All You Need Is Love & Laser Beak Man

Last weekend at TEDX Sydney at the Sydney Opera House, two people I love very much took to the stage and squeezed their inspiring and uplifting story into the confines of a 10 minute (or so) presentation.

Tim Sharp is a wonderful artist who created a superhero called Laser Beak Man at age 11. Laser Beak Man is funny, irreverent, cheeky, kind and so very loveable. Tim is all those things too, but he is so much more. He also happens to have autism.

Judy Sharp is a mother. She is also a survivor. She has singlehandedly raised both her sons to be good, kind, thoughtful and generous men. That in itself deserves a standing ovation.

Tim & Judy Sharp together are a force of nature. Undeniable and impressive. This will make your day. It is hopeful and it is powerful. Their story will get you through those dark days when your child is screaming and kicking and terrified and confused and overwhelmed.

Tim & Judy Sharp at TEDX Sydney (once you click through, go to the right hand arrow to find Tim & Judy’s presentation)

Tim & Judy TEDX Sydney

Tim & Judy TEDX Sydney

Laser Beak Man knows iT!

Laser Beak Man knows iT!

 

So Much Things To Say

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but believe me when I tell you, that I have been running non-stop the entire time. Yes even in my sleep. Not that I’m getting much of that!
So here’s a quick catch up via some images.

J had a birthday! He’s now 2 and has developed a very strong interest in shoes.

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It’s school holidays. Two weeks. We haven’t gone anywhere or done anything special. IT’s been raining non-stop. Torture!

This is because Baby B’s contact visits have had me tied up every other day. I’m either zipping over to the other side of town or desperately trying to tidy up my house before her mother, some worker, family or friends arrive to make more mess. So my biggest boy L has been indulging in his most aggravating behaviours of non-stop screaming, turning one every single light in the house (no matter how many times I turn them off, trying to drink liquid soap or disembowelling new boxes of tissues, filling the bath tub to it’s very limit, running away, scratching etc.

He has also been doing a LOT of talking, listening to a LOT of music, doing some very handwriting like squiggles on the magna doodle board, teaching himself to play the Toca Boca Robots game on the ipad (first ‘game’ ever!). He’s also been actually playing with, engaging with and enjoying the company of J – so lovely to see them enjoying each other’s company. Here he is entertaining himself by lining up all the free magazines in the reception area while we wait for baby B’s mother to arrive for her visit. He’s never been a ‘liner upperer’ but it looks like we are heading that way and I’m taking it as a sign of progress. Don’t try to talk me out of it!

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Actually, I lied. We did do something special. We went to a wonderful exhibition by Tim Sharp at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Such a happy, funny, touching, beautiful and impressive collection of artworks – all featuring Laser Beak Man of course. I had to do a lot of fast talking, using my best powers of persuasion to convince Tim’s mother Judy, that she should allow me to buy one of the works. It wasn’t that she didn’t want me to have it, but that she didn’t want me to BUY it. Judy, Tim & brother Sam are beautiful people who make everything seem more beautiful – and that’s because…

Everything is Beautiful by Tim Sharp

Everything is Beautiful by Tim Sharp

Looking forward to hanging this on one of the walls of my messy house!

 

Tim

Photo a day in april for autism acceptance

It’s the last day of April. So, my final post in this series.

There are many things that i like about living in Brisbane, Australia. I love that we are not in the biggest or most famous city. I love the architecture, the music scene, the arts community. I LOVE that I live in a city where we have a bridge named after a band (the go betweens).

I especially love that Brisbane is also home to Tim Sharp. Tim is a wonderful artist and also has autism. Tim is so loved by our community here that he was named in our top 50 happy list – for the joy and happiness he brings to so many.

In the first week of April one of his art works was projected up onto one of our beautiful old bridges. It really speaks for itself – it looks absolutely amazing.

Thank you Tim for all that you do for the autism community. You and your incredible family give so much hope and happiness to the autism families here and around the world.

And with that – April is officially over!

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Photo credit: Mark Pitt

For Your Listening Pleasure

A photo a day in April for autism acceptance:

It’s easy enough to read about some of what happens in our day to day lives. I’ve been telling you about the noisemaking my little guy likes to engage in, but it’s not the same as experiencing it. So here…for your listening pleasure, is what I listen to day in, day out. At the  moment.

I say at the moment, because I am hoping that this is a ‘phase’. I know he gets a lot of sensory input from making all this noise (me too!!), but it does sound like he’s being hung, drawn & quartered when really, he’s just sitting there enjoying himself.

I have also been telling you that along with the screaming, he has been doing some great talking. During the last few months he has clicked over from being essentially non-verbal, to being verbal. Which is like, you know…a miracle!! So here he is, just a few minutes later.

Now before you start telling me how cruel I am, in this instance I’ve used his ribbon to encourage him in his talking. There are very few things that really motivate my little boy, but his ribbon most definitely does. So I’ve extended the situation to give him more opportunity to use all this beautiful language he is developing. Why the screaming and talking are going hand in hand? I wish I knew. (any suggestions gratefully received).

And last of all, here is our photo for the day. It’s something he did at school. I like it! It’s up on his wall in his bedroom gallery – laminated!

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International Day of Autism Awareness & Acceptance

As the earth turns and country by country we celebrate world autism day – or whatever it’s called in your neck of the woods. Lots of buildings will be turning blue to mark the occasion.
It’s a great awareness campaign. But this year I’m keeping it low key. We ventured out to story time at the local library then spent a little time in a kids toy shop.
Wasn’t sure we would actually get in there as L spent a good 20 mins flailing about on the floor in front of the shop. The two women working in the shop were quite lovely and when I told them we were out celebrating world autism day – they smiled and asked if there was anything they could do to help.
Turns out they had already done quite a bit. They had a beautiful little area sectioned off within the shop where kids could sit, play, draw etc. when L saw this, he rushed in and took a seat and entertained himself for about 20 mins while I checked out all their stock and the two little ones systematically dismantled the rest of the store.
They had a wonderful time.
Last year I had an autism awareness blogathon, writing a post a day. This year, I’m going for a photo a day. Nothing too earth shattering just a pictorial glimpse into our autistic days in April. I hope you enjoy it.

So happy autism day everyone.

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A Difficult Woman

Every now and then something happens that pivots your life and sends you off in a slightly different direction. At the time, you could never predict just how important it might be or how far away from your original trajectory you will be taken. Looking back though, you can see just how fundamentally things changed because of that turn of events. For me, it was the accidental making of a friend.

As young 20somethings, we were a couple of outsiders who quickly recognised a fellow traveller and formed a solid friendship. We sealed it by watching Jaws 3 & 4 on the big screen in one afternoon, a spot of fishing and a night of drinking our way through the various alcoholic beverages of our teenage years. Blue Lagoon anyone?

We spent most of our friendship living in far distant cities and towns. We never got to just drop over to each others place, to wear out our welcome. We did have a lot of holidays together though, so our story is full of beaches & road trips. And we worked together making music and films.

says it all

says it all

Whenever we could, we’d squeeze in a Yum Cha with a bottle of wine. Somehow this noisy, family  environment and combination of dumplings & alcohol would get us firing. We would cook up all kinds of plans and projects, make an enormous list then go off and accidentally spend way too much money on Christmas decorations or haircuts or frivolous frippery.

post yum cha

post yum cha

Our friendship has been an incredibly sustaining force in my life. It wasn’t always easy, but getting through the tough times and having that shared history over so many years builds something very strong between you. She was a ‘difficult woman’ and so was I but we only ever had one fight and that was about art/being an artist. In the end though, she always wanted more for me than I wanted for myself and for that…I am eternally thankful.

I had always looked forward to our ‘old age’ when we could really give the eccentricities free reign and nobody would care. But life is too short.

I’m lucky enough to have some other wonderful friendships with difficult women, but there is a space where you used to be. I don’t like it, but there you go.

Still such an influence on my life, this one’s for you on International Women’s Day 2013.

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http://www.aacta.org/the-awards/byron-kennedy-award.aspx

Toys and Stuff

I have just hauled a massive bag of toys into my bedroom (home of many random things). I’ve done this to reduce the madness with all the gifts that Christmas brings.
So we are down to a low-ish level of stuff without depriving the three boys of things to do and read and play with.
Because, in another corner of the room, not very far away is a massive great pile of presents. They are starting to tower over the tiny Christmas tree I’ve been using for years.
I’m not a big traditionalist when it comes to Christmas. We most certainly celebrate it and enjoy the time with friends and family but our Christmas is a little different to most.
When possible I try to help the kids have time with their families on or very close to Christmas Day. That might mean meeting in a park for a play on Christmas morning, or packing them up for a sleepover on Christmas Eve. In this way their families get to have this special time together.
It means something to me to be able to help make that happen. It also means that Christmas Day is a little different as I don’t always get to gather my little boys together to share this day. This year the two older boys will be off with their families and I won’t see them till Boxing Day. Other members of my family will not be around this year so me and the baby are heading down to Byron Bay to spend the day with friends who live right near the beach. We will be having a lovely time with swims, playing on the sand, some great summery food and wonderful friends.
Have a great Christmas everyone.

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You Changed My Life

It doesn’t happen very often these days, but on Saturday night I got to go out see a film. The big boys were having overnight family visits and a beautiful friend offered to come over and babysit the baby.

In my life B.C. (before children) I would regularly take myself off to see a film. I enjoy going to see films by myself. The big screen, the surround sound, the quiet hush of a bunch of strangers sitting in the dark for a shared experience. It’s a little holiday. If it’s a good film, it’s a great little holiday. If it’s an exceptional film, then it’s a 2 hour, all expenses paid, luxury, beach-side indulgence.

I got to see an exceptional film. I may have even got a sun tan.

The French poster

Made by the French filmmaking team Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, The Intouchables is set in Paris. So yes, it involves subtitles but forget about that because you won’t even be aware of it after the first minute. If you’ve never seen a film with sub-titles before – then this is the one to go and see!

The story is based on the real lives of Abdel Sellou and Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. Phillipe is a very wealthy man who suffered a spinal injury. He took a risk when he hired Abdel, a guy from the ‘projects’ as his personal carer. So ultimately it’s a buddy film but at the heart, it’s a comedy! When Phillipe granted the film rights to Nakache & Teledano that was one of his stipulations. He wanted a good movie, a funny movie & a deep movie. He got it.

Neither man could have predicted the impact of the friendship that developed from the chance that Phillipe gave to Abdel. But the title of the book that Abdel wrote ‘You Changed My Life’ says it all.

Abdel and Phillipe – changed each others lives

Omar Sy. Wow! If you haven’t ever heard of him, well then – you heard it here first people. His performance in this film is dynamite. Because of this performance he has become the first black man to win a Cesar (the French film industry awards). Of course, in France he is like a household name and has his own prime time comedy show on television. Elsewhere he is largely unknown, but not for long. Not for long!

Omar Sy

Film reviews aren’t really my thing, but sharing good stuff is. Get your self out of the house and go and laugh out loud with a theatre full of people. It’s good for the soul.

Soundtrack

Something big happened these holidays. A discovery. A new world.

In my kitchen I have an ipod & speaker set up. It’s gone unnoticed for a good 12 months or so. But my boy (a 5yo with autism), being who he is – someone who is quite fond of pushing buttons and turning things on and off, saw it as if for the first time.

He pressed a button and music played. Pressed another and it stopped. He explored all the different buttons (one which means that an alarm goes off at midnight!). Then he started exploring some of the music he found.

I’ve written before about his limited interest in music. That has been quite hard for me, because music has always been such an important part of my life. It is the filter through which I have experienced the world, explored my creativity, expressed myself and earned my living.

You know what’s coming! He discovered music. In a very real way. Suddenly he was standing mesmerised in front of the speakers, swaying like a stiff piece cardboard from foot to foot. Listening. Really listening. Feeling the music, enjoying it.

Over the first few days of the holidays, he familiarised himself with the buttons. Not totally, but enough to get him where he wanted to go. All of a sudden, he has some favourite pieces of music. He played them every day, sometimes, many times over. It’s given me a new appreciation for some of these pieces of music. I’m also fascinated by his choices.

So here is our soundtrack to the September holidays:

This was from an album of film soundtracks. So I’ve shown it that context. Beautiful work Stanley!

From the same album. I’ve always loved the musical choices Scorsese makes in his films. But for me this music will always be tied to my friend Sarah. It was played at her memorial service against a selection of photos from her life. L has played this one SO many times.

This one was discovered in the second week, but has been a big favourite. Cristina Branco!

He is a boy on his own timetable. I’ve gotten used to that. But I’m so grateful that he has found some music that really moves him. It’s going to be interesting to see where this goes.

Holy Sleep Deprivation Batman! I Need A Bat Cave

For a year (yes…a year), I’ve had a towel over my little boys window. I’ve been trying to work out what kind of window covering would  survive him, and him it.

Autism manifests itself in many ways but my 5 year old is a sensory seeker. He craves sensation. When he gives you a hug, he can’t help but go that one extra step and dig his fingers in for a pinch or a scratch. He loves to rip paper. He loves to make noise – a lot of noise! Especially when he wakes up. He loves all things string and carries a ribbon everywhere as his stim of choice.

His bedroom is kept fairly clear. It’s only a small room, so there’s a bed, a small chest of drawers, a rug, some beautiful photographic prints of him at about 6 months taken by Uncle Al (photographer/artist Alberto Sanchez Peinador) , some gorgeous animal art originals – all placed nice and high so he can’t reach them. He also has a pinboard which deserves a post of it’s own, but let’s just say everything on there is laminated, including the recent self portrait he took at school.

It’s kept clear because he is on a constant search and destroy mission. It’s a nice room but the window coverings have held me in limbo for quite a while. Curtains? No good, he’d pull the whole thing out from the wall. Blinds? Can’t have anything with a string and he’d also probably just yank the hell out of it till it broke. He’d dearly love to take a leap towards the ceiling fan – lucky white boys can’t jump! I give him a year.

Push has now come to shove. The sun is getting up earlier & earlier here in Australia as we move through our stunning spring towards summer. We’ve gone from him waking at 6am to 5am in just a couple of weeks. And it’s only going to get worse! I need a total blackout situation if I am not going to be woken ‘in the 4’s’ for the next 4 or 5 months. I need a bat cave!

I put the question out to a group of special needs mothers – please help! Within a couple of hours I had some really great ideas. Everything from hanging old blinds on the outside of the window to attaching foil to the outside of the glass with just a spray of water. But I decided to go for the velcro solution. The worst that can happen is he rips them down and wakes up early. Here’s how it all came together.

A nightmarish trip to the shops to buy the supplies. Not fun. My boy does not like Spotlight so spent most of the time on the floor screaming. I got a big headache…and the supplies. I did not care if the fabric design was perfect for the room. Just take my money and let us get out of here!

Auntie Elaine’s beast – they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

Out comes an ancient machine (inspiring another post, yet to be written about women’s machines!). My auntie gave this beast to me a couple of months ago. Unbelievably heavy! Fully operational, worked just like a new one! I haven’t used a sewing machine for about 20 years, but it was just like riding a bike, kinda. A few additional items were required from the sewing tin and the tool box.

my sewing tin

measure twice, cut once

Measured twice, cut once, zim, zam zoom…done!

the blue window

the red window

Brilliant! I’m very pleased with myself. My little guy celebrated with a jump on the bed.

Problem solved…fingers crossed. Further reports will be forthcoming.