About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.
Author Archive | Stuart Duncan

How to go beyond prejudice and hate

There are times when my faith in humanity is restored, as rare as they are, when someone might go out of their way to help someone they don’t know or when someone goes above and beyond to help charities or groups. Those are nice moments and I celebrate them. But it also saddens me because it also means two things: 1) my faith in humanity is lost most of the time and 2) I am celebrating what should be considered the average thing for people to do.

In this last week, I’ve had no reason to celebrate and my faith in humanity lowered even more, which I did not think possible.

First was a Cheerios commercial with a child pranking her father by putting cereal all over him while he was sleeping. Innocent enough and made for a funny cereal commercial. However, it sparked an uproar as many many haters came out from their shadows (often times very public political and journalistic shadows) to have their say in how evil this commercial was for the simple reason that the family in the commercial was of mixed race. Which I personally do not understand as ever person in it was clearly of the human race, but I digress.

Here is the commercial:

Cute right? If you hate it, feel free to not comment. No one wants to hear from you.

Next, we have an 11 year old child with more talent than most of us will ever dream of having, singing the national anthem at a basketball game. Now this kid, he didn’t just do well for an 11 year old, he did better than most adults I see attempting to do the same thing. And I say “attempting to do the same thing” because after this kid’s performance, I am reluctant to call what those other people did as singing the national anthem. He’s just that good.

His name is Sebastien De La Cruz and if his name doesn’t give enough reason to figure out where the hate originated with this one, perhaps the video will. Before you watch though, understand this… this child is American. And he’s awesome.

His crime, according to the haters? Not being white enough I guess. They say it’s because he’s from a family of immigrants but that can’t be it since all the people hating are also descended from immigrants. Also, I’d argue that if he was from any country at all anywhere, they wouldn’t have said anything if only he had been a white kid. But hey, let’s call it like it is. This kid is far more talented than they are, he was the one out there, asked to perform and receiving the standing ovation. I am jealous too! It’s just that I don’t use that as an excuse to hate him for anything I and everything I can no matter how petty.

Again, if you disagree with me and think it’s ok to hate this kid, feel free to comment… somewhere else. No one wants to read what you have to say.

Finally, we have the ultimate in hate, murder. Alex Spourdalakis, a teen aged boy with severe autism was bound to his bed in a hospital and eventually murdered by his mother and godmother as they claimed that caring for him was just too difficult. The truth there is that they simply hated him. They hated that he made them work. They hated that he tested them. They resented him.

The story here: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=9136005

Now, some people try to say that it’s not the mother’s fault, that parenting is stressful and that having a child like Alex can push you to the extreme… fine. I can agree with that. It can be hard and it can push you. But murder is still murder. Hating someone for making your life difficult is still hate.

Because this child was not the child they had dreamed of, because this child needed more care and a more devoted and caring mother than what she was capable of, they felt it was ok to kill him. I suppose they felt they were doing him a favour, which is clearly a ridiculous notion.

Then, it happened. A knock at my door by a Jehova’s Witness. Who’s lesson he was attempting to share was that hate and prejudice are everywhere but that God is not that way nor did he intend it to be that way. Then, he asked me:

“Do you think people will ever move beyond prejudice and hate? Do you think God is prejudiced?”

I stood there, debating in my mind, whether to slam the door in his face or to let him know what I really think about hate, people and God.

I must have debated longer than I should have because he repeated the question.

I took a big breath and said this:

“No, people will not move beyond prejudice and hate so long as one person is different from another. Should we all eventually develop the same skin colour, we’ll simply find some other reason to hate them. like those with special needs, as an example. We can’t stop the prejudice as it’s something that is a part of us. We see each other for the first time and we instinctively put the pieces together in our minds no matter how hard we try not to. You dress nice, you take care of yourself, you talk to people about good things, you’re clearly a good person. I pre-judged you the moment I opened the door. The thing is, it doesn’t always have to be about hate. I judged you but in a good way. I can respect those that clearly are hard workers, good parents and that do good things even before I get a chance to know them because of my prejudice towards them.

The trick isn’t to stop judging each other but to stop thinking that we always have to do so in a negative way. We have to stop hating people for the differences we don’t approve of and start liking people for the differences we do approve of.

Do I think God is prejudiced? A bit of a trick question if prejudice is to mean “pre-judge before knowing” and God is supposed to know all. But otherwise, of course. But not in a negative way. Everyone is better or worse than someone else at something. To know that, even to assume that as a pre-judgement, is prejudice. To look at a couple in a park that is laughing with their child is to pre-judge them as good parents. They might not be. But it’s a positive prejudice that I might have.

Will we ever move beyond prejudice and hate? No. No we won’t. And right now, society has proven to me that it is anything but an open minded and positive force. But maybe someday. Somehow.”

With that, he closed his bible and said “That’s interesting. I never really thought of it like that”, shook my hand and said goodbye.

Man I hated him for showing up when he did and asking that question. Man I hated people in general and his timing just really enraged me so much.

But the answer that I gave him, it wasn’t what I thought I was going to say at all. As I thought about it after I got back to my desk, I kinda realized that maybe my faith in people isn’t completely lost.

At least, not yet.

humanity_ocean

 

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Why I won’t be writing about fathers and autism this Father’s Day

My boys and I

My boys and I

When I started this blog, there were so few blogs from dads. Fewer still from dads that were writing about autism or having an autistic child. I felt honoured to represent the “silent” partners and even felt that I had a responsibility to say yes every time that someone asked if I’d contribute or guest post for other blogs when they tried to feature dads, especially around Father’s Day. And really, with so few dad autism bloggers, how could I say no? It’s not like they had a big list of others to fall back on.

It only took one year to realize that I was in over my head. Not that I had too much demand to write but that I very quickly ran out of things to write about. I felt that I was doing a disservice to those people that requested me if I just rehashed the same message for each of them even if I did phrase it differently.

It hadn’t occurred to me until after I was asked but, I really have no clue what to write about! Do I fall back on traditional stereotypes and write about bread winning and being strong and never sharing emotions and retreating to the man cave and needing a beer in each hand? Do I turn to the one thing that is most commonly written about with dads and autism… running away? Denial? I’m sure that doesn’t represent us very well and certainly doesn’t fit into my list of one responsibility… to represent a father’s point of view.

I had to fall back on my own blog, since it is called “Autism From a Father’s Point of View” after all and see what I could pull from things I had written before. But that wasn’t much help either. I discovered that even though everything was, indeed, from my point a view, as a father, nothing about any of it was distinctly fatherly. Nothing stood out as… you know, ground breaking insight into how it’s different for fathers.

The next year or two, I wrote when asked, but, I just wrote about what ever was on my mind at the time. I had given up on trying so hard to come up with something so focused on fathers. It really was stressful. Not “I might lose my job if I don’t reach this deadline” stressful but certainly enough that it really bothered me.

Why was I struggling with this?

Now, I’ve been to some homes where the traditional stereotypes aren’t traditional stereotypes at all, they’re facts. The dad is very obviously the bread winner and requires a beer and a football game after a hard days work. Now, I know that you may read that and say “Yeah? What’s wrong with that??” and if you do, I apologize. I don’t mean that it’s wrong in anyway. It’s become a stereotype for a reason. It’s how it was and how it still is for some people.

That being said, I’ve also noticed, in some homes, that things have very clearly changed. The mother is working every bit as hard as the father or possibly the only one working and likewise, the father is caring for the children and house every bit as much or may even be the only one… or at least, the majority of it.

I think this is where I begin to struggle because I see this even more so in families that have a child with autism. Especially if both parents are the accepting types. No duty is his or hers, no role is gender based. The father changes just as many diapers, attends the same dance recitals and even throws the footballs every bit as much as the mother does.

I’ve also found many families where there is now a single parent where there once was two… and it’s not always the mother that is pulling double duty now… sometimes it’s the father. Granted, this may not be as frequent as single mothers because there is truly something incredibly remarkable and strong about how mothers can get the job done without any help.  But some fathers are proving to be just as strong and just as remarkable and while I am not happy that it has to be that way, I am incredibly impressed and proud that they can.

Having realized this, having embraced this and as I hope that this trend continues and grows, I have decided that I will happily write and guest post elsewhere if asked but only on matters of parenting or about autism in general but not about fathers for Father’s Day. I am proud of fathers every day. And I love that there’s a special day for fathers just as there is for mothers because they deserve it… now more than ever.

But I can’t write about something that is uniquely one parent or the other as that distinction, I feel, no longer applies. Unless it’s about actual child birth or breastfeeding, neither of which is in my area of expertise, I can’t think of anything that I can tell you about a father that doesn’t also apply to a mother and vice versa.

That may mean less opportunities for me to get my name out there but so be it. It’s a good problem to have. Moms are dads, dads are moms and parents are parents. This applies even more so as gay marriage becomes legal in more and more places. Two women, two men… all parents. I’ll gladly pass up opportunities to write for others for that.

This Father’s Day, the only thing I have to say as a father is kudos to you fathers out there that give me nothing to write about on fathers. The less I have to write about that distinguishes a mother from a father, in my opinion, the better.

Keep it up.

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No one is less important than you – vlog video featuring Minecraft

In this video, I discuss our perceptions and assumptions of people that either can not speak or speak in a way that seems younger or less intelligent than we might think they should.

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Eat more than 3 foods? Never in a million years. Eat more than 3 video game controllers? No problem!

So my son has developed a new habit/stim/quirk/etc and that is chewing stuff. In the winter, he chewed his coat and his hat and his gloves. Since those were replaced with.. uhmm… nothing, it’s warm… he’s now taken to chewing other random odd things. Most notably, video game remotes.

It started with those rubber grippy things on the Wii remotes. I easily solved that problem, I removed the rubber grippy things. Wait, that’s not what they’re called? Well, what ever. You know what I’m talking about.

I thought, ever so foolishly of me, that the Xbox remotes would be pretty safe since they’re really quite solid and hard. I mean, he wouldn’t chew on those right? Wrong.

xbox chew toy

xbox chew toy

So yeah, now I have 2 rubber grippy things that are trashed (just the edges are nibbled on really but you just can not hold them in your hand with those edges like that) and I also now have 2 Xbox remotes that look like what you see in the photo (click for full size).

Yes, I have other stuff for him to chew, but does that stop him? No, it just gives him other stuff to chew.

If it’s not his nails, it’s random threads from clothing and if it’s not that, it’s my appliances.

Is this an autism thing? I don’t know. I’d like to think not. I mean, kids do these things sometimes.

Still though, not every child does. And that makes it one of those things that I can write about. Not to shame him or make him feel bad when he’s older and possibly reading this (Hi Cameron!!), but just as something for other parents to read and go “I totally know how frustrating that is!”

And hey, who knows, maybe one day Cameron will have a child and that child will eat his rubber grippy things. Or… new age polymer type stuff. What ever those new fangled toys kids will be playing with then.

If that happens and he tells me about it, I’ll refer him to this post. (Hi again Cameron!!)

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When did ‘different’ become wrong? or Acceptance is not a one way street

differences

There’s something about you that’s different

I couldn’t decide on which title I liked better so I just went ahead and used both.

There seems to be a divide growing between certain autistics and certain parents. Not all. Just certain ones. My fear is that divide is growing.

I cringe when I see people talk about how they don’t understand how “the camps” can’t work together. For me, I don’t understand how there can be “camps” at all. Yes, autistics are different from parents and children are different from adults but really, aren’t we all different anyway? Autistics are different from other autistics and parents are different from other parents.

In the camp of differences, we all belong together.

So it hurts me when I see people share their experiences and opinions and get attacked for it. Now, don’t get me wrong. If someone tells me the green grass is orange, I’ll be pretty quick to say “no it isn’t.” But really, do I need to? Is it a requirement of mine to correct them? Or worse, am I bound by some law that says I have to attack them for what a horrible person they are for believing it’s orange?

What if it turns out that the person has a condition, such as color blindness, that truly does make the grass look orange to them? Are they still wrong? Is their perception wrong? Do I proclaim them wrong because their brain interprets things differently than what mine and my friends brains do?

A parent is going to have a different perspective than their own child. That just has to be. I mean that whether the child has autism or not. If a parent shared a child’s perspective and was only interested in appeasing that child’s wants, then the child would have totally chocolate dinner every night, a water park in their bathroom and video games would replace school.

When I hear about a parent that “leashes” their child while out, or fences off their backyard or school yard, I find that it almost always accompanies people that don’t just share their own opinion that a parent shouldn’t do that, they outright attack that person’s intelligence, age, education, parenting skills, rationality, mental stability and oh so much more. People are vicious. They never once consider that person or their child’s past. Does the child have a history of dashing off? Into traffic? Is the child incapable of staying close by for some reason? Is the parent incapable of reaching their child should something happen? Perhaps they have a medical condition of their own such as bad knee or back?
The point is, maybe they just are way too overbearing… or maybe they have a very good reason for keeping their child safe in the way that they know how.

When I hear about an autistic that tries to share their experiences in just how hard life can be sometimes, I find that it almost always accompanies people that hate them for being negative when others are trying so very hard to make autism out to be a positive thing. Or conversely, there are those that hate autistics that share their successes and triumphs only because they’ve been trying so hard to paint autism as a very dark and debilitating thing. They don’t take the time to understand how hard it is to share these things or how hard the journey was to overcome the obstacles they did… they simply attack for not representing their own situation or for “giving people a false impression” simply because it does not reflect their own situation.

Everyone is different. Everyone’s perspectives are different. Everyone’s experiences are different. And for anyone, autistic, parent, child, etc to request/demand acceptance from others, they must be willing to do the same.

Instead of condemning a parent for protecting their child from the evils of a chocolate dinner, accept that they are different from you. Before you condemn an autistic for making the world think that not all autistics are like you or your child, accept that they are just different from you.

I am different. And I am proud. And quite frankly, I don’t care if you accept that about me or not. But know that I understand just how different you are. And I accept that too. You won’t parent how I parent. You won’t “be” as I will “be”. You won’t see the orange that I see.

If someone says something that I disagree with, that doesn’t make them wrong. It makes them different. And even if I do feel they’re wrong, it’s not my job nor my duty to attack them for it.

Different is not wrong. Acceptance is not a one way street.

Let’s accept the differences in those that we demand acceptance from for our differences.

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