Posted in Reviews

Disney’s Encanto review

As I am writing this, I am not ashamed to admit that I am now on my second watch, you know… just in case I missed something the first time or so I can sing along to some of the songs.

🎶🎤 We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no! 🎤🎶 I have a feeling that this will be on my 2022 recap on Spotify based on how many times I’ve played it, even before seeing the film.

I had seen a few articles online about the parallels between Encanto’s Mirabel and living with autism in a neurotypical family and usually I don’t need an excuse to watch a kids film but though this would be the perfect opportunity to get it done and see if I pick up on some of the same themes or to see if it resonates with me but, before I start I want to state that I am super excited to see that Disney are continuing to become more diverse. Plus, they have finally introduced a main character who wears glasses so I’m all in for this movie. A friend of mine explained to me why they decided to have a lead wearing glasses and it’s really lovely, a 9-year-old girl wrote to Disney and basically called them out for having no characters that look like her. I’ve managed to find a tweet about it from the director/writer, Jared Bush. https://twitter.com/thejaredbush/status/1488875738463834116 it also includes a video from the girl. Disney really are stepping away from their poor history with acceptance of any kind… If you haven’t seen the Sparkshort short films on Disney+, then you must check them out, specifically Float and Loop.

Float to me, perfectly depicts the struggle of acceptance when you have a neurodiverse child and Loop helps understand what that child may go through… I highly recommend you give them both a go, especially since they’re only about 10 minutes long, I’ve wasted more time watching adverts or thirst traps on TikTok🤣

As soon as we, the audience find out that Mirabel has no gift, the other characters seem to refer to it a lot… some in subtle ways and some not so subtle. There is a definite similarity there between everyone pointing out she is different, and the way people behave about William being autistic. The label of being autistic seems to come before people know William’s name… ‘the autistic boy’ ‘my friend’s kid is autistic’ The label seems to come before he does. Its almost as if William can’t be William without someone mentioning his autism, just like Mirabel can’t be part of the family Madrigal without someone pointing out that she isn’t like them.

The scene under the bed with Antonio was beautifully done, portraying the innocence of a child trying to understand his cousins’ difficulties, he wishes she were like the rest of them but is also scared that he is like her.

The flashback scene 😥I’m broken😭When she went to the door and didn’t het her power, The moment she realised she wasn’t like the rest of them, that she wasn’t ‘normal’, is this what neurodiverse children feel like? Do they know they are different? Does it hurt them? Do we in turn hurt them in the way we treat them?

After Antonio gets his power, Abuela talks about how proud they are of him, and they take a family photo… only Mirabel isn’t in it, and no one realises. She is as much a part of their family as any of them, but they just don’t see it and it hurts. Its hurts from my own experience from times William is left out of things because he isn’t like everyone else. Mirabel sings ‘I’m not fine’ and she’s right. None of it is fine. She and children like William should feel happy, not just fine in places or with people they belong with.

Luisa, she is amazing! I absolutely adore her, another superb first for Disney in introducing such a physically strong female character, their marketing team however felt that she wouldn’t prove popular and chose not to produce many of her figures and merchandise… this was a mistake as her figures sold out fully leading for a big rush to produce more. Rookie mistake Disney, but you’re still making baby steps. Have faith in our kids loving good characters not just ones that society tell us are beautiful 🙄
She sings about the pressure she is under to be strong in every way as she is the big sister and has responsibilities, this resonates as a parent or sibling to a neurodiverse child. We must be strong in order to advocate for our kids, be strong for them and fight but just like Luisa sings; we hurt inside, we feel the pain and anxiety. We are nit made of steel despite our exterior or the persona we use to deal with professionals. Just like the house, the cracks start to show and then suddenly, we aren’t strong anymore which is exactly what happens with Luisa. Another sibling comparison is Isabela however it is one of resentment for the impact Mirabel has had on her would be ‘perfect’ life.

My heart broke when Abuela was yelling at Mirabel, telling her everything was her fault especially when she was the one who puts so much pressure on her family. To blame a 15-year-old child, who already knows she is different is ridiculous and downright mean! Despite this Mirabel still risks her own safety to try and save their powers, powers that she doesn’t have. She loves them despite the way they treat her, for her its unconditional. The flashback scene in which Abuela admits the mistakes she has made and stops blaming Mirabel is nice and a good way to end a kid’s film, but in real life, it doesn’t change the way they have treated her since they found out she was different. The similarity of this and the way the older generation behave around neurodiversity is strong, the lack of understanding… the ‘isn’t it a shame’ comments I have encountered.

The ending has a typical feel-good Disney feeling which I personally haven’t bought into since I was very young, when I realised that the original fairytales were much darker than the sunny versions we were shown.

The morale of the film is that all of them are special, with or without powers and that was the true miracle all along, Mirabel didn’t get a gift because life doesn’t work that way, everyone isn’t the same but that doesn’t mean that those who are different are inferior in any way. I guess it’s the morale of life, isn’t it? We are all different in our own ways and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else but sadly sometime it does 😔

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Posted in Reviews

Autism on the big screen – part one

After reviewing Jessie Hewitsons book and BBC’s The A Word it got us thinking about how autism is depicted in movies and I couldn’t immediately think of a single movie I had seen in which depicted an autistic character.
So after a quick google search (what did we do before google eh?) I came up with a list of movies we want to work through and review or in some cases pick apart 🤔

So our first choice was on all the lists of movies we found and it was the first to come to my head and Dave kindly agreed we could watch it (not that he has a choice, I don’t think he even knows how to use our smart remote 🤣)

Forrest Gump

Author Winston Groom, star Tom Hanks nor director Robert Zemeckis have ever commented on if Gump was intended to be portrayed as autistic but there are so many traits scattered throughout the movie that it would make it too much of a coincidence however the novel was written in the mid 80’s and autism at that time was not widely recognised or understood so I highly doubt that the character was written with autism in mind but realistically in the mid 80’s did anyone have autism in mind?

Don’t let anybody tell you they’re better than you Forrest… If god had have wanted us all to be the same he would have given us all braces on our legs

Mrs Gump

That journey to school is excruciating to watch, his little face as he walks down the bus. Kids can be awful. This is what terrifies me if we can’t get him into a special school. Kids are not easily accepting of any one different to them especially as they get to high school age.

Young Jenny: Are you stupid or something?
Young Forrest : Mama says, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Their first meeting is so iconic but what really jumped out for us was that Jenny just accepts Forrest for the way he is. She asks the question and that is it. She wasn’t malicious about it and didn’t push the question.
Will that be what it is like for William? Will we have to warn every parent & child that William is special, that he has autism or that he is different? Or will he be able to handle it on his own?

Oh god the bullies 😭 I would personally climb into that TV screen and knock those little bastards off those bikes!! 🥊
Poor Forrest bleeding from his head but he ran those braces right off! My heart immediately thinks ‘yes, go on Forrest! you outrun the bastards’ but my parent brain is saying ‘his mother should be asking that Orthopaedic doctor for a refund. Those braces didn’t last long enough to straighten his back!’

One of the main stand out traits is that he is lacking of social understanding, he doesn’t understand the etiquette of social situations.
He meets two presidents, he tells one of them he has to pee and when the second one jokes about seeing his bullet wound he thinks its a serious question and reveals his buttocks.

He is a very literal in everything he does as shown with his facial expression and rigid response during this iconic exchange.

Watching Forrest put his rifle together with such sheer determination is like watching William play with his Mega-blocks. The process is almost mechanical, they know how it came apart and they know how it goes together so could happily and easily repeat it numerous times.

That look of love and admiration in Forrest’s eyes whenever he see’s Jenny is magical although if William ever brought home a girl like Jenny then she would be buried under the patio à la Brookside.

Tom Hanks is hands down the only actor I feel could have played Forrest, nor because he is the actor that does play him but because he does it with such an innocence about him that I feel many men of Hanks age would struggle to pull off.

I know we are purely speculating but if Forrest does have autism it make perfect sense as to why he would do so well in the army, not that I would ever let William join but think about it…

  • A strict and immovable routine
  • Constant clear instruction
  • Uniform

Every thing has a structure, your bed is made in a certain way. Your uniform has to be cleaned and worn in a specific way. Its ideal for those who relish a routine.
Its no surprise Forrest made it to sergeant during his enlistment. In one scene he is seen to be wearing several medals.

  • Purple Heart – awarded to those wounded in battle.
  • The army good conduct medal – awarded after 1 year of faithful service during times of war (3 years if no current war)
  • National defence service medal – awarded for service during time of conflict.
  • Vietnam service medal – for service within that specific war.
  • Republic of Vietnam medal – awarded by the Vietnamese to foreign troops.
    FYI – it is engraved with a start date but no end date as they were made before the war was over.
  • Medal of honour – given to those who have performed distinguished acts of valour.

💕Bubba💕
He is such a brilliant friend, he immediately accepts Forrest for who he is, he helps him and genuinely cares for him. He plans to be friends forever. I hope William has a friend like Bubba when he’s older. Hell I wish I had a friend like that now.
After the explosions in Vietnam Forrest tell himself that he needs to go back and save Bubba and despite stopping and saving his entire platoon he keeps going back oblivious to the danger because all he needed to do was get Bubba and he was locked on that mission so everything else didn’t matter. I know its not no where near the same but William has no sense of danger at all would walk through fire to get to his hearts desire… usually food related, highly likely a biscuit🍪

Another thing that stands out throughout the movie is how literal Forrest is and his lack of inner monologue.

Forrest shows many of the common traits of obsessive behaviour but the biggest stand out obsession is ping pong.
He plays when no one will play with him.
He sleeps with his paddle and ball.
He didn’t want to change his paddle despite being offered a lot of money.

Some nights I have to pry my egg poacher out of Williams tiny death grip whilst he’s asleep.

He then becomes obsessive about running, he didn’t think about it and just kept going. Every dead end he reached he turned around and went in the other direction. In the film he was running after Jenny left and it could be that he was running away from the pain of her leaving but it seems that in my opinion he was running to fill the obsession gap that jenny had created. Filling the void so to speak.
3 years
2 months
14 days
& 16 hours
that is beyond obsessive! It’s not neurotypical behaviour.

I had never realised before but as Haley Joel Osment gets on the school bus and Forrest sits down he was keeping the promise he had just made to his son. He told him he would be waiting right there when he got back and that is exactly what he is doing.
He is sitting there until the bus comes back. 😢

Posted in Appointments, Autism Assessment

Triage

Its not a word you would usually come across in day to day life.
When I think of it I used to be reminded of the scene in Pearl Harbour in which the nurses have to mark the wounded men with lipstick.

For us triage is part one of a much bigger process, a process that has consumed our lives and will continue to do so until William receives a diagnosis.
William’s triage appointment was today… As you can understand due to the current pandemic this appointment is not face to face but instead was done over the phone.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I slept well (or even at all) last night waiting for this call, the crazy irrational thoughts kept me awake…
‘what if they decide he doesn’t need to be on the waiting list and we have to start afresh in a different sector’
‘what if they say he is the way he is because we are shit parents’

What if I don’t say the right things?’

I know it’s irrational and crazy and so does Dave or at least that’s what he told me at daft o’clock this morning when I was still awake trying to ask Dr Google what they will be asking us.
Not that it helped any way as we couldn’t find a list of questions anywhere ❓❓❓Not very helpful for ridiculously anxious people like me who like to be prepared for everything.
This notebook (which I just had to find and get ready at for 4am to be prepared for a 10am call) has been with me to every appointment. The writing is messy and blurred from tears. Anybody but me would find it indecipherable but I take great comfort in knowing I have it and can refer to it when needed. It is like a comfort blanket and knowing I look over it to see what meetings we have had, what questions we have asked and what answers we have and have not received makes me feel like I am a better parent than I am.

The call came in literally as the clock ticked over to 10am, I was mid wee 😳 Appointments are never on time so I was sure this one would be the same. The woman was called Emma Gibson and she gave off good vibes if that makes sense. Pleasant to speak to, not too clinical and had a friendly tone to her voice.

So I made notes (shocking) in my little book about each question asked so that anyone reading this waiting for their triage appointment can have a rough guideline to take the anxiety off a little. Each lead to other questions so this will not be a comprehensive list.

  • When did you first notice something was wrong?
    Holy shit she went straight in there with the bullet to the head! 😔🔫
    As many of you will know already it took a long time for us to openly admit something was wrong with our child and it wasn’t until William was after 2 that we started writing about him publicly on Facebook to share our journey. It wasn’t that we were ashamed, we were frightened, not only thing things William would struggle with but of the stigma that comes with having a learning disability.
  • Who is in your household?
  • Is Dave Williams dad?
    I had to kick Dave to make sure he didn’t pull his usual not funny trick of saying ‘as far as I’m aware’ or ‘Yes or the milkman’s’ Honestly these jokes are almost as old as the one were he says he’s shagging my sister 🙄
  • Do you both work? Who’s the main breadwinner? What does he do for a living?
    Insert idle chit chat here about how the current pandemic is effecting him at work.
  • Has there been any history of trauma or domestic violence that may have impacted William?
    I had just kick Dave but that doesn’t count… No of course not 😇
  • Is there a history of autism in our family?
  • Is there a history of mental health issues?
    I explained about my lengthy battle with postnatal depression and anxiety and the medication I had been on and for how long. I’m not ashamed of it, in fact i’m proud. Although it took me a long time to seek help, I eventually did and came out the other side. Some people don’t.
  • What other agencies are involved with William?
    We then discussed things his paediatrician had put forward; blood testing and genetics testing and our next appointment.
    We discussed Lisa who liaises with the nursery in regards to his education.
  • Are social services involved?
    Eh? No!
  • What was my pregnancy like?
    We discussed how high risk it was, the lengthy induction, having an assisted labour, gestational diabetes, being in hospital longer than expected.
  • Is William on any medication?
  • Did you bond with William?
    Yes. No. Maybe? He didn’t really bond with me? He’s indifferent.
  • What was he like in meeting his milestones?
    Insert big head joke here and not sitting up until 10 months.
  • What were his first words? 🤐
  • What does him playing look like?
  • Does he make eye contact? If he does can he maintain it or is it fleeting?
  • Does he respond to his own name?
  • Does he indicate his emotions or pain with facial expressions? Let me tell you something… Justin Bonomo and Erik Seidel are amateurs compared to William when it comes to having a good poker face. I’ve let me nerd slip out again there. Justin and Erik are two of the most famous poker players in the world.
  • How does he behave with other kids at nursery?
  • Are there any children outside of nursery that he engages with?
  • What kind of support does he receive at nursery?
  • Am I OK to contact the nursery?
  • Does William recognise other peoples emotions?
  • What are Williams meltdowns like?
    Like a tornado ripping through my living room.
    Like stepping into the ring with Conor Mcgregor.
    Like trying to hold onto an oiled up contortionist.
  • What sensory issues does William suffer with?
  • What are the main indicators he is about to have a meltdown?
  • What are his eating habits like other than during meltdowns?
  • Does he show any signs of anxiety?
  • What is his sleep pattern like?
  • Are there any things he cant do in regards to his motor skills?
    Jump. Hop. Point. Wave. Clap.
  • What is he like with danger? or strangers?
    No sense of danger or recognition between familiar adults and strangers.
    That was it!
    Interrogation over.

She was happy that William had been referred to the right place and he will remain on the waiting list 🎉🎉🎉
Relief swept over me. Tears ran down my face.

What happens next?

A letter confirming this will be sent to all parties involved.
A team of specialised autism nurses will be on hand during our wait to answer any questions we may have.

The wait is currently between 2 and 2 and a half years. We will not be contacted until William is at the top of the list.
To put things into number which you know I enjoy, there are over 900 people in front of him in Hull alone. In order to them to bring their waiting time down they must assess a minimum of 8 people per week and I know a company called Healios have stepped in to alleviate some of the pressure but they can’t carry out all the assessments as they conduct theirs via video link and not all of those waiting would benefit from such an assessment.
The actual assessment is called ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and it is currently the standardised diagnostic tool for diagnosing ASD.
The ADOS process involves observations under controlled circumstances that other professionals are able to replicate.
Only trained professionals can administer the ADOS diagnostic screening, but it eliminates some of the differences of opinion otherwise possible when two different experts provide a diagnosis without following the same consensus in regards to what they should be looking for. Using the one set of clear guideline minimises the margin for misdiagnosis and errors.

When it is Williams turn for his assessment he will already be finishing his first term of his second year at school 📚 That is if they continue seeing people at their current rate.


November/December 2022 – What a brilliant Christmas gift that will be for us that year 🎄🎁