’ve chosen to tell me, you want help to come off and stay clean.  I’ll do everything in my power to get you the help you need, to support you and to stand by you, but you’ve got to promise me, right here and now, that you’ll go along with everything I suggest, no matter how hard it is and no matter how tempted you are to use again.’

‘Okay,’ he said.

Nobody had written the book on how to react – far less what to do – when a 13 year old kid you’ve known since he was knee-high, a kid you’ve watched growing up, a kid you thought you knew inside out, tells you calmly that he’s been using crack for a while now.

That’s quite lucky – that no one had written the book, I mean.  If they had, I’d probably have gone by the book and I’d probably have lost him in the process.  As it was, I had no choice but to go with my heart.

No point blaming.  No point getting angry or whining that I was disappointed in him.  I knew I had to start from where we were.

Oh it was not easy.  It was easily the most not-easy thing I’d ever done.  I’d given my word, so I couldn’t call on support from friends or family.  Even the guy on the helpline (I needed information – fast – loads of it) did that sucking breath in through his teeth thing more usually associated with garage mechanics.
“Thirteen?? How long’s he been using?”
“He doesn’t know. He’s not been keeping a record.  A while.”
“And it’s definitely crack?”
“Yes.”
“There’s not a hope. I mean I’m really sorry but we have to be realistic here. There’s no way you’re going to get him to come off. The highs are so intense…”

I stayed calm.  I didn’t scream or swear.  I’d had quite a bit of practice at staying calm over the last few days, after all.  I gently reminded him of the purpose of his helpline.  I told him I didn’t have time or space for negativity.  I told him I needed him to behave as if there WAS hope – masses of it.  I told him to give me every shred of information and every contact number and address he possibly could and I told him that this boy was going to make it.

And he did.

Cover of "Junk"

This was the most desperate battle I’d fought in my entire life, but having decided on how it was going to pan out, help started to arrive exactly when and where it was needed.  I found him a counsellor.  I somehow got him to break away from his parasitic dealer.  I spent hours listening to teenage angst on the phone every night.  I bought him a copy of Melvin Burgess’ brilliant book Junk and above all, I cared.

A year or so later, when all the dust had settled and life was on a far more even keel, I asked him whether he’d be happy for me to write the story as a discussion workbook for the 10 and 11 year olds I was then teaching.  They were about to start secondary school where – I knew – the temptations would be all too similar to those he had faced.  He seemed to quite like the idea.  We changed names and a few biographical details but everything else was as authentic as I could get it.

For several years, the story of ‘Josh and Stuff’ was shared, analysed, discussed and sometimes wept over by successive year 6 classes.  At the end, the kids wrote messages to ‘Josh’ and I always passed them on.

I always thought drugs were just something everyone did.  Your story made me stop and think very hard.

I’m not going to do drugs because of your story.

Hope you’re OK now.  Thanks for sharing what happened.

I wish I could have been a true friend to you.  You needed one.

Last week I finished working through the book with another, slightly older, group of kids.  I’d honestly forgotten just how powerful the message was.  This page reduced almost the whole group to silence for a long time:

Josh decided to tell the teacher about his habit.  

He was shocked that she seemed so upset.  He didn’t  realise people cared that much about him.

She told him all the stuff he already knew, but some new things, too.

She told him that when he was on a ‘high’, his heart really started racing.  It went so fast that at any point he could have a heart attack.  If he was using in his bedroom, his Dad could walk in and find him dead.  If he was using outside, someone would find the body, call the police and they would knock on his parents’ door.

 She reminded him about his baby brother.  If Josh died now, he probably wouldn’t remember him – just have a photo of the big brother who died because he was a drug addict.

 She asked him to think how he missed his Mum; then to think how his family would miss him.

 She told him that, if he was caught, he’d be put on the child protection register.  Social workers would come round to check up on him, or maybe take him into care.  She told him about juvenile courts and about custodial sentences.

 She asked if a 20-minute high was worth all that.

 Then she said she’d help him come off, if that was what he wanted.

 

Take a bit of time to look back at Josh’s story.

 What if he’d known all the things this teacher has told him when Andy first offered him crack – would it have made a difference?

 

It was the quietest lad in the group who spoke.  His eyes were blazing.
‘Yes, of course it would,’ he said.  ‘That’s the sort of thing the teacher should have told the class.  Not just the slang names and how drugs are used and what the effects are.  If he’d known all this he’d never have done it.’

I’ve thought about that boy’s comments.  It all comes down to this:  young people would be far less likely to engage in risky behaviour if they realised how loved they are.

If  ‘Josh and Stuff’  has helped another group of kids to realise that, it’s done it’s job again.

 

Josh and StuffCopies of ‘Josh and Stuff’  – a discussion book for 9-13 year olds  – can be bought from Lulu.com here.  It is also available in PDF format as ‘Paul and Stuff’ – the same story, but with discussion prompts geared towards classroom use.

 There are other books there which deal with issues such as cyber bullying, under-age drinking, shoplifting and relationships, all of which have been tried and tested in the classroom.

 

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Synchronise your wishes

More of the cottage saga…  I’m afraid my mind dwells on little else at the moment.

Living on purpose and creating my own reality isn’t quite coming naturally yet, but life is definitely moving in that direction.  I’m getting better at it.

English heritage flag

English heritage flag (Photo credit: Meandering Mammal)

I’m not sure how other countries protect their treasured historical buildings, but here in the UK, they are Listed.  The soon-to-be-my cottage has a grade 2 listing.  That means it’s not quite in the Stonehenge  or Glastonbury Abbey league, but being at least 320 years old means that English Heritage and their minions are understandably protective of it.  they want to be sure I’m not going to defile it with UPVC windows and plastic guttering.

That’s all well and good.  I’m not, of course, but they don’t know that.  On the other hand I would quite like to make a few subtle changes, especially to the back of the cottage which was badly mucked about in the 60s and is now leaking like a sieve.

Sadly, the listing covers the botched 20th century work as well as the beautiful 17th century part.  That means I need to submit detailed plans, technical specifications, before and after elevations and all manner of hard stuff I can’t manage alone.

I asked the surveyor.  He said he’s love to help and quoted me an eye-watering amount of money – a sum I couldn’t possibly afford.

Where once there would have been panic and dismay, there was a glimmer of optimism.  Sure, the panic bobbed around the edges of my mind for a while, but then I remembered that I’m creating this.

I called my brother, on the other side of the world.  He called his daughter’s partner.  That young man called his friend.

Within 24 hours, I’d been given the phone number of an architect and assured that this man would sort it all for me.

* Knight In Shimmering Armour *

What else should I expect, when buying the cottage I first saw five years ago in a vision of a unicorn?  Here, clearly was my knight in shining armour.  He calmed and reassured me, quoted a fee that was a fraction of the surveyor’s and patiently answered all my questions.  He’s going to handle the whole planning application process.

Tomorrow I’m meeting him to finalise the plans.  The synchronicities are back in place.

As it says in Conversations With God,

The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation.

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The many-headed monster at the end of the level

Bad dream

Somewhere recently – can’t remember where, exactly – I read something to the effect that if your deepest dream comes true, that can turn into your greatest nightmare, because suddenly there’s no hiding place.

How very true that is.

There’s nothing quite as scary as getting exactly what you asked for!

Why is that?  Maybe because there’s no one and nothing to resent or blame, no excuses, no ‘if onlys’ to hide behind.  There is just this exciting but terrifying knowledge that NOTHING is holding you back, and you’re free to fulfil your dreams.

That’s about where I was for the past week or so. Having got past the euphoria of realising that my dream of owning an ancient English cottage with a garden in a beautiful town was coming true,  I descended deep in the mire of conveyancers and planning authorities and environmental searches.

That’s not to say it won’t all turn out fine in the end.  It will.  I know that.  It’s just that right at that moment, everything felt stressful and difficult and frightening and there were nasty little snags and problems sticking up all over the place.

The knee-jerk reaction was to hunt around for someone to blame, but I knew I could do better than that.

The next (slightly more mature?) step was to ask why all these problems were being dropped in my path.

Once I asked the right question, the answer appeared instantly.  In fact, I’d written it myself in my book LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE.  I remembered the analogy I’d used of life being like a role-player video game, set up quite intentionally by our higher – or god – self in order to gain experience (EXP as it’s known to gamers).  Here’s the extract I was drawn to:

Be on the lookout for times when the odds seem truly stacked against you.

I’m reminded of a computer game my sons used to play some years ago.  They would move through each level, ducking and diving and successfully zapping all the little problems that came their way.  Suddenly, they’d turn a corner and some huge, many-headed monster would be blocking the path in front of them, breathing fire and attacking on all fronts.  None of their weapons or manoeuvres seemed to have any effect on this creature.  Laser rays bounced off it; firebombs fizzled and died.  It seemed quite invincible.  It always amazed me that they kept going, doggedly using the same – apparently useless – arsenal of weapons and refusing to give up.  Their energy levels were fading and all seemed lost until, quite suddenly, they won through.  The creature was finally weakened and vanished in a great explosion and they moved on to the next level.

Rejuvenate

In the Virtual Game, the ‘end-of-level monster’ is often many-headed.  Friends you’ve always relied on seem unaccountably inaccessible; aspects of life that have served you well suddenly turn and challenge you; finances that have seemed stable and predictable rear up and attack.  You find yourself floundering out of your depth and with no apparent support.  Just as you begin throwing up your hands in horror and wondering what life is going to hurl at you next, stop and remember what you’ve read here.  Recognise this for what it is.  You/God have brought yourself to a huge end-of-level crisis to test whether you have the skills and resolve to get through it.  You do.  You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already gained all the necessary tools and EXP to defeat the monster.  All you have to do is to keep on working through each problem – slicing off each of the creature’s heads – in the certain knowledge that if you keep at it, you will win through to the next level.

So here I stand, buoyed up by the advice I wrote then – so that I could rediscover it now – and ready to deal with each new problem as it arises.

Sooner or later, the many heads will all be gone and the final few fears will have receded.  Yes, it’s frightening to get exactly what you’d dreamed of, but it’s also profoundly invigorating.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

Available in paperback and Kindle editions

If you could do with a bit of help with the Game called Life we are all playing, take a look through LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE by Jan Stone, if you haven’t already.  It’s available from Amazon throughout the world or to order from your local bookshop.

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Pavlov’s Danny

English: A St. Louis-style pizza in its delive...

Regular readers of this blog may already be familiar with Danny, a ten year old boy I tutor in maths.  You may recall how, by the  judicious use of a few mini pizzas, Danny was finally able to work with decimals without hyperventilating at the very mention of them.

This week it was time to do some revision and to move him further in his studies.

By now, I reasoned (correctly, as it turned out) Danny should be able to work with printed pictures of pizza.  He had reached a stage where the pictures alone had him salivating as effectively as Mr Pavlov’s little bell did for his canine subjects.

We had images of  stacks of ten pizza delivery boxes to represent tens, whole pizza images to represent units and tenths and hundredths cut from a spare one of these.  As long as there was something to remind him of the pizza experience, Danny was able to pick up or identify 31.34 pizzas.  Even 20.25, 1.72 and 3.06 were well within his grasp.

From here we moved to an image of three boys eating pizza in front of the TV.  I had written down how much pizza each had consumed and asked Danny to rank them in order of  who had eaten the most.  He poured over the numbers with the most intense concentration.

“Tim dot the least,” he announced, “‘Tos he only dot 1.23 pizzas.  Then it’s Ed, ‘tos he had 3.6 and – oh I wish I was Sam! He’s dot 23.6 pizzas!”

We tried several similar questions.  He didn’t make a single mistake.  For Danny, motivation is everything.  Numbers don’t motivate him.  In fact they often terrify him.  Pizzas, however, are benign and desirable.  It’s important, in Danny’s mind, to know who has the most.  He comes from a large family.  To him, this is a survival skill.

Half way down the sheet, he noticed that the questions changed.  No comforting tales of pizza-snacking friends – just a request to order a set of 5 decimal numbers from smallest to largest.  The kind of question he’ll be asked to do battle with in the SATs tests in a few short weeks.

He glanced at me in panic.

“What’s these?” he asked.

“They’re still decimals, Danny,” I reassured him.  “Just think of them like pizzas.  Every time you see decimals, just think pizza, OK?”

“Right,” he said, relaxing instantly.

To my amazement and delight, he continued to order the numbers correctly.  I showered him with praise as he sorted out this group:    14.8             18.4             41.8             4.18             81.4.

“You know we’re doing these sums at sdool at the moment,”  he said thoughtfully, as he munched on the chocolate biscuit I’d given him as a reward.  “And I’m no dood at it.”

“Do you think you might do better tomorrow if you think of them as pizzas?” I wondered.

“Yes, I’m sure I tould do it then,” he smiled.

When he left, I sat down to prepare next week’s lesson.  It would be yet another attempt to encourage him to learn his multiplication bonds.  ‘If only,’ I mused, ‘I could find a way of motivating him to do that.’

Well, it’s far from perfect, but maybe this will help…Danny's maths sheet

 

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