(Autism) Dating & Relationships pt.2

Dates

It’s always nice to be asked on dates. But at the same time is isn’t. For the most part it’s got very little do to with the other person, and a lot to do with myself. It puts pressure on me to be ‘socially ready’ on that particular day. A lot of anxiety will develop, down to minute i’m due to meet this person. Don’t pester or pressurise to meet up and go out on a date with you. If i say i’m not ready, then be patient. You can try again, but give it some time. Most likely when i am ready, and you haven’t asked me again, i will tell you that i’m all good to organise something with you soon.

Meeting someone for the first time, as i already pointed out, is very difficult for a person on the autistic spectrum. Dates are even worse, because the wrong bit of body language, saying the wrong thing, and not being aware of it, can lead to misunderstandings and ultimately, hurt feelings.

The location is quite crucial too. Because it needs to be somewhere i know, and somewhere that is quiet and comfortable. So when going on a date, if its a date with someone i met online, things can get tricky.

When i go out with a friend in general, i know this person and i trust them. And i will find it easier to speak up if i feel uncomfortable in some way. But with someone i don’t know, and its a date, there isn’t that same level of trust involved, and so i most likely won’t speak up, and spend the rest of the date, tense and wanting to go home.

Again, it most likely won’t be a reflection on the person i’m with, but more on the surroundings and on the circumstances of that time.

What to do.

Keep it simple, keep it local and keep it short. Generally once the first couple of dates are done and dusted, i will feel more relaxed and be able to enjoy spending more time with that person. I like to keep dates to a minimum before beginning a relationship, because dating, it gives a element on uncertainty, or instability. Which is something us autistic people struggle with, we like set roles, routines, boxes, etc. Dating is similar to purgatory, where you’re more than friends…but not quite bf/gf (of gf/gf, bf/bf, etc). So it’s a blend between the two, which is filled with a lot of grey area and figuring out how you fit together and compatibility, feeling being developed..or not being developed.

Purgatory!

3 months minimum

From past experience, I’ve found spending 3 months getting to know someone from afar (texting, calling, video chats, etc), helps with this. Because by that time you’ve got a fair indication on this person, who they are and if they’re compatible with you. So when you meet up, it’s literally just putting the last piece into the puzzle. So it cuts out some of that ‘grey area’, because by then, hopefully you’d know if you’re compatible and how much you like each other. It also means the majority of things are done in a written format, so there’s not chance of giving conflicting body language or misinterpreting the other persons. Emoticons can be extremely helpful by the way!

Reassurance

Anxiety is rife with autism. And dating is even worse for that! So autistic people might require a degree more reassurance on things than others. Try to be patient and understanding, i understand how frustrating it might be.

Having the reassurance in words, rather than hugging, kissing, etc, is better. Because it’s something we can refer back to, instead of asking you over and over, on the phone or face to face.

Most of your communication with someone like me, will be mostly text based. Because it limits misunderstandings and miscommunication. Personally, i enjoy texting someone throughout the day. If someone has a busy day or can’t text at work, i do ask of them to let me know in advance, because otherwise i’m there trying to figure out why they’re not texting back like they normally do. Which can lead to tension and stress, next thing you know you have a stressed out Jacy on your hands, asking if everything is okay, etc.

I should point out and stress here, that i’m not saying, if someone hasn’t text me back in a few minutes, i’m there jumping up and down. It’s more, if its gone past the half hour or hour mark, i start to get a bit concerned.

Again, consistency is it’s own reassurance. If you’re consistent in your behaviour, feelings and actions, the anxiety will be kept to a bare minimum. Think of me, or people like me, as your own personal litmus test. If something is wrong, it will show.

Break Ups.

In the past, i used to take break ups pretty badly. Now that i’m older and survived many a break up, it’s not so bad. I find that breaking up or being broken up with someone, is better and easier via text messaging. Many seem impersonal and a cowardly way out, but it means i can distance myself, that i can process things easier. With things like that, i wish to do it privately and on my own.

I do try to remain friends with people after the relationship has ended. Because, with someone people, although having a relationship has not worked out with them, having a friendship could. There are some exceptions to that, if they have hurt me or treated me badly, i will find it best to let them go completely.

Some, decide they don’t want to be friends, and again, as sad as that can be, i understand. What i do ask, is that you let me know that, and encourage a discussion about it, so that i can fully take it on board. Don’t just stop talking, without any notice at all. Because not only is that disrespecful, but also unfair. There has been the odd occasion where that has happened and my poor friends have borne the brunt of me trying to decipher why, and what went wrong, etc. Over and over. Autistic people tend to have obsessive ways of thinking, much to our own detriment. So please, don’t do that to us.

 

Advertisements

(Autism) Dating & Relationships pt.1

Dating and relationships in itself is quite a challenging thing for anyone. For myself and other autistic people, it takes the challenging nature of it to the next level.

Friendships for me, are quite straight forward. The intimacy and closeness that is typical, with even a very close friendship is still less intimate and close, than in a relationship. I feel in friendships lines and boundaries are more apparent and i can keep parts of myself private. Relationships require you to be more open with the more private areas of yourself – physically, mentally and emotionally. Of such, lines and boundaries found in friendships, either disappear or blur.

Many people on the spectrum faces large problems such as extortion and different types of abuse, because relationships and dating is so complex, we struggle between what is right and wrong. Ultimately, when this happens, we frquently end up victim of something negative and unhealthy with someone.

That’s not to mean it’s all doom and gloom for spectrumites when it comes to dating. There’s LOADS of us who are in fulfilling, commited relationships, embracing the single life, or happy with something ‘other’.

Complex Expectations

Sometimes we might try and emulate things we’ve seen in movies or on tv, as a way of learning some of the more complex social norms between people. The downside to this, is that what we see in movies and tv, isn’t accurate to what is expected in real life. So we sometimes face many disappointments or encounter many misunderstandings.

There are no real set rules to relationships and it seems to be the ‘norms’ are forever shifting and changing, making things more difficult for people like me.

The best thing to do is you are dating someone on the spectrum is to lay down your expectations, what you want and need from them, in the early stages. This gives us some guidance of what is expected of us. And encourage us to do the same, to respond with our expectations and what we want and need from you. This in some way goes against what normally happens in a relationship between people, as its normally conveyed sublities in conversations, subtext, reading between the lines and other non verbal communications that you guys seem to master, and i’m at a loss.

Laying it on the line, helps to cut out a lot of misunderstandings, which could other result in hurt feelings and confusion later on down the line.

Take to your spectrumite about relationships and dating, and the social norms with it, and see if theres clarity needed for them. This helps with building a bond and building trust, because you then become someone whom we can talk to about things we may not fully understand or know. And from the other side of things you get to learn a lot about the world from a different sort of eyes, which could provide different perspectives or views on things you’ve never given a second thought to before. We can be very interesting and entertaining in the way we think and view things.

Abuse

As i mentioned before, many people on the spectrum will at one time or another experience a form or forms of abuse. We’re not always aware of what is right or wrong, and so rely on others to tell us what is right and wrong. If this trust is placed in the wrong person, we won’t know and big problems can occur.

If you suspect that an autistic friend or relation is in an abusive relationship, be aware they most likely won’t know. If approached about it, they may dismiss it and talk to their partner about it and believe their perspective more as they’re someone they also trust. If they are aware of it, it can still be difficult to get it to stop, as change is something we struggle to cope with, so may end up staying, just to avoid change. This won’t make sense to many i know, but from someone who has been in abusive relationships in the past, a lot of things don’t make sense.

Instead, talk to them about relationships, perhaps even about your own and what you and your partner are like and do together. This can help show them what it’s meant to be like. Obviously not exactly alike, but showing respect, love, kindness, acts of caring, affection, etc. And how these things manifest themselves – such as offering to take your partner to a job interview instead of them getting the bus, doing the washing up because they’ve cooked dinner, encouraging them to enter into a race they’re not sure they’d be able to complete, etc.

And then talk to them about what unhealthy relationships are like, and why someone shouldn’t be in one and what they can do to come out of one, and what happens afterwards.

This gives guidelines, but it’s still respecting us to make our own choices. Be wary, and if things look like they’re escerlating, then do speak to people of more authority, this could be health care providers, charities that deal with domestic abuse, and of course the police.

When you are dating someone who has a past of being abused, talk them about it, about what happened and how has it affected them. Be affectionate as they talk and show sympathy, as it is a difficult subject. Make sure it’s somewhere they’re comfortable and there’s no distractions around. Give them your full, undivided attention.

Consistency

Ugh, i cannot stress this enough! Be consistent! Be consistent in your attention and affections. We will notice any differences, no matter how slight and we will highlight to you very bluntly. Don’t disregard it, but explore it. Have a proper discussion about it, and try not to be too defensive. We’re not out to start an argument, we’ve just noticed a change and don’t like it. It’s as simple as that. But because our minds are defaulted to being quite ‘negative’, we may go to negative reasoning of what these changes might mean.

Don’t leave unanswered calls or texts for hours on end, because that just causes anxiety and tension. Seriously, i start obsessively checking my phone every 5 minutes when this happens and these feelings can grow in intensity and it’s just…horrible. So please, please, don’t leave too much of a gap.

PART 2.

I’ve had to split this entry up into parts, because it is such a big subject and there’s lots of cover. Mainly because there is actually many resources out there about dating autistic people. And because it’s a very complex subject. Part 2, will cover break ups, dates, reassurances and some other bits and bobs. 🙂

 

 

Time With Company vs Time Alone

Contrary to popular opinion, i do enjoy spending time with people. The amount of time is quite short, and it does tend to be few and vast in between meet ups. This isn’t because i don’t enjoy spending time with my friends, but more than i value my alone time too.

Spending time with people, isn’t a relaxing thing. It’s a task. A fun one, yes, but it does require effort and considerable amounts of energy. Then take in all the other facts I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, and perhaps you can see why i tend to spend most of my time away from people. I prefer talking to them via text or a phonecall.

In the past this has bothered some people, and consequently friendships have drifted apart. But those who have stayed on board, I’ve come to really treasure.

I think with some people they require spending time with people on a regular basis. Say, meeting them on the weekend, every week or at most 2 weeks. Whereas i can quite happily go for months without seeing anyone.

I do feel bad sometimes, when i’m invited to things and i know i can’t go. Either because it’s too far, time of day making a journey tricky, it’s an activity that would make me uncomfortable or simply i can’t afford it. Consequently the invites become less and less, and i start to take a voyeur role in my friends lives. I can see, through photos, the exciting, fun stuff they get up to with other people. But i’m never there. Never in the photos.

It’s difficult, because there’s two sides of me in constant conflict. The fun-loving, social side to me who longs to get involved and experience things. Then there’s the other side, who would rather be alone and not be involved, because of the things I’ve listed as to why i don’t go.

Anxiety and Autism have a tendency to go hand in hand. They’re bosom buddies in the world of disorders. So, expanding your world as an autistic, is somewhat challenging. But with support, effort and determination – it does happen.

Too Much Time Alone

Sometimes i can get sucked out of this world, and too much into mine. Which while at first isn’t too concerning, it can over time create problems. I become more stubborn and rigid in the things i do, and avoid doing anything other than those things. I become more anti-social, withdrawing from people more and more. This is unhealthy not just for me, but for anyone. It leads to mental health problems, such as depression, agoraphobia, anxiety, etc.

Hounding me to get out and to do things (within reason), although i will find a absolute annoyance, will in the long run really help me. Literally dragging me out to things and places are good, as long as it’s respectful of what i can and can’t do.

(Autism) Working

Finding employment when you’re autistic, can be tricky as there’s lots of factors you need to consider. Such as the working environment, the people you’ll be working with, the role itself, the journey to work and the hours you’d be obligated to do.

Again, with Autism, it isn’t a case of one size fits all. I enjoy working with kids and with the public. I enjoy variety and dealing with people on a one-to-one level. But at the same time, i can’t work in customer service – i.e. Retail. I think it all a bit overwhelming, and am suited more to a office or classroom based environment. But i know, some autistic people enjoy working in retail, or find it difficult working with children.

Interviews

jobinterview

When i’ve managed to bag myself a job, i’m frequently told what such a good employee i am. But the process in which i go from being unemployed, to being employed can be challenging.

Not only am i trying to compete with people who don’t have disabilities. But i’m also competing against people with more experience and qualifications than myself.

Asides from that, being interviewed can be a bit daunting. Because it’s meeting someone, or in some cases multiple new people! And i’m having to ‘sell myself’, despite struggling with correct amount of eye contact, displaying confident, relaxed body language, and actually coming across confident in what i’m saying.

With this struggle, i receive a lot of rejections, saying that i wasn’t confident enough. So now, i let the employers know, before i’m invited for an interview. Just so that they’re aware, and hopefully not misinterpret my body language, etc. So far, this seems to be working better for me.

Settling in

I had a temporary christmas retail job a few years ago. And in the first week, i had a work review. The first week! No one else that i worked with, that had the same job as me, got this. And i was told that i seemed unenthusiastic, unmotivated, unsure and hestiant when tasks are set for me and that i wasn’t pulling my weight.

This was just after 3 days being in the job. 3 days. They knew i have autism and, to be honest, like everyone else i was nervous and it takes time to settle in. And i responded with such. Which they noted down and nothing else was said. Yet it was kept in my file.

I had to sign an agreement of things i was going to do to improve myself.

Just to remind you this was after 3 days of being in a new job.

In my current job, as senior classroom assistant, i didn’t have any of that. Instead it was understood that, it would take me a little while – like anyone else, to settle in. And that mistakes would be made, but that i would learn from them. 5 months later i got a promotion.

The lesson that employers can learn from this, when employing autistic people is to give them some time and space to settle in, to get to grips with things. This may take a little longer than other people, but it well worth while. Because when we’re settled, we excel in the role and tasks set us. Frequently beyond your expectations of an employee.

Bullying

workplace-bullying-001

Lots of autistic people experience bullying in the workplace. We tend to be an easy target. We can frustrate or appear confrontational to people, we can come across as blunt and insensitive, which can lead to conflict between us and others. But most often that not, we get bullied because we’re seen as anti-social and weird.

We can take things literal and people can also find it easy to boss us around.

All these things are unacceptable. And all of these things i’ve experience first hand.

In half of the cases they’re not dealt with properly and it has gotten to the point where i’ve had to quite that job. In the other half, management has stepped in and got it sorted. The other half should be over half!

Employers please be viligant of bullying in the workplace, and make sure that your most vulnerable employees aren’t secretly being taken advantage of, otherwise you could wrongly, lose some valuable employees.

Uniforms

 

Ugh, me and uniforms do not go well together. Polo shirts are fine. Shirt, shirts, no! Work/tailored trousers, dear god no.

Being an autistic person with hypersensitivity to touch, i find some fabrics irritating, uncomfortable or in some cases – painful.

Please be accomadating of clothes that you’d still find acceptable for me, and those like me, to wear. It may not be what you expect everyone else to wear, but still would be within reasonable parameters. Such as dresses, black plain leggings, black smart jeans, plain smart tops, etc.

Attendance

Juggling multiple disabilities on a daily basis can be tricky, and if one of them is out of alignment, it can cause knock on effects with the others, so much so, i can’t cope and will need some time off to get myself back on track.

This can be triggered by various things, such as;

  • Illness
  • Stress

Ilness can’t be helped. And if i’m unwell alot, then it can mean that i’m stressed in some way and it’s comprising my immune system. The two do seem to correlate most often.

So if i’ve been having a lot of time off and it’s getting concerning. Be cautious. Because bringing it up as a concern can add another factor to stress and in a lot of cases becomes all-consuming, so much so i crumble and leave the job. Which can be a real shame, especially if it’s a role i really enjoy.

What can be done?

You can mention that i’ve been ill a lot recently and you were wondering if there’s something wrong. Am i experiencing any work related stress and if so, to talk about it to see if there’s anything that can be done. This may mean amended duties, times and/or days i’m working – so be prepared for that, as it does tend to fall into those camps. Sometimes though it’s people. Someone may be causing me stress. And it’s not always easy to talk about that. I’m quite a sensitive person, and try to avoid conflict as much as possible and i don’t want to offend anyone or make working relationships strained. As such, i tend to not speak up about things that may be bothering me about a person. But creating a positive working relationship, one with trust and openess can help.

Sometimes it may just that i’m going through a spot of poor health. Be aware, understanding and patient. It will pass, and making things as easy as possible will pay off in the long run, as an employee, if a employer treats me well, i give back 110% quality of work. Every time.

Social Aspect

I’m quite rigid in how i see people, in their set roles. Personal friendships are always kept seperate from work colleagues. When attempts are made in meshing the two together it doesn’t sit well and creates tension in me. I don’t mind chatting with people about our lives. But when it comes to ‘hanging out’ outside of work, i tend to avoid.

Christmas is the worst times, because of work parties. Oh and halloween, because of dressing up. I don’t dress up. You can tell me it’s for charity, but it’s still not going to happen.

I still appreciate being invited, as it makes me feel included. And you never know i may get myself in a position where i’m comfortable with saying yes, i will come along.

– This just applies to group things. One to one ‘drinks’ with someone will always be answered with a no. Always.

 

 

(Autism) Clear Communication

To live in this world, you need to have some form of communication.

Up to when i was about 4 years old, i didn’t speak much. I was vastly behind my peers. Eventually i caught up, but still very quiet. Many people just put it down to being ‘shy’. Which is how autism in me wasn’t picked up till i was 29 – that, and a few other things, such as the other disorders masking it.

Communication is hard for me. Writing…as you can probably tell, i have the basics down, but i’m no grand writer. Which is a shame, because i love writing and telling stories. Instead, i write how i talk. Which is not good when it comes to formal communications, such as formal letters and emails. It’s a struggle, but i’m learning, slowly.

Speech, i’m understood. Apparently i have a nice voice, and i can have normal conversations with people. But its the things people over look that causes me distress. For example, i think in pictures and feelings, rather than words most of the time. It’s weird being in my mind! It’s a bit like its a radio. One of those terrible car radios that even if you find a radio station it keeps on losing reception, so you’re stuck with periods of static during each song and radio segment. So in relation to that fantastic metaphor, what that means is that when i have my ‘amazing’ monologue going on of what i want to write or say, it will cut out, and i’m there desperately searching for words, for suitable words too. Most people, yes, will sometimes struggle to find the right words to convey what they’re thinking. But for me, it’s all the time. I have paused a few times already, just writing this entry! Some times are worse than others, and i will really struggle and say something that may not much much sense or will be very disjointed. This is somewhat illustrated by a Sarah Millican joke:

enhanced-31564-1455807221-2

This can be quite typical with autistic people, as some might re-name rain as ‘falling sky water’. Which i think is quite lovely really, makes sense and is very descriptive, much better than ‘rain’, don’t you think?!

Sometimes though, there will just be static. There will be the awkward silence as alarm bells ring in my brain and all hell brakes loose and my little mind minions delve into the box of words in my mind to find something to use. Something! Anything! Ahhh! There may be an intermittent noise, such as ‘erm’, ‘errr’ or even a low groan (that’ll be the sound of the cogs turning in my brain). Eventually something turns up, or i just give up and leave the sentence hanging there for someone to end it themselves!

The worst part is when i find myself in a discussion or heated debate about something. And i’m trying to recall facts and statistics accurately, but failing. Whilst i’m doing that though, i’m also trying to keep the flow of words coming as well, which as i just described, can be very difficult in itself, without being put on the spot. Sometimes it will become too much, and my mind will become overloaded, not just with thoughts, but feelings too. Which results in me locking up.

Locking up, basically means my mind flatlines. I struggle to carry on any further conversation. Not because i don’t want to, or that i’m annoyed with that person, it’s simply that my mind is worn out. At which point, i need to be left alone, till things right themselves in my brain. Sometimes though, if the other person forces the conversation, i end up crying from being overloaded without any respite. When that happens thats a desperate plea for you to stop.

In these situations with passionate discussions or heated debates, be careful how you speak to me. Not just, making sure you’re being a respectful human being, but also, when using debate methods. Such as turning peoples words around, questioning or probing something they’re said, quoting something back to them that they’ve said which contradicts something else. All these things create stress and confusion in my mind, and end up making me very ill. So be careful, keep a ear and eye out, if i’m getting stressed or upset – and if there’s signs i am, bring things down a notch.

Bringing things down

How, you may be asking.

That’s a very good question, so listen up! The best thing to do is show acknowledgement that you’ve noticed something is wrong – that i seem upset or stressed. Ask if i’m okay, if i say yeah and carry on, then just chalk it down to me being passionate about something and showing focus, rather than hurtling towards a meltdown! If i’m not okay, i may say yes, but then admit to how i’m feeling or say what i need from you. It may be simply slowly down, taking a break or even something simple like, relaying to me what you’ve understood or what I’ve said and perhaps pointing out some good points I’ve made.

This helps me calm down, because it shows i’m being listened to, respected and understood.

The blight of the Vague

One of the worst things that an aspie has to deal with, with people, is them being vague when talking to them.

Seeing ‘….’ in a conversation is THE most infuriating and frustrating thing to ever encounter! It gives the impression that I should know, or be able to deduce what is NOT being said.

Autistic people struggle with abstract thought.

This means, i frequently won’t be able to deduce what is not being said. I need you to tell me. To make it clear what it is you’re thinking or what to say, but are not saying.

What happens when someone is not clear?

Arguments can arise, just by sheer frustration or not knowing you’re you’re trying to say. Or not being able to pick up on subtext or subtleties. Being vague, intentionally is an act of passive aggression, so i have every right to be pissed off in response. Being vague, unintentionally, be prepared to explain things in detail, because i will be asking lots of questions for absolute clarity.

Being clear, is crucial. Because as I’ve said previously. I can’t fill in the missing thought patterns or words. I may try, but more often than not, i will get it wrong. Which can lead to horrible misunderstandings that may wreck or ruin things.

So when talking to me, be clear. I don’t need every little thing explained to me. I am not simple. I have a brain, and of high intelligence.

Just be clear, in what you’re saying and the tone and intentions behind it. My default setting otherwise, is set to negative. This is a coping mechanism. It is not meant as a personal judgement or slight on you. It’s just something I’ve had to establish in my mind to protect me. In the past, and recent past, i have been called out for being very negative in my thinking, and that i should be more positive. That, me being negative in my thinking, creates problems.

As much as i understand that belief. It does show lack of understanding of where I’ve come from, the life I’ve had and the experiences I’ve encountered, that have meant that I’ve had to learn to be quite critical in my thinking. I can’t accurately pick up signs and signals of deception from other people. Most people, even if they think they can’t, they can. You may not be aware of it, but you do.

So, over time I’ve had to be quite negative in my thinking. Sometimes though, when i’m told i’m being overly negative, i’m actually being very aware and honest, which some people may reject. It’s difficult sometimes to know who’s opinion and insight into myself, to trust. I tend to cross-reference with other close people in my life, to correlate things. This seems to give the best results.

Tasks

When i’m set a task or tasks at work, they need to be clear and organised. Please refrain from bombarding me with things to do, and expecting me to remember everything! If there are a list of things you need me to do, then please, just jot them down in a list, that i can follow. Be clear in exactly what you want me to do with each task.

When i’m completing one of these tasks, try to avoid introducing a new task to do. As this can be quite confusing. Instead, just add it to the list – if its something that needs attending to urgently, and it’s not that obvious (a telephone ringing, that needs answering is an example of something obviously needing urgent attention), then put a asterix next to it, and i’ll come find you to ask what it is.

It may take me a minute of two to organise in my brain what i need to do, and how i’m going to go about doing it. Please be patient.

Having things written down, is such a lifesaver for me sometimes. So, if it’s a case of i need to bring something into work, or working different days or hours (even temporary), then please write it down or email me. It’ll be easier for me to remember, and not get mixed up as my mind, can’t hold on to things like that.

 

 

(Autism) Meeting Someone New

Meeting someone new can be daunting for anyone, whether you’re on the autistic spectrum or not. But when you are on the spectrum, it can feel like you’re meeting a date with potential doom. Various questions and scenarios of the worst proportions flow through your mind, so by the time you’re actually face to face with them, you’re a nervous wreck.

Now again, this could be argued that someone with an anxiety disorder (i’m with ya on that one too, buddy *raises hand*) can go through this exact same thing. And while that is true, with an autistic person it doesn’t stop or abate when you’re sat talking to, what frequently turns out to be, a lovely, friendly person.

As an autistic woman, i can still sit across a wonderful, engaging, interesting person and still feel overwrought with anxiety and tension. The reasons for this, is that unless i know someone very well, i can’t pick up on things like sarcasm and double meanings. I won’t know if someone is joking or not, unless it’s really obvious – like they’re grinning or laughing themselves. Sometimes though, and it is quite unfortunate, i will find something funny, which i’m not meant to. Either i will laugh out of nerves (if you really pay attention, you’ll find i give a chuckle with anything i say, i don’t know why i do this.) or because i generally find what you’re said or how you’re said it, amusing.

This generally means i’ve missed out a key bit of information, either in your tone, the meaning of what you’re said or something in your body language that should’ve and would’ve told me, this is not something to laugh or find amusing. For the love of God, woman, don’t laugh!

Emotional reactions and responses in general, with people i don’t know, can very much be a hit or miss. Some people find me lovely and charming, whereas others who meet me find me weird. But ultimately, when given a chance, i’m found to be adorable!

I think this difference in first impressions comes down to matches of personalities, but also my mental wellbeing of that day, time, space. So if i’m unwell, stressed, tired or meeting them in a not very conductive environment for aspies – it can go horribly wrong and the person can go away with the wrong first impression of who i am.

I tend to like to go to know someone from afar before i actually meet them, and this can take quite some time. Some people lose interest or distracted by another shiny, shiny person, but the ones that stick around, tend to be the ones i’m friends or partnered with for a long time.

I do try and warn people i’m not good with meeting new people, but i think, generally it goes in one ear and out the other. Or they just put it down to general nerves. It’s not. I know of no other person who, before a first meeting or someone, will spend their last remaining minutes before the introduction, on their knees in front of a toilet bowl trying to keep their stomach where it should be, or pacing the room so much it wears out ones socks or shoes – depending on the timing of things.

When i’ve known someone, and by that i mean i’ve spoken to them through texting, spoken to them a dozen times on the phone and talked to them over webcam, it cuts out alot of this stress. And makes it a less traumatic experience. I have that sense of ‘I know this person, i’m okay, we’re okay.’

I know your voice

I know your tones

I know your sense of humour

I know your face

I know your smile

I know your personality

But most of all

You know me. 

In a formal setting, such like in a customer service role, whether i’m on the phone or face to face with people of the public. I’m okay, because i have a role, the conversation subjects are limited to that role. Of course things get tricky when people of the public try and engage me into small talk. Then i get a bit uncomfortable. When this happens i will either talk to much, or not say much at all. Which can make things awkward. I try and be polite and respectful as much as possibly, but it is very tiring.

I enjoy working with people, but i’m only able to do it for so long before i need a time out. Which is why i’m limited to 3 hours maximum, working hours a day. When i go beyond this, i can’t keep up, and problems start to arise, such as my behaviour – when i get stressed, i can come across quite aggressive. I don’t mean to, and i try to regulate and avoid this as much as i can. But sometimes it’s just too much and i’m overwhelmed. Having a break isn’t going to help much, because i’ll just be focussing on how much time i have left of my break, which will stress me more, as i’ll be hyper aware. It’s best to let me go home, and at another point have a talk about what we can do as an employer/employee to help make sure this doesn’t happen again. It may mean, shorter hours or different tasks, that i’m comfortable with.

(Autism) Public Transport

Me and public transport have a complex relationship. I hated it when i was younger, and still do, because it fills me with anxiety. I’ve longed for the day where i could drive. I’m still having to wait, but it’s getting closer. Thank goodness!

Why is it so difficult?

It’s difficult due to people and because trains, buses and taxis are never on time. As an autistic person this unreliability triggers off intense feelings of anxiety.

Why is it not here yet?

Where is it?! 

HURRY UP!! AHHHH!! 

On the outside we might appear calm, or at most a bit tense. But inside we’re a whirlwind of tension! And it only gets worse, and then you really do notice it. We might start wringing out hands, fiddling with stuff on our bag (Am i the only one that has keyrings on her bag to fiddle with?!), pacing up and down or moaning. mns

Yep, just like Tina from Bob’s Burgers, but without the straitjacket. Okay…occasionally with the straitjacket! (Comfy).

Travelling Locally

Travelling locally isn’t ‘too’ bad. But it can be tricky. There are some roads, places, transport routes that i don’t know, that are totally alien to me. I can’t go these places via public transport. In a car with someone i know – totally fine. Once i get used to that, i ‘might’ be able to on a bus or taxi with someone till i get used to it, for me to be able to then go by myself.

I still get anxious. Still hate it because of people (see last post for my hatred of zombiesque people!), and because of it’s unreliability. But it’s somewhat ‘easier’ to handle. Not easy…just ‘easier’.

Travelling Further Afield

This tends to be more of a no-no. Unless it’s somewhere that i know very well, know how to get there and is a direct journey. That i can deal with. But with lots of changes and unknown stations and destinations, it becomes a helterskelter of doom. DOOM!

If i can’t go, i’ll say. And try not to judge me on this. I had an experience of this at one of the places i work at. Where a colleague vaguely had a round about way of jabbing me (figuratively, not literally), about the reason why i couldn’t attend some training seminar. I couldn’t go because it was too far for me – as in, i wasn’t comfortable travelling to somewhere i don’t know very well and would mean multiple platform changes. I would’ve arrived there feeling lost – if i hadn’t physically got lost – and feeling panicky.

How do i cope?

I cope with having to travel somewhere, by using headphones, listening to music. It gives a sense of their being a barrier between me and other people. Like an invisible wall. Without this, i’m a nervous mess who has trouble breathing or looking at anything than the ceiling or floor. With music, i can look at people and feel safe and relaxed. I know it doesn’t make any logical sense, but there we go.

I also make sure i plan in advance the route in me getting to somewhere, and the various timings involved. This greatly helps, as it brings some stability and knowing where i need to be at which time, and how long it will roughly take to get to somewhere.

Crowded Transport

If there’s a bus or train that is packed to the brim, it’s better for me to either not to go, or if i really have to, squeeze in, but have my headphones on. Even if i’m travelling with another person. If it’s not crowded, i can ‘just about’ be okay without music, when travelling with a friend, as long as they engage me in conversation during the trip.

But in a crowded bus or train, encourage me to wear them. Hell, bring along your headphones and join me. We’ll get one of those splitter things and share music together. How kool an idea is that?!

(Autism) Noisy Crowded Places

Everyone hates noisy, crowded places. Crammed into a space like a sardine. It’s horrible.

Yet for an autistic person, it feels like either you’re going to explode or die. Explode and die? We avoid these places like the plague, and we avoid situations that will lead to us being in places like this, like the plague.

Entering these places, feels like facing the mouth of hell. You see people dancing, talking and laughing – having a good time. I see, unpredictable people with unknown intentions, i see unwanted physical contact, and hear the roar of a thousand people all at once that not only fills my ears, by also my head, vibrating through my whole body.

Being in these places, the hyper awareness of an autistic person intensifies. Whereas you guys can tune stuff out, we are filled by it. We become part of the space in the room. So consequently we get knocked or bumped about by stray arms or elbows. I don’t like being too physically close to strangers at the best of times, but to sit or stand to closely to even one person, let alone many, makes me feel ill at ease. It’s like standing next to a zombie and you’re not sure whether it wants to eat you or not. So you stand quietly, trying not to move or draw any sort of attention to yourself, and as soon as they touch you in any way you freeze. Try not to look at them and desperately try to find some space away from the contact.

e2c5a86437f22a0bc550f6919b5875c3

I’m aware that i’m making this sound like a horror movie, and in a lot of ways, it is like a horror movie. We HAAAATE crowds and noise and people. Yes, we hate people. You all suck! So, go away, leave us alone. Let us stand by ourselves in public, don’t talk to us, don’t even sit near us. Unless we know you, or think you’re ‘alright’.

When organising to go out somewhere, and you’re inviting an aspie, talk to them beforehand. See, if there’s anything you can do to make things easier for them. We like to be included and yes, the possibility of crowds and noisy places does make us anxious, so knowing that someone is looking out for us, is really nice and helpful. Even if its just agreeing to pop outside every now and then with them to get some relief and air.

I used to smoke, for this very excuse. It gave me a reason for standing outside at bars and pubs.

Shops

On the other end of things we have shops. Crowded, noisy shops, for me, aren’t too much of a problem. Because it’s easy just to go a different day instead, or to just dive in, grab what i need and dive out again. It’s not like bars, clubs or pubs where you’re stuck in a crowd for hours on end, trying to look like you’re having fun. You’re there in a shop for something, and when you find it, you’re out again.

Sometimes it can be difficult if we’re shopping with other people, and go wandering off, just then to lose them when we try looking for them. Having phones on is so handy!

‘Where are you?!’

‘By the birthday cards’

‘Oh yes i can see you now, i’m coming over’

Done. Easy.

In shops that i like, i do enjoy having the freedom to browse by myself. Which can mean that i go wandering off without the other person noticing. I call this ‘The Magpie Tendency’. Something catches my eye and i’m off exploring. I don’t do this to intentionally annoy or distract anyone from their shopping trip, it’s just something i do. And again, a simple phone call can help this.

I can get a bit tetchy if i’m bored, and just following you around for hours on end (or what feels like hours, am’i’right?!), but getting me engaged in things, like asking for my opinion on what catches your eye, is a good way to lower the tension i might be feeling. Most of the time, i’d probably go for a wander myself or find somewhere to sit and wait – whilst browsing my phone.

Work

This is a difficult one, because i ‘have’ to be there. I can’t just walk out when i need to. But there has been times, in different jobs i’ve had where i’ve been in noisy, crowded spaces. The worst part in this situation is the noise, i can’t think, i can’t hear important information, because i can’t filter out every other noise in that space.

Headphones can help. If you have an autistic person in your workplace, that has problems with filtering out noises. Give them some noise-cancelling headphones, at a pinch normal ones will do. If its chilly in the work place, ear muffs will work just as good.

The strange partof the inability to filter sounds, is that it can affect our mobility and also our visibility. Everything gets jumbled, so we can’t always see if someone is talking directly to us, and we can get stumble or get lost because we are literally filled with noise. Everything else in our heads and bodies gets drowned out.

Giving us headphones may seem to you, to not be a good solution, because surely that mean they can’t hear anything. Wrong. You know, and we know, even with the best headphones or ear muffs you can still hear things, they’re just very muffled. Thing is, we’re not having to filter noises, so we can focus on where we’re going, what we need to do and on whats before us. We can see more clearly if someone is talking to us, with headphones on, than without.

Approaching the headphones

As an employer, how do you approach your aspie worker to suggest they where headphones. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t be formal. Just suggest if they want to listen to music as they work they can, and then they can make up their own minds if thats going to be something that is helpful for them or not.

You might then find that other workers want to do the same thing, or question why so-so is allowed to listen to music, but they’re not. Explain it. So-so has autism and has trouble with noise in the workplace, so they wear headphones to help them block some of it out. The noise causes them discomfort and distress. This is something they can’t help or just ‘get used to’. It also doesn’t stop them from being a good employee or stop them from being suitable for their role. They have a disability, and this helps them around some of their challenges.

(Autism) Dining Out

Ever since i was a toddler, dining out has always been difficult. My parents regale me on the terror of taking me out to a restaurant or cafe. Allegedly, i howled the place down, threw things around and refused to eat anything.

This difficulty somewhat stayed with me as a child, teenager and young adult. I couldn’t eat in public as a child, at all. I didn’t feel comfortable. As a teenager, this got better through being with my peers. I ate a little, sticking to foods that i was used to. But again, it wasn’t proper dinner food. For many years, wherever i went, i would just order a bowl of chips. And a drink. And that was it, occasionally some ice cream if i was in a place i was comfortable and fancied ice cream.

As a young adult, i took a backwards turn and avoided at all costs, eating out. This became less about the food, but about the places i dined in. These places, were noisy, loud and bright. But the worst part was the people.

I was very self conscious of other people, and felt their eyes on me all the time. Even though, in hindsight, most likely no one noticed me as much as i thought they did at the time, but such is life. My biggest bug bear, which is still problematic even now, is staff members talking to me while i’m eating. I know this annoys a lot of people anyway, whether you’re neuro-divergent or neurotypical. But for people on the autistic spectrum, eating out at the best of times is still tricky, because so much is going on around us that we’re hyper aware of, the last thing we want is then someone to actually come over, that we don’t know and try and make small talk with us. Small talk is the worst at any case of time!! I know employers encourage their staff to do this, promoting it as good customer service. But i think i speak for nearly all of us when i say, please let this practice die.

Choosing Where To Go

It can depend on how well i know a person, as to where i would feel comfortable in going. So for example, if i haven’t known you very long or its our first meeting, then a coffee shop would be the way to go, or even going through a drive thru and eating in the car, parked up somewhere.

Why?

It cuts out some of the hyper awareness. I’m nervous around people i don’t know that well or meeting someone for the first time. This can make the act of eating difficult in itself. So i will stick to drinks, or to small amounts of food i’m comfortable with. This cuts down some of the nervousness. And also means i will be in places that typically will be quieter and with softer light levels. This means i will be more relaxed. Brownie points for good taste in car music by the way!

Fast Food, Yes Please. 

This is something that can be quite difficult in broaching with someone, because of the connotations that can come with it. Fast food places are seen as tacky, cheap and really unhealthy. And yes i agree with that. But my diet allows me to be able to have fast food and it won’t cause any problems, as i have a healthy diet the rest of the time.

Fast food, is a comfort food. They also tend to be quite bland, and consistent from place to place in the same chain. Bland and consistency in food, is good by me! I have very sensitive sense of taste, so there are some foods that would cause an adverse reaction when eaten. This could be, feeling sick or burning of the tongue. It’s normally one of those two things. Consequently i’m not very adventurous with my food. In the past, people have called me boring for it. But that’s just them showing their ignorance.

I do stick to things i know, and many of my family members and friends joke that i always order the same thing every time i visit a place. Or even if i go to somewhere different, i will order the same similar things.

Preparation

If I’ve been asked to attend some restaurant I’ve never been to before, i check the restaurants website before giving a confirmation whether i can or not.

Before the wonders of the smartphone, going somewhere new was always avoided with a resounding ‘no!’. But i do try to branch out and give different restaurants a try. Variety is the spice of life. But it has to be on my own terms. Which means no coercing, forcing, pressuring or guilt tripping me into going somewhere i don’t want to go.

Being able to look at a restaurants website, gives me an insight into what the place looks like inside and the type of food they serve. Having a menu on their sight is crucial, because it allows me to check what to order before i attend. That way i can know whether there’s something i can eat on there or not.

Long time ago, there had been times where i wasn’t able to do that. And has gone to places and felt deeply uncomfortable, and then have a full blown panic attack because there had been literally nothing on the menu i could eat. This was made worse when the other person is bemused by this and keeps asking if ‘i’m sure there’s NOTHING on the menu, there’s loads to choose from’. Yes i can see that, i can read and choose for myself. The ending to these escapades always ends the same, i sit there with a drink, while they sit there with their meal feeling an awkward kind of resentment. How dare i be so picking(!)

When things go wrong

Sometimes things can go wrong. Either it’s packed and i don’t feel comfortable because its too noisy and crowded or the thing i was going to order, they’ve run out of and there’s nothing else i can order instead. Sometimes it can even be that they thing I’ve ordered, i don’t actually like once I’ve tried it. Case in point where a few months ago, i went to an Indian restaurant with a friend of mine and ordered chicken korma. I normally have chicken korma with my mum from Tesco on a Friday that we cook at my parents, and its very tasty. So ordering the korma felt like a good safe option. Except it tasted nothing like what i normally have from Tesco. It wasn’t even slightly different, it was COMPLETELY different. I salvaged what i could by eating all the meat, but that still left me with a plate of sauce and bowl of rice…and the garlic naan bread, which again i normally have, but in this case was very different and not very nice. My friend tried it and insisted that there was nothing wrong with it, and it tasted like a typical korma, blah blah, etc. But that doesn’t matter. Upon saying stuff like that just makes me feel worse and like my judgement, opinion and feelings are invalid in that situation. And that’s unfair. If i don’t like something, be supportive and be clear that it’s not a problem. And then just leave it. Or eat it yourself lol.

It’s also an idea to have a back up plan, in case plans change. Somewhere else we can go instead, somewhere i know and comfortable in. Trying new things can be nice, but sometimes things crop up and i need to go somewhere else.

(Autism) Stimming

What exactly is ‘Stimming’?

The term ‘stimming’ is actually slang for self-stimulating behaviour. And even as i type that, the image of someone wanking themselves into oblivion pops up in my brain.

Which to be fair the majority of us do, do, that could be seen as an act of ‘stimming’. It’s repetitive and it feels good. We tend to do that to relieve ourselves of tension, either sexual tension or even just feeling stressed out.

People with Autism can have various types of ‘stimming’ behaviours. Some are done in private, and some are done in public. It can be hand-clapping, foot tapping, wiggling your fingers, etc. Something that provides a sense of stimulation, either of the mind or body, but frequently benefiting both.

What do i do?

Because stimming is something that all of us do at some point or another, but are seen as ‘normal’, when i do it, it’s not noticeable, unless you’re really looking for it. Of course, i’m talking about what i do, when i’m around people.

Sometimes i’m not actually aware of it myself. But it has been pointed out that i will frequently use the same words or phrases when talking to people. Other than that, i wiggle my fingers, tap my feet or rock very gently from side to side – especially when i’m standing doing nothing.

I should note here, that it’s extremely annoying when people do point out my odd behaviour, as it just makes me very concious of it. And stimming is very different from having ‘habits’.

Why is there a sheet of wood on my bedroom floor?

I will only talk about this once, here, and no where else. This is something very intensely private to me, but something that people are always curious about….

Since i was a toddler, my parents can remember spinning around in a spot, to music. Like any parent they were amused by this. Their little daughter was learning to dance, in the adorable way that kids do at that sort of age.

Curiously, they didn’t find it odd, and it was never queried, that i didn’t grow out of this.

To this day, i still do this, in the privacy of my bedroom. No one is allowed in the room when i do it. And it’s something i don’t talk about.

The act itself is very important. It’s not just a quirk, it’s a need. Like needing air to breathe, food and water to live, etc.

It’s important because it helps me de-stress. It helps me to filter and deal with thoughts and feelings, that i may be having that time. It also helps me to re-balance myself as a person.

Music, my life long partner

I feel sorry for my neighbours that i had when i was a kid, because accompanying this act is the need to have loud music with it. Now, fortunately, i use headphones. So much so, i go through them a lot, and have amassed myself a collection of them.

Some people, that i have (uncomfortably) spoken with, about this, have asked me, can i still do it, without music? The short answer being, no. I’ve tried in the past, and it just doesn’t work. I lose myself in the music. I’m transported to story ideas, acting out various social situations that may have happened or due to happen – this strengthens my social skills more than you (NT’s) could ever know!

I’m not just listening to music and spinning around on this bit of wood on the floor. I’m in my mind, in space as a fighter pilot in star waves, i’m in a band doing a world tour, i’m on a date with my crush who’s asked me out next week or i’m battling dragons and saving damsels in distress. In short, i have a vivid imagination ;D

Me and music have had a very important relationship since i was very young, because i don’t just listen to it. I feel it. It becomes a part of me.

When i tell people this, they think they understand. Because we all like music. I’ve never met a human who doesn’t. But ultimately they don’t. Because people in the past haven’t realised the importance of when i send a song to them. It’s not that i think you’ll like it. But it’s because either it makes me think of them, or i’m expressing how i feel. So it ends with them saying they either don’t like it or it’s nice or just no feedback at all.

I sometimes find it difficult letting people know how much they mean to me. Or how i feel about something. So, sometimes songs help. It’s me, reaching out to you. Trying to connect in a meaningful way.

For more info:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-22771894