The other way you can tell that actually autistic people were not involved in this is that if you ask any autistic person what is most important for them in clothing they will tell you it's the fabric it's made of. Many autistic people have comorbid eczema, and a lot of those that don't have sensory issues, which mean that fabric and texture are hugely important in clothing. Something that is in contact with your skin all day needs to be made of something non-irritating; that almost always means 100% natural fibres. Cotton, or bamboo, or silk, or modal. Sometimes wool, but sometimes not. NEVER SODDING POLYESTER. And some of the clothes in that M&S range are 65% polyester. And of course it's very wearying that the only clothing specifically designed to be worn by autistic people is school uniform, because nobody of above school age is autistic, and no autistic child ever wears non-uniform clothing. AND they've "removed pockets for comfort". I have never known an autistic person who didn't want MORE pockets, as long as they are made from 100% natural fibre too.
So what would clothing for autistic people actually look like? Well, from the conversation on twitter today:
- Clear, obvious fabric labelling on the rack/shelf. While most of us just want everything 100% cotton, some of us prefer other natural fabrics like linen, and some actively prefer viscose or modal. Some of us can cope with silk or wool, some can't. Every single one of us, though, would like to see fabrics clearly, obviously labelled on the rack, without having to go hunting through the clothes for a tiny illegible care label.
- No polyester. Not even a little bit. Not ever. No, not even in linings.
- Linings are important! Linings are the bit that is actually in contact with your skin, so they need to be all natural fibres too. Note, though, that this does not mean you can take a garment made out of something horrible and line it with cotton and it will be OK - outer fabrics need to be touchable too.
- Care labels to be made of the same fabric as the clothing, not scratchy plastic.
- Elastic to be covered with the fabric the clothes are made of, not left to be in contact with your skin.
- Flat seams! Or even NO seams!
- For Cthulhu's sake, SOMEBODY make some bras we can wear! It is really, really, incredibly difficult to get hold of cotton bras, to the extent that I have considered making my own. And even if/when you DO find them, they are covered in non-cotton frills and lace and fripperies. And have stupid care labels made of plastic right in the middle of your back.
- Comfort and fit are much much more important than being on trend. I saw an article the other day that low slung waist trousers are coming back into fashion and actually cried.
- Moar pockets, on everything, especially women's clothes - but again, made of the same fabric as the actual clothing
- Stop saying things are "cotton touch" or "cotton feel" or "cotton rich". All this does is bugger up searching for cotton things. And actually, make your website searchable by fabric. That would be amazing.
- Would be lit sensibly, not with migraine-inducing lighting.
- Would have the afore-mentioned obvious, clear clothing labels on the shelf/rack.
- Would sort by size and colour as well as style.
- Would have assistants that wait to be approached rather than badgering you the second you enter the shop.
- Would not have music at all (many many autistic people love music, but find music that they don't like intensely irritating; whatever music you play some of us will like and some won't) and would ideally have sound baffling so that other people's conversations are not intrusive.
- Would open from (say) 12 till 8, rather than 9 to 5. Autistic people are more likely than others to have odd sleep patterns and/or working hours.
Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock
Yes, yes please
Fast AND furious, hurr hurr
No thanks, fit bald men aren't my thing
I have a really short attention span. What was the question?
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.
The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.
Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.
Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.
It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).
We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!
Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.
Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.
It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.
Further photos beneath the cut.
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One of the things we did was go to an art museum and wander around for a couple of hours. This is not a thing you can do with small children, unless you have imprisoned them in a pram, and then there would (not unreasonably) be screaming.
I’d previously been to both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The bloke had never been to the latter, but as it was the height of summer, it was not a good time to go. The place cannot cope with the number of visitors it receives, and unless you book days in advance, you can’t get in. When you do, you still have to queue, and you end up shuffling in a slow-moving crush of people past all of the artwork. It’s not a great experience. We opted, therefore, to go to one we’d never been in: the Stedelijk Museum, which is dedicated to modern art.
I really enjoyed the collection. It was well curated and I now have a little list of new (to me) artists to keep my eyes peeled for in the London exhibitions.
Photographer Zanele Muholi takes photos of LGBTQ+ community members in Africa. I definitely want a book of her work. It was a little irritating to find, at the end of our visit, that of all the special exhibitions on display, hers was the only one without a corresponding product available in the shop. No books, no postcards, nothing. Hmph.
From her “Brave Beauties” series.
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1) What is the most outrageous style you've ever rocked?
When I was a young 'un, there was that brief period when shell suits were incredibly fashionable, but before they had been discovered to be ridiculously dangerously flammable, and we had a non-uniform day at school. Every single other person in my class came in a shell suit. Some of them had those colour change t-shirts that showed your armpit sweat even worse than grey marl does. I wore cut-off denim hot pants, fishnet tights, an Alice Cooper t-shirt and a leather biker jacket.
I think that tells you everything you need to know about my attitude to fashion.
2) As a teen, were you an emo, goth, punk, grunger, or prep?
Um. I never could be bothered with the make-up requirements for goth, but I suspect I tended more that way in other respects, with bits of punk and grunger too. I mean, I never did do the blue stonewash jeans classic rocker look, I always wore black and purple.
3) Have you ever had a crazy hairstyle/colour?
Ever since I was 18 right up until the present. I'm normally one or more of blue, purple, or pink, but I've been other colours too. Went jet black once; didn't like it.
4) Do you think we ever really grow out of our teen selves?
I certainly haven't. But then I was quite elderly in outlook from about the age of 18 months, so... (this is possibly down to the autism, which obvs was undiagnosed when I was a young 'un.
5) Is there any fashion style you wish you could wear but maybe don't have the confidence?
It's not the confidence, it's the tolerance for pain. I wish I could wear halter neck tops, but my boobs are so heavy that they give me horrific neck ache within seconds of putting them on.
- What is the most outrageous style you've ever rocked?
Probably this one:
(That's me in 2003, wearing a green vest, black trousers & boots, sunglasses and very long dreadlocks. I'm carrying the tiny metal box that functioned as my handbag in those days.)
- As a teen, were you an emo, goth, punk, grunger, or prep?
As a young teen, I was trending toward goth, but I didn't go full rivethead until I was at university.
- Have you ever had a crazy hairstyle/colour?
I have worn unnatural shades of hair colour: green, blue and purple. I don't really think of dreadlocks as "crazy".
- Do you think we ever really grow out of our teen selves?
Um, yes, definitely. Thank GOODNESS.
- Is there any fashion style you wish you could wear but maybe don't have the confidence?
I would definitely love to be a bit more goth/rivet still. It's not that I lack the confidence, it's that I don't have the time, the money or the energy to maintain the look. I spend what resources I do have on my kids' wardrobes, not my own. Also, it would be pretty incongruous at my work, which is small-c conservative.
Questions are from the thefridayfive community.
The bloke’s parents with their heart-shaped homemade cake. The chalkboard next to them colourfully reads: “Welcome to Lodge 106. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! Have an excellent holiday. 😊”
A couple of weekends ago, we went to a Center Parcs with the bloke’s family to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Each family stayed in separate lodges, and we joined together for lunches, activities, tea and evening meals.
Going to a big resort-type thing in a forest in the school holidays seems to be a rite of passage for English children. Everyone else in the family (actually being English) had this innate understanding of how things were going to work and what was going to happen. I, on the other hand, was completely in the dark. I didn’t know that the “swimming pool” was going to be a massive indoor waterslide park with separate areas for children of all ages, for instance. Or that bringing our bicycles was not just so we could get some exercise, but so we could pop out to the shop for some milk for five minutes rather than have to walk for half an hour. The place was gigantic and – it being the start of the summer holidays – completely full.
The wildlife, being accustomed to the presence of humans, was very nearly tame. If you left the sliding door to the patio open, the ducks would waddle confidently inside in search of whatever food you had foolishly left out. The squirrels would take nuts from your hands. The muntjac deer would walk up to the patio door and stare in, and not run away until the toddler came outside and tried to pet it.
We had a truly typical British summer holiday experience in that it rained nearly the entire time, so we spent a good amount of time in the water park. Humuhumu was, at first, slightly afraid of the water slides. Subsequent to our first trip to the water park, we bought her some goggles and that flipped the switch. We couldn’t get her off the water slides after that. She went round them so many times that when we went to the changing room to get back into our clothes, she could barely stand, she was so exhausted. I only got the chance to try the water slides once for about ten minutes (during which Keiki apparently screamed for me the entire time), so I went for the biggest one (twice): the Cyclone, which you went down on a rubber raft in a group. I got to go with my niece and her mum, aka the bloke’s sister. I shrieked like a banshee the whole way down. It was fantastic.
Despite the filthy weather, we managed to sneak in some outdoor activities. We played boules. We climbed around the adventure playgrounds. I took Keiki to the pond, where the nearly tame baby moorhens nibbled at his wellies, to his boundless delight. We also found a peacock, with whom Keiki had a half-hour conversation. I turned my back on him briefly and when I looked at him, he had moved close enough to the peacock to stroke its tail feathers. The peacock held itself very still, almost as if it didn’t want to frighten him, when really it should have been the other way round.
The wedding anniversary celebration came off very well indeed. There was a huge, heart-shaped and delicious sponge cake, baked by the bloke’s sister, and a “cheese cake”, which was a mountain of stacked cheeses. The bottom layer, an enormous squishy brie, had to be served separately because it would have collapsed under the weight of the wheel of harder cheese above it. This was not a problem because we devoured it over the course of two days. Most importantly, the bloke’s parents had a wonderful time being surrounded by, but not in the pockets of, their children and grandchildren.
Further photos below the cut, including a series titled “Keiki Points at Things”.
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In case you’re wondering why there aren’t so many photos of Humuhumu, this is because (1) she wanted to go to the water park pretty much every waking moment, (2) you couldn’t take photos in the water park and (3) Keiki did not want to go to the water park more than once a day, so someone had to stay with him.