I am pleased an eagerly proud to be working for a small autism organisation called My World and day centre for people on the autism spectrum. This summer it shall be four years of service to which I have contributed my consultancy work.
With people who have a narrow, conceited and reductive view of what autism “is” and how one is supposed to “act” and “behave” noting that it has “one look” so therefore “one approach and intervention” is wrong and that doesn’t happen here.
At My World all the caring and empathic staff are valued, open-minded and willing to learn this means that what is taken is a person-centred approach, looking at the person’s mental health, learning styles, information processing challenges and ultimately sees them as people or equal worth and value going about their day and purcuits.
Our success is our ethos, open-mind natures, ability to learn new things and approaches and empathy which encourages people in the end to be the best version of themselves.
Paul Isaacs 2019
Many Thanks to Jenna Gensic for conducting this interview with me and others – please checkout Jenna’s page Learn From Autistics -Connecting Parents and Caregivers with Autistic Voices
In your most recent blog post, you discussed your dislike of the tendency to attribute someone’s neurology to their entire identity or personhood. However, there are many other autistic self-advocates who insist that this premise is important for improving the treatment of people with disabilities. What advice do you have for parents who are trying to help empower their children with the skills and confidence to be successful and are receiving conflicting information from autistic self-advocates in this area?
I would say that being born a human being first should be seen. Every person on this planet is a human being regardless of ability, disability, race and gender. Understanding the “autism” is very person specific, environmentally specific and situational specific – these different “pieces” which make up the autism have their own unique presentation, and also the way in which the person is affected will differ not only due to the “pieces” and their trajectory, but what the “pieces” are in the first place. It is like being a detective, searching out what works and what doesn’t are both equally important.
With regards to my identity, I see myself as a person and a part of humanity, so therefore I am a person first – personally, my autism affects my visual and auditory perception, language processing, cognitive processing, learning difficulties, etc, but these are PART of me, not the totality of my BEING .
I have personality traits (which everybody has regardless of autism or not) which make me happy, silly, draw, sketch, meet up with people, etc. These are human things which I value. I am not ashamed of my autism, but I don’t glamourise it either. I keep a balanced, open-mind. I can only speak for myself (how autism affects me). No one can speak for ALL, so, in that sense, people can learn from different perspectives and realities.
You were diagnosed at a relatively late age even though you exhibited clear signs of autism when you were young. What do you think was the main reason for this delay? Have you seen evidence of this still occurring today or has autism awareness reached new heights such that this sort of situation will likely never happen again?
What are you asked to speak about most often?
Sensory perceptional and language processing seems to be the one I get asked to do; however, on my booking page I have slowly built up other areas and topics.
What mistakes do autism advocates make?
Getting over-invested in the autism “politics” this where “identity” can become in crisis, and mental health can breakdown. I am talking through observations and also experiencing it myself – Donna Williams an advocate, speaker, consultant and author on the spectrum gave me some sage advice, and that is to take a step back, regain healthy boundaries, find yourself and do socially binding things.
Autism politics can get rather unhealthy to be a part of, there can be militancy by people on an off the autism spectrum that can be rather distressing and uncomfortable to be a part of. My personal opinion is that everybody has a story and that their realities are just as valid as anyone else’s – there should not be a single representation, but a more egalitarian outlook where all person hoods and realities are taken into account. It is my opinion that autism isn’t culture, but a “culture” has been created around autism.
Describe some of the factors that have contributed to the personal and professional success you have achieved today.
My parents have helped me a lot over the years on both a personal and professional level – it started with boundaries, right and wrong, having a moral compass, seeing “failure” as normal and therefore accepted, seeing me as “Paul” first, a boy, a teenager, an adult, and letting me experience the outside world and all that it entails.
What are some of the strengths and challenges you’ve experienced as a result of being on the spectrum?
I still have problems with language processing, visual perception (faces, objects, people), visual distortions (foreground, background), under-processing on my right side (motor and visual), sensory integration, movement, processing “self” and “other” – being mono-tracked and seeing the significance of what is being said and what is happening (life skills have helped so much in this area) and learning difficulties.
I don’t know if my strengths are autie-specific. I do enjoy writing poetry, creating abstract artwork, and writing books. I like creating things, watching movies, and I also like alternate fashion.
What advice do you have for parents of autistic children who respect the knowledge and experience of autistic self-advocates and are looking for guidance in helping their children develop their potentials?
Go with the child on their journey. It will be different for each person – see them as your child first, understand the pieces of their “autism,” and work from there. Let the child experience life.
Jenna Gensic & Paul Isaacs 2015
As of August this year (2015) I am doing local work around my the counties of Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire – in the roles of autism speeches, training and/or consultancy. I have currently worked in the field of autism for over five years and have written five books on the subject or autism and contributed to various other books and articles too.
If you live and/or are an organisation, charity, mainstream educational base or school, mental health service, autism based educational schools or any service within in these counties and are interested in have me speak, train and/or consult please contact me via the information below.
Paul Isaacs 2015