Sense of touch…

Some people have stated that I’m unusual as a person with autism, because I like physical touch. My response is a fairly stock answer that ‘It’s a spectral condition and that we’re all different’.

I like touch, I enjoy the intimacy of contact with people I know. But put me in a crowded place with people I don’t know and nothing to distract me from my lack of personal space and I’ll probably run for the nearest exit or otherwise meltdown. I am fine with concerts, in fact my favourite bands will have me at the front and centre of the stage and I’ll sacrifice my space for the experience. Yet, normally, I don’t want strangers to touch me.

I lived in the French speaking region of Switzerland, and love the Country and the culture, but the Swiss do believe in kissing each other on greeting and departing; not the French one kiss on each cheek, but three kisses, which always confuses the French and frankly seems to terrify the Germans. This is something which is not usually performed on the first introduction, but is considered the norm on saying goodbye on a first meeting. It took me a while to get my head around this concept and on occasions, just like in English protocol, I had to expressly ask what was accepted or expected of me. I still do this in the U.K. despite having lived here for most of my life. Some people would say that this is my trying to mask my autism or to fit in a predominantly neurotypical world; possibly, this is the case, more a case of me not wishing to be impolite or get convention wrong and look ignorant, after all, none of us wants to look the fool.

So, yes, in I’m friends with a person, I am perfectly happy with physical touch and contact. I’m happy kissing or hugging as a form of greeting or bidding someone goodbye. I’m also more than happy with physical intimacy on a more romantic level, but that’s something I really don’t discuss.

I’m fairly sure that the perception that people with autism don’t like touch is a purely personal thing, I know NT people who are incredibly anal about their personal space and  I’m also aware that some people on the spectrum are similar and completely opposite to me. We are after all, all wonderful and unique people and what pleases one soul, may not automatically please everyone.

Also situations differ, in the event that I’m having a meltdown, I need very firm pressure and I generally prefer firm pressure than a light touch. My own sense of touch is heightened during periods of stress and I can feel my environment and soft touch during stress feels a like static.

I would be interested in how others perceive this sense.

Touch

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Obsessive behaviour, but ‘Yuck mud’

An unusual title, I suppose but my brain rain out of wit; possibly, it requires more coffee. Currently, the neighbour’s car alarm is going off and sending me to distraction and then the the car needs to cuddle me.

Anyway, digression aside and apologies for running a day late (I had college stuff getting in the way).

As I’ve mentioned before the triad of autistic traits includes obsessive behaviour. I’ve always been one of those people who is generally obsessively clean, however, I ride and race mountain bikes and run and in the past, I have engaged in several roles and hobbies which run completely counter to my desire to feel clean. I’ve spent weeks in a field on exercise with the military, I’ve played airsoft, I also run. The crux of the matter is that I seem to spend a lot of my self-soothing time in pursuits which involve getting dirty. The idea of being dirty is completely offensive to me and yet, when following my obsessions, I generally end up filthy. The exception to being dirty therefore,  seems to be that being dirty without purpose is abhorrent to my senses. But getting dirty in order to achieve something beneficial to me, that’s something that I’m perfectly happy to do. Except, I cannot stand my hands being dirty… never could. Whatever is being done, my obsessive behaviour means that I washing and drying my hands in-between doing tasks which involve getting my hands wet (like washing dishes FFS!)

Therefore, I have to wear gloves whilst riding, I wear latex gloves whilst washing my bike; which despite the fact that I have nowhere to wash a bike at home, it gets dismantled after every ride and cleaned: in the bath.  No, I am not Albert Steptoe, I don’t get in the bath at the same time!

I am aware that the desire for cleanliness is not uncommon amongst the neurodiverse and I’m also aware that at times,we all run out of the mental strength to satisfy our own requirements to be clean or to maintain a clean environment. This tends to lead to feeling worse and thus the circle becomes ever decreasing. Therefore, I feel that it’s vital to do as much as possible to avoid those lows; if you have to go and get dirty in order to smile and then get clean, do it. Our lives are precious, interesting and diverse, with different challenges than those of the PNT world. So we must do whatever we can to feel complete and well. In my case, I’ve got a few days with my girlfriend and then on Sunday, I shall be out getting muddy and then cleaning the bike again.

#actuallyautistic #austismspeaks #mountainbiking #autism

Coexisting mental health …

I was watching a film on Netflix recently, Neurotypical and the subject of coping with anxiety came up. I therefore thought that this subject would be relevant for discussion as a common co-existing condition for people with autism is a greater propensity towards suffering from anxiety and depression.

I’ve heard of autistic children being considered for antidepressants and whilst this is obviously something which should concern every parent and anyone working with children. However, considering the fact that some people suffer from anxiety and depression to such an extent that it become physically debilitating, as well as the mental aspect, is medicating a bad thing?

I was born in the early 1970s and as such, mental health awareness was largely much maligned and the general attitude towards mental health problems was ostracising the person and often just being told to “put yourself together”. Which obviously cured everyone and made us a more tolerant and sympathetic society; or not.

Even in the 1980s, this attitude was still pervasive: – In my own case, a lot of the things which should have been autism indicators weren’t noticed. People were trained in recognising the condition outside of the very severe cases or where the symptoms were obvious. I showed many of the typical signs, when I look back on it and I’ll discuss further in another article. I also suffered from severe long term mental health issues, some of which were recognised at first in my early teens, none of which were treated until decades later. So, I was first diagnosed with depression in my teens and I suspect that my anxiety had been ongoing as long as I can recall. I have had severe panic attacks, arguably have PTSD, anxiety and depression. I suspect that my anxiety is the major issue and one that has been confirmed by at least one medical professional.

Had I received treatment for this decades ago, maybe the problems would have had less impact upon my life and that of those around me; depression and anxiety, after all, are destructive illnesses. I realised that I needed to return to medication in the late stages of living in Switzerland, a Country that I truly love, but during a very dark period, my marriage had collapsed, I was unable to find work and I knew that I was going to have to return to the U.K., having nowhere to live and so on. I realised at this point that I needed to seek help; this was to prevent harm to either myself or others. Medication doesn’t cure the problem, but it does help me to deal with world on a daily basis and to have regained some focus.

However, attitudes have not always changed. I was told by one GP that I didn’t need antidepressants and that I should exercise. My response to such ignorance was to inform her that I spent around 20 hours a week training but that I still suffered from anxiety and depression; sadly, her ignorance was echoed throughout the practice. I shortly found an alternative medical practice and I can state that they are generally excellent. Yes, I agree that exercise can help with depression and anxiety, but it is not an absolute cure or physicians would be prescribing gym memberships and exercise routines rather than costly pharmaceuticals.

So, in short do I believe that children, or adults for that matter with co-morbid anxiety and depression should be considered for medication? It’s my personal opinion that if there is help, why not make everyone’s lives easier. Anxiety and depression are hell on earth to live with, childhood suicide is on the increase. Why should people be so stigmatised about making the lives of those suffering easier.

As I’ve tasted before, I’m not an expert on autism, nor a physician or clinician, but in recent poll I took, 78% of people were in favour or medication to help reduce the effects of depression and, or anxiety.

Doing things I dislike…

NT and Neurodiverse alike, we all have to do things that we dislike. This is part of life and whilst we may procrastinate and try to find alternatives, we have to face these demons. Forms and general formal communication is my personal demon.

I’m currently embarking on this years round of PGCE applications, with the intention of qualifying as a primary school teacher. Various, financial and professional hurdles got in the way last year, hence, I’m having to go through the hoops once again.

Whilst, I’m very good at certain things, I’m not good with forms; in fact, forms, even simple ones, fill me with dread. I’ve got through a few pages and it has taken me most of the afternoon. I’m stimming and trying to self-soothe and these things are helping to keep my anxiety at a controllable level. However, this is slow progress, it just needs to be completed and I’m trying not too curse myself too much for hating doing it and finding something which shouldn’t be scary, so terrifying.

It’s not just academic forms, job application forms are the same as are most other forms. Even making choices of places I would like to complete the course has been stressful. Next stage is finding people willing to give me references…

‘Do I disclose myself as being on the spectrum or not?’

‘If I don’t I’m being less than honest and I may not get available help and support later if I need it. If I do, will it mitigate against me?’

‘How long is it going to take to include three decades of work history; yes, I don’t have anything else planned for this evening, but damn, I just hate forms’ 

All of this thoughts and a million others which are completely tangental serve to compound the job in my head and make it bigger and scarier than a simple online form should be.

In the meantime, here’s what my desk feels like this: –

paperwork

 

 

The Emporer’s new clothes

Now, not everyone on the spectrum will suffer from sensory processing disorder. However, as this blog is largely me discussing how my Aspergers affects me, and therefore hoping to connect with others, who might not feel so isolated. I will discuss my sensory issues in regards to clothing.

I will kick off my shoes at the first opportunity, however comfortably they might fit. As a child, I hated wearing shoes or socks. I cut washing tags out of almost everything and certainly tags are removed from anything which is in direct contact with my skin. The only socks I wear are mainly cycling or skiing socks (used for winter sports). I don’t often buy clothing online, as I need to be able to touch the fabric before trying it. ‘Scratchy material’ literally sets my teeth on edge and I will not wear it, regardless of whether I like the look, colour or fit of an article.

Then, there are colours, I’m a Goth, so my palette tends towards lots of blacks, reds and purple. I’m also a mountain biker so I tend to buy cycling gear which fits within this palette. Red is great because of the high visual impact making it easier to see me.

So flat labels and reds, blacks and purples in smooth fabrics dictate the majority of my wardrobe. We all have our choices, mine and those who are similar to me would just like a little more choice.

Does anyone else find these challenges? I would be interested to hear from others.

#actuallyautistic #autismandmountainbiking #cyclingclothing #SPD #sensoryprocesskngdisorder

 

Unique traits

The neurodiverse person is likely to struggle with certain elements of human behaviour, interaction and communication; the so labelled ‘triad of difficulties’, however, are they actually difficulties or simply part of what makes us unique?

Caregivers and those working or studying the field are reminded to take everyone as ‘unique and individual’, as does British law under the Autism Act and other anti-discrimination legislation. The lawyer in me finds that this might mean that one could think of the PNT populace as being some kind of robotic clones, incapable of individuality, but better at interacting with others. Of course, this is, in the main, completely untrue and I also realise that the legislation is simply intended to ‘level the playing field’. Sadly, this doesn’t always work, the National Autistic Society shows that only 16% of people with autism are employed on a full time basis, which is damning evidence that the playing field is not level, compare this to persons with other disabilities classed as unemployed with shows only 9.3% (UK Government figures, so highly manipulated, but all the same).

I wonder what actually dissuades people from not engaging more ND people. We have some great skills; of course, the sciences, education, IT all seem to be staffed and fuelled by a high percentage of people on the spectrum. Maybe, our interpretation of the world just provides us with a better fit in these arenas. However, not everyone is a scientist, a teacher or an IT geek. The military bars those sections of the public with identified autism, which is a travesty as we are very good with following specific instruction and repetitive tasks (although I hated drill and any ceremonial matters). In fact, the military is often the perfect disfunctional, functioning family in which many might well thrive.

Anyway, I try to keep this blog upbeat, as frankly I embrace my own diversity and the fact that, I, as a person with high functioning autism am unique and have both excellent abilities and things which I simply cannot do. Much like my friends and people around me, whichever neurological tribe they sit in.

The weather is bright and crisp, the heating is turned up and I have the doctors this afternoon, following which I am riding. My obsession remains, as does my sense of exploration and wonderlust (I miss the mountains and clean air and long to share these things again.)

Hell, I still need to sort out a fix with my racing shoes, but frankly, I need to be in the right mental state or they will get jettisoned across the room, with lots of screaming and drama. Maybe an NT can do it?

Tired and stressed

Hi guys, it’s been another of those crazily busy weeks. I’m running slightly odd hours  as I’m tutoring at lot more than I was. Like many people on the spectrum, aspects of self-employments suits me, to an extent. Indeed, I’ve been self-employed in several roles, DJ and promoter, enquiry agent and now tutoring ESL. What I don’t like, is the lack surety; the is no progression, if I want to earn more, I have to make myself available for more hours and hope that there is sufficient students for me to get allocated. It’s not certain, but it is only temporary.

Couple this with a couple of exams I have pending and yes, I’m currently a stressed bunny.

So, how do I deal with this stress. Primarily, I find myself stimming like mad. This can be ‘loud hands’ (flapping, clicking) over gesticulating, tapping things, clicking pens. I also pace… a lot, I rarely sit still for any length of time and pacing is part of my self-soothing behaviour. At times, I will even simply put on music and have a ‘lounge disco’.

So what is ‘stimming’?

In short it is any form of repeatative behaviour which a person does in order to feel more settled during times of stress. Personally, I tap, draw imaginary patterns with hands or feet, rock, pace and when really anxious and on the verge of meltdown, I tend to rub my head repeatedly. I probably have more, these are just the ones that I am aware of.

It’s a comfort thing and for those around us, it can be an indication that something is bothering us. Those who know me, are learning my stims and now ask if I’m OK and that is very much appreciated. Aside from a self-soothing action, it’s part of who I, and the larger community are. We are unique and all individuals, just wired a little different to the NT individuals.