Differences

I had a conversation last night about a potential collaboration project with a friend who has an autistic child. She asked me for advice in relation to meltdowns. As I’ve said before, I am not an autism expert nor am I a professional working in a clinical field. I am, however, a keen advocate on equality and integration for all and I have an understanding on how my own autism affects me and my life.

Where does my autism stop and my personality begin?

This is something of a difficult question to answer. Like anyone on the spectrum, the impact of living with a neurological difference impacts upon us in a myriad of different ways; each of being different but sharing some common ground, insofar as difficulties in communication, social interaction and compulsive or obsessive tendencies.

 

Brookdale Triad Diag UpdatedI don’t often have catastrophic level meltdown, in which things get thrown and damaged. I blame slam doors and such, but the only real damage is to myself. Meltdowns are hell, but we, as autistic people don’t have control over them, or our behaviour during these moments.

In reality, I am much more passive and I tend to simply ‘shut down’, this is my brain telling me to simply disengage in order to protect itself from over stimulus. The effect of this from the outside is that I appear to become sullen and disinterested in my environment. I’m neither, my brain has just too much processing and I need to take a mental downtime.

Some things which help me.

  1. Knowledge:

The old adage about knowledge is power, I’m not sure that it’s actually power, but it is empowering. I try and learn as much about the condition as possible, this allows me to understand why I react to things in the way I do and helps me to begin to find coping strategies. 

2. Headphones:

Good headphones and music to help reduce the impact of the environment upon me. Music is very important to me, and as a former DJ I have a lot of it. Music is very subjective so I wouldn’t claim to have much in the way of bad music. If I’m using public transport, I will have music on. This allows me to have some control over the level of noise. 

3. Fidget toys:

I have several items which allow me to move my hands and fingers. 

4. Compression clothing:

I favour clothing which fits close to my body. If I’m entering a high stress environment, I will wear a t-shirt which applies pressure to my body. It’s like being hugged, I much prefer a firm hug. 

Again, any or all of the above may help some people. It really is a case of trial and error. As an adult, I am finding coping strategies which reduce the sense of being completely overwhelmed.

I hope that this helps with further understanding.

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Things I can’t control

People with autism need and form patterns, plans and routines. I’ve always tried to plan everything to a high degree of detail. I meal plan, I plan my working day, I plan my training and relaxation time. Basically, I’m a logistic dream or nightmare, depending upon ones perspective.

I’m currently waiting on my girlfriend to arrive back in the U.K. from Sweden. She’s had a fun trip, visiting a friend and I’m very much looking forward to spending the weekend together; and, yes I do have meals planned.

However, the fly in the ointment takes the form of Norwegian Air deciding to change her return flight and no one thought to notify her of this change. Not the website she booked through or the Airline themselves. The flight was moved forward, by a matter of five hours. I’ve spoken to the website and been informed that the next direct flight to Manchester is at 07:00 tomorrow! Or she can get a flight tonight and have a nine hour layover in Heathrow airport.

I now can’t get hold of her to find out more information. I hate not being able to do anything more than I have done and feel utterly useless. I write this as a means of trying to avoid the alternative, which is simply to have a meltdown.

Meltdown

I’m often stressed or anxious. I sometimes have shutdowns, however, a full blown meltdown is rare for me these days. Let me clarify something, there is a huge difference between a tantrum or sulking and a meltdown. Whilst all of the above may result in challenging behaviour; a tantrum is something conscious, which the person exhibiting the behaviour has a control over. Compare this to a meltdown in a person with autism; this happens when there is too much stimulus or stress and the person literally cannot process.

This happened to me on Thursday night, quite late when the cat decided to trash my wardrobe (one of those canvas affairs). Wardrobe crashed down and clothing everywhere, just as I was about to retire to bed. I then couldn’t find one of the supporting plastic lugs which holds part of the thing together. Cue, overloading and the first major meltdown in a while.

Aside from the mental exhaustion, the physical feeling of incompetence and frustration as well as feeling emotionally and physically wiped out, pretty much meant the anything I did on Friday was impaired by fatigue. In order to combat this, I decided to follow my obsessions and went for a ride but refused to attempt anything technically challenging. Anyone interested can find a link to my Strava account in the links pagep_101237901