A New Route for Harm: Autism in the New Paper by Exley and Mold

Joanie Calem On Her Son's Journey in Art School with Autism

Joanie calemNote: Thanks to Joanie Calem for introducing me to her writing, so that I can introduce you, our readers. This post below is the perfect piece to run now that April and Autism Awareness Month is over.  Although Covid overshadowed the month of blue, for sure. Joanie writes reality. Below you'll read how her son was put on probation at an art school - because of his autistic traits and coping mechanisms.  Thank you to the neurodiversity movement and the mainstream media's deep desire to pretend autism is simply like hair or eye color.  It's not. 

Joanie is a folk musician with lots of music to share along with her insights as an autism parent. I know you'll enjoy her work.

Visit JoanieCalem.com


A person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society….

Shepherding children to adulthood is a bit of a whirlwind. The school years are often one long race from morning ‘til night. But as any parent of both a neurotypical child and a child with autism can testify, there is great variance in the nature of whirlwinds… both my husband and I realized early on that our parenting style changes dramatically depending on which offspring we are with at any given moment.

Just a mundane example: Looking back at the 13 years that our neurotypical daughter, who is now 26, was in school, we dutifully appeared for the standard parent-teacher conferences and events where her teachers heaped praise on her. In contrast, during the 16 years that our son, who has autism and is now 24, was in school, we were there for IEP meetings multiple times per year for ongoing consultations with teachers and administrators multiple times per year, disciplinary meetings, emergency meetings, negotiations about behavior plans, and then of course those same parent-teacher meetings and events. Vive la différence! I was a virtual stranger to my daughter’s educators; I was a regular installation for my son’s.

I began my teaching career before I had children. I loved learning about the theory of multiple intelligences and different learning styles and used this information regularly as a music teacher. This background in education and child development certainly helped in parenting as well. As a disability advocate now, I often run into parents who honestly don’t know that their children’s development is different than what it should b, because they are not in a field that requires that knowledge. Having a background in education helped me identify early on that our son was wired differently, and that all those big books about the stages of child development did not actually apply. I knew we were in foreign territory, and I knew that I didn’t know what to do.

Our son is a poster child for multiple intelligences and different learning styles. I am eternally grateful for all the educators who have worked hard over the years to figure out how to reach him, encourage him and recognize his strengths. As a parent and educator in the world of special needs, I know both how difficult this can be and how essential it is. Along with these wonderful teachers though, there is sadly also an equally long list of educators who did or still do not seem to have any patience or desire to work with someone who’s learning style was or is outside of their comfort zone. Some were downright abusive, some just impatient, most (of this list) just could not figure out what his story was....

Read more at Joanie Calem's Blog.


Grace Green

Thanks, John and Angus, for your support. Angus, how do you manage to keep such a sense of humour?! Definitely that's the only way to get through.

Angus Files

The self check out is worse our son wanders off as he sees your distracted.Its more like the circus performer spinning plates with a bundle of reusable bags under both arms trying to get a wallet out of a pocket that doesnt want to come out of...I`m off thanks, he thinks!

Pharma For Prison

John Stone


Saddened to hear of your disgraceful treatment by Sainsbury’s. They should really deliver to you.

Disabled or NT you won’t be the the first to feel harassed by one of those machines.


Grace Green

Here's another complaint about my local supermarket, Sainsbury's. (Do they have an autistic member of their family, or is that someone else?). I'm entitled to shop during one of the three hours set aside for the elderly or disabled (I qualify on both counts, by virtue of having my Autism Card.) But the third time my son and I arrived we were told only one adult could enter from each household. I queried the fact that a disabled person wasn't allowed to have their helper, but they wouldn't repent and I had to struggle on my own. The next time we went we asked to see the manager, and it turned out their was no problem. One difficulty became apparent when I was about to pay by card at the self-checkout. Those machines put a lot of time pressure on you, and just as I was about to pay a loud alarm sounded over the tanoy. This requires me to put my fingers in my ears, but the wifey is shouting at me, "No activity detected!" These "little" difficulties are just not understood by the NT public.

Beleaguered Autism Mom

My son was selected for the "self-determination" program by our "Regional Center". Last Fall, my son chose ballet class from the local adult education catalog. He was kicked out of class in less than 20 minutes for the same reasons Joanie Calem's son was put on probation for his behavior in art class. He was kicked out of Marine Biology in less than a month in 9th grade for the same reasons. These were the only two classes he has been allowed to enroll in with the general population and he was kicked out of both. There is a shortage of people with open hearts and minds, in comparison to the number of those with ASD. This is how autism stays hidden.

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