This is one of those titles which has the ability to hold more than one meaning. So, I’m going to try and discuss both, (behaviour which others find challenging, and behaviour that I find challenging) a little and how they affect me; not, everyone, but me personally and how this episodes can be reduced. This may, also help others, but remember that in interacting with anyone on the spectrum, we’re all unique and there is no ‘one size fits all solution’. *I will also be discussing mountain bikes *
I’m sure that we’re all familiar with ‘autistic meltdowns’ which can involve uncontrolled outburst of behaviour which is generally deemed to be unreasonable; throwing things, stamping of feet, pulling hair and so on. Think of a ‘toddler tantrum’, only in someone who’s possibly older, larger and stronger. Does the person having the episode do so intentionally? No, this is an involuntary reaction to something which is causing frustration, anxiety or stress. It’s no more intentional than a sneeze or an orgasm.
Different solutions work for different people, always remember that interacting with a person on the spectrum requires clear communication, patience, learning and some more patience, with a lot of tolerance and understanding. For me, entering an environment which I know to be, or foresee to be stressful, I plan the activity well in advance: I wear something that helps me to feel comfortable; Personally, I’m a big fan of compression clothing, especially base layers, in either red or black. This feeling of slight pressure against my skin and muscles helps to focus on breathing calmly and slowly and helps reduce my heart rate and lowers my stress levels: I’m still not great if I’m unoccupied whilst in a busy or stressful situation and I will exhibit signs of this (stimming, headstroking are two of mine) but I am better than I was, when I simply avoided them.
A bit different to a meltdown; this is a self-protection action, quite simply put, the autistic brain receives too much information or too much emotionally charged information and, in order to protect the person, the brain almost goes into pause mode. This has happened to me, a lot, especially in moments of confrontation. That primary ‘fight or flight instinct’, sometimes, we don’t want to fight, or run. So, the shutdown. Again, patience, knowledge, compassion and understanding…
Things I do which challenge me:
I have issues with depression and anxiety, common issues for those on the spectrum. One often wonders whether the autism increases these or if they are unrelated.
However, I still do things which push me outside of my comfort zone. In May 2017, I crashed my mountain bike in a local wood, just on the outskirts on Bradford, where I live. The crash occurred on a banked turn (berm) with a narrow entrance and no alternative exit. Now, foolishly, I hadn’t walked or ridden the route before or in advance or riding it that day, or I may have taken looked for an alternative. However, I didn’t, headstrong and reasonably confident in my ability to stay on a bike etc. It was at this point, it went awry, or rather, wrong, very wrong. I crashed and having been aware of what was going to happen, I was aware that this was likely to hurt: I was right! I’m also determined, bloody minded and proud. Using the bike to stabilise myself, I limped out of the woods and took the attitude of ‘if I can get to my local bike shop, the staff know me and can help if it still hurts’. I managed to get to the nearest pub, The Woolpack, famed from TV’s Emmerdale. Before submitted, sitting on a bench outside (the bar was closed), whilst going into shock waiting on an ambulance.
The result of the crash, I broke my leg in four places, and separated the bones in my ankle. I’ve now got a series of screws in place and unless they give me issues, there they shall stay.
Yes, that is the screws and the screwdriver on the X-Ray
This injury took almost a year in recovery and still hurts like hell some days almost a year and a half post accident. The psychological effects are that I lost a lot of confidence, which has taken most of this year to get back; it’s still not fully there, but it is returning. I have to push my mental barriers in order to do this. Tonight is going to be my first night ride in two years and I’m frankly anxious as hell about it. However, I am riding with a large group this evening and an experienced ride leader and guide, so it should be find. But, it is still daunting, I have, consequently spent three days mentally preparing myself for the ride.
Whilst, I am always going to struggle with certain elements, in this case night rides with a group of 20 people, most of which are unknown to me, I have to admit that last night’s ride was genuinely a lot of fun (except the bit when I went over the bars).