Tag Archives: writing

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

Autism, and the confusion around receiving gifts …

Sometimes being given a gift can be awkward for anyone; they might be given something they don’t like and have to try and pretend that they do like it. But for people with autism even being given something they do like can be awkward: knowing how to react, what to say, how you should look, and things like that is not something that will come naturally to most autistic people. So why can receiving a gift feel awkward? And what can you do about this?

What do you do and say if someone gives you a gift? This might sound like an easy question to some of you – you just say thank you and then open it. But the fact that you are meant to say thank you is one of those unwritten rules that can be so hard for people with autism, and they might just not think so say thanks. This might be even more likely if the gift is not given on their birthday, but is a random gift. They are not in the mindset of being given something, and it will take them by surprise, and saying thank you just might not occur to them. That’s not because they are being rude, it`s just because saying thank you is not something that is automatic to them as it might be to someone who is not autistic. I know that when I was younger often I would not think to say thank you without being prompted, and once someone had pushed me to say it I would often feel embarrassed, and try and get out of saying it.

But even now that I do know to say thank you I still find it hard on Christmas morning to know if I should say thank you after each gift, or just once at the end. Should I say thank you after a big gift, but at the end if its just a few small things? Would it be odd to thank someone after each gift if you are sat next to them and opening the gifts one by one? Or is it rude to not say anything? Does it matter? I genuinely do not know.

I tend to say thank you at the end. I open anything I happen to get and then thank whoever gave it to me once everything is open. But even then I feel unsure. How long should I look at each thing for? I am going to spend a lot of time looking at them in detail later on, but is it OK to just turn something over in your hands once and put it to one side after someone has spent money on it? Even if you plan to look at it later on? Again I am not sure. I tend to do this, but I do not know if it’s the right thing to do or not.

Added to that for me – and I am sure for other autistic people – is the fact that it can be hard at times for people to read my face, and tell how happy or not I might be about whatever they have given to me, and even when I speak my voice may well be flat. I might look up with a blank face and say in a none-too-excited voice that I am very happy with what I have been given. It would be hard to blame someone if they though I was lying about that. Lots of autistic people say that they find it hard to put emotions in their face or voice – that’s not to say they will not be there from time to time, it`s just hard for us to force emotion to be visible.

There is also the fact that once someone has given you something you are no longer in the background; you become the centre of attention for a while as people watch to see how you will react. This in turn makes you think more about how you react, and makes you doubt and second-guess yourself more.

Like everything in life there is an unwritten etiquette to being given gifts, and like all unwritten rules they can be hard for autistic to people to understand. What I tend to do when I am given a gift is to say thank you once I have been given it, and again after I have opened it. If it’s a birthday or Christmas I will open them all then say thank you after that. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, and it`s hard to really ever be able to tell; as with a lot of things you just need to do what you think is right, or what comes naturally to you. Being given a gift is meant to be a fun thing, and whoever is giving it to you most likely would not want to think of you being worried about what you are saying or doing in response.

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

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

AUTISM: when you plan for a change that doesn`t happen …

It’s a well known fact that change is hard for people with autism. If we are going to cope well with it we need to spend time planning for it and be ready well in advance. But what if the time comes and in fact things do not change as we thought they would? Is that a good thing, and can we just get on with our old routine as if nothing has happened? I cant speak for everyone, but for me the answer to this is No. If I have spent days or weeks planning for a change, and going over it again and again in my head, and then the moment comes and I am told it is not happening that will throw me even more than the original change would have done. I can give you a recent example of this, and attempt at least to explain why it impacts on me in the way that it does.

Last month my Mum was due to go in to hospital for surgery. She would have been in for a few days but then after she came out she would have needed looking after for quite sometime. Things would have been very different; I would have been doing a lot of the jobs, we would not have been getting as much writing and ASK-PERGERS?social media done, and my Dad would have been coming around more. While none of this is bad in itself it would have been different, and therefore I needed time to plan it and get used to the idea in my head. We talked it over a lot, planned what time I might get up, what time I might do the jobs around the house, how we might still get some writing and editing done, what I might make to eat, and just about everything else. We knew we had to plan otherwise we were leaving ourselves open to things going wrong. As far as we knew we had everything planned and set up to deal with the change that my Mum going in to hospital would bring – only she ended up not going in.

I should point out that we did know her operation might not go ahead, and in fact I was not at all shocked when I got the text from her a few hours after she had gone to the admissions unit telling me there were no beds, and she had to come home. It’s just one of those things that can happen, and has been happening more and more lately. But even though none of us were surprised at this change of plans it did put us in a strange place. We were all ready for things to change; for the normal routine to be put on hold for a while and a new routine to take its place, and now none of this was going to happen.

So what is meant to happen in this or similar situations? Are you just meant to wake up the next day and get on with your normal routine – that thing you have been telling yourself for weeks you wont be able to do. For me it does not work like that; it has been a month since my Mum was meant to go in to hospital, and I don’t think we have really got back to any kind of normal routine with work, the house, going out or anything since then. That’s not to say we have not done anything productive, but we have not done it in a routined way. We spent so long getting in to the mindset that our routine was going to change that we have been unable to change back, and get in to our old routine when there was no need for change.

I don’t know about anyone else with autism, but I can`t plan for two possible outcomes in a situation like this. I can plan for the change of routine, but that takes so much planning, and so much time to get used to I don’t have any space left to make a real plan for what will happen if that change does not take place. Just looking at this one situation, how can you make a proper plan for something that is so uncertain? It’s OK to know in the back of your mind the change might not take place, the operation might be cancelled, but what then? When will it be rearranged for? A week? Two weeks? A month? Will there be a set date for it? Or will it just be when ever they can fit it in? All these things would need a plan of their own, but we have no way of knowing which one we would be planning for until after the operation was cancelled. What about things that we decided not to do as Mum would be in hospital? Do we plan to do them now that she is not going to be in? Or would it be best to just leave them?

For me it’s too much to think about and too uncertain to plan for. I can plan for a change to my routine – even though that is hard enough – but I cant make any real plans for a change to the change. I just have to deal with that as and when it happens. But that is not easy to do; not knowing what is meant to be happening or when tends to lead to nothing or not much getting done, and the stress of this added to the stress of the change can lead to meltdowns. This has been the case over the last few weeks, and I am not to sure what we could have done to prevent it. As I say planning for something so uncertain is hard to do, and there is something of a feeling that with so much change back and forth meltdowns were bound to happen.

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

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

Why are we still hearing that more Males than Females are Autistic?

Women and autism has long been a controversial topic. For years many women were diagnosed as schizophrenic, depressed or just ignored instead of being given a diagnosis of autism. But now a lot of these women are taking matters in to their own hands, and forcing the world to look at autistic women and girls in a new light. You only have to spend five minutes on Twitter looking through their stories to see the common thread. They had a child/friend/husband with autism, or just read up on it, and felt that perhaps they were autistic, and then went to a professional to have that confirmed, and were either flat-out refused, or were told that they could not be autistic because, they had friends, children or could talk to the Dr/psychologist, and sent away again. A few years down the line the strain of living with undiagnosed autism, while trying to act and live like a non-autistic person, becomes too much, and they have an autistic crash. There are a lot of cases of late diagnoses or self-diagnosis, and as I say most of the stories follow a similar path. It should by now be clear to us that women and girls are autistic too, and that we need to take notice of this, and make sure that they can get the acknowledgement they need earlier in life. But there is one statement that is still thrown around far too much in my view, and perhaps it is one of the things holding us back.

`There are far more autistic males than females`.

Think about that for a second. It’s something I can recall hearing years ago, before anyone worked out a female profile for autism, and before the boom in autistic women coming out, and making the professionals sit up and take notice. But why do I still see it so much today? We know now that autism does not just present itself in one way. Now I don’t believe in a female/male profile per-say, as I know some men who would fit the so-called female profile, who therefore went undiagnosed themselves for years. That’s not to say that the female profile has not been a huge help and that a lot of women do not fit in to it, it’s just to say that we want to keep learning more and changing our ideas, instead of getting stuck in a whole new ridged way of thinking about things. There are a lot of autistic women out there now who would never have been diagnosed without the `female profile` though, and what it does show us is how blinkered professionals have been when it comes to giving out diagnoses of autism. When you think that we have known about autism for less than one hundred years, it seems strange that we should set such clear, unmoving statements as `There are far more autistic males than females. `

Let’s look at it this way – we hear some people in the media talk about an `autism epidemic` and about how `there was no such thing as autism in the past. ` We know that this is a silly argument. We found out what autism is, and the more we learn about it the more we can notice it in people. Therefore more people are being diagnosed as autistic. It’s not hard to work out.  And I think the same goes for the statement about more men being autistic than women, or boys than girls. We might have more males on the books diagnosed as autistic than females, but I would be willing to bet that this is only down to the fact that most of the women or girls who are diagnosed have to fight for years to get that diagnoses. It’s as if the system said “Women and girls cannot be autistic.” and then made sure it was so, and that fact would remain true by refusing to diagnose them for years. When we look at the amount of women who have been forced to the point of having an autistic crash, and losing their jobs, as well as suffering from related mental health issues due to this, it is clear that something must change.

Perhaps the first step in this would be to stop saying that more males are autistic than females, and just stop worrying about those numbers. Assess everyone on their own, and not as a male or female, and see if they are autistic.  Don’t let their gender play a part in your thinking.  We know that autism can present in different ways: sometimes in outbursts, sometimes in being quiet, sometimes in being unable to understand emotions, sometimes in being too empathetic to others to the point of neglecting yourself, and these points, along with other things, are what we should think of when we think of autism. Not one set idea that only applies to one small section of society.

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

AUTISM: when you are so overloaded that you can`t even do your favourite thing …

In the past month I have done three talks about my book. One at the launch for the book, and two more for other events where I talked about my book, and autism. Unlike a lot of people I enjoy doing public speaking, and I had fun doing the talks and selling my books afterwards.  I knew even as I was doing them that it would take a lot of out me. But I have to admit I underestimated quite how long it would take me to recover. I had thought that a few days of rest might be OK, and that I could be back to normal after that, but the truth is it’s taken me about two weeks to feel like I can get back to any kind of normal routine. So why is this?  And what kind of impact has it had on me?

Let me start by saying this. No one who is not autistic can understand sensory and emotional overload. People try, and they do mean well, but saying things like “I will be pretty tired too.” Or “You will just need to crash out in front of the telly tonight.” just show how little they do understand. When you have an overload sometimes you’re so worn out you can’t even rest. You can’t watch anything, you can’t read and you can’t even make a basic decision – sometimes for days on end. I love watching films, and when I can I watch a film a day. So when I can’t watch films that is a sign that I am overloaded, and need to give up on the idea of doing anything.

This was taken to something of an extreme with my last overload. Each year since I was around fourteen I have been to a horror film festival. For the first few years I only went to see a few films, but for the last five years or so I have gone to watch every film over the four days of the festival. It’s one of the few things in the year that I do look forward to doing, and one of the few time I can bring myself to go out four days on the run. Even though I always have a good time I always feel overloaded by the end, and need at least a week to relax, and do nothing after having been out and about so much.

Normally I would make sure I was not going out the week before the festival starts, but this year I decided to go and do a talk just two days before it was meant to start. I can’t say for sure why I thought this would be a good idea. I think I just got so caught up in the fun of doing talks, and selling books that I did not stop to think too much about the after-effect. But then on the day the festival was due to start the last thing I wanted to do was to go out. All I wanted to do was stay inside and do nothing. But I forced myself to go out for the first night, and watched three good films. Even though I enjoyed the films, I knew when I got home that I was feeling much more overloaded than I normally would at this point in the festival. And when I got up the next morning I knew that going back out would not be a good idea. I don’t want to make things sound over dramatic, and it’s not the worst thing in the world by any means – I missed watching a few films, that’s all. But the point is that I was unable to do something that I enjoy doing, and something that I actively make sure I do each year.

And this is where people not understanding overload comes in. How to explain to someone something you can’t fully understand, or find the words for yourself? How do you explain that going out and doing something you enjoy, something you would even find fun when you`re there, would in fact be bad for you?

When you`re  overloaded, or at least when I am (I can’t speak for everyone with autism) it’s a case of not being able to do anything, and almost drifting around all day just waiting for time to pass so that the overload will fade, and I can get back on with my life. It might take me all day just to decide to watch a film then another hour to pick one to put on. And the likelihood is even if I did I would not be able to get in to it.  It’s as if your mind stops working as it should; you can’t think clearly, or even decide anything for yourself.  And as I say this can last for up to a week normally.

On top of that I felt angry at myself for not planning as I should have done. I ended up not going to the festival and staying at home over the weekend instead. This was the right thing to do, and I am glad that I decided to do it, but I still feel as if I should have known better than to end up in that situation. Doing a talk and then dealing with all the one-on-one interactions that come with selling books took a lot out of me. More than I thought it would do.  And hopefully I can use the mistakes I made to learn more about myself, overload, and how to plan my work in future.

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.

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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

Autism, theft and anxiety …

On Saturday I received a bank statement, and a letter from my bank telling me that their fraud department needed to get in touch with me. They wanted to check if some recent transactions had actually been carried out by me. After looking at my bank statement it became clear that the last five transactions on it were not actually mine. And in fact I had no idea where the money – which amounted to over one thousand pounds – had gone.

Crimes like this are fairly common place, and I wouldn’t normally feel the need to write a blog about something like this, but what did make me want to blog about my experience on Saturday was the fact that the actual crime itself, and any stress or anxiety caused by that, completely paled in to insignificance compared to the stress and anxiety of having to interact with people to get things sorted out. My first thought on seeing that the money was missing was not actually one of concern for what had been taken, it was a feeling of concern and frustration because I knew that even if this were resolved quickly it would still completely ruin my usual Saturday routine. This did turn out to be the case. Me and my Mum decided that the best thing to do was to walk to our local bank and raise the issue with somebody face-to-face so we got ready, and prepared to go out. My anxiety levels rose higher and higher as were getting ready, and walking to the bank. In the back of my head there was a mild anxiety about what would happen to my money, but as I say I assume such crimes happen all the time, and I was pretty confident that I would end up getting the money returned to me. There was still some mild anxiety around this as I wasn’t certain at that point. But that had nothing to do with the rising anxiety and stress. This came solely from the fact that I had no clue what I would need to do, or who I would need to interact with when I reached the bank. Would they be male or female? Young or old? Would we talk in an office? Would they ask me questions I didn’t know the answer to and put me on the spot? I had no clue. I knew that I had no choice but to go to the bank, and in a way I think that helped. There is always an option of course, but I wasn’t going to sit at home and simply let more money be withdrawn from my account. In terms of interaction within the bank it was fairly easy – my Mum did most of the talking – the only challenge being that we had to talk at the counter, and I was keenly aware of people standing behind us. We were advised on what to do and told to return home and call the fraud department immediately. There was an option to use a phone within the bank to do so, but we decided against this. Again it was public, but also I felt it would be impossible to concentrate in a busy environment such as that.

Far from being over, my anxiety levels began to rise even higher as we walked home. I should explain; I don’t speak on the phone, even with family or people I know well. And whenever there is any official business to sort out that can only be dealt with via a phone conversation I give permission for my Mum to speak on my behalf. But as I walked back from the bank I had no clue whether they would need to speak to me, perhaps simply to gain my permission to speak to my Mum, or even if they would insist on talking to me for the entire conversation. It wasn’t just the fact that I might have to speak on the phone, it was the fact that I didn’t know. I didn’t know who I would be speaking to, or what they would be asking me. In the end I did have to speak on the phone, only to answer a few basic questions and give my consent for them to speak to my Mum. This in itself was not an easy experience, but I will go in to more detail in another blog. After that phone conversation everything was resolved. They dealt with it quickly and efficiently and as I say I assume it is something they deal with every day. But the impact of the change of routine, stress and anxiety created on that day are still affecting me even now. I can’t say that it has nothing to do with the money being stolen – that would be silly – but in all honesty I think that is ten percent of the cause. The other ninety percent is to do with uncertainty, social interaction and change of routine.

This is one thing I have always found difficult about my autism; even if I myself react calmly to a situation, and I don’t feel particularly disturbed or distressed by it, there will always be something that comes along with that situation which brings anxiety and stress. I think a lot of people would find it hard to understand how little the theft of the money actually affected me. I assumed even when I saw it was gone that I would get it back, which I have. If you had seen me on Saturday you would have seen somebody who was clearly highly anxious, and no doubt you would have assumed it was due to the theft. But as I say, you would have been wrong.

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