Here’s the third poem I selected for autism awareness week. It was given to me as part of a hand out when I spoke at an autism training session, so I’m afraid I don’t know much about it’s origin. When I first read this poem it broke my heart. I believe the narrative voice of “Is It Any Wonder?” is a none verbal child with severe classical autism. However, she may have another disability that impairs communication.

Is it Any Wonder?

If you leave the door open when you’re changing me

Or bring Sonia in and ‘do her at the same time’…

If you talk to your friend Hilary

And ‘do’ me at the same time…

If you look through me like I’m not there

And chat to your mate about last evenings telly

And expose my private hair

And leave me uncovered from me toes to me belly

And you cough and you splutter and, ‘phwor, this one’s smelly’…

Is it any wonder…

That I believe myself to have no worth?…

That is what you believe

And grownups are right and can be trusted.

Is it any wonder…

That I don’t understand words like ‘dignity’ and ‘privacy’

When I’ve not been shown or given any?

Is it any wonder…

That I don’t scream or cry, or moan or complain

When the new worker does things to me for which I know no name

And when he says, ‘it will be ok and if it’s not then you’ll be blamed’

You know he’s right- cos grownups are always right and can be trusted.

Is it any wonder I won’t eat my food?

‘She won’t even touch her apply crumble’…

And I bang my head against the wall instead

So hard, the plaster crumbles.

This poem is by John Drury and is used by the NHS when training practitioners in ‘intimate care’. I chose it because I felt it illustrates the paradox that many people  with autism face, particularly those with classical or Kanners autism. These individuals are often just as intelligent as their neurotypical peers, but have no way of expressing their intelligence. They often have the self awareness to know that their behaviour is “inappropriate”, but are powerless to change that behaviour. To paraphrase Carly Fleischmann , autism has locked them inside a body they cannot control. The narrative voice of the poem can express herself eloquently through the written word, but cannot speak, and has no way of telling others that she is cold or hungry or someone is abusing her. Despite her obvious intelligence, she is forced to rely on her carers for the simplest things, such as feeding and changing her. These carers do not offer her any dignity or privacy, they seem to believe that because she cannot express herself through spoken word, she does not possess the awakened conciousness they have. Like many people on the autism spectrum (including myself at one point) she resorts to self injury because that behaviour is the only way she can express her physical and mental distress. If we are to reduce the risk of self injury, it is imperative that we change our attitude towards disabilities, especially non-verbal autism.

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4 thoughts

  1. Reblogged this on Hyperbolic Silence and commented:
    A fascinating look into the indignities still prevalent in some circles that care for the neurologically disadvantaged, and the problems that can arise from their action. It’s a horrible fact, but even to this day we seem to think of those with neurological or psychological as less deserving than others of dignity, even if we don’t realize it. I believe a healthy disconnect is good for caretakers to have in certain situations, but it becomes unhealthy when they forget that those they are taking care of are, like them, human.

    Like

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