Monday, 6 April 2020

Autism understanding in uncertain times

Anxious about things beyond your control?
Unsettled by change?
Worried by uncertainty?
Challenged by needing to communicate differently?
Upset by rule breakers?
Struggling to comply with new rules, suddenly imposed?
Concerned about people getting too close?
Annoying others by getting too close?
Difficulty interpreting others intentions ... 
will they go left or will they go right?
Resenting enforced isolation?
Irritated by your environment? 
Craving friendship & human contact?
Overwhelmed by information, solutions & strategies?
Protecting with unsubtle accessories?
Creating structure & routine to feel safe?
Reaching out for things that bring comfort & joy?
Unusually absorbed by hobbies & interests?
Losing it?
Frightened for loved ones?
Knowing some won’t make it?
Exhausted from operating in a world different to your natural state of being?

Welcome to our autistic world.
We hope your visit leaves a lasting impression.
Remember us when you’re gone & don’t be a stranger.

Stay safe.

 #WorldAutismAwarenessMonth #WorldAutismAcceptance #WorldAutismUnderstanding
#AutismUnderstanding #UnderstandingAutism #WAAM #ActuallyAutistic #AlsoAutistic #AutismRich #ValueAutistics

Autism Understanding in Uncertain Times | An Affinity With A

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Age of the autistic?

A point of view 
about the current pandemic predicament & 
the autistic state of being.

Anyone remember the Age of Aquarius?  
The song was the title tune to Aquarius, a 1970s arts’ programme on LWT (London Weekend Television) with mesmerising graphics & the predecessor to The South Bank Show. 

Ive often thought (or on less positive days, just hoped) 
that we might be nearing the cusp of the age of the autistic” ~ a time when autistic & other neurodiverse thinking differences are widely valued & willingly harnessed alongside their neurotypical peers.  Now Im wondering if the Covid-19 pandemic might be the rocket fuel that propels us into the dawning of the 
age of the autistic.

As life long isolation experts, some of us autistics feel well placed to weather this current storm (for me personally, so far, it feels like a storm  ... our tsunamis are something very different & much more personal).  Im not saying all autistics feel like they were born for times such as these ... individual autistic experience very much depends on individual circumstance & what & who is going on around them.  

But whatever our circumstances, I do believe our autistic traits include particularly appropriate attributes for coping with the current situation & that others ~ those less used to imposed isolation ~ could benefit from adapting to 
our natural way of being.  

In fact, we all benefit from everyone being a lot more autistic:


A Window via The Murmuring Cottage

Listen properly to what youre being told.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Take advice from the experts & experienced.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Interpret literally all official advice ... be black & white about it ... there is no grey.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Follow the rules ... to the letter.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Be patient ... people are working very hard & literally making themselves ill to help us all.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Be hyper vigilant ... observe well your surroundings & where others are ... then take positive action to avoid & maintain your distance Pac-Man style.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Show & act on intense empathy ... not just surface kindness (no judgement here).

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Be fair & just .... buy only what you need, enabling & empowering others to buy only what they need.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Treat everyone equally ... we’re equally entitled, equally responsible & equally at risk so respect that & do your bit.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Become an official volunteer if you want to help the vulnerable ... they may be more comfortable accepting help from official rule based sources.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Create ways to share virtual hugs.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Create new methods of communication ... 
& observe how eye contact does not matter!

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Introduce routine & structure to your day.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

But be ready to just stop, review, adapt & develop new strategies.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Visualise stuff, especially for kids ... eg, as usual transitions disappear & the days begin to merge” dont assume theyll keep track of school days, weekends & holidays or be unaffected by this.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Enjoy solo exercise. 

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Learn to enjoy your own company & let others be & give them space, if they need it.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

If you have time, invest lots of it in becoming expert in a special interest.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Love your animals (or soft toys).

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Embrace screens.

Then, seriously, stay at home.

If in doubt ask what would Pikachu do?”

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Dwell & ruminate on this experience at length because when this passes, which it will ...

Then, seriously, we must fix the world!

From a bit of an isolation expert, actually, 

Indoors by Me (An Affinity with A)


Yes, we understand isolation very well.  

Learn from us ... weve been isolated, self isolating & social distancing (willingly & unwillingly) since forever & will continue to do so long after this pandemic passes, as it will.  

If isolation is unusual for you ~ instead of bemoaning the impact ~ I implore you to please reflect on your experience & think about those who are forced to live like this routinely because society doesnt currently adequately understand, accept, adapt to or include them.  Let this experience open peoples eyes to how some of their fellow humans live & promote new thinking about how society might change permanently to enable better co-existence.   

And, whilst I celebrate helping the vulnerable alongside displays of human generosity & kindness, please know that many have invisibly born the same disabling impacts on their lives with very little support (financial, emotional or practical) because the thing that impacts them so is not experienced, or even recognised, by the masses.  

As one of our autism rich family observed about staying at home:

“for us it’s life as normal but without the stress or the guilt” 

Having said that, its been more of an adjustment for those of school age (& those responsible for them) whove had to transition from learning at school to learning at home & distinguishing between home learning & homework.  Much else has been written & shared on this.

So, whilst some autistics will be struggling severely with ruptured routines, enforced change, heightened anxiety & sensory sensitivity ... others will find themselves in situations that are less altered & even more conducive to their way of being.  

But for me, the important observation at this time is:

“how relevant the autistic way of being is to how we all need to be at this time” 

& the important take out is, having gained this insight:

“what do we do next?”

Its why Ive written this piece & dared to be positive because its at times like these ~ times when were forced to stop, to think, to reflect ~ that were offered the opportunity to reassess, change & evolve.  To quote Deepak Chopra

All great change is preceded by Chaos.”

Its time to fix the world.

In my working life I was often warned off trying to fix the world ~ it couldn’t be done ~ I should concentrate on one or two key things, not try to fix everything.  But I never really believed it couldn’t all be done & I invariably still tried & I achieved a lot as a result, sometimes to others’ annoyance & personal pain!  Great things have not been achieved because people thought it couldn’t be done ~ quite the opposite.  

And weve reached a moment in time when the world really does need fixing ... the earth itself is screaming out to us to do so (link to Guardian Newspaper article "Nature is sending us a message").  And to do so requires new thinking ... different thinking.  So maybe this is the “Age of the Autistic” ... when autistic & neurodiverse brains take their rightful places at the table to imagine, enable & enact the great change that is needed (or even chair the table).

Like autistic Greta Thunberg.*

And, it seems to me, such seemingly idealistic ambitions might be particularly fitting & timely given those in the know say the Age of Aquarius has itself very recently dawned: a 2,000+ year long age of “great transformation”.  The articles & prophecies I stumbled across were lengthy & complex but fascinating.  One (The Open World Manifesto) included this biblical passage, believed to describe man reaching ultimate knowledge (line 1 & as visualised by Leonardo da Vinci in The Vitruvian Man) & the coming of the Age of Aquarius (last 2 lines).  Personally I believe in values over religion but I was intrigued to read this still:

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped

Then the lame will leap like a deer
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the desert

I know it’s open to interpretation but it could very well validate my own thinking, dont you think?

Vitruvian Man via Google

One other observation ... there are a number of historically accepted autistics popping up in these writings, like Einstein, Newton & da Vinci ...

For those wishing to delve or simply seek distraction, an article from The Astrology Zone might interest.

Meanwhile, take care, stay safe & if you have to go out remember social distancing = physical distancing (not my translation but a very autistic friendly translation nonetheless).

Then, seriously, stay at home.

Dogs at Door (also via The Murmuring Cottage)


Other articles, advice & resources abound, some of which are linked to here (I've not scoured but I consider them reliable sources ... pick what's right for you!):

& of course:

 & published on day of writing this post 
(including an easy read version):

The Dog by Me (An Affinity with A)

*As an aside ... Why is “autistic” so readily placed in front of the names of people who perform negative acts, irrespective of the relevance of the condition to those acts, yet never in front of the names of people who perform positive acts, when very often the condition lies at the root of those positive acts?  Prejudice? Misunderstanding?  Ignorance?  Laziness? Presumption?  Sensationalism?  Scaremongering?  Oh dear, we actually do have a huge mountain to climb don’t we ... maybe the Age of the Autistic really is further away than I’ve dared to hope ... but I won’t give up on my idealistic belief that we are capable of fixing the world ... as long as we’re brave enough to focus on the long term over the short term ... on life on earth over politics & commercial gain (even post pandemic).

Meanwhile, & finally, here's a virtual hug from me to you.

Hug via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Angels apply here ...

I cried the other day.
More accurately, I bawled a bit, crying out loud.  

I cried for my Dad.  I cried for me & found myself wanting my Dad.

So I wrote this the same day & have been silently sitting with it since, assessing how comfortable I feel with it.  Becoming acquainted with it.  And, today, I figured I’m OK with it ~ so I’m serving it up for you now.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve so specifically felt like I “needed” my Dad.  I’ve written about him, talked about him, missed him, remembered him, smiled about him, cried about him & cried for him.

But I can’t remember when I last cried out “I want my Dad”. 

After all, I’m a grown up of several decades, not a child.  But, last week, I met that child again, face on ... a child who just wanted to be cuddled, to be loved & gently told “you’re OK, you’re loved, I’m here, I’ve got you & everything’s going to be fine.”

It’s not like it was a stand out bad day.

All my angel fish made it into school & all completed their time in school successfully.  I even enjoyed a second complimentary email (in as many days) about a stand out piece of work & participation by one of my angel fish so, actually, I’ve reason to think we must be getting some things right.  

I’d ticked the odd thing off my never ending to do list & was chuffed to have received a couple of responses from an autism-friendly group to an appeal for help in resolving what I shall call a logistical problem. 

But in the process of progressing another “to do” I became distracted by an email which left me feeling “wrong”.  I’ve read a few accounts lately of autistics being made to feel “wrong”.  And I don’t mean simply feeling momentarily incorrect about some specific thing ... I mean actually completely just “wrong” ... in totality ... put down, inferior, in need of censoring.

So it quickly became a day that provoked some serious self-reflection & triggered this sudden, intense need for my Dad.

I feel like I’m getting it wrong a lot.  
I think I’ve always got it wrong a lot but maybe just not realised quite how often or to what extent.  But when it arises from a group that’s meant to understand you, that advocates for your “tribe” ... then it’s tough to take.

After a few days to consider, reflect & ruminate, I can see it might not have been meant this way ... but I’m not completely convinced.  Maybe I was still reeling from the night before ... a changed social situation that I couldn’t seem to settle into & which left me feeling quite chaotic & out of control on the inside & like a rabbit in the headlights on the outside ... I hear myself saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, contributing when I probably shouldn’t, then not when I probably should.  Mumbling, fumbling, confusing, self-sabotaging ... unable to find my place in this new, unfamiliar setting.  Made worse because the looks, odd responses, withdrawing had begun, confirming my “wrongness” and, you know, it’s nothing new.  It’s happened a lot, pre & post my autism diagnosis.  However much I may have “masked” or tried to “fit in” & behave & speak in expected ways ... I’m not, never have been & never will be un-autistic, or neurotypical, & I’ve always stood out to some degree or another whether it’s because I wear something unusual, say something unexpected, behave unexpectedly, react over-emotionally or under-emotionally.

And it’s that “no getting away from it” realisation that drew in the sadness that pervaded last week, despite the acknowledgements of success elsewhere which, in themselves, have not come easily & can be inconsistent. 

And whilst I campaign to celebrate our differences, it makes me so sad to observe & experience others’ responses to the assumption of “wrongness” in me ... that realisation that I’m not as “normal” as I might first appear ... responded to with furrowed brows, backing off, distancing & avoiding or silencing, censoring & correcting.  These reactions just tell me I’m not valuable, not valued, that I’m “wrong”.

But I’m not wrong, I’m different.
Different, not less (credit Temple Grandin).
I don’t always get it right ... but I’m not wrong.

But too often I feel like I am.

So I cried.  
I bawled a bit.  Crying out loud & wanting my Dad.

Then I looked at the sky ... it was the sort of sky in which I’d imagine angels appear, a sky like the sky that inspired me to write "Angels in our Midst".

A sky, combined with the intense feelings of need, that made me plead out loud “Please come back Dad.” 

One of those skies, almost | An Affinity With A

And ... as if in immediate response ... on the radio came Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go! Go!

Random to the many who don’t know me 
but more prophetic, maybe, to the few who do.

By the way, this picture was taken later that same day.

Immediate positive vibe ... a smile ... completely cutting through that moment ... thanks Dad ... you were there all along.

So now the lyrics hold a whole new meaning for me.

It’s no longer the young adult me desperately seeking that permanent beau who would love me unconditionally.  Instead, it’s a message from my Dad who loved me unconditionally (I’m pretty sure) & who didn’t really want to go but felt he had to & who maybe wished he’d seen me one more time before he left (who knows), who still wants to reassure me when I've had a Bad Day (another song reference).  And it’s a message to my Dad from a daughter, reciprocating that unconditional love & desire to remain connected.

And who can resist smiling at the mention of Doris Day? ... but that’s another post ...

Still need convincing (or a smile)?

Here are some lyrics:

You put the boom boom into my heart (hoo, hoo)
You send my soul sky high when your lovin' starts
Jitterbug into my brain (yeah, yeah)
Goes a bang-bang-bang 'til my feet do the same
But something's bugging you (ha-ha, ha-ha)
Something ain't right (ha-ha, ha-ha)
My best friend told me what you did last night (ha-ha, ha-ha)
Left me sleepin' in my bed (ha-ha, ha-ha)
I was dreaming, but I should have been with you instead (ha-ha)
Wake me up before you go-go
Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake me up before you go-go
I don't want to miss it when you hit that high
Wake me up before you go-go
'Cause I'm not plannin' on going solo
Wake me up before you go-go
Take me dancing tonight
I wanna hit that high (yeah, yeah)

You take the grey skies out of my way (hoo, hoo)
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day
Turned a bright spark into a flame (yeah, yeah)
My beats per minute never been the same
'Cause you're my lady, I'm your fool (ha-ha, ha-ha)
It makes me crazy when you act so cruel (ha-ha, ha-ha)
Come on, baby, let's not fight (ha-ha, ha-ha)
We'll go dancing, everything will be all right (ha-ha) ... 

Yes, I’m happy to believe this was a message from my Dad ... a Dad who loved to dance, who sent me & my brother a toy telephone set so we could speak to each other when not together, who believed disability & difference was never a reason to dismiss others or treat them differently, who died when I was 10.

And I’m pretty sure my Dad is one of my guardian angels & has saved me on more than one occasion.

We need more angels.
We need more Dick & Angels (escaping to chateaus)
We need more Doris Days!

And, you know what, after another night at you (don’t) know where, maybe I’m not as wrong as I felt last week ... sometimes it just takes time to get to know people ... sometimes it just takes time for people to get to know me ... like it took time to make acquaintance with this post ... take time ... make time for more time.

Angels apply here ...

Monday, 9 September 2019

S is for ..

I like B.
Bang on about A.
Am calmed by Cs.
Clinging onto summer in September, I’m sidetracked by S.
Some might say it’s an autism thing ... others simply autumn.

I hope this little ditty resonates, autistic or not.

Calligraphy S | Canvas Art by Suhas Tavkar on Pinterest

S is for ..

S is for summer~still clinging on
S is for shells~pebbles & stones~summer's souvenirs~scavanged & sorted
S is for snap~Polaroid snaps~places & spaces~a sense of place~a sense of self in space
S is for seahorse~starfish~sand
S is for seaweed~sea life~beach life~quiet life
S is for September~starting school~transitions & change~suddenly shocking
S is for special~needs or no needs~interests & passions~Statements as were
S is for Slytherin~Sonic~Science~sketching~stories~obsessively expert
S is for story~our story~others’ stories~all too common~read, listen, act, share
S is for sharing~over sharing~even with strangers~shudders!
S is for syndromes~sensitive senses~sounds, smells, sights~senses assaulted
S is for swinging~spinning~stimming~sensory seeking~sensory avoiding
S is for socially~avoidant~anxious~starved~disabled~segregated~
S is for sparse~friends~friendless~sparsely friended~so special~dear old friends
S is for sync~in & out of~idiosyncratic~speech
S is for speak~some can’t~we can’t sometimes~speech is cheap~it’s what you do
S is for systems~systematic failures~sins against the vulnerable
S is for striving~strive to survive~survival responses~constantly startled 
S is for stress~soaring~sleepless~sinews shattered~sanity snapped
S is for scared~scarred
S is for shout~slap
S is for swipe~Swiper no swiping!
S is for sorry~we are~are you?
S is for spectrum~same issues~similar issues~singularly different~
not less
S is for seeking~understanding~acceptance~inclusion~equality~
societal shift
S is for sugar~spice~frogs~snails~puppy dog tails~identity~shaken & stirred
S is for self-identity~confusion~whispers~Careless Whispers~forced endings & beginnings
S is for sure~unsure~insecure~self-doubt~self-deprecating~
self-loathing~side effects
S is for self-medicating~starving~self-harming~suicide~too highly prevalent in this community
S is for shots~cigs~Southern Comfort~in the bottom of a glass~
spirits downed & drowned
S is for soul~Save Our Souls!
S is for support~speech & language~psychiatric~psychological~
occupational~not behavioural
S is for self-help~self-care~support groups~friends & family~fairly, justly reciprocal 
S is for self-talk~self-soothing~processing~acting out loud~speaking out loud
S is for say~what you mean & mean it
S is for settling~is that what I mean?~making the best of & grateful for life
S is for soap~certain soaps~fresh laundered sheets~shoes & risottos~slabbed stoneware clay
S is for structure~strategies~stamina~listening~observing
S is for seeing~solving~thinking in tangents, circles & spirals~skilled problem solvers
S is for sleuthing~Sparkling Cyanide~Agatha Christie~lost in a book~
useful for calming
S is for serious
S is for sad
S is for Sara~sadly serious~sucking @ social~silly times lost
S is for silliness~desperately sought
S is for safety~sadly lacking 
S is for silence~p l e a s e
S is for sea
S is for swim
S is for sun~sunflowers~bees
S is for sprinkles~or sprinklers~you choose
S is for stars~sparkling in space~s a f e  s p a c e
S is for sky
S is for Skye
S is for summer~still clinging on~sounds, smells, sights~senses sated 
S is for songs~solos or otherwise~food for the soul~good soul music~
soundtracks to life
S is for songbird~soak it all up~Sandy & Danny~Summer Lovin’~no singing in the a.m.
S is for strong~soft~too strong~too soft~too sensitive~too slow~
too much~stand strong
S is for standing~out & up~Stand By Me
S is for shoulders~share some~free empathy~empathy rich~
Lean On Me
S is for Saturday~Saturday & Sunday~weekend’s here~sweet rest & recovery~I Don't Like Mondays
S is for sat~sitting in bedrooms~secretly hiding~hidden conditions
S is for sick~sick of~speculation~spurious causes & cures~sick with measles & mumps
S is for science~studies & research~busting the myths~seek out the sound stuff
S is for sounds~shattering noise~the too loud shouting of doubters & haters
S is for STOP
S is for silent~Silent Night
S is for shush now~settle~sleep sweet peas~sweet children of mine
S is for sons~sisters~siblings~family~rivalry~love
S is for spouse~Cherish the Love~self-love~Sacred Love~Sting!
S is for snuggles~hugs~no hugs
S is for safe~Maslow’s first basic need~now you can start
S is for smart~find your smart~start~something~somewhere~never stop
S is for self~self-actualisation~Shine~You Are My Sunshine~you are somebody~I Wanna Dance
S is for swirls~smiles~Smile~sparkling eyes~granted wishes~sprinkled happiness~YES PLEASE!
A is all of these.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest