Last Friday evening I attended a panel event at University of Melbourne's Festival of Ideas, titled Asparagus Syndrome. Panel members were author Kathy Lette, Autism CRC Ltd Chair Judy Brewer, comedian John Doyle, former Chair of Australian Centre for Child Protection Dorothy Scott, and Professor of child psychiatrist Jon Jureidini.
Kathy Lette spoke humorously about her experiences as an author and parent of a young man with Aspergers, and her habit of stealing from her own life to write her fiction. Her latest novel, The Boy Who Fell to Earth, provides many insights into her own parenting experiences, and those around her.
While there were many laughs on the night, some serious themes were also addressed, particularly once the debate was opened up to questions from the audience. Some quotes from Kathy
- mainstream schooling is like a masterclass in low self esteem
- autistic people are the garlic in life's salad
- human rights begin at home
- It's like he's drowning in his own brain waves
- autism deniers have sceptecemia
The panel discussed out-dated theories of autism, such as the refridgerator mother and MMR vaccine, as well as current theories under investigation, inlcuding the extreme male brain, and testosterone levels in utero. However Judy Brewer, Chair of the Autism Collaborate Research Centre, confirmed that 70% of autism was attributed to a genetic basis, and that there most likely was many causes of autism, and many types of autism, yet to be discovered.
Other topics touched upon were coping strategies, the need for more research funding ("breakthroughs can only come from research") adults with autism ("people with autism are adults for far longer than they are children"), the NDIS (needs based system, not diagnosis based, so eligibility for services will depend on severity of need) and the ideal that no conversation about people with Aspergers / autism should be held without people on the autism spectrum.
Siblings needs were raised at one point, and I was pleased to be able to announce Aspergers Victoria's new siblings group, which starts this Friday, 11th October. Details can be found here
Afterwards Kathy kindly posed for a photo with our group from Aspergers Victoria
Kathy is returning to Melbourne for another autism event this Thursday 10th October. I'll update with details asap.