The media being unhelpful when it comes to representing people with Asperger Syndrome etc (and it has been going on for many years). – One of my mini lectures because I feel strongly about this issue.

I woke up this morning to find an article on Twitter posted on the local papers feed and website. It probably will be in this week’s edition of the printed version of the paper on Thursday too. That is normally how things work nowadays. It was a court report which I do understand has to be facts from the case because I know that from my media law lessons at University. However, there are ways that they can give facts out which are extremely damaging. The wording of these articles have to be carefully selected otherwise the whole group of us with that condition could be shunned. I found that it was carelessly written. The condition didn’t have to be mentioned specifically. The reporter could have just described what the condition consists of rather than the label. How about describing it as the defendant suffered from a social communication condition (which is what it is)? I also read another blog on my Twitter feed about something else that had been published which could be detrimental to those with our label. Both articles were about those with Asperger Syndrome stalking another. I really do not like that word used.

It stems from ignorance because people group behaviours together. I’ve had conversations with Journalists  (and police officers/professionals) who are completely ignorant to what the condition is really about and that is apparent by their wording of what they say. I got charged with Harassment, not Stalking. I have NEVER followed another person. I literally grew up communicating in written form because I was taught to do that at an early age if I couldn’t verbally communicate with someone. As someone else’s blog said yesterday (also local to this area), people with our condition could be singled out and suffer poor treatment (which has happened to me) because people aren’t seeing the details properly. The different communicative behaviour is being seen as sinister and threatening. I’m most likely going to get trolled (online abuse) from others for expressing my opinion. However, I’m not going to keep my mouth shut about things which could potentially affect my life.

Anyway, now back to the specifics of this article that I got offended by this morning. The defendant in this article had falsely imprisoned his ex girlfriend after stalking her for 18 months. As someone who may be a little bit odd, but would never do something like that, I find that a misleading representation of our disability. Readers of the newspaper are going to read that and come to the conclusion that others on the same part of the spectrum are too dangerous to date or either to have as a friend. Those on the spectrum, including myself, are isolated enough because of our issues. We do not need this extra bit of potential stigma smothered on top by a careless court report. I do NOT condone what the defendant did because as a female that has had her share of over the top admirers (lots of blocks on fb and had to actually block phone numbers), that behaviour would frighten me quite severely. This isn’t about the facts of the case. The way it is reported is what I am really bothered about because of the knock on effects on others lives, like my own, who are trying to rebuild their life and get others to give them a chance.  I don’t want people reading that article knowing that I have been labelled a criminal for my communication issues making assumptions that I’m someone which I am not.

Television programmes/films etc. can be just as irresponsible and careless when representing those on the spectrum. I watched an American film on a Freeview channel a few months ago. It was about a woman and a guy who both had Asperger Syndrome getting married and their relationship. The woman had been married quite young before to a previous partner that had passed away. It was the weirdest thing I’ve watched in a long time. The woman was very child like (which is something I can relate to) but it was the way they represented it that I found insulting. Then there was a bit that happened after their marriage where he stabbed his wife. They stayed together after it happened. I just feel that people will then assume that every person with Asperger Syndrome is violent. Some people have violent tendencies but that is their nature rather than the condition. Anger issues are a lot more common in the males on the spectrum. Meltdowns are mostly harmless to others. The person with the condition is more likely to hurt themselves. At my worse I’ve taken a bath with bleach in it because of meltdowns caused by feeling guilty about how my disability affected those I cared about. It wasn’t permanent damage, however it hurt because it burned despite being quite diluted. Those meltdowns were triggered by the behaviour of others though. I also tried to take an overdose during another meltdown.

I don’t have them much anymore but then I’ve learned not to let things personally get to me. I used to take things extremely personally because I thought that everything was my fault. I never considered that some issues may be caused by other people’s issues. That could be from other people’s experiences or their perceptions which isn’t my fault. I never used to consider this when I was younger.

In this area in particular there has been a stigma for many years. This is due to one high profile case where a teenage boy with Asperger Syndrome, and with the mental age of someone a lot younger, accidentally (allegedly) killed a little girl called Rosie May (her parents have since set up the Rose May Foundation). This happened when I was in my early teens. I don’t think this helped the likes of myself when those of us with the same disability ended up in front of the same local court. Obviously, every time something major happens like that, professionals (working in the mental health system etc) are given more instructions to keep a close eye on certain groups and stigmatisation can occur. The assumption that we could all be potential murderers because of what happened is extremely damaging. I am sorry for her parents loss but we are not all like him. I hear that the boy was placed under and indefinite section in a psychiatric facility. He won’t ever be free. I’m not sticking up for him in any way, shape or form, but if he’d been sent to prison for murder he’d have probably been out by now.

I am very fearful of stigmatisation and assumptions being made due to the actions of individuals on the spectrum. I’ve made my own mistakes, but none of them were in malice. I didn’t know how to communicate ‘normally’. I had never learned how to communicate normally until I got sent on the probation courses while on my community sentence recently. The mental health services aren’t appropriate. A person with Asperger Syndrome or other social communication conditions doesn’t know how to communicate properly. They aren’t mentally ill, but require teaching. That is something that the mental health services don’t offer because they were set up to deal with those that have an abnormality of mind caused by illness of the mind.

I wish I’d had the courses offered to me on my community sentence many years ago. I know that they’re changing the system around here which means that those options are now available before someone gets convicted. Lord Willy Bach (Local Police and Crime Commissioner) has put all these new plans in place. After he was elected into his position, I wrote to him telling him the issues that we faced. Since then there has been these groups during community sentences, involvement with probation via conditional cautions (this has just come in over the last 6 months) and the work programme to get offenders into employment which I have been referred to recently. I don’t know if my letter setting the issues down for him had anything to do with the things he’s since implemented but I feel the changes that have been made will stop others ending up going down the road which previous generations have done because there wasn’t anything to give them at that time.