It’s Been a While…

It’s been ages since I wrote a post for this blog.

I’ve been terrible at keeping you all updated in everything I’ve been up to. Catching up with a load of backlogged coursework, running Pagan Society, writing a novel and general living. But I thought I’d give you a run-down on how it’s been.

I did get one book for Christmas, from M, an anthology of love poetry, which was cute! Other than that, I got some nice presents from my aunt and paternal family. It was amazing to spend Christmas with my own biological family, which I hadn’t really done since before I was put into care. But the past is in the past, and we move on.

So, things are progressing with my ADHD life. I’m now on maximum dose of my medication, and it is actually making the world of difference. I can now, once it has properly kicked in, sit down and blitz a load of words down. I’ve even been able to start a novel!

Tonight I’m off to help out to prepare with stuff for tomorrow, as I’m taking part in my first ever Reclaim the Night! Can’t wait! I’ll write more about it tomorrow, as it’s going to be amazing! I’ll write it from a neurodiverse point of view, so it should be informative!

I should be posting a lot more often than I have been, I’ve missed you all!

The Rosie Project – Review

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It was the day of travel, when I had to go back to Blighty (more on that tomorrow). I’d gotten my last €40 out of the travel car account, and I decided to buy something to read. I dragged Josh into the airport bookshop, which was a weird, international mishmash version of WHSmiths, and had a look at the English section, unfortunately the smallest section in the whole thing. It meant that I had to do a serious dig, amongst all the chic lit and terrible erotic novellas, and came up with a couple of alright-looking ones (to be fair, I went back twice, as I wasn’t sure the first time whether I’d have enough for two books after feeding Josh and I from a really expensive airport café). The first one I bought I am yet to properly read, but the second book, The Rosie Project, which I’d seen in the bookshops back at home in the UK, was something I had to read first. After the magazines I picked up, obviously.

The story is of a genetics professor, and professional cocktail maker in Australia, called Don Tillman, who is undiagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, although a couple of the characters attempt to hint to him that he may have the disability. He is precocious, has a rigid routine, and is eccentric both emotionally and socially. He decides he wants to get married, but hasn’t got a woman to marry. So he creates ‘The Wife Project’, with a full on questionnaire to make sure he finds the most suitable candidate. It’s a perfect idea to find the perfect wife… Until he meets Rosie. Whilst helping her to find her biological father, he starts to feel an emotion that he hasn’t felt before, even though she is completely incompatible with him according to his requirements. The novel looks at the growing relationship, and his struggle to understand and learn that sometimes, love comes to you rather than the other way round.

This was a book that was believable, funny, sweet and charming. Don is a character that, although you can so see that he is on the autistic spectrum, it’s not the main focus of the novel. It’s about him, and his growth as a person, rather than about his issues. Although, that said, it’s handled sensitively and realistically. The writer says in his interview, that he based Don and his characteristics on people he worked with as an IT specialist, rather than researching the condition in the traditional way. In this case, it worked. You can tell when a writer has had to research a condition, without any personal knowledge of it. This helped to portray Don in a positive light, despite his flaws.

And I liked the additions of  Don’s questionnaire, cocktail recipes and interviews in the edition that I picked up. It gave the book a touch that made you feel more included, not just a reader, but actually someone in Don’s world.

This is the first book ever, with an Asperger’s protagonist, that I actually haven’t had any issues with. I remember reading Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which I feel is one of the most stereotypical and terrible characterisations of an autistic person that I have ever read, as it really focused on the condition, and not the character himself, which is the biggest problem when writing autistic characters. I enjoyed this book, simply because it’s a book about a guy who wants a girl, rather than an autistic guy who can’t get a date.

My rating: *****

For a rom-com, brilliant!

In Other News…

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This week just gone has been very unusual, as I’ve done things that have changed the way I view the world forever.

This time last week I was preparing for my debut into stand-up comedy. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, just to see how it feels to get up on stage and attempt to be hilarious for a paying audience. I entered the university’s ‘Battle of the Laughs’, which is like the traditional ‘Battle of the Bands’, but instead involves stand-up comedians rather than bands. The prize is to perform as headliner for the Summer Ball, in the comedy tent (we’ve only had this for two years, but we’re one of the few universities to have them), and last week was the first heat. I really enjoyed the rush I got when getting introduced as a stand-up by our lovely compare, and appreciated the laughter that I got from a few of my jokes. I didn’t get through to the final, but it was the experience that counted, and I’ve decided that I really would like to get some compare experience in next year.

I’ve also helped out at an Asperger’s Awareness training session with the financial team at university. I really appreciate the fact that various teams on campus want to be able to help students with autism and Aspergers to be able to get the proper support they need in a way that is comfortable. It makes me happier to think that people are starting to become more aware of how the disability can affect the day-to-day life of someone on the spectrum, and that they want to help in every way that they can to make the student’s lives a lot easier. Hopefully they will be rolling out the training across the board, so that all staff members of all departments of the university become more aware of autism and Aspergers and the issues they face. Speaking of issues, Josh sent me the link to a Youtube video, that I think you’ll all find rather interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmDGvquzn2k

This is from Carly Fleischman, a young woman who has non-verbal autism, she communicates using a computer and speech software so she can explain what she needs/wants/etc. This video shows how it feels to be autistic, and the difficulties that you face when you’re dealing with sensory overload, and how it affects the world you live in, as well as how frustrating it is to be unable to explain what you want.

It’s an amazing video from a really inspirational person. It really shows what someone can achieve, regardless of their disability. If only other people could learn that we autistic people don’t want to be shut out from the world, but actually want to be given the opportunity to join in, and really make a difference, one that can change lives, for the better.

Also, next Thursday, I’m off to Amsterdam! My guidebook came through the post from Amazon, and I’ve flicked through it, getting more excited! The itinerary finally came through as well, so I’m so excited! I’m hoping that people will be able to come to the Anne Frank House with me, whilst one of my friends wants to go to all the places in The Fault in Our Stars, and to re-read the book, whilst I’m re-reading Anne’s diary. The only thing I’m dreading is all the actual travelling, as we’ll keep travelling from Bath to Amsterdam through the night. And I suck at sleeping on public transport. So I might have to ask for travel sleep meds from the doctor, as well as a letter from him to explain why I’ll be carrying sleep medication in my luggage. Oh my, so much to do before I leave as well, all the packing, the learning of some basic phrases, making sure my euro card comes in time…

I’m also going to partay! Yes, I’ve been invited to another Comedy Society party, and I’m really excited, as they always throw the best house parties, with Cards Against Humanity, Epic Rap Battles and other general awesomesauce stuff! I love parties, as long as I prepare myself in advance, like earplugs for sensory overload, making sure my handbag is packed, and that my phone is fully charged. It ought to be a great way of letting off steam after this really bizarre week that I’ve had

Other than that, it’s just a lot of catching up with work, writing and the writing of a comedy sketch involving material from my stand-up…

Autism and Education

There has been a big debate about education for autistic children in the UK recently. Lots of parents feel like the education system is unable to look at their children’s needs and allow the parents to decide whether their child needs to be in special needs education or mainstream education. As an autistic person still in the education system of Great Britain I feel that it is important from me to add my two penny piece to the discussion.

Primary school was okay, as my needs were a lot greater than they are now. I had a lot more difficulties with socialising with my peers than I do now and I really did struggle in the academic environment of a mainstream school. I remember being transferred to a mainstream primary school at the age of seven, and I only lasted two terms because the teachers were not trained in how to deal with my anger issues or how to engage me in the classroom. This is where the special needs education system really shone to me in my life, as it made me feel more confident to pursue my dreams and ideas, and I remember leaving primary school feeling excited about the next stage of education and learning.

However, the special needs secondary school I that was then transfer to was awful. I was put in with students who were very much less able than me and was expected to be at that same intelligence level. When I completed the very basic work that we were set, and I asked the something a little bit harder something that would actually test me, they were unable to give me the work that I asked for. I actually started feeling very stupid because I was talked to as if I was stupid. I was treated like somebody who wasn’t intelligent, someone who wasn’t passionate about learning and education and wanting to better myself, like someone who didn’t have dreams and someone who couldn’t achieve. I started hating going to school, the bullying was rife, because I try to read harder books than the other kids, because I tried to beg students from the local comprehensive school next door to give me copies of their homework as they walked past the gates. I longed for history lessons that didn’t involve colouring pages, English lessons that didn’t involves cross words or word searches and maths classes with real textbooks, just like the ones I saw the children in the mainstream school carrying into school.

Not only this, I went to school in fear. We had a kid in our class who had severe ADHD, severe anger problems, which caused him to become violent at the drop of a hat. Every lesson involved being evacuated from our classroom, as if it were a war zone because he got an angry and started throwing things, chairs, tables, books. There was one time when he could beat me up, because the teacher had left us alone in a classroom, and I’d accidentally said something angered him, to the point where he was about to slam a table into my back, and potentially kill me. If a friend hadn’t gone to get the teacher (who had gone into the staffroom to get a cup of tea), I wouldn’t be here now talking to you. I was lucky, that my foster mum managed to get me out, got me into that school where I would never have to beg the kids for homework. I got high grades in my GCSEs and was lucky that I got into a good college are now into the good University, where I get a lot of support from my autism and other conditions which have since been diagnosed with.

The special needs system is excellent in this country for those with severe learning difficulties, and severe autism. For the brighter kids, the kids that dream, the ones that you yearn to have just as good an education as their mainstream counterparts, however a lot needs to be done. It is hard to come to a middle ground, simply because every autistic person is completely different, there is no such thing as too autistic people who are completely alike. Even if the more able students were put together and actually taught to the curriculum, and the less able students being kept together and being taught the things that they need to learn, that would probably make secondary special needs education a lot better. All you need is common sense, and a gut feeling to make sure that your autistic child gets the education they deserve, because they do, deserve the best education they can get regardless of their ability.

(Please note that this was my personal experience of the special needs education system. There are some wonderful schools out there that cater excellently to the needs of autistic students, my friends and I were just highly unfortunate with the provision in my area.)

Sex and AS – Can People with Autism/Aspergers be Sexual?

I thought I’d write a post about sexuality and AS. This is because of the fact that when I was younger, I remember little old ladies whispering at church whilst I served tea as a Brownie (UK version of Girl Scouts) about the fact that they felt so sorry for me as disabled people just don’t have relationships, and that it would be impossible to find me a husband. It was embarrassing, but I didn’t think any more of it. Now I’m a lot older, and really discovering sexuality for myself, it’s high time that I discussed sexuality and autism.

Not all people are sexual, regardless on disability or any other factor. I have non AS friends who identify as asexual (no sexual attraction to anyone, however, they may still feel romantically inclined), and I have autistic friends who do want to experience sex with someone, and even settle down and have children of their own one day. I think there is still a big problem where society thinks that AS people are incapable of having fulfilling, long term relationships of any kind. You pick up a book about AS in adults, and in the chapters involving relationships, you often see the experts saying ‘Don’t worry if your AS partner is cold/unsociable, etc. It’s in their nature, so don’t feel bad about leaving them and finding yourself a lovely non-AS partner and making sure you have kids with them so family life is easier’. I know it’s not this dramatic in the books, but that’s the message you get. IT’S NOT FAIR!

I’ve been in a happy relationship now for two years, two months. We’re engaged, and getting married after we graduate. It’s all good.

So, where does the sexy time come in?

Well, like anyone else, autistic people have all kinds of desires. We can be straight, gay, bi, pan, hetro-flexible. We can also be gender fluid, transgender and cisgender. Not all autistic people are sexual, or need sex constantly. One of my friends isn’t interested in sex, not until the right person comes along. I, however, love sex! Seriously!

I am a young, pansexual autistic woman who adores being intimate. I like how it makes me feel, the sensations, the excitement, the adventure. It could be seen to be unusual, as touch can be a big thing for AS people, especially in intimate situations.

I’m the one who will enjoy sex, but can’t stand having cuddles straight after. I need to recharge myself, fix my bubble. Sex is a really strong energy that can really sap it out of you. We joke that in bed I’m like the stereotypical man, wanting to run off after the deed has been done. But after a few minutes with a cup of tea and away from it, I can come back for the pillow talk, and it’s all good.

Every person, AS or not has experiences of their own that are completely unique. Just be assured that you are not alone, and that it is OK to want sex, or not want sex, be curious, be ignorant. Just do what’s right by you, and your partner/s if that’s what you want to do.

 

1st Day Blues

I’m part of the way through my first proper day as a student, which means I actually have to go to things called seminars and lectures! I just thought that I would take some time to catch you all up on what I’ve been up to so far today, in the hope that you can live through me, etc. Man, that sounded odd. But I digress. 

Anyways, I woke up feeling okay about everything. Until I saw the time, swore and franticly pulled clothes on, grabbed my stuff and ran blindly out of the door, as it turned out that I had such a lovely lie-in, that I’d woken up with only 45 minutes before I had to be at the other end of the campus  to attend my Introduction to Scriptwriting seminar. In the end I got there 20 minutes early, so I went over to get some food. After that, I made it to my seminar in one piece. 

We shall be writing a soap opera for this module, so we were paired off to come up with an idea. Me and my classmate came up with the idea of having a soap set in a university, with an Asperger character in a relationship with a NT character. As I have knowledge of both these things, I would happily write scenes involving the character, including classic Aspie things like stimming. I wanted a soap with this character because of the fact that soaps just don’t bother to have Autistic or Aspergers characters in their storylines, choosing instead to have more physical disabilities or mental health issues. I shall start writing it later, after I figure out which soap I’m going to look into as homework for the seminar week after next. 

I then went into lunch, bought some posters at the poster sale to put into my room, had food, then returned to my room to put up my posters and download Celtex for future use. I have one more seminar today, the Exploration of Prose module, hopefully I’ll finally get the reading list which I have been demanding from my tutor since I’ve arrived. If not, I shall probably end up writing a grumpy letter to the course manager, who also happens to be my tutor, as I have tried to explain the DSA issue and reclaiming my book costs with him, but I keep getting fobbed off. Damn it!

Anyways, I’d better end here, it takes a while to poodle up to the other end of campus, and I could do with popping into the SU to get a stapler and staples… 

How I Survived Fresher’s Week, Autistic Style!

So, it’s all over!

The monster that is Fresher’s Week is over, and I survived it, practically unscathed! This is a surprise to me, as I thought I would spend most of it hiding under my bed hoping that people wouldn’t wonder where I was! But the main thing is that I’m a proper student, I’ve had my throwing up episode, I’ve slunk off home early due to tiredness. And now, I’m listening to the Tarzan soundtrack, as everything else on iTunes started to mess up, and am still chuckling about my purchase of ‘The Vagina Monologues’, bought partly because of the fact that female genitalia is the main subject of the title, and also because it’s supposed to be one of the best feminist texts ever, and I’ve wanted it for ages. Josh has also mentioned that I get a play he’s studying in Drama, called ‘Doll’s House’, which is very feminist, apparently. Will purchase it soon. 

But I’m rambling. I bet you all are wondering how I survived the week that has just gone by.

Firstly, the early induction set up by the university really helped. This meant I could move into the university halls early, along with a few others, so I didn’t have the issue of having everyone in all at once so I could settle in more comfortably. Then I spent time with a few people from the early induction, played Drink Cheat (the card game but with the addition of shots) and got very poorly, which meant I didn’t drink much for the rest of the week, so no embarrassing scenarios. I made an extra effort to be sociable, even though one of my flatmates (who seems to have very severe Aspergers) is very loud, obnoxious and aggressive. I have tried to be nice, even suggesting he calms down so people can accept him, because he’s nice enough, just very conservative, and homophobic. But he just gets all angry and refuses to listen. So I just avoid him when I can. You can’t be friends with everyone, can you?

I believe one of the best things to invest in are earplugs, to muffle the loud music so it isn’t as painful, so you can dance like everyone else, but not suffer. They did make me feel better. I also now know that a useful word to know it ‘no’. It has variations, like ‘would rather not’ ‘thankyou, but no thankyou’. It meant that if I didn’t want to stay somewhere, then I didn’t have to. Also if people offered me drinks, or to join in drinking games, I would politely turn them down.  

Join societies! That helped, as now I shall have friends who have similar interests as me, so that I can do the things I enjoy, as well as make new friends. I can’t wait to start up!

I just need to organise my room again, do my laundry, hope I get a job soon then all should be great!