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Spoiler: What we learned from this panel was that people with autism absolutely have social skills: quite often what happens is that people, organisations, communities don’t always possess the means and understanding to effectively communicate and interact with neurodiverse people.
Cody, Anndi and Emily join Pete to share their wisdom, ideas and experiences as people with autism and the parent of children with autism.
Produced by: Black Me Out Productions
Feros Care Resources
- Your Disability Your Way – A guide that contains tools to
assist you in sharing information about your disability, identifying your goals and the supports available to help you achieve employment, volunteer work or study.
- Step 2 Education and Employment – A guide to assist
families and their school leavers to better understand pathways to employment.
Q&A Podcast Debunking the statement that people with disability don’t have social skills.
Pete: Hello everybody. Welcome to the second episode of our special Q and A series of the Grow Bold with disability podcast. In this episode we’ve gathered a bunch of experts together to debunk the statement that people with autism
don’t have social skills. Now let me quickly introduce us to our panel. I’ve got Cody and now he’s just finished school and he has ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder. We’ll call it ASD from now and make it easier for everyone. We have also got
Anndi who is a young self-employed artist with ASD and is transgender and Emily, she is one of our L. A. C. S. A Local Area Coordinator for Feros and has three kids with autism. So, she is a bit of an expert so welcome everybody. Hi Emily,
let us kick off with you. Let us start with what we are talking about, autism obviously. What to you is the definition of autism?
Emily: My Children.
Pete: What does that mean to you? Like what I mean is? There are so many different types of autism. What is it? What’s your definition for how your kids have it?
Emily: guess I would not put a definition really. They are all quite different. All of them. One is social and it was late to be picked up. One is very antisocial until he is comfortable and that can take up to a year before.
And then my last is also a bit of both. So very social, very not social. It depends on the situation. They are just quite different. I do not really have a definition for them. They are just my Children.
Pete: That seems like sort of when I was doing my research for this chat and for other people we have spoken to and the podcast with autism, that is the common thread it. So, there is no boundaries with this. What about with you?
Anndi, what is how is your definition of autism for you?
Anndi:That is a big question. Um, for me, you are wired differently. Um it is a lot of the same cliches, like, you see the world differently, you process things differently. Sometimes things are louder. Um quite often things go
one way or the other, like you are either hyper social or you are not social, or it is, you can handle sounds, or, you seek sensory, it is your sensory seeker or you are a bit Yeah, it is such a big question.
Pete: It is a theme that is coming across Emily. So, you mentioned the three kids are all those different social skills. How do you coordinate that as a mum? I know it is impossible to time it all. You have got one who’s super
anti, so, well not very social, and the other ones are mixed and the other one. So how do you how do you juggle that?
Emily:I do not treat them any differently. So, I have my own disability and I have a struggle with that, but I do not want my children to end up like me coming a long way and taking a long road to get there. So, I put
them in situations, um like easy situations and then really tricky situations to get them to understand that flexibility happens, and I do not care about the world. That is probably a bit harsh to say that, but I do not care about the world around
me. My Children, they are just learning and one day they are going to be able to navigate that situation. Um But the world needs to understand them and the way that they think. Um, so if they are having a difficult moment, it is okay. Like we
all do. Um Yeah, I just, I just do it.
Pete: What are their age groups, oldest to youngest?
Emily: I have an almost 10-year-old and almost 14-year-old and almost 15-year-old.
Pete: in that awkward stage of being teenagers anyway, so, what about your social, how do you, how did you deal? Let us start way back in the day at school. How was school for you?
Emily:School was a nightmare. I only got diagnosed when I was 19. My mom tried to diagnose me earlier, but I had lots of other chronic health conditions and they thought that because I missed school I just was not socialized
enough, or they thought it was my dad’s passing or something like that. Um But, the teachers drilled into me that I was stupid, which, you know, it was not nice and like I had dreams of being an archaeologist, but then the kids told me I was stupid.
I was Grade 1, but because I was sick I spent the rest of the time alone from fourth grade, I was just alone, I spent my time reading books and I was really outgoing though, I was outgoing, but for some reason I just could not make friends.
Pete: So and sorry, while we’re talking about school and how are your kids finding it at school?
Emily:Very challenging. Um But I am very vocal, so if there is a difficulty, I will step into the school promptly to navigate the situation. Early on, I realized that I needed to um figure out a way to get what happened
from my Children because they struggled to explain it and they could just have this one part of this bigger picture that we did not quite have. So going into the school guns a blazing was not the most appropriate to start with, but I have a good
um relationship with the schools now and I just need to talk to them, and it’s all about the communication really.
Emily: Yeah, socially my daughter,my eldest daughter has struggled in that area. They have put in social groups, they have tried to facilitate engagement with relationships, like little groups outside and what not. She
has been bullied, she has been physically hurt, she has been called a liar, she has had the police threatened on her because I do not know how to explain it. So, they were just you know, play fighting and the other young child took that way too
seriously, I suppose, even though it was initiated by that child, and it just went a little bit further than it should have. My daughter is nonbinary, she went through a few various stages until she felt comfortable where she is and um, she was
told derogatory things about going to hell. Um She is so social though and she walked out of this one negative situation, and we will talk through it, which is a long time coming and has only been, you know, this year. Um she’ll walk into the
next day like over it, nothing has happened, yes, it’s still eventually coming back, and she will have her questions, she is a bit of a late kind of question person. Yes, so in a week’s time she will be like, oh do you remember. And she has bad
difficulties with her memory, but you know, if something really sticks, she will come back you too, my son is doing okay now, had a lot of struggles as well, and then my youngest is starting to slowly follow the same path as my oldest, but the
school are really on top of it.
Pete: > Yeah, that sounds like it’s an especially important thing. Cody, what about you at school? How was school for you? You have only just finished? And did you enjoy school? Was it fun for you or was it hard or a little
Cody: Wasn’t boring.
Pete: Why was that?
Cody:My school friends always tease me.
Pete: Did they, were they just joking? or were they serious or just having some fun?
Pete: So, what did you, what did you study at school? What were your favourites? Did you have any favourites, or you just did not like anything? You like the exercises you are wearing a Michael Jordan top today? Are you glad that
Pete:Do you feel proud of yourself having accomplished getting all the way through to the end?
Pete: And what are you going to, are you going to go to tertiary education? You want to stick to go back to school and do more?
Cody:No, I didn’t think so.
Pete: What is your plan? You want to make some money? So, I did read that you do want to go out into the workforce and get yourself a job?. What is your ideal job? to be working at Maccas? If so, why that is? So, you’ve got the
drive, you’re ready to learn some stuff and go and work at Maccas.
Pete: Yes, there’s some discipline there. Will you be good at that?
Pete: Nice. Anndi. Let’s go back to you. I just want to stick on this school thing for one second. I hear a lot of people having a lot of issues who have ASD with the schooling systems. What needs to change within our schooling
system? I mean we’re in Adelaide today, but I hear from people when I talk to them in Queensland and Victoria,it’s all the same thing. There’s no real space for them. They feel excluded or they feel picked on. So, what do you think the schooling
system needs to do?
Anndi:I think they need to realize that there isn’t one way of learning that there’s lots of ways because I went to this secondary school um not secondary school, like adult learning centre. Um And I had an amazing teacher. She
let me do all my reports orally because I’m bad at writing and stuff like. Yeah. Um I think there needs to be sensory spaces. I think there needs to be um like support workers at school for disabled kids sometimes if they need to sit in class,
stuff with them, and take it all in and be a second pair of ears if that must happen. Sometimes just to work through the program, but I think even mostly any child that is having difficulty should really have a worker, to discuss how their
learning is going. I think do you want to go to mainstream school, or would you rather have a sort of a side track where there’s a little area for you to learn separately or do you want that interaction with other kids and stuff? I think it’s
important to have interactions with other kids to stay as mainstream as possible, but get as much help as possible.
Pete:Emily, I see you shaking your head. You agree.
Anndi: Yeah. I think the thing that came out was the teachers who can adapt, so you can do your oral exams instead of having to do written.
Pete: Was that a hard thing to get across to people that this is how I learn?
Anndi:Um, well, because I didn’t even realize how I learned information, the teacher worked it out for me and we tried tons of different things like we did voice recordings and we made movie presentations of my work, and stuff
because I did art courses that I got English credits for, and stuff and I think we need to make this adaptive learning mainstream.
Emily: I think that’s the hugest problem in education. The kids don’t know how they learn. Like my son who is almost about to turn 14 and only just figured out some of his triggers in classroom that make him angry, and
he needs to step away. So, he’s only just figured that out. How is he going to know that, you know, orally is going to be the best way.
Pete: >Um, I think you’re very right. It’s something that needs to be worked in the school to figure out how each child learns. So, at the start of the year, or even at the end of the year, they will pick which classes benefited
based on the students and however they do it. But it would be interesting to know if that’s the sort of thing that they consider.
Emily:Yeah, I mean, the entire system is very antiquated as it is, even for people without ASD or who have learning difficulties, it is sort of a very rigid system isnt it? It really needs to be a bit more open and a
bit more adaptable and have those special people in class to help other teachers’ assistance and so forth.
Pete: Definitely. Let us move on to a bit more of our social skills. Bring us back to debunking this statement that people with autism do not have social skills. And let us start with you. What are some of the reactions that you
have come across from people when you have been saying in a shop or in a public place, have you had people react differently to you because of your ASD?
Anndi:Yes. I, um, I worry that sometimes people will assume that I am on drugs because I look sometimes very out of it. Um, because I know that has happened to people and police have, arrested people in the situation. But yes,
when I’m rocking in public shaking, my eyes just don’t focus. I can’t look people in the eye or yeah, even when I went to a doctor’s appointment, like as soon as I mentioned, I was autistic. He slowed things down to me, which I know he was
trying to be considerate, but it was quite patronizing because if, if I needed help, I could have asked, I could have asked, can you explain in a different way? You could slow down a little bit, but he slowed down and he, yeah, it was not
Pete: Do you find that from people in authority? When I say authorities, including doctors and that sort of thing that once they find out you have ASD, they sort of really do treat you like a small child. Did you get that all
the time? It’s funny that that pops up a fair bit whenever we talk to people with autism. That is that they get really babied by people. Emily. Do you find that as well?
Emily: Yeah. And they don’t, they don’t address them. They will address me.
Pete: Correct? Yes. They talked to the parent and not the child.
Emily: Generally, I don’t know. Ask them. Yeah. It’s not my statement.
Pete: Yes. What about you Cody, do you find that at all? …You don’t. Have you had any people react strangely to you because you have ASD? Cody No.
Pete: Well, that’s nice. You are lucky, aren’t you? What about Anndi? What about any sort of discrimination you’ve experienced as well because of ASD?
Pete: Have you gone for let’s say have you gone for jobs or anything? And people have gone, and you think it’s because of your ASD?
Anndi: hm. Yeah. I think it is because of my ASD. And I have scoliosis. Um for example I think there needs to be more accessibility and jobs with disabilities in general. Um I just wanted to do work experience at a florist because
I want to become a florist as well. Um But I wanted to get some experience for us to see whether this is the right passion of mine. But all I need is a chair to sit at a table. But they say the table is too high so they cannot do it but why
can’t they just get a higher chair?
Pete: That is sensible, isn’t it?
Anndi:Yes. But the older florists were phoned with my job provider. They just say no we cannot do that. We cannot provide you with a chair, which is all I need to do work?
Pete: So, do you tell them before you have a face-to-face interview? Do you tell them that you have scoliosis and those things? ave you ever not told them just before showing up for a face-to-face interview?
Anndi:Well, I haven’t gotten that far yet. All I have done is work experience. Um I am currently trying to do some volunteering work like an old folk’s home or um what was the other place or an op shop? Um Yes, I think for some
it is hard to find the right environment and you must be careful about what might happen when to mention it. I think because you know, it should not be a thing that is taboo, it should not be something that you hide away from. But in certain
circumstances you must be careful about when to mention it.
Pete: Now. You are you are a self-employed artist. Is that through necessity?
Anndi:Yes. Because of this sort of thing.Because the only jobs you are getting, are saying, that “He sounds like he is a volunteer only”. I can’t even get volunteer work at the moment. I don’t know whether that’s covid
Pete: There are people out there desperate to employ people on the radio and the television, but then you’re still struggling.
Anndi: I am still struggling. All I need is a chair to do my work and just some patience and understanding.
Pete: > Does that bother you Emily that your kids who are still at school, are possibly coming into this work force of discrimination? that they’re going to come up against in our society?
Emily:100%. Like if I was to describe my Children, my eldest is very in your face. So, I am worried for her because safety awareness, she’d walk straight in and just be like, hey what’s up and then just dribble her life to you
and it’ll all be about her because she’s only just realized what’s going on with her. But she’s self-centred. So, she’d be like me, me, me, me, me. I do worry that she’s going to hit a few doors but in saying that I’m proud of her because
she only turned 14 last year and um, she’s like guns blazing to get a job. She’s already reading, you know the driver’s manual so she can start doing her learner’s next year. And yeah, but because it affects her it’s me, me, me, me, so I’m
hoping that she steps into an accommodating place. See I’ve had a lot of participants who have had success with like Coles and Woolworths, and you know they have made the right fit. So, I’m excited for her as well.
Pete: Yeah. Nice. What about you Cody, have you come across any sort of discrimination or anything? Cody No. Pete Well, you already about to go into the workforce, are you scared to go into the workforce or you’re excited.
Pete: Really? What do you look forward to now? I know what, I think you’re going to say – The money – but are you looking forward to the social side of it as well? Meeting new friends and things?
Pete: Nice one. We’ve had this podcast going now for four seasons now and I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, people’s attitudes are already starting to change and I’m hearing a lot of people telling me that attitudes are
starting to change for people with disability and accessibility and all that sort of stuff you even mentioned. Coles and Woolies they’re putting in systems in place and maccas as well. Have you noticed since your kids were diagnosed that there’s
been more changes? or are you noticing because it’s something you’re paying more attention to, what do you think?
Emily: I sort of just forced it on everybody.
Emily:So, my Children for the first time in their short little lives decided that they were going to participate in a social sport and that was the first massive moment last year. My youngest daughter with ASD was the first to
play for Sapna with a disability. My son was the second child to play with a disability, I was so proud last year! So, you know that was a big achievement for me and my Children.
Pete: Yes, attitudes are changing more and more
Emily:Yeah, yeah, I think it’s about finding the right spot the right environment.
Pete: How has the NDIS helped?
Emily:With a lot of therapy. It’s new for my eldest child, but only being a couple of months, it’s massive for her. She’s starting to understand how to talk up for herself, she’s starting to understand certain ways that she talks
to people are not appropriate, so that’s massive. She’s starting to understand how to explain what’s going on with her body. So instead of just going, I ache everywhere, she’s able to describe that sort of stuff. It’s something that I’ve been
working on for a very long time with her and somebody else reinforcing helping me to talk to her differently which is massive. Its built social skills in my son to be able to navigate school and join netball last year and football this year
and with my youngest helped with behaviour. So, we’re not getting hit or beat up anymore.
Pete: What about attitude changes? Have you noticed any attitude changes?
Anndi:I noticed with schooling and certain schools I’ve seen on the social media and stuff that they have tried hard to adjust for students, like make those sensory rooms and because my art is the teacher as well, I think have
adjusted and its more accessible. Um, that’s what I have noticed with work, they they’re trying, or they say, oh, it is illegal to discriminate, but they continue to refuse. Can you continue to refuse to hire disabled people? So, I need actions
and proof that you are going to get better. Just talk.
Pete: You mentioned social media there and you saw certain things on social media. Do you think that social media has been a good thing? because people are starting to see other people like them increasingly because you were not
seeing them in mainstream media, you were not seeing a lot of people with ASD or people in wheelchairs and so forth on mainstream media. And now with social media, has that made you feel a little bit better about yourself that there’s other
people out there just like me
Anndi:Of course, social media can be toxic. But it can also help you find community, which I have. I found my community. My autism community. I found so many people out there. Im struggling to get diagnosis, but in America the
changing criterion for diagnosis is harder. Um Yeah, but it is absolutely amazing to find people.
Pete:;How about you Cody? You are on social media.
Pete: Why not? I thought you might follow the Adelaide Crows or something on Facebook or Instagram?
Cody: No, only Facebook.
Pete: So, you have got a little bit of Facebook? So, who do you follow on Facebook? Do you follow anyone with ASD or are you more your sport fan or know who do you follow?
Cody: Just mum.
Pete: Is that it? Well, you might have to follow Mcdonald’s if you get a job there, will you do that?
Pete: Let me ask you because you have got the teenagers at home. The social media thing, good or bad?
Emily:I do not have it, but none of them have it okay, so why is obviously a conscious reason. My daughter would probably run away with somebody. It’s a safety issue. Yeah, so we don’t have it.
Pete: Yeah. Yeah. So how do you see it? Do you see it as a good thing is what Anndi was saying that there is some good and some bad, there is the bullying aspect of it, but there is also that finding your people.
Emily:Yeah, so I like it for the community kind of aspect. Um And finding resources. I am on a lot of pages for that sort of stuff, and you know, basic stuff like you know, food help and whatnot. And I love it for that socially
though. I do think it is way too toxic. People can turn into a gang easily and at the end of the day words hurt, this is all about social skills, that’s what we’re talking about.
Pete: Anndi, do you think the social media side of things is that better or worse for your social skills? Are you out there talking to more people or are you going down the rabbit hole and like getting lost in the whole thing?
Anndi:I think it can be good for people who struggle to communicate. They can still verbally like if they struggle to talk to people but they can type. Um They can still find that community and talk to so many people. Um Yes because
I have got a friend like that. Um But what was the question?
PeteWell, what we’re talking about social media, so the whole topic of today is talking about people with autism and their social skills, do you think that social
media has improved? I mean let’s say for example with yourself, if you’re not great at typing, but you can do a video, so you can be a bit more oral with stuff. Yeah. So, it makes you feel a little bit more comfortable chatting. Have you met anyone
over social media and then actually met them face to face or is it all just online?
Anndi: Oh yeah, I have. And they weren’t murderers, which is good.
Pete You’re still here. That’s a good stuff. Have you become friends or was it a good experience?
Anndi: Yeah. Yeah. Some of them I’m just really close with and they live in different countries.
PeteLet’s talk about a few autism myths because I’ve been doing a little bit of research. We had a chat, let’s start with you guys. Anndi, can you tell me what are some of the things that people believe about autism that’s not
true? What is the misconceptions that you may have come across, the people have said to you?
Anndi:Um, trying to think about how to word it. Can you come back to me?
PeteWhat about you Emily, some of the misconceptions that people have about people with ASD?
Emily:That that there are meltdown/tantrums and they’re not. That’s probably my biggest one
PeteBecause I’ve got a few here that have come from a few other people we’ve spoken to on the show previously. I mean
the one that intrigues me is, I mean it’s just I think it’s just the ignorance of people that autism is caused by bad parenting was one thing and that autism is caused by vaccinations. I’ve heard that on social media, but that’s here. It’s possible
for people with autism to change their behaviour.
Emily: I think it is like, I think it is, but it isn’t like that’s a really tough one. My kids aren’t the same as they were a long time ago and it’s because they are changing their learning, they’re adapting as we all do. But
That was a difficult one. I don’t think it’s that easy. I think they would do things differently to neuro typical person, but I do think it’s possible to change some stuff about people with autism as in savant skills like Rain Man.
Anndi:Um, people assume because I’m um, quote, unquote, not as autistic as some people or as their child, that I must be gifted, but no, I’m just average bear like, oh, I can like, I can draw, you can do this. I can’t, like, I
think the most gifted thing about me is my creativity. I make things, but I’m not that great at it.
Emily: I love your scrunchies
Pete: What about all people with autism have an intellectual disability.
Anndi: I don’t think that’s true as someone who has been diagnosed with it as an intellectual disability.
Pete: What do you think people say all these things?
Anndi:Um, because I think people often have to have it because it’s such a broad thing and it’s just easier to think as one way as these stereotypes.
Pete: Yeah. Good answer actually because it is such a broad spectrum there, there’s so many different people, I mean three different, completely different people in the same family in your case, Emily.
Emily: But they’re all completely different as most Children, but on the different levels of the spectrum.
Pete: Yeah, that’s incredible. Cody what about you, do you think people with autism can change their behaviour?
Pete: They can mature and become better people can’t they?
Pete: Yes. Yes. I think it would all have to agree on that one. Now let’s wrap up with our final question and go back to the whole topic, autism in the social skills. So, we’ll go around in a circle. So, Emily, when people say
that people with autism don’t have social skills, what do you say to that?
Emily:That’s not true. I just don’tt think that they have learned everything yet.
Pete: And none of us have.
Anndi:That’s a good way of putting it. Yeah.
Pete: Are people with ASD smarter?
Emily: I don’t know the answer to that
Pete: That’s true because I’ve met some very smart people who are on it. One girl who we interviewed recently said she feels like an alien on the wrong planet. And she’s way smarter and better than I’ll ever be. So, okay, let’s
go over to you Anndi when people say that people with autism don’t have social skills. What do you say to that?
Anndi: Once again, we might not have learned everything. Every everyone’s built differently. Some appear to be more different than others I think, but we’re still human.
Pete: I can tell you right now, there’s a lot of people out there who haven’t got ASD who don’t have social skills. There’s a lot of rude and arrogant people there. Alright, I’m going to hit you up Cody. What do you say when people
say people with autism don’t have social skills, what do you say to them? You’re not sure? If anyone’s listened to our podcast beforem Grow Bold with disability, we always wrap up with one last question. And that is what does living a bold
life mean to you? Yeah, this gets them every time Emily, I’ll let you go first because Anndi is sitting over there going, thank God he asked her first um,
Emily:just be you and ignore everybody else.
Pete: Anndi, what does a bold life mean to you?
Anndi:Living unapologetically. Um once again, being yourself, but being kind, being decent.
Pete: Cody what about you?
Cody: be the best you can.
Pete:Beautiful. Yeah, well, that’s it for us today. Thank everyone so much for listening to today’s grow bold with disability podcast brought to you by Feros Care. And I’d also like to thank our guests Cody Emily and Anndi thank
you so much for your time and insights into the amazing world of autism and listeners can find out more about autism and our guests in the link provided in today’s show notes. Thanks guys. Thanks for being part of it. Thank you. Thank you.
This podcast is brought to you by Feros Care, an NDIS partner delivering local area coordination services in Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Feros care is a people care organization committed to helping people
live bolder lives. We call it Growing Bold. For over 30 years, Feros has been making it real for both older Australians and those living with disability. To find out more head to www.feroscare.com.au
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The content and views discussed in this podcast series are those of the individuals involved. They are not necessarily condoned by, or, are the views of Feros Care or its employees.