New and changing routine

Apologies for being rather quiet of late. Work and training for work have taken a lot of out me, and then, there was Christmas. Then, there was New Year which came in with m bugs and viruses and other unpleasantness to compensate for having had a wonderful festive period.

So I thought that I would talk about employment and how it affects people with autism. The National Autistic Society estimates that only 16% of autistic adults are employed on a full time basis. This is a hideous figure.

Sure the Autism Act allows for protection but it’s simply not enough. Also, as with any hidden disability, should we be forced to disclose this information at the point of application or interview?

Of course, without giving the information to an employer, you cannot seek to rely upon the protection of the Act, or any other anti-discrimination legislation. So, my advice, as someone with a legal background, inform people, it allows them to protect themselves and them to protect you. It doesn’t ease the chronic insecurity.

Anyway, routine and how mine has been forced to change:-

I, like most people on the spectrum like routine; indeed, I seek to establish one. However, the new job throws this a little into a state of flux.

Personally I am working as a member of support staff, supporting a person on the spectrum whose needs require a lot more support and assistance than my own. It’s a challenging and interesting role, with very long shifts, short weeks and as such I am still in the process of creating a routine.

However, I am happy to be back in full time employment, which means that plans for the short and mid-term can start and the plan is also to have some spare resources to allow travel to races this year.

So, when my working life is shift-based and my tasks dependent upon the person-centred approach of supporting another adult?

Well, for me, I plan a working day as best as J can, I determine activities and set a rough timeframe for those. The client makes the choices from there.

If and when I struggle with my own order, I will simply have to ask for help from my colleagues, partner or my employer.

Festive holidays

This time of year can be very over stimulating. There’s lots of people, almost everywhere, presssure to shop, spend, socialise and so on.

For me simple colour schemes help. The Christmas tree is green with red and black ornaments.

My advice, keep decor simple and only do as much or as little as you feel able to cope with: our friends and families will understand.

I’m now off to my partner’s family gathering and that’s a little stressful as I’ll be meeting new people. Tomorrow will be a mixture of me cooking and having a very large glass of wine.

To all of my followers and readers, I wish you a very merry Christmas.

New job…

For anyone who doesn’t know, or hasn’t meet me in person, I am in the midst of induction and training for a role within the National Autistic Society.

Training, has, thus far been excellent although obviously, there is a hell of a lot of information to be taken onboard and processed. Today has included low arousal and low contact counter-measure training; the intent being that keeping both client and staff safe is key. This has been rather interesting for me as normally, in conflict, I rely more on physical strength and resilience than anything; Studio 3 training is simply using very simple but effective methods to escape, should a threat arise.

Challenges are that in creating a new routine and commuting, coupled with meeting a new cohort of staff, trainers, managers etc. My usual technique applies, say nothing at first, find my comfort zone and over compensate because, well, ‘that’s just me’

Trains have been difficult: with yesterday showing an average delay of 45 minutes for each of four trains: I arrived home after 3 and a bit hours, for an hour and twenty minute journey. Needless to say, I was very stressed during this process.

The negatives of trains is that I get more chance to read, so every cloud…

Now to finish up the induction on Friday and then move forward, into a role that I am very excited about.

In the meantime, I would like to wish readers a very happy Christmas and I look forward to the new year.

Situational anxiety

This week and the last has been rather stressful.

I’ve started a new job; the first in rather a long time which isn’t self-employed, meaning that, ultimately I’m answerable to another person or body. I am now working for the National Autistic Society.

Thus far, I am inspired and left thinking that this role is the perfect fit and route to progress and career development. I am, therefore excited and impatient to move beyond the training and induction.

There is, I feel for a lot of the U.K., a black cloud lurking over us, today. This is the day of a general election and probably the most important ones to the survival of the Country, health service and economy as a whole. The current government is mismanaged by a proven racist, liar and incompetent megalomaniac. The fact that he may retain power for another five years terrifies me and many others; it really should unless you are multimillionaire hedge fund manager or banker who wants to contribute nothing to the Country or the world at large.

Therefore today is one causing many people great anguish.

Review – Tubeless Inserts

I’ve been curious about these for a little while. I’ve ran tubeless for about 4 years now and I must confess that living and riding in Yorkshire can mean that ‘sometimes’ running a tubeless system alone just isn’t enough.

So, what is tubeless, in case people don’t know?

Basically, it’s removing the inner tube from inside of the tyre and using a latex sealant which seals most holes in the tyre as they occur. This isn’t quite as simple as that, but it’s the basic premise. You do need to make sure that the tyres are tubeless ready (i.e. non-porous) and that the spoke holes in the wheel are sealed. Plus, a tubeless specific valve as you’re still going to need air in the tyre.

If it’s a first time job and you want to avoid mess, be kind and give the job to your LBS: it supports them and it will only cost you a few pounds and it really does avoid a lot of mess: blowing a tyre off a rim will leave your workspace and everything in it looking like a Jackson Pollock!

So, why use inserts? Surely they add rotational weight?

From my experience on average when I change a tyre I can usually identify at least twenty small thorns and other detritus in the tyre; I’m just not aware of them before changing the tyre. Small punctures seal quickly and you’ll only occasionally notice the loss of tyre pressure.

In the world of mountain biking, the risk of splitting a tyre or tyre wall is far greater. Rocks can be sharp and also hitting rock ledges at speed and such can cause the tyre to break the airtight seal with the bead of the wheel, which means instant loss of pressure and sealant all of the place.

Put simply, tubeless is fantastic in reducing punctures, but it’s remiss, possibly even to the level of negligent to think that you’re never going to flat again. It has happened to me, usually when I’m in the arse end of no-where and with several miles to walk and no tube to put into the tyre.

So tubeless inserts are essentially a protective insert to keep the tyre from fully deforming away from the rim and seem to be a way to reduce this sudden loss of pressure which occurs with things like rock strikes.

The bike industry is well known for never standing still when it can make some money out of the punters. With this said, the tubeless insert market has been burgeoning within the last year or so.

Barbieri Anaconda Tubeless Protection System:

My choice for this first trial

This is essentially my choice, they are cheap, lightweight and if they fail to do the job; I’ve actually lost very little. Purchased through Planet – X for the sum of £14.99

Essentially they are a foam noodle which sits inside the tyre and stops the tyre deforming on impact. The tubeless solution will swirl around in the tyre and seal smaller punctures. They will, at a push, get you home in an emergency but will be worthless at the end and I wouldn’t risk the wheel rims myself.

In the pack, two inserts and two carbon tubeless valves. Which I found to be completely useless, the valve core is not removable and even using a compressor, I struggled to get sufficient airflow to seat the rear tyre on the bead.

The front tyre: Not so easy, quite simply, getting the tyre installed over the insert was a mission and a half, let alone getting the tyre seated on the bead. Cue much swearing, yelling and coffee consumed and a full autistic meltdown was had within the space of over an hour. In the end, I opted that my time sanity and I did the sensible thing; took it to my LBS, All Terrain Cycles in Saltaire who solved the problem but with a different class of swearing.

I’ve been running the system about 4 from and can say that in general I find it excellent. I have a tear in the rear tyre which I gained at a local race and frankly funds have dictated that I plugged the tyre rather than immediately replacing it. The plug is currently wearing slightly and I have a slow leak, but on a ride the other day I notice the drop in pressure and was able to re-inflate the tyre with a hand pump and continue with my ride. The tyre didn’t deform or lose all pressure. The insert has also encouraged me to have a little more confidence in riding sharper rock gardens. So this is all good.

Are they worth money? For this value, hell yes. Some of the other options on the market retail at £150.00 that’s getting to the point of becoming an economical factor for some people and I certainly wouldn’t got that high. There are other, cheaper options on the market, but I’ve not tried them at this point. Certainly for the time being and going into next year and race season, I will keep with this option.

Review… XO1 Eagle

SRAM’s Eagle XO1 Drivetrain

I thought that I would undertake a review of a product that’s been out for about 18 months and I’ve been using for around 12 months: Namely SRAM’s 12 speed drivetrain. Indeed at the point of writing this review, it’s not even the latest technology as SRAM has produced an electronic groupset, with wireless shifting. However, that’s still a premium product and one that not everyone will consider, at least for some time.

This comes in several variations to fit most budgets. Everything from the ultra lightweight XX1 through to the more budget conscious NX and GX ranges. Again, I’m not sponsored, paid, receive any inducement from anyone in relation to any products I review. The chances are, if I review something, I like it and think that others who share my passion for mountain biking may also enjoy them.

For a few years I’ve been a major advocate for a 1x drive train; essentially having a single chainring at the front and a wide spread of gears on the cassette at the rear. This reduces wear and tear from shifting the chain across the chain ring and reduces stress from ‘chain stretch’. I’ve certainly worn out and snapped far fewer chains since going to a 1x system.

My comparators are having spent several years riding on Shimano XT and a brief period on SRAM’s 1×11 XX1 over a demo weekend in Switzerland.

SRAM marketed their Eagle Groupset as revolutionary, stating that the front derailed is now dead. I’ve had this argument with several people I’ve ridden with, many of which disagree… until they try it.

Thankfully, at least in my opinion, a 1x drivetrain is largely becoming standard on any mountain bike worth buying from new. Also, Shimano and a couple of others are playing catch up and producing a 12 speed cassette and another company is now producing a 13 speed cassette.

The Eagle Groupset has a 500% range, running across a spread of 10tooth – the enormous 50tooth ‘dinner plate’. I recall staring in awe at the cassette when I first saw it. It is quite literally massive.

Now there are some distinctions between SRAM and Shimano, for those who aren’t aware. The thumb shift on a SRAM shifter only allows for a thumb pushing change, whilst Shimano does allow for either a thumb or forefinger. For some people I think that this is a matter of taste, but in my opinion, I prefer keeping my forefinger over the brake level, so therefore I prefer to use my thumb.

Now I am using a high end range, the price has gone down as variations are added, but the groups itself retails in the region of £850.00. It’s not their flagship model, but it’s considered ‘race ready’, with carbon cranks and components being lightweight.

At first use, I was impressed by how smooth everything felt, gear changes were responsive and crisp, even (dare I say it) under load. The 50T on the cassette meant that I could more or less climb anything and it felt a huge benefit from my previous 46T.

I’m cautious to ensure that the drivetrain in cleaned after every ride, especially a dirty ride as dirt causes excess wear on the chain and that in turn causes greater wear and tear to the whole system and, replacement parts aren’t cheap (£40.00 for a chain) and when I replace parts I usually use this as an excuse to improve upon them, where possible. This said, my chain wear indicator tells me that the chain is still good.

I’ve dropped a chain once, in fact a week ago, but frankly we were riding in an absolute ‘bog-fest’ and I blame the thick clawing mud rather than anything else.

In short, the system still responds as it always did, shifts are smooth (possibly not Shimano smooth) but there is a distinctive click as the lever engages and the shift is rapid and engages without incident.

So, personally, will I upgrade to the slightly lighter, better XX1 in due course?

Well, next year is a new season and I’m going to hold off until then, unless parts need replacement before. But in short, yes and no.

Yes: XX1 is lighter, has more exotic materials and will technically perform slightly better…

No: I’m going to start using a Power Meter in the new year. Also, with the advent of SRAM Eagle AXS, the electronic wireless shifting Groupset, why would I buy something that’s not at the top of it’s game?

So the plan is to get a SRAM XX1 power meter with cranks and then the AXS upgrade kit, which simply is the wireless shifter, battery & charger and the the wireless derailed. I’ll replace the chain with an XX1 model and therefore the bike is ready for the next season and beyond.

Expressing frustration

This is something which I feel is worthy of discussion, because at some point, anyone around a person with autism is going to encounter ‘behaviour which challenges’; i.e. meltdowns.

Meltdowns can take many forms, frequently the can be aggressive or appear to be a ‘temper tantrum’. Quite simply the person simply cannot process something; now this might be a major thing or a minor thing. This might result in violent behaviour, such as banging their heads or punching themselves, throwing things or what would appear to be wilful acts of destruction.

The main difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a tantrum is wilful behaviour: ‘I’m not getting my way, so I will respond in a fashion which punishes or embarrasses, so as to get my own way in future, or to get my own way now, to avoid continuation of the behaviour’.

Meltdowns put quite simply aren’t something we have a great deal of control over. I’m personally high-functioning and I don’t tend to throw things, kick things and so for. I do, however inter alia scratch my skin, rub my head and generally get incredibly irritable.

Now a meltdown is physically and mentally exhausting.

Research identifies 6 stages in a meltdown: –

(1) Calm:

Everything is normally happening.

(2) Trigger:

Something will trigger the start over a sensory overload. This can be a great many things, again, we’re all different.

(3) Agitation:

The individual will show signs of distress, this may include ‘visually stimming’ and any self-soothing behaviour or repetitive movement (rocking, banging their head, flapping of hands etc.).

(4) Meltdown:

This takes various forms, but in all examples the individual will display signs of extreme agitation and distress.

(5) Recovery:

Essentially ‘coming down’ and normalising your senses. Sometimes a dark space or generally a quiet and safe space will help with this process.

(6) Resetting:

Normalising behaviour. This in some cases can be the point at which fatigue can hit.

At times of extreme stress, I go into ‘shut down’ at which point, I almost fail to do or say anything and any actions taken by me are generally controlled by my auto-pilot system. This will be done in silence.

So, how do we, or those around us avoid or solve these incidents?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer as anyone living with a person on the spectrum needs to remember, the condition is very ‘person specific’; what helps me, may not help another person*.

If I am going into what I know to be a stressful environment, I find wearing compression clothing can help me; something tight pressing against my chest or legs has a comforting feeling for me.

Likewise, a heavy blanket can be a comforting thing to have at home. Personally, I’ve always favoured a heavy quilt as it helps me sleep, even though I will, if hot have appendages sticking out at random.

For those people who like sensory distraction, there are various things that can be created at home, from simple craft materials which may help the individual to feel less overwhelmed. I recommend Barbara Sher’s excellent book Everyday Games for Sensory Processing Disorder for ideas on this.

Highly recommended resource.

I also keep some kind of fidget toy in my pocket, or something else I can click. If this has more than one purpose, this suits me in even better. With the weather turning bad and street lighting becoming equally abysmal as part of some Government policy, presumably to kill off the poor, sick, disabled and anyone not funding the Conservative Party I have taken to carrying a small torch in my pocket. I can click this on and off in my pocket if I’m anxious and it also serves it’s primary purpose; plus, I’m a torch and penknife geek (it’s just almost impossible to legally justify carrying a penknife whilst, say, going to the supermarket, in the U.K., unlike in Switzerland, where everyone does and they manage to not go around stabbing each other!)

*I am not a clinician, doctor, nurse or other expert in the field of treating autism. I am simply, an expert on being me. I am a person with autism, who reads a lot and tries to offer advice and assistance where I can.