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Are autistic people at a greater risk of being radicalised?: My response.

A few days ago an article was published in the Daily Mail in which Clare Allely, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Salford, stated that she thought autistic people might be at more risk of being radicalised and explained why she thought that was. I will cover some of the points made in the piece and talk about why I disagree with the article itself, but it might be worth you having a read of it before or after reading what I have to say about it. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4633128/Autistic-people-risk-radicalised.html

Let’s start with the opening lines. First of all the article talks about people with `traits` of autism. Right from the start this is vague, and unhelpful language. If you know anything about autism then you know that you are either autistic or you are not. You can’t have people with `traits` of autism, but what you can have is people who act in a way that is stereotypically thought of as autistic. What I mean by this is people who would be classed as `loners`; those people who do not have a lot of friends and tend to spend most of their time on their own in their rooms. Yes some autistic people might be like that, but this in itself is not a sign of autism.

The article then goes on to explain what terrorism is, and that the last few years have seen a rise in so called `lone-wolf` attacks where an individual commits an act of violence due to being radicalised without necessarily being part of a wider group. It lists the types of terrorist, and then jumps in to explaining how being autistic can make you more likely to participate in terror activities. The aim being to “ ..illustrate how some of the symptoms of ASD can ‘help’ make a pathway towards being inspired to act on behalf of a terrorist cause, join a terrorist organisation, engage in directed attacks – or indeed carry out lone wolf terrorism.”


Now where to start with this? First off there are no `symptoms` of autism – autism is not a disease. This might sound like a small point in the wider scope of the article, but when as an autistic person you hear words like `traits` or `symptoms` being thrown around it’s hard for you to take anything else that is being said seriously.

Then we have the so-called `symptoms` themselves; the things that apparently make autistic people more likely to go out and murder innocent people. The article makes the point that autistic people can often be lonely and isolated and feel a need to belong, as well as having a tendency to hyper-focus, which if they focus on the wrong thing can lead to an obsession. Let’s break these down, starting with the last. Yes autistic people often, but not always do have a special interest or more than one, and often we do dedicate a lot of time to said interest. But why would taking an interest in something lead to a loss of feeling or a desire to kill? I know a lot of non-autistic people with a keen interest in serial killers: they know all the names, read books on them and watch hours upon hours of TV about them. But this in no way means they want to hurt anyone let alone kill them. It means they have an interest in a dark subject. Of course this is different from looking up terrorist videos online, but my point is – autistic or not – having an interest in people who do bad things does not mean a loss of all human feeling, or a desire to go out and replicate the things read about. Autistic people are making the point more and more that special interests can be, and often are a good thing, and most of the time if they are not positive per say, they at least are not negative. But too often they are still talked about by professionals as `obsessions` and treated like something that at best should be tolerated, but never embraced. Linking them to an interest in terrorism and acting as if they can be the first step on a path to murder is hardly helping autistic people fight the old and out-dated negative image of autism itself, and special interests in particular.

What about the issues of autistic people being lonely and isolated?

It is true that some autistic people can find themselves in this situation. I have spoken to, and know many autistic people who do most of their communicating via their computer as they find it hard to go out and interact with people face to face. I myself don’t go out and socialize much, and I never have.

I understand the underlying idea that if you find yourself alone, and not fitting in you can end up falling in with a `bad crowd` so to speak. You can end up changing yourself to fit in with the people around you, whether you’re autistic or not. But again making the jump from that to someone being willing to kill people, and then die themselves just to gain a bit of respect from someone on the internet seems a bit far-fetched to say the least.

In fact autistic people from what I have seen (and I don’t have statistics, I am just going off the hundreds of autistic people I have spoken to, or read about) seem much more likely to hurt themselves when they sink in to the depths of loneliness. Depression can set in and people can turn to self-medicating with drugs, drink or self harm as can non-autistic people. Again I am not saying this is the case for all autistic people, but it is much much more likely than someone planning to deal with their loneliness by committing murder.

The article has no weight to it whatsoever. It says that because autistic people can be lonely and need to fit in they are more likely to become terrorists, and yet all it offers us to back that up is two cases of autistic people becoming terrorists. I don’t for one second dispute the fact that there will be autistic terrorists as I feel that there are autistic people in every walk of life – both good and bad. But to make the headline-grabbing claim that autistic people are more likely to be radicalised is just foolish and lazy writing.

But it’s not just lazy.

To make the jump from saying some autistic people might be lonely and looking to fit in, to them being willing to go out and commit murder is a strange jump. I worry that the only real way to make such a jump is to accept the defunct idea that autistic people don’t feel empathy. This is an idea you still see pushed by professionals in some places despite it being outdated and wrong. Autistic people sometimes do find it hard to express how they feel, or even understand it themselves, but that’s not the same as not valuing human life, and being willing to take it. In fact lots of autistic people are overly emphatic, and are profoundly affected by what they see on the news. This might not always be visible, or even understood by the autistic person themselves (it might just come out in a sudden bad/low mood).

Autistic people have been fighting to get rid of the idea that we are unfeeling and cold-hearted for years, and saying that we are more likely than non-autistic people to become involved in terror is not helping that fight at all.

But it is nothing new; each time there is a school/college shooting in the USA what is one of the first things we hear? The shooter was `kind of a loner`, and then within hours that changes to `perhaps autistic?`. Why? Because he spent a lot of time alone and was `weird`, and apparently that’s all you need to be to be classed as autistic. It’s just something else that makes the killer `other`. In the shock people cast around for something, anything to help themselves make sense of the senseless violence. And they light upon the idea of autism. Autism is different. Not all children are like this so what are people meant to think when they hear that “ if your child’s class has an autistic kid in it, he is the most likely one here to start shooting”. That might not be what’s said, but if you hear autism talked about in the wake of each and every shooting it’s what people start to think. I know of one case where a mass shooter has been autistic (not saying there is just one, just that’s the one I know about) but I know of a lot more where autism has been talked about despite the killer being dead and undiagnosed.

Autism has nothing whatsoever to do with violence. And yet we keep hearing it spoken about as part of the motivation for killers. If we start hearing it talked about each time there is a terrorist attack, to where could this lead? At best it will lead to a more negative and fearful view of autism and autistic people – putting the public image of autism back years, and undoing a lot of the good work done by autistic people to promote a more positive, and realistic view of autism.

At worst it could lead to the public viewing autistic people as a danger, and autistic people suffering because of this. We have seen Muslims being attacked due to the idea promoted by some of the media that they are `all terrorists`, or `sympathise with terror`. It might seem like a jump to imagine the same thing happening to autistic people down the line, but there is already an idea in the media that we are dangerous due to the constant linking of autism and shootings. If the same starts to happen with terror attacks then given the current climate, and desire to place blame, it would not be wholly unlikely to see autistic people being shunned, or even attacked.

Also, without wanting to turn this in to a personal attack, I do find it worrying that the writer of this article teaches the next generation of psychologists. When you see a point being made in the national press with so little weight to it, that can cause so much harm to the people it talks about, you do worry about the fact that the next generation of professionals might believe it, and have the ideas generated by such stories in the back of their minds when working with autistic people.

The article claims that it is going to offer advice on how to help autistic people avoid being radicalised. This is apparently the justification for writing about such a topic. But in fact the article hardly says a word about how to stop this supposed problem. It simply makes a lot of wild claims, talks up the idea, and then ends. It is not as if this is a real documented problem and the article is there to provide help. In fact the article expressly states that there is no evidence for the claims that it makes and the research in to autism and radicalisation is `in it`s infancy`. Given that this is explicitly stated toward the begining of the article it seems even stranger that towards the end there is a call for all terrorist suspects to be assessed for autism. It is highly irresponsible to make a call for action as big as this while at the same admitting you have no hard evidence to back up the claims that this call for action is based on.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be vulnerable to ISIS propaganda

  • Autistic people are more isolated and lonely and so may be easier to target
  • Their obsessive and compulsive tendencies could also put them at a higher risk
  • Findings suggest people involved with terrorism should be evaluated for ASD

    So if people with ASD could be at higher risk, how can we protect them from falling under the spell of terror organisations such as the so-called Islamic State?

I know this blog is a few days late in responding to the article, and some of you might feel that I should have ignored it instead of drawing more attention to it, but as I have tried to make clear I do not feel that the article is the whole of the problem. I feel it is part of a wider issue where autism is linked to violence, and autistic people are demonized. And once a group of people are demonized it changes the way society views them, and leaves them vulnerable to abuse and even physical attacks. Autistic people are misunderstood, and vulnerable enough as it is.

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

How Dyslexia impacts on my writing and my confidence.

Most of what I write on this blog tends to be about autism, but I wanted to take the time to talk a bit about my dyslexia, and how it impacts on my work. I have written about having dyslexia in the past, but to tell the truth it’s not something I think about all that often. I get so caught up with my autism, and how that impacts on my day to day life that I tend to forget that I am dyslexic and dyspraxic too. However, at times I cannot help but think about it. When I work I am keenly aware of my dyslexia, and how much it slows me down and frustrates me.

My work is my writing; I write blogs, and articles about autism and disability in general, and, as yet unpublished, short stories and novels. I have co-written and published two autism books as well as writing my own autism-related book, and had that published last year. Like everyone who writes I go through times in my life where it is hard to write, and where I don’t get much work done at all. But most days I write something, and that has been the case for over ten years now, and yet I can’t spell or hand-write. If I were to be tested I don’t know what level my spelling would be at, but I know it would be poor. There are very few words I can actually spell right first time, and when it comes to spelling out loud that number goes down even more. When I type most of the words I get right I do so without thinking; my fingers just hit the keys. If I had to tell you out loud how to spell half the words I do manage to get right, I would not have a clue.

It will be hard for a reader to fully understand quite how bad my spelling is; by the time you read this blog it will have been spell-checked and edited by my Mum, so most if not all of the spelling or grammar mistakes will be gone. I could publish a blog without any spell-check or editing for you to get a full idea of what I mean, but I don’t think you would be able to read it. A lot of the time the inbuilt spell-checker does not even know what I am trying to type. It changes the word to what it thinks it is meant to be; sometimes to a word that is so close to being right that I don’t even notice it`s wrong until someone points it out – other times to seemingly random words. When this happens I have to resort to googling a word (as Google seems to have more luck working out what I am trying to say) and pasting it in to whatever it is I am writing.

My spelling has always been poor, and I am sure anyone who is dyslexic knows that feeling of frustration when you try over and over again to spell a word without getting any closer. But there is an added level of frustration when it impacts on what I do for fun, and my work. I write at a much slower pace than I would if I did not have to worry about my spelling, but its more than that – it’s the lack of confidence in my own work. A lot of the time I do not even feel like I can put a tweet out there without having someone else check it first to make sure I haven`t spelt everything wrong. I can’t ever see myself feeling confident enough to write a blog and publish it without having my Mum, or someone else check it over first. When writing is what you do it can be unbelievably frustrating to know that you are reliant on someone else to make even the most basic of your work understandable. I am a published author, and yet I do not even feel confident to send out a tweet on my own. As for making notes or hand-writing anything, there is next to no point in me even trying to do this anymore. I cannot even read my own handwriting! I have to type and I can type quite fast, so things now are a lot better than they were a few years ago, but there is still this underlying feeling of frustration at my poor spelling.

I don’t want this blog to be full of self-pity, but I felt that I needed to point out how much extra work myself, and fellow dyslexic writers have to put in to get our work ready to be read. There is a part of me which thinks that even with some of the difficulties that come with my autism, it’s my dyslexia that gets me down the most. That’s what makes it hard for me to do what I love, and that’s a huge part of what makes me so reliant on other people when it comes to my work. And even though I have gotten so used to it I might not think of it much, it’s the effects of my dyslexia that keep impacting on me day to day.

I don’t have any practical advice to leave you with in this blog as it was intended more as a way for me to vent some frustration, and explain how hard writing these blogs can be. But I might try and put together a list of tips and things that have helped me over the years, as well as things I might try in the future, and post that at some point.

You can find my new book: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34253.html

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

How Sensory Overload Impacts on Autistic People Part One – The Impact on my Mind.

It has been quite a while since I wrote a blog, and now that I am writing one it is about something that happened at the end of last month. Now part of that might be due to the fact that this month is December, and as I am sure most of you will know this can be a hard month for autistic people. It is all change, and routine and normal life can go somewhat out of the window. But we are still only in early December, and the bulk of why I have not been writing much, if anything, this month is to do with the events of November. The best thing for me to do is to explain what I did in November, and why that is still impacting on me now.

In November I went to three autism events. Twice as a speaker, and once just to man a stall selling copies of my new book. Now I should say before I go on that I enjoyed all three events, and was happy to go to them. Nothing in this blog is meant to be a comment on those events themselves. But it is worth looking at why I, and other autistic people, can find events like these so hard. And some of the particular after-effects that I have had to deal with.

 

  • Build up: I don’t feel nervous or worried about the events beforehand, or at least not that I am aware of. But I know the feelings must be there somewhere. I find it hard to focus on doing work or even doing something relaxing like watching a film if I know I am going to have to go to a busy event in the next few days. Even though I might not be aware of this build-up of stress and anxiety, it can take its toll.
  • Overload: Events such as the ones I went to, full of stalls and guest speakers, tend to draw quite a lot of people in. They are noisy, full of people moving around, and all in all very difficult places to spend much time in if you have sensory issues. Perhaps I must take my share of the blame for not going outside and having a break from time to time, but once I get started on something I find hard I like to just get it all done. If I take a break to go somewhere quiet there is a high risk that I might not be able to go back in, and get on with the work I need to do. So I end up spending anywhere from two to five hours in a busy, noisy, and overwhelming environment. Again this leads to a build-up of stress and anxiety.
  • One-on-one talking: When I am at an event, be it on a stall for ASK-PERGERS? or doing a talk, I end up with people chatting to me. Now this is a good thing: it gives me a chance to sell my book, and also to make contacts. Plus the whole point of what we do is to help other autistic people, or their families by giving advice, so a chance to talk is good. But it does take it out of me. It’s fair to say that in a normal month I might chat one-on-one with five people at most. Now this is partly due to me not being at university at the moment, and if I were it might be more. But five is about average for this year. But at an event like this I might talk one-on-one to fifteen people in the space of a few hours. If I do two or three events in a month it might be something like fifty people over the space of those events. All that one-on-one talking wears me out, and pushes me more and more in to overload.
  • Not much time to recover: If I do a few events in a month then I don’t have any real time to come down from one before I have to start planning for the next. It might take me a week or more to fully get back to normal after something like this, but of course I do not have that time if I have more events to go to.

So what does this all mean? Well it leads to a build-up of stress and anxiety that can only truly come out when I am done with all the events I have planned. Not that it does not affect me in-between events. It does. Last month I was so overloaded that I found it hard to do anything other than the events I went to. When I talk about that a lot of non-autistic people nod their head and say something like “Oh yes I will need to crash out for a bit too.” Or “I get tired as well.” They do not, nor could they fully understand what an overload is. If your lap top overheats and shuts down because it cannot cope with the overload to its system it can’t do anything. It just crashes and goes blank. And I find it to be very much the same for myself. If I am overloaded I can’t do anything, not even things that relax me. I can’t pick which film to watch, and in fact I don’t even want to watch anything. I can’t sit and read, or do anything else fun that might relax me. I spend most of the day just walking from room to room not knowing what to do, and doing nothing. It’s not a case of going “I am tired now, better just watch some TV then I will feel fine.” I might be unable to do anything, and I do mean anything, for days, or if it’s really bad even weeks. The truth is November was such a comparatively busy month for me that it took me quite a long time to come back from the overload. It’s really only this past week that I have been able to start doing things of any real worth, and like I say this is the first writing I have done this month.

I do want to do more work, and my hope is as I do it I will become more used to it, but also work out ways to minimize the impact of the overload. But I wanted to take the time to try and explain to you how even though I might be more than able to stand up on a stage for twenty minutes and do a talk, or man a stall for five hours, the unseen impact of this can last for days, or even weeks.

I also wanted to take the time to write about the physical impact the build-up of anxiety can have, but I feel that should be a full blog on its own. So that should be out later this week, or early next week.

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 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

Inspiration Porn – an autistic point of view

Autistic people, and disabled people as a whole are not here to inspire you. They do not live their lives so that it can be filmed, put to an uplifting sound track and posted on Facebook. Most of you should know this, and you might even be nodding along to this blog, but it’s amazing how many people fall in to the trap of re-posting what has become known as “Inspiration Porn”.  But what is Inspiration Porn?  And why is it an issue for disabled people?

First of all what is inspiration porn? From what I can find online Stella Young the comedian, journalist and disability rights activist was the first to use to term ”Inspiration Porn” back in 2012. It refers to stories where someone with a disability is called inspirational for doing normal, everyday things just because of their disability. Think of someone using a wheel chair being approached by a stranger in the street, and told they are an inspiration. Then imagine that same stranger takes a photo to tweet, or writes a post on Facebook about what an inspiration this disabled person is.

So why is this so bad? Well inspiration by its very definition means being inspired to do something, or to feel something. But mostly you would say you were inspired if you saw, read or heard something that then pushed you on to go and do something yourself. But the word inspiration in terms of inspiration porn is used in a very strange way. Think “Autistic person gets date to prom” what has that inspired anyone to do? Is it in terms of “Well if someone with autism can get a date why can’t I?” Just break it down and think for a second. What’s the inspiration here? Someone with a disability did something day-to-day. Not only is that a headline, but it’s going to go viral and become world news. If you’re non-disabled try and put yourself in that story. You wake up and go to the shops. When you get home from work that night you log on to twitter only to find out that someone noticed you out shopping, and was so inspired, so moved by watching you decide what flavour crisps you wanted that they just had to take a picture and tweet it out. In fact what you did was so fantastic that thousands of people re-tweeted it. Makes no sense right? Well run through the same story again only this time pretend you`re autistic, or you have one arm. It could be anything. Do you think you would be any less shocked or perplexed to see yourself all over twitter?

The bottom line here is that disabled people are just living their lives. Yes some things might be hard for them to do, and yes doing day-to-day stuff might feel like a big deal to some people. But that’s their life. They are not doing it to try and make other non-disabled people feel better about themselves. If you are disabled and you feel like you might never be able to do something, and then you see someone with the same disability as you doing it sure that might inspire you. But it would inspire you to do something, not just post about it online. The idea behind it seems to be that disabled people just sit in a room all day doing nothing. If they do anything outside of this it must be a huge deal, and worth taking time out of your day to admire. Disabled people are not here to act as inspiration, but what makes it even worse, in my eyes at least, is that people are not even inspired to do anything. It’s not as if the people who share these stories go out and do something – they just talk about it, post about it, and then forget about it. That is not on any level inspiration.

Also let’s think about how these stories and images tend to be played-out. More often than not it’s not even the disabled person who is given the headlines. It’s “Cheerleader asked boy with Downs Syndrome to prom” Or “Staff member helps man with autism in busy shop.” In other words “Girl asked boy out on date.” “Staff member does what they get paid to do.” But as soon as you bring disability in to it their acts are elevated to almost hero status. The girl did not ask any old boy to the prom, no she took it upon herself to ask the disabled boy. And that act should inspire you to …well I am not sure? And the staff member doing their job, nope, a hero because even though they are paid to deal with the public someone with autism is clearly outside of that right?

People share stories like this because they want to feel there is good in the world. Because they know how much bad stuff happens to disabled people and how hard life can sometimes be for everyone, disabled or not. But this is not the way to show how good the world can be. This is just showing people living their lives, or doing their jobs. It’s like saying “look at them, they`re disabled but they can still get out of bed, and live with themselves. Even like that. My life is not so bad. I should go to the gym tonight.”  Just try and think before you share something like this again. Think about what it is, and what the real point of it is. Think has it inspired you to do anything? And if so why? Because the truth is most, if not all, disabled people hate inspiration porn. We don’t want it, it gives us nothing, and yet it focuses on us. And all so someone else can feel happy for a few seconds when they hit share.

Stella Youngs TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much?language=en

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 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

A Book Launch, A Thunderstorm, and an Overload.

There has not been a blog up on here for quite some time, and I feel I should explain why.  As some of you know it’s been a pretty busy few weeks. I had the launch for my new book last week and my time has been taken up with planning for that, and dealing with the overload after the event.

A book launch in itself is an odd thing; you write the book, send it off to the publisher, and then spend months waiting, and then editing, and then you are told it`s going to come out, and you just wait some more. A few months later there is the book. And more than a year after you started working on it, and almost a year from when you knew it was coming out, you have an event to mark the beginning of something.

We never had a launch event for any of our other books, but the publisher got in contact with us and told us we could set one up for my new book if we wanted. Even though we were unsure of what to do we said yes, and went about trying to set up our first ever book launch.  And all things considered it went very well. We of course were unsure what to do, but we managed to book a room, get flyers printed out and sort out food and drinks. Even though we ended up with a lot of food left over! We ordered books from the publisher, and advertised the event on twitter and Facebook. I can’t say we got everything right, as I say there was far too much food. But we got things as right as we were able. Yet on the night it still looked as if the launch was going to be a failure. We got there two hours before it was due to start to get everything set up, and about half an hour later, as we were setting up the food tables it started to rain. Within half an hour it was pouring down with rain, and a short while after that the thunder and lightning started. It just so happened that the worst storm to hit Manchester for a long time happened to hit on that night. We carried on setting up, but we all felt that the weather was bound to put some people off. We found out later that some of the trams had stopped running and some roads where so full of water they were impassable.  The weather calmed down somewhat in the twenty minutes or so before we opened the doors, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see over thirty people crowd in to the room. Thinking about how bad the weather was, and how easy it would have been for them to stay indoors, I am very glad they came out, and ensured that the launch was not a failure.

The book launch only ran for an hour and a half and felt like it was over in no time. I talked about the book and my reasons for writing it, and then sat behind a table selling and signing books. I was happy to see how well the book sold, and I hope it will be of use to everyone who bought a copy. As I said in my talk that is the main aim of the book; to help both the professionals who read it, and the autistic people they work with.

20160913_190058

Even though it went well I was very overloaded from it, and still am to some degree. This is why I am only now sitting down to write about the event. I am sure most of you know how hard an overload can be. It’s not the same as being tired, and I think it must be hard for anyone who is not autistic to fully understand how much an event like this can impact on someone who is. Not just standing up and giving the talk, but also all the one-on-one talking that came after.

Seeing as this was our first book launch and the weather was against us I feel it went as well as it could have. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I had fun and sold quite a few books so all-in-all it could not have gone much better.  I don’t know if or when there will be a new book, and a new launch, but hopefully there will be another one sometime soon.  But with it being over at least for now I plan to get back to my normal writing and blogging.

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

9781849057080

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

My new book and why I wrote it.

I have a new book coming out on the twenty first of this month. It is called Communicating better with People on the Autism Spectrum – 35 things you need to know. This is a pretty self-explanatory title. In the book I list 35 things that I think it is essential for autism professionals to know when they are communicating with autistic people. I wanted to talk a little bit in this blog about where the idea came from, and why I thought it was important to write.

Throughout my life I have had quite a few dealings with professionals. Some of these have been great. They have been essential even to helping me overcome problems, and get the best out of my autism. But increasingly, as I have grown older, I have become more and more frustrated when meeting with so- called autism professionals. I have been faced with a baffling lack of knowledge, concerning even the most basic aspects of autism. I have been in meetings that have run for almost three hours, and over-all been left with a feeling of frustration, disappointment and confusion at the conclusion of these meetings. As I could feel myself getting increasingly angry about these issues I decided to write something to channel that anger and frustration in a way that might be constructive, so I wrote an article for the Guardian to put out in a health and social care blog. The idea being that professionals would read this article and realise some of the things that they could do, or could avoid doing, in order to make life better for people with autism. I wrote two related articles which did well, and received several thousand shares. It also led to me being contacted by my publisher via twitter with a request to write a book that would be an expansion of the article. I was more than happy to do so because to tell the truth I had a lot more that I felt I needed to say on the subject.

When I sat down to write the book I didn’t want to write something that was merely going to criticise professionals, and tell them how bad they are at their jobs. I wanted to write something that could be read by people who are good at what they do, but who understand that as people they may not think of everything, and there is always something to learn; professionals with enough experience to know that they can’t look at things with an autistic mind, and that it is OK to take advice from someone who can. But more than this I wanted to write something that if it got in to the right hands would mean that less autistic people would be left with those feelings of anger,confusion and frustration that I experienced after some of my more unsuccessful meetings with professionals. Because that is the thing, the professional who presided over the three hour meeting for example, was not a bad person. They were newly qualified and probably didn’t understand that I had refused a break an hour in as I assumed it would be a ninety minute meeting as originally planned. Unfortunately the meeting ran over by a significant amount of time. I wasn’t offered another break and there was an incredibly noisy event going on just outside the office in which my meeting was taking place. It was one of the hottest days of the year and I wasn’t offered a drink as the meeting progressed. What makes this even worse is that my Mum had contacted them before we went and requested that I be seen by someone with a good understanding of autism. The meeting itself was shambolic. But my point is that this wasn’t due to the professional themself being vindictive or nasty, it was due to them not understanding. They made mistakes the same as any newly qualified professional would do. It is just that in this kind of job when you make a mistake it is the autistic person who ends up suffering.

So in short, I decided to write this book to help professionals and autistic people. I would like to think that even the best professional can get something from the book, and this might in some way help other autistic people in the future.

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

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

Autism, Illness and Meltdowns:

The signs are all there – so why can`t I recognise them?

I normally have an outburst before I get ill.  It doesn’t mean I get ill every time I have an outburst, but it does mean that if ever I am coming down with something, in the days before it fully becomes apparent that I am ill, I will have some kind of meltdown or outburst, or at the very least be snappy, and even more short tempered.

I find it hard to recognise when I am feeling ill.  And so where a lot of people would say that they are not feeling too great and perhaps adjust what they were doing to suit that, I just carry on as normal and my negative feelings come out in other ways.  It might seem strange; how can you not know if you are feeling ill?  But what you have to understand is that with autism comes stress and anxiety, and with stress and anxiety come physical traits that can be similar to being ill: stomach pains, headaches, and tightness of the chest, nausea and dizziness.  These are all common, sometimes daily, occurrences for me and other people who have high anxiety levels.  So how am I supposed to know when they grow worse that this is actually down to me becoming ill?  I also, as I have discussed before, have a high pain threshold.  This has a lot of bonuses of course, but also means that things like infections can take hold and become serious before I even notice I`ve got them.  It is not uncommon for me to be ill for several days before I actually realise it.  And in those days I tend to have an outburst (meltdown) This happened again recently.  I had an outburst and was short tempered for the next couple of days, and then I became ill.  The same old pattern.

But it raises questions.  The biggest and most obvious of which is `if it is the same old pattern and it has been going on for years, why can`t I spot it?  The honest answer is I don`t know.  I think it is a combination of things.  As I`ve said before, symptoms get lost.  I don`t feel pain the same way other people do.  But also I think I get so caught up in the short term impact; if I am feeling ill then things such as noise, or other sensory stuff will affect me much more than they normally do.  So I need to deal with this.  In the moment I can`t stop and think `why can I not handle so much talking? ` I just need whoever is talking to shut up so that is what I tell them to do.  My Mum tends to react to that, but I still need her not to talk so I tell her again, and things escalate from there generally.  We can both see this perfectly when we look back at it, but in the moment neither of us seems to be aware.  It is something that we both need to work on.  But I am sure you can see how difficult it is trying to spot illness in somebody or even in yourself, by how they/you speak or react to things – days before any symptom of the actual illness become apparent.

Have any of you ever experienced anything like this?  And if not how does illness impact on you, if you are autistic?

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?

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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

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

Overloads, Meltdowns, and a missed Appointment ….

I have spoken a lot in the past about how overload can affect people with autism, including myself.  And how important rest days are.  But I have to admit, even though I understand in principle how to avoid feeling overloaded, or what I need to do when I am in a state of overload, it has been very hard for me over the past few weeks to put these in to practise.  Even just looking at the past week as an example, I feel like I have been in a near-constant state of overload.  I have been walking from room to room unable to do anything, simply lacking the focus and motivation to even sit down and watch a film.  I have had an outburst, brought on by this stress.  Because it is stressful.  Imagine being imprisoned in your own home.  But one of the terms of your imprisonment is that you can`t use anything in your own house.  You are surrounded by the things you like, the things you enjoy doing, and yet you can`t do any of them.  The hours must be spent instead doing, well, doing what?  Sitting?  Standing?  Walking from room to room?  Going upstairs, looking round and coming back down?  And so on, for hours or even days upon end.  You can`t go to bed and sleep through it because your mind is far too active to sleep.

So what brought this on?  The roots of this overload, and the stress and outbursts that came as a result of it, come from going out at the weekend.   Not going out clubbing, just going in to town the same as anybody else would.  Not something I would normally do, but still not something I thought would result in eight days of overload.  Now that may be a bit of a simplistic way of phrasing it.  The past year has been full of stressful events that have of course left a mark, and I did go out again on the Wednesday for something relating to work.  But I guess that`s the thing; it`s hard to tell recently where one overload stops and the next one starts.  It seems that instead of having an overload every now and then and most days being spent working on my writing, or getting on with whatever I choose to, I am overloaded most days and the days that I can actually work, or function at all, are the rare days.  But it is getting to a point where I feel my overloads are starting to incur in to my life more than they ever have before.  Let`s take yesterday as an example.  What I was supposed to do was to travel to my university via tram and talk with one of my lecturers about help and support for my upcoming second year at university.  I got half way to the tram stop before I had to turn around and come back home.  I knew that I was too overloaded to be able to function properly or contribute anything useful to this meeting.  All that would result from it was yet more sensory overload, and in all likelihood another outburst.  In a way it is positive that I was able to recognise that there was nothing to gain from forcing myself to go to something I was too overloaded for.  And I certainly wouldn’t be getting any work done today if I had of forced myself to go to the meeting yesterday.

You might have noticed that this isn’t a blog full of tips of how to get out of a situation like this.  If I had them I would be using them and there would be no blog to begin with.  I am unsure whether this is a positive or a negative blog.  On one hand I am telling you that I am finding it hard to function, to get things done and that I am near-constantly overloaded, but on the other hadn`t I was able to recognise the overload yesterday, minimise its effects for the coming week, and avert a probable outburst.  It may well be that what I have to do is change the way I think and the way I structure my time., the commitments I take on and the pressures I put on myself.  As I have said before, many times on my blog, there is no point in forcing yourself to work, or to try to get more out of yourself once you are overloaded.  Perhaps what I need to do is pull back even more than I already have, let myself rest, and build up again slowly.  And the note that I would like to end on is that this is ok.  Overload is a very real thing, and if you have not experienced one then I don`t think you can ever really understand how it feels.  Add to that the issue of delayed overloads, and you can see how difficult it is for me to even go out once or twice, and the impact that this can have on me.  I feel like I need to change the way I do things, and try to understand the impact of my overloads more than I already do.  And even though the reasons for me having to do so are negative, the impact of doing so on my future will hopefully be positive.

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

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

“You don’t look autistic …” And why Autistic People hate hearing this so much.

If you spend any amount of time on the online autism community then I am sure you will know how much people with autism hate being told they don’t look autistic. But what you might not know is just why saying this is so offensive to many autistic people, and to the parents of autistic children.

Let’s have a look at all the steps that go in to making this one of the worst things you can say to someone with autism.

  • It assumes autism has a look: Kind of the most obvious point; by saying someone does not look like they have autism you are stating that some people do look like they have autism. Therefore, in turn saying that you can spot autism just by looking at someone.
  • Dividing people: But even though you are implying autism has a look, and is something that can be spotted at a glance, you don’t think the person you are talking to looks autistic. So they can’t be autistic in the same way as those other autistics, not like the ones who look You might not mean this, but that is what it sounds like.
  • Normal:  When people say “You don’t look autistic” they most often mean it as a good thing. The idea being that they are telling you that you look normal, so to speak. But think about this – they are saying that because you don’t look like you have autism you look like someone without autism, someone in their eyes who is normal. But you still have autism. So they are pretty much saying “Wow you look so normal, for someone who is not normal.”
  • Better/less: If you are told you do not look autistic, and you understand that someone is trying to compliment you by saying this, think about what that compliment means.  As I said it means they think you look “Normal”. As if you were `less autistic` than someone else. Now what this does is firstly to play down how your autism might impact on you, but also to put a whole mass of unknown autistic people below you in their eyes.  As if you look normal, you pass for not being autistic, and somehow that makes you better than people who they can tell do have autism.
  • Identity: Some people like the idea of being able to hide their autism from the outside world.  And yes I can see how it might help, in terms of getting a job and such, but at the same time there are other people who see their autism as integral to what makes them who they are.  To be told that they don’t look autistic can be very upsetting for that reason alone.

 

So those are a few of the things that I think can be taken from the statement “You don’t look autistic.”  Am I being over-the-top, and reading too much in to it?  Well, No.  Autism does not have a look.  You can’t tell just from seeing someone if they are autistic or not. So to say to them “You don’t look autistic.” is at best silly.  And at worse offensive.  If you have said it at any point don’t worry, this is not meant to call you out, and make you feel bad.  It’s just meant to make you think a bit more about what you say.  We all say silly things from time to time, but the key thing is to listen to people when they explain why said things are offensive or rude, and to learn.  Next time, when someone tells you they are autistic just think for a second before you answer them, and try to avoid giving offence.

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?

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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

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

 

Managing Sensory Overload …

I have spoken before on my blog about rest days, and about how sometimes they have to be taken even when I would much rather be productive.  But often I will only have rest days when I reach a point where they are absolutely necessary, after I have become overloaded.  Even though this might help to reverse the overload it means that I don’t have a great deal of control over when I rest, and when I am productive.  So what I have been trying this week is resting the day before I know I have something to do, such as going out, in order to ensure I have enough energy to complete the activities.  Even though I like to plan I have never been very good at planning in a way to ensure I was resting, and would have enough energy to do everything I want to do over the course of a week.  I might push myself too far on a Friday, even when I began to feel tired, and therefore not have enough energy to go out on a Saturday.

This week I had planned to go out on Thursday to visit family.  I knew that to get there I would need to use public transport, and it might be a relatively busy and noisy environment when I did arrive.  To ensure that I had the energy to go and accomplish this I had Wednesday as a rest day.  As strange as it sounds it was difficult to rest as I felt I should be doing something more productive and useful.  And yet the next day I could feel the benefits.  I felt much more able to go out and do what I needed to do than I would have done if I`d pushed myself on the Wednesday.

I needed to walk to a tram stop, travel on public transport and be in a really busy, noisy environment; interacting with people socially for an hour and a half before getting the tram, then walking back home.  And while I did feel overloaded after this I know that if I had woken up on Thursday feeling overloaded there is no way I would have been able to get up and go out, or even attempt doing this journey.

So even though it was difficult having a rest day on the Wednesday I feel that it was worth it.  When you enjoy working, then it can be hard taking the time out that you need to rest, especially if it is rest as a preventative measure.

But one thing that I am learning and understanding more and more as I grow older is my limits, and what I need to do to ensure that I stay within those.  The reality is I can’t push myself to the point of overload every day, and not suffer badly from it.  When I had to get up each day and go out to college or university, traveling on public transport and interacting with people for hours, I barely had the energy to do anything else.  Even activities such as reading and watching films felt hard for me.  And I need to remind myself at times that this isn’t because I am lazy.  It is because I am autistic, and when I become overloaded it means that I have pushed myself too far.  I am productive; I have a book coming out later this year, and I have edited and helped my Mum to publish her book earlier this month https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

But there will be days when I simply sit around and do nothing.  There might be more of these than there are for most people, and as strange as it might sound I think that is one of the hardest things about being autistic for me.  I can`t work twelve hours a day, five days a week.  My mind literally starts to shut down, and I do mean literally.  It is as if a great fog closes in over my brain once I become overloaded.  I find it hard to form coherent thoughts.  I speak much less, my memory is severely affected, and I find it hard to hold a thought in my head for too long, or remember things.   Physically my body begins to feel stiffer; it aches, and I feel as if I have just done an incredibly difficult workout.  Basically when I am overloaded I am the last person you would want doing any kind of job for you.  It seems bizarre, but taking time off enables me to be more productive, and to do better work.  But if anything, I am the one who needs the most convincing of this …..

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

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6