Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting along swimmingly

Today I achieved something, that might not mean a lot to many people and for the world of me I cannot relate to Autism, but for the first time in my life after a year of learning I felt able to enter the deep end of a swimming pool and to swim 25 metres to to the end of the pool and then to swim back again toward the deep end completing the second length of 25 metres.

Now a year ago at the same time as I began my swimming lessons I embarked upon my doctorate and this weekend will be addressing an international conference and giving a way better performance than the token autie, Mr Stephen Shore I am sure. (at least I acknowledge that it is performance and I will entertain as much as I enlighten I hope)

However that is less of an achievement to me than my achievement in the swimming pool today.

All that I have done of course is to have achieved the basic standard that any 11 year old is expected to achieve and forty years late at that.

Well if anyone who attended Finham Junior school is reading this, A couple of years ago I met a former schoolmate who remembered me as the boy who never learned to swim.

How anyone learned to swim is actaully beyond me. For years parents raised money for what seemed to be a magnificent project to build a school pool. However by the time they achieved their aims the pool was nothing more than an open tank between the playground and car park.

We boys did not even have the privilege of a changing room, because the architects only built one, and that was reserved for the girls, we had to change in a corridor, and every week march barefoot in whatever weather across the tarmac playground to this open tank.

If that was not bad enough I was put off swimming for life by a teacher whose reaction to my reluctance to duck my head under the water was to hold it under.

Never mind that no-one ever appreciated the other difficulties I had with swimming namely a dyspraxic lack of co-ordination.

Well in my next school at least we had the luxury of going to the simply huge "olympic pool" in town, but by that time the damage had been done, and increasingly nobody bothered with the slow learner so I was sidelined, and gave up swimming as soon as I was able to.

What a loss that was as it is now something I really enjoy.

Friday, September 05, 2008

An Asperger encounter

I have just come back from a disability studies conference where I was presenting.
I decided to stay an extra day in the accommodation so I would not be so tired, to catch the train tomorrow, and since there was no meal or anything provided I decided to use the kitchen, to make myself a pot noodle, to stave off my hunger for the evening.

There were a couple of other delegates who were staying overnight too, and they were asking the usual questions, what was my research about, where did I come from etc.

Anyway there was guy who was staying there, by the name of Volker Schönwiese from Innsbruck University who said he came from Austria. So naturally I asked him if he had heard of Hans Asperger. Not only had he heard of him, he had been sent to his clinic as a 10 year old child

He was a wheelchair user, and when he was younger his family wanted him integrated into the mainstream school, but the authorities were resisting it, so he was sent to Dr Asperger for a consultation. Apparently Dr Asperger did all sorts of tests including an IQ test, and wrote up a report saying that children with Polyarthritis were extraordinarily gifted and he should be given all the facilities he needed to go to a mainstream school.

It was a white lie of course because there was no scientific evidence to support that notion, but it illustrates something of the character of the man back then, that he would write something like that into an official report to ensure that a disabled child got the same schooling as everyone else, and not the second rate schooling he might have got if he were sent away to a special school.

He said that Dr Asperger was a pleasant and very kind man. Sometimes it is a small world, and now I have met someone who met with Hans Asperger.

I have included a link to a pdf of Professor Schönwiese's presentation which may be of interest to people in the wider disability world.