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What is Autism?

Autism is a group of conditions within a spectrum (ASC). We could say it is a complex neurological disorder (although the convenience of this word is argued) that affects an individual throughout their lives. It usually affects a person’s communication, social interaction and social imagination, in which it’s called “The triad of impairments”:

  • Communication is how we all understand each other, it includes all forms of transmitting information to one another, even body language.
  • Social Interaction, is how we all interact with each other. Depending on cultural idiosyncrasy, means what is appropriate or not.
  • Social Imagination is the ability to imagine ourselves out of our familiar routines and be able to look at them from a different perspective

The spectrum is so big that we could have autistic people having what we would understand as standard or/and successful lives whilst others need high levels of support to get by.

How is Autism diagnosed?

As with every condition that can have an effect on one’s life, early diagnose and therapy implementation is key to help everyone reach their full potential.

Normally, it would be the parents who notice unusual behaviours or that their child does not reach developmental milestones. Some parents mention they noticed their child seemed different since birth whilst others speak about a regression, thus their child went through the expected milestones for their age and then seemed to stop or even ‘forget’ said abilities.

What does “being in the spectrum” mean?

Like we said before, autism is imagined within a spectrum. Let’s imagine a huge cylinder and depending on which point of said cylinder we find ourselves at, our lives with autism will be different to that at a different point. Autism is very complex and while we can find people in care homes, community living houses, mental health hospitals and similar settings who need that level of support to stay safe, supported and happy, others live standard lives, with jobs, bills, children… We even have celebrities like Dan Aykroyd  (Ghostbusters), Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill) or Megan Fox (Transformers) and eminences in their fields such Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin who have helped create awareness and de-stigmatizing this condition.

Advocates for autism like to speak about “Autism treats” rather than symptoms. Some of these can include some, none of all of the following: Information process delay, repetitive movements, strict routines, inability to speak (non verbal, not to be confused with mute)…

One of the most characteristic treats is the sensory impairment. That can be under or over sensory to touch, smells, sounds lights and tastes. Some people can hate the feel of silk while others love the taste of a raw onion but can’t stand it cooked. It is a fascinating journey taking a person with autism into discovering new sensations, but it must be done carefully.

Another thing that affects neurotypical people a lot and also takes its tall on people with autism is anxiety. Anxiety can be triggered by many factors, such stress. Now imagine how an autistic person can feel if they have any or many of the issues we just learnt about. It would be terrifying and anxiety is what leads to crisis and behaviours, which could have given a bad name to the condition in the past.

How many people are affected?

We have been through a downhill journey in the last decades, going from 1 in 150 that was believed years ago, to the 1 in 63 we seemed to have currently agreed on. This difference in numbers can be related to better and more abundant ways and resources to carry out diagnose but not few believe that what we eat, breath and our lifestyle could also be having an impact on that rise.

How does Autism develop?

No one knows with certainty. We could expect that such a common and spread condition would have a known cause but in so many different ways it is still a mistery. The latest resources seem to point out there is a big genetic impact but there can also be enviromental triggers and other health conditions can affect on someone’s chances to develop Autism

But Donald J. Trump said it was vaccines!

Donald J. Trump was very irresponsible when he said that during the last American Election Campaign. This theory that Andrew Wakefield developed in 1998 was later disputed by Brian Deer who found that Mr Wakefield not only had many undeclared conflicts of interest but had also broken many ethical codes and manipulated evidence, so the paper was partially retracted in 2004 and completely thrown in the bin by 2010. Needless to say Wakefield was found guilty and removed from the Medical Registrar, meaning he could no longer practice as a Doctor.

It has been a recurrent point to make by those against vaccines, but let us be clear: Despite agreeing or being against the amount of heavy metals, non existent in older version of the same medicines, vaccines do not cause autism. They just don’t.

Is there a cure for Autism?

Now this question could offend (righteously) so many people with Autism as this could be percieved as an attack to what makes them different or what gives them abilities beyond human comprehension, like super rich imagination. Normally, relatives of those whose lives have been negatively affected by the condition seem to defer a little.

Anyhow, there are only two possible answers to this tricky question:

  • No, Autism is not a disease hence does not need a cure.
  • No, Autism is caused by different development of how our brain works and process information. As someone within the spectrum stated on Twitter: “Our brain is wired differently, so works differently but works fine”.

We hope you enjoyed and learned a little bit about autism, however if you want to learn more, why not check the links below?

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We are looking for Sponsors

As well as people with Autistic Spectrum Condition need some support to achieve their best potential, we feel we may also need support to achieve our goal and get to Madrid on time. We have some of the necessary equipment, but it would be awesome if some companies join us and put their names on the project by donating gear we can use for the journey and then leave with the charities to organize auctions or such events that would help raise a little more towards the cause.

We are in need of:

  • Bikes. We have our own bikes, but if any bicycle have a couple of quick models that need testing, or would like to sponsor us by lending two bikes, that would be a game changer
  • Cycling gear. Again, we have our own gear, but considering we will have to travel light, and that we will sleep in the wild a few nights, we could use some of the latest technology for athletes. Is there any company out there who want to provide us with clothing and safety gear? Please join the project
  • Sports Camera. We would love show the world and our donors what we’re doing, and prove we’re not cheating and taking trains or getting lifts, but it would be extremely hard to do by constantly holding a phone with one hand and the bike with the other.
  • Nutritional advice. We are fairly healthy people, and do regular sports, but we have never endured anything so extreme, so we need to learn a lot, and learn from good professionals. Any Sports Nutritionist out there who want to make us a plan to make it alive to Madrid, please get in touch.
  • Accommodation. We will be travelling for 18 days through Britain, France and Spain. We are looking forward to some camping, but we will need a lot of rest and a shower now and then. We would kindly and thankfully accept any kind of help in this matter, from all Hotels, Hostels, Camping Sites and people who’d welcome us on their spare sofas.
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Bluerides 2017

And it happened, the expected day was here before we could know it and with a lot of the gear arriving earlier that week if not the day before, both bikes, one of them borrowed from Monkey’s cousin, had all panniers, racks, bags, bottles etc. Braveness was the word for those days, when we used to think we could go without a camping mattress for sixteen days and still peddle for about 70 miles in each one of them and that would be ok.

What happened next was only going to be the opposite of what we planned, like having constant rain for the first week solid. We knew this may happen while riding on British soil, but we packed beach towels and bathers in hopes to finish our days relaxing along the French coast from north to south in our super nice overly planned route.

Despite all the unpredictable and rain we actually had a great time, and we ended up raising 1,600 € for Grupo AMAS in Spain, and £530 for Autism Puzzles, in Wales. Due to different legislation, we had to run separate campaigns.

For Autism Puzzles, we used the donation platform JustGiving for all online contributions, and we also collected cash in our workplaces, topping up the total amount received by Autism Puzzles. Perhaps having ridden only 2 days in the UK and the inexperience we had in organizing such long and big event showed on a lower collection for our British partners. That and perhaps that charity events organised by members of the community are so much more common in Great Britain than they are in Spain. Despite not being able to stand out in time, we still got to speak to Gareth Lewis in Good Evening Wales on our way to Bath.

For Grupo AMAS we chose to divert all donations straight to them, so they had all contributions straight away, which made things easier than other options.

In Spain the idea got a little bit more viral. We spoke to many radio shows, got mentioned in national and local press, appeared on TV, had an event organised by Pamplona’s Council and two charities, who came along on bikes for a few miles led by Patrica Perales, Pamplona’s  Deputy Mayor and finally welcomed and awarded with Honour Medals of the City by many Leganes citizens, the La Liga CD Leganes’ president Maria Victoria Pavon; Social Services, Education and Children’s Rights Councilor Virginia Jimenez and the Mayor Mr Santiago Rodriguez.

Such a great time… Let’s do it again, shall we?