Variety is also important

Personally I need to remind myself to keep my motivation through balancing routine with variation: I ride the same routes so that I am familiar with them. This can mean that I get stale.

In work, I try to keep activities from becoming to predictable. Sometimes we take longer walks, or just start or finish at a different point.

Today, I am taking my service user trampolining, which we have done before, but not in a while and we’ll go to a different site. This means that it remains fresh and fun for Jack and he does not feel stale either. Plus, it’s important that I as support staff also feel keen to get involved.

Also, as it’s pancake day in the U.K., we’ll make pancakes later on as Jack enjoys cooking.

Life is a series of repetitive actions and it can get dull and at that point, we’re likely to disengage and simply go through the motions. As such, it’s important to try a twist on something we enjoy.

Romance is in the air… or the card shops

The following is an excerpt from an recent interview: –

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, though wonderful at times, romantic relationships can be really difficult to manage.

Relationships can be even more difficult for autistic people, who may struggle with the social nuances and complexities of things like dating and maintaining relationships. 

With this in mind, we interviewed Paul Smith, autistic man, keen mountain biker, and Support Worker at our charity’s Adult Service in Skipton. Paul chatted to us about life on the spectrum, how he and his partner are spending Valentine’s Day, and navigating the maze of modern love as an autistic person. 

When were you diagnosed as autistic? 

I was diagnosed three or four years ago by a nurse who had experience working with autistic people. At the time I didn’t know a lot about autism, but I definitely embraced the ‘knowledge is power’ approach and decided to find out more. 

I also taught English as foreign language for a while, and developed an interest in Special Education Needs and Support, including speech and language therapy and exploring different ways of communicating. 

What is being autistic like for you?

It’s very different on different days. I’d say it’s difficult for me to find a fit with people. I wrote a piece on my blog about how autism is often described as like a jigsaw piece. But I feel the metaphor is an oversimplification as life isn’t just a single puzzle piece. 

Almost everything in life revolves around social communication, which is something I find difficult, being on the spectrum. This is something I try to be very open about with other people. Often subtle social cues can be lost on me – this can be tricky when it comes to things like romantic relationships.

Speaking of, are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?

I’m actually working my first night shift (in my role as a support worker), which falls on Valentine’s Day this year. I’ll probably have lunch with my partner though. – [I think you said wine and a sandwich would do?] 

Do you do anything to mark Valentine’s Day with the adults you support?

No, we don’t tend to celebrate in any way. The adults I work with are not really at the stage where they are ready to consider things like Valentine’s Day or enter into romantic relationships at the moment. Gifts are made for close family members and my role is in supporting my client with making these.

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day generally?

I think Valentine’s Day can be a bit exploitative [often just a way for corporations to make money?]. Why wait until just one day in the year?

I’m also just not good with remembering important calendar dates – Valentine’s Days, birthdays etc. There seems to be a day for everything, so it’s hard to keep up! But if I see something I think my partner would like (on any given day) I’ll buy it for her, rather than waiting for one specific day. 

Is your partner also autistic?

No, but her brother is on the spectrum, so she has some insight into what being autistic is like. She also struggles with anxiety and other mental health issues, which is something we both share [and can support each other with?] 

You mentioned finding relationships difficult, why?

A lot of subtle nuances which are a big part of relationships and meeting people – eg. body language,  – are lost on me. When I was single I’d often find it really hard to tell, in the moment, if someone liked me and would only realise when it was too late.

I think relationships are complicated because people are complicated, and it isn’t only autistic people who find it hard. 

Do you think things like the media and societal expectations influence how we view relationships?

I think the media does have a part to play in it, yes – especially having worked in that industry myself as a presenter.

Positive relationships in film and TV are often portrayed as easy and effortless, when this just isn’t the case in reality.

The autism jigsaw

We’ve all seen the use of jigsaw pieces in reference to ASD. I am considering getting something along this line for a future tattoo, however, I have a list of tattoos and only so much available room and money.

Thinking about my own experiences and looking at those of others I work or engage with, life isn’t a single puzzle piece, that’s over-simplification: furthermore, I doubt that anyone’s life is that simple that only one thing needs a solution before it’s a perfect picture. Personally, I have a myriad of desires, goals, wants, needs and ambitions some of which are clearer than others, some clarify for a period and disappear in the fog of confusion on others. Some are attainable and within reach and others require more long term plugging away at. I try to limit the ones that aren’t reasonable as that leads to frustration and unhappiness.

Goals and plans are important, at least they are to me. Without them, I would struggle to achieve anything, for I would see no end purpose. I rather suspect that I would become incredibly depressed and introverted and probably stop functioning on any greater level than occasionally getting out of bed. It’s worth noting that I have been to this very dark place and I really don’t want to ever return there.

I need that carrot at the end of the stick. However, it is vital that those goals are reasonable and attainable, with time and effort. For example, a goal to become a supermodel or win the lottery is unrealistic and not something that I am likely to attain (I do still play the lottery, despite this).

My ambitions and goals are, frequently tied to my obsessions or interests. For example, this year I want to compete in more races, the last couple of years have been poor on this front. I have several planned, the first in about 10 weeks and I am excited about it. Something like this is a huge motivator for me.

Needs are something different to wants and represent something which is mandatory, working within the support network, we often express ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ as just ‘needs’. “Person A needs crisps”. I find this slightly erroneous, those crisps aren’t essential to the person’s functionality. They are a short term satisfaction for a want; they provide happiness for a moment. I can’t believe that crisps can provide enough nutritional value to maintain and support life for any length of time (and I am fan of Hula Hoops) . In short a want is a desire; a need is a requirement. However, if happiness is provided, it muddies the water.

We’re all complex individuals, often with complex wants, needs, desires and ambitions. I am very fortunate in being able to formulate a very complex array of wants, needs and desires as well as having an understanding of what I require as being imperative to my functioning; i.e clothes, shelter, food and warmth.

Where this gets complicated is through the provision of happiness. My being able to pursue complex goals and ambitions ensures that I feel fulfilled and happy. My being happy affects my greater environment, for example, I feel motivated to be productive, I am more social, I want to get things done and I become more cooperative; this impacts hugely upon my interaction with others and my relationships, both professional and personal. Those being successful impacts positively upon my state and thus a circle continues to flow.

So in giving ‘Person A’ their crisps, maybe it is like my allowing myself time to go and ride my bike or enter a race, or go to the gym. After all, not everything I enjoy is healthy, I just try to offset my vices with something positive.

Burning off a beer later that evening

Like any jigsaw piece, I’m finding a place in which I fit, unlike a puzzle, the picture of my life has changed a multitude of times and continues to do so. Whilst this can be hard and scary on occasions my shape changes, slowly in order to try and fit as well as possible within the picture.

Early year preparations

I’m quiet of late, I realise. I am incredibly busy at work, plus the gym and training and also a new club night soon.

Currently the bike is dirty, I am clean, as is the flat and the chores are done. I am back at the gym, back at yoga and I’m 12 weeks away from my first race of the year: which is a big one, 8 hour solo race.

Therefore I will aim to get a proper post up this week.

Review: Exposure Joystick

I must admit that I’ve never really been a fan of night riding. It’s dark, you can see sod all and everything is a slower and has a far greater element of risk.

However, I ride (when commitments permit) with a local group, through Saltaire Brewery on a Wednesday evening and I also ride with a mate and we try to get out one evening a week; shifts and jobs presenting us with limitations and challenges therein.

For over a year, I have been riding with light which cost about thirty quid for both a helmet and bar light. Before that I was riding with a ‘reasonable light I brought from Aldi for about £90. All of those have served me well in countless nights and club rides as well as shitty shifts when I was riding for Deliveroo.

I decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and throw money at decent lights to make nocturnal adventures more appealing and, well, just better and more fun; being able to see properly is nice. With this in mind, I researched like mad as this fits in with my compulsive behaviour (see the triad of impairments).

I knew that I was sick of having a separate battery pack, I wanted something with a reasonable ‘burn time’ and decent brightness. This basically left me a few options, I opted to go to Exposure Lights. These are not especially cheap, but there are deals which make them less offensive to the wallet. Also, most stores will price match (although not with strictly online sellers like Chain Reaction or Wiggle).

So, they are expensive, so it’s a peace meal purchase for me, as I am on a low income and value being able to buy food.

Exposure Light’s Joystick Mik 14

This particular light burns at a maximum of 1400 lunens (bloody bright) but the run time is curtailed to roughly one hour; ideal for high speed – low drag rides on a short trail when you have a car at the trail head. Reducing the brightness increases brightness.

This is on Mode 2, with a 3 hour burn time

Honestly, this headlamp alone has made night rides so much fun. Burn time is fantastic on Mode 2 (about 800 lumens) and on road sections at the end of a ride, I turn it to Mode 4 and that’s ample to be visible to motorists.

Selecting modes is a little tricky but there’s plenty of video tutorials online and they do it better than I do.

In short, if you are reasonably serious about riding in low light or after dark, I recommend this highly. I hope to be able to get a larger one for the handlebars very soon and will update accordingly; looking at the Exposure Race for that task. We’re just going to see how finances look in due course.

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.