Tag Archives: dogs

Autism, and how routine is helping my low mood.

Lately I have been finding it hard to get things done. I have had low energy and a low mood, but it’s been hard to pinpoint just what the cause of this might be. I have tried my best to get on with things, but a lot of days I just end up falling asleep in the afternoon, and not even being able to decide which film to watch. Even the things I enjoy doing like watching films and reading have suffered. I was finding myself unsure of what to do most days, even though I had a lot of stuff I could do, or wanted to do I could not decide what I should be doing, and that made everything feel much more overwhelming than it really was. This meant that whole days were going by where I did almost nothing, and the things I needed/wanted to do just built up and up.

After talking to my Mum about this she offered to help me come up with a new routine to try and put some more structure in to my day. I did used to have a routine, but due to various family issues it has become disrupted.

We started the routine on Thursday night and I found it worked. On Thursday and Friday I was much more productive, and also found time to get the things I enjoy done. Knowing what I was doing, when, and for how long helped me. Having it written down and being able to tick off each thing as I did it was also a help as it allowed me to see what I had coming up next, and become used to the routine more quickly.

I am sure that I don’t need to go in to how important routine can be for autistic people as that has been talked about so much. As a child I worked on routines all the time. I can recall how hard it was when there was even a slight change to one. But I have to admit it did surprise me how much I still need a strict routine in my life.

Even as an adult if I don’t plan out what I am going to do I get nothing done. Let me give you an example that will show just how important a routine can be, and what a difference it can make.

On the first day of my new routine I was up at six, I did a work-out, showered, sat down and worked till lunch time. After lunch I watched a film, did some more work, and then spent the evening reading. It might not sound like a lot, but I had spent weeks worrying about how to fit all those things in to one day, but not actually doing any of them – that is despite the fact I am at home all day. But just knowing when I was going to do each thing and having it planned out for me meant I got it all done with ease. Not only did I get stuff done, but I ended the day feeling less tired and feeling better about myself.

Then let’s look at the weekend. The one fault with our new plan is that it does not cover the weekend. So I know what you might be thinking – why could you not just get up and do it anyway? Well I don’t know. But I found Saturday just drifting away. The truth is I am not even sure what I did – and I don’t mean that in a relaxed sense. I did not read, did not watch anything or do anything that I can think of. The day just seemed to pass, and then be over. Sunday was a bit better, but by that time it had become clear to both me and my Mum that just having the weekend as free time was not going to cut it. We needed to make at least a basic plan.

Because that’s the thing a lot of people don’t get about autism and planning; I don’t just need to plan when and how I work, I need to plan when and how I relax too. I can have all the free time in the world, but unless I have some structure and a plan nothing, or next to nothing, will get done. When I say I did nothing on Saturday I mean it; I did not have fun, or relax, I just drifted round unsure of what to do. The less structure there is the worse I feel, and the more worn-out I get. But just by putting a good routine in place and sticking to it all that can change. This morning I stuck to my weekly routine: I got up, worked out, went to the field with the dogs and wrote this blog by 09:17 in the morning.

The past few days have been a reminder to me how key routine is, and how despite not being a child any more having a good routine and structure to my day is just as important, and useful now as it ever was.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Autism and the stress of a simple walk

I have written a lot about sensory overload, and the impact this has on me and other autistic people, but there might be an idea that to get this overload I have to go somewhere busy, or noisy. This is not the case. In fact just the act of walking my dogs in the streets for fifteen minutes can be full of so much sensory and social stress that I become overloaded by the time I get back home. I would like to use this blog to explain how even something that sounds so small can be so full of stress. So let’s use the idea of walking the dogs as an example for now – the point being that I don’t have to go anywhere; I am not going shopping or to a meeting at the end of the walk, in fact I am just walking around and and then going home. So why is that stressful?

  1. Build up: There is still the build-up to going out even if I am only going on a small walk. I have to decide when to go, plan for it, get myself ready, and know that I will have to deal with all the stress that I encounter when I am out there. For some things you might be able to go out early in the morning, and get them over with, but other times you might have to wait and the longer you wait the more the anxiety about having to go at all builds up. It can get to a point, for me at least, where if I am not able to go out until the early evening – even if it’s for something I want to do and something I know will hardly take any time at all – I have had so long for the anxiety to build up that I would do almost anything not to have to go.
  2. Noise: The outside world is noisy: be it birds, cars, planes or people, almost anywhere you live someone or something is making noise. These are just the background noises of life, but sometimes, depending on how I feel, even they can be too much. In the course of walking down one road with my dogs I might have to contend with the sound of drilling, of a plane going over head, of people walking by talking, of music coming from cars and the sound of the cars themselves passing by. Because for non-autistic people these sounds just fade in to the background I think it’s easy for them to forget just how much noise there is outside on a normal day, and how quickly that can build up in terms of sensory input. It’s worth pointing out here that a lot of autistic people deal with this by using headphones, with or with out music playing.
  3. Crossing the roads: I have not had the chance to talk to a lot of other autistic people about this one, but I know that it is a real issue for me. Over the years I have known some autistic people who did not feel a sense of danger, and would just run out in to the road (some of whom have even been hit by cars/buses) but that is not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the awkwardness of crossing a road. When I get to a road no longer can I walk with my head down, not looking at anyone. I can’t stay lost in my own thoughts, blocking out the world around me. No, I have to come fully back in to reality. I have to look up and be aware, stop blocking things out, look around me and try and pick out the sounds of cars approaching from the noise all around me. I have to think and make decisions on the spot; do I cross now or do I wait? But it’s not just making that call, it’s all the things going on around me as I make it. There might be other people waiting alongside me; are they crossing? No? Why not? Is it wrong of me to try and cross now? Yes, they are crossing? Should I go too, or wait here? Should I have gone then? If the road is busy do I just stand here and wait, or keep walking and cross later? What should I be doing now? Am I doing the right thing or not? OK, you might say that is being silly, that none of it matters, and that if you’re unsure what to do just wait till there are no cars and cross – staying safe is all that matters. Fine, but that’s not so easy when you have a brain that will overthink everything without giving you much say in the matter. Then when you do get to the point of crossing the road there is the interaction with the drivers. Cars come to a stop and you have to look at the driver and work out what they are trying to communicate to you. It’s hard enough to read what someone is saying via non-verbal communication when your face to face and have the time to think about it, but trying to do it from a few feet away through a pain of glass when you`re in a situation where you are expected to move quickly (at least by the waiting driver!) it becomes even harder. You have to work out if they are slowing down to let you go or not. Are you waiting too long when they are letting you go? Are you misreading what they mean and stepping out when you should not be? Again the main question for me is am I doing something wrong here? And again the answer comes back, who cares? It’s not like the interaction with the driver means anything; it comes and goes and everyone moves on with their lives. I don’t care in the long run what the people in the cars think of me, and I know that even if they did think anything it would be forgotten in the space of seconds. But that’s the point, it’s not what I know to be true in my head that has the impact, it’s the way my brain over thinks that brings on stress from even these seemingly meaningless interactions. Overthinking brings on more stress and anxiety, so much so that it can get to the point where the worry about crossing the road sets in before I even get to them, no matter how much I know on logical level that it is a silly thing to worry about.
  4. Walking past people: Another point that relates to overthinking is when you pass someone in the street. There is little to no interaction with them; perhaps they might smile or say hello as they pass, but that’s about it. But if like me your anxiety makes you over-think things you will find that as soon as you see someone walking down the road in your direction you will start to worry about what to do. Should you look at them? Will that seem as if you are staring at them? If you look away will it look as if you are avoiding looking at them? As if you think there is something wrong with them, or are passing some kind of judgement? If you look away then look back up will it look strange? At what point do you step aside to let them pass if need be? Does any of this matter? The answer to that last question at least is a simple one. No. The chances are if someone walking down the street notices you at all they think nothing of you, and if they do it’s not like you would ever know or be able to guess. But again I must go back to the fact that just understanding this on a logical level does not do anything to lessen the impact that it has. It’s all about what’s in your head, and the fact is that unlike noise from the outside world, you can’t do anything to shut it off.

I hope that the points listed above give you some insight in to why even a short work with no big social interactions such as going to the shops, or going to work can be a stressful and anxiety provoking experience for autistic people. It’s not to say every walk will be like that, or that every autistic person feels the same things I do, but it might be that some of you out there understand how I feel. For me what can be so hard about the whole thing is knowing that apart from the noise, the rest of it is in my head. People are not judging me as I walk down the street or try to cross a road, and even if they were I would never know. But when your brain is pushing you in to thinking certain things and feeling anxiety and stress it can feel like there is not much you can do about it. When you add that to the noise that surrounds you as you walk down the street, and the stress and anxiety that is a part of the build-up to going out you can see how even a small walk can lead to a sensory and emotional overload.

It’s worth keeping in mind that an autistic person does not have to be in a room packed with people talking at the top of their voices to become overloaded. Something as small as walking the dog can be so full of anxiety and stress, and lead to so much overthinking that it can bring about an overload that might come as a surprise to the autistic person, and those around them. And yet when you break down what goes in to even a small trip outside you start to see that for a lot of autistic people it is not so small after all.

Let me know what you think in the comments, as how ever much I try, I can only really speak for myself.

You can find my book here  : http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum.html/ 

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism & Animals Meltdowns, Dogs and Me!

Like a lot of autistic people I have always struggled with meltdowns.  Ever since I was a very young child if I grow overloaded, or become too stressed, I can have a meltdown and shout, lash out, or break things.  Even though some aspects of these are less severe now than when I was younger, meltdowns are something I have struggled with my entire life.  There is very little that can help me to calm down, or relax when I am in the middle of such an outburst.  Or even make me feel better immediately after having one.  Possibly the only thing that can is having contact with my dogs.  My oldest dog Fred is nearly sixteen, and I am twenty-one, so for the majority of the time I have been having outbursts Fred has been there.

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I can`t remember how I first found out that Fred helped to calm me down.  But I know that after a while I started going to him after I had a meltdown, just to lie down with him, or stroke him, and that this would bring me a sense of comfort.  Even though Fred doesn’t always like being picked up, or stroked he always seems happy to spend time with me after I have had a meltdown.  And when I was younger just being able to spend that time with him would help me to relax, and calm me down.  I would walk round holding him and gradually become less and less stressed as I did so.  Even now as an adult the same is true.  Nothing calms me down quicker than being able to spend some time with the dogs.  I know this is something that is true for a lot of other autistic people, and even some people without autism.  Animals can just be a calming influence overall.  And if you are somebody like me who feels stressed and anxious every single day, and always has done, then having such a calming influence, that is also part of the family, is a huge help.

My dogs Fred and Poppy are the inspiration behind ASK-PERGERS?  new book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people, available for pre-order now J

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people.

After about two years work we are getting close to publishing our book, Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people.  The book looks at a variety of animals, and how they might be helpful to autistic people.  But why did we want to write about this subject?  And what’s the point of the book?

For as long as I have owned dogs they have helped me with my autism: making me feel more confident, more relaxed, helping me to understand my emotions, and also helping me to calm down after outbursts.  But it was not until we set up ASK-PERGERS? and got more in touch with other autistic people, and their families that we were able to see that this was far from uncommon. In fact it was getting to a point where hardly a day went by without us seeing a story about how an animal of some kind was helping an individual with autism.  We love animals, and both know first-hand just how beneficial they can be to autistic people, so it just seemed like the most obvious thing to do was to write a book on the subject of animals and people with autism.

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Over the last few years the book has gone through a few incarnations.  At one point I was more involved in the writing than I have been in the final draft, at others the plan was to send it off to a professional publisher.  But in the end we got to where we are now – a self-published book compiled of real-life stories contributed by autistic people, their families, and charities that work with therapy animals.  Intermixed with these stories are some ideas on why animals might be of benefit to people with autism, some research studies on animals and autism, and some accounts from our own lives.

What’s the point of the book?  As corny as it might sound the point of the book is to both entertain, and educate.  As I say we take a look at some of the research and theories as to why animals might be beneficial to autistic people, but the book is also full to the brim with images of all kinds of animals.  Even though my Mum did most of the writing I was heavily involved in the making of the book, and for me one of the most interesting parts was reading all the stories that were sent in to us: horses, frogs, dogs, and all kinds of other animals that have impacted on the lives of autistic people, of all ages, are featured.  As an autistic person it was great to be able to read them, and to hear people talking about something I could relate to.  I hope that if you read the book you find the stories of us autistic people, and our animals, just as interesting as I do! IMG_7526 (2).JPG

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762