Thursday, June 22, 2017

Movie Review: Autistic Driving School


Autistic Driving School is a 2010 one-hour documentary on Netflix (and perhaps other places too) highlighting Julia Malkin's founding of a UK driving school that caters to teaching autistic people how to drive. Malkin is autistic herself.

With a driving license comes freedom, something most people want. For autistic teens and young adults however, the challenges of learning to drive safely can seem insurmountable, especially if receiving an instructor with no knowledge of how to teach to their special needs. As was stated in the movie, Autistic people are literal, so there's no saying 'take the next left' because they're likely to wind up in someone's garden. Some autistic people do not take instruction or correction well. While some can become excessively distracted, following anything and everything that interests them like a rabbit, others hardly notice anything around them, both of which are a problem when driving. The possibility of becoming overwhelmed and having a meltdown while driving is real. And more.

In comes Julia Malkin.

A woman with autism herself, Julia suffered through years of bullying in school, attempted suicide twice, one at age 16 and another at age 18, suffered through a nervous breakdown at 18, and lived as an adult by subsisting on dead end jobs...until....

Her diagnosis at age 40.
Since then, following her diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, Julia started up Excel Driver and Instructor Academy, which expanded rapidly and now helps people with autism learn to drive, provides education support and offers counselling, is still the only one of its kind in the UK.
She has achieved highest honors for her profession as the safest driver in England, earning an OBE, which is "The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry; rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the Civil Service."

According to the information given at the link, Julia attained four degrees in six years at two separate universities between 2008 and 2015 and became a Doctor of Philosophy, and founded another course of training to train Driving Instructors to teach autistic clients. The UK National Autistic Society shortlisted her as one of three finalists for the National Autistic Society’s award for outstanding achievement by a professional with an autism spectrum disorder.

Wow.

If you listen to Julia on the documentary it's obvious she is brilliant. She is articulate, passionate, and her powers of observation are astounding. At one point during the movie, she'd been asked to speak out loud what goes through her mind as she drives down the road...her observations of her surroundings combined with lightning fast sifting of that information was remarkable.

The documentary wasn't about Julia directly though. With sensitivity and compassion, several youths were featured in their process of the two-pronged driving training they must go through to attain a license. There is the book test and the on the road test. Several candidates were followed. Each student spoke of the special challenges unique to autistic drivers, according to the student him or herself, or according to their parents. One young main has set a goal for himself to become a Military Transport driver, so of course passing his first license test was important. But a wrinkle to his story is that his doctor had recommended taking a certain prescription medication for his OCD, but if one is on or has ever taken such a drug, it would immediately disqualify him for ever entering the military in the UK. He had a dilemma. He decided to forego the medication, but the result was he'd have to work even harder to manage his condition while he was on the road.

A 22 year old mother had earned her licence a few years prior, but had lost her nerve to drive. Another, a set of twins, create crafts and wanted to found a business of traveling town to town to fairs and such, selling them.

They all wanted freedom and independence that a driving license would provide.

I found the documentary instructive and interesting. It was produced and edited in such a way that you pull for the students and cheer the inspiring story of Julia. With so little attention paid to adults with Autism, and with so few generally inspiring stories around, this was a documentary I'd recommend as a DON'T MISS!


This is part of the documentary, 'Autistic Driving School' which was broadcast on BBC3. It tells the story of Julia Malkin, the most qualified driving instructor in the UK. It shows her battle with autism and her mission of inclusion in education both inside and outside the driver training industry.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Deconstructing letters

In cleaning out my bookshelf I rediscovered an old project I'd done. It was from the 1999 Paper & Book Intensive, a long weekend of projects and instruction from Masters on all aspects of papermaking and book binding. It was held at the picturesque location of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts at Blue Hill, Maine.

I can't believe it's been almost 20 years. I just can't believe it. /smh/ I'm getting old.

Anyway, the class was led by Suzanne Moore, called "Still Life with Letters." The blurb had said, "This course will give students new possibilities for page, book, and cover design using letters as visual subject. Students will begin with traditional typographic and written letters, and by abstraction, invention, repetition, and manipulation create a series of unique designs appropriate for a variety of book applications. Unusual tools and a variety of coloring techniques will further expand the horizon."

You know how, on the cooking shows, the chefs or contestants will sometimes "deconstruct meat loaf" and the dish they come up with has vestiges of traditional meat loaf but will be modern and updated? That was what we were supposed to do with letters. Deconstruct them, make them a design element, where you couldn't necessarily see the letter it was, but you could tell it was a letter.









These aren't spectacular but they are good for me at my skill level. It's harder than one would think to deconstruct a letter but still keep vestiges of the letter. I think they are pretty. I should actually take them out of the envelope I'd made for them and use them in another project. That way I won't forget them for another nearly 20 years!


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Historic Pews & Pulpits Ramble: My upcoming excursion

The Warren County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a historic church tour in eastern rural Georgia. I signed up with a friend and I'm so excited! Here is what it involves:
Georgia's Classic South Region is hosting a historic church tour called the Historic Pews and Pulpits Ramble on June 16, 2017. The bus will depart from the Greensboro Home Depot at 9 a.m. and go through rural east Georgia. There will be seven stops along the way to tour historic churches tucked away but not forgotten. Not only will you get to go inside the churches and hear about their humble beginnings, you'll be inspired by songs and words from some of the chancels and pulpits.
At each stop there will be a 30-minute presentation of the history of the church, the area, and some hymns. The Sacred Harp Singers of Atlanta will be part of the presentation at Wrightsboro Methodist Church!

Here are the 7 churches we will be visiting on the Heritage Tour:

Mount Zion Presbyterian Church, Sparta
Powelton Methodist Church Sparta
Antioch Baptist Church, Crawfordville
Wrightsboro Methodist Church, Thomson
Barnett Methodist Church, Norwood
Locust Grove Catholic Church, Crawfordville
Penfield Baptist Church, Union Point

Some of the churches are two hundred years old...the one with the towers was built by freed slaves...some are still in use, others in disrepair...it's exciting and interesting. I've never been to this part of Georgia so it all will be new.


The tour goes from 9-3 on a Friday in mid-June. There will be lots and lots of photo opportunities the write-up says and I can see that this is true. I will need to bring lots of batteries for my camera!

I haven't gone on a tour or excursion in almost ten years, so I'm very excited for this. Pray for good weather on June 16!

Information about Harp Singing, AKA Shape Note Singing, this historic form of singing hymns unique to the south (though it flowered briefly in New England prior to the Revolutionary War, it died out and was revived down south). Here are a few photos I took of a Harp Singing in Athens at the Botanical Gardens from 2007,



Yippee!