Facing the Clown




Firstly, I've been asked by Mumsnet to speak at their blogging event, Blogfest, in London this November. That is rather amazing, folks, especially given the quality of their guest speakers (and obviously the quality of their audience of fellow bloggers).

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogfest/2014

Right, that's the good news. The bad news?

I have a fear of travelling long distances and a wonderful ability to get lost. I have a fear of people, especially large groups of people and public speaking has a tendency to bring out the worst or the best in me, without any warning of which way I will swing until it's too late.

I have a fear of being lost in London, wandering the streets and finally being snapped on my way into the wrong door, as burly security guards descend on me.

I have a fear of getting there and not knowing where to go or what to do and making it into the event but ending up under the stage somehow.

I have a fear, readers, a specific fear for each part of this process. And then, there are the clowns.

I don't expect there will be clowns at Blogfest. I hope there won't be. It's just that I listed all my fears to RT Teen, then said, 'And to top it all of, there'll probably be clowns!'

And he said, 'Yes, maybe the whole audience will be dressed as clowns!' and burst out laughing. 'Or,' he warmed to his theme,'there'll be just one clown, sitting in the middle somewhere, watching you silently, and you won't notice it until you're halfway through.'

I doubt there will be clowns, or at least not more than one, and if there is a clown I would hope it's a Mumsnet blogging clown and not some random evil clown off the street. But it shows how one fear, or a list of fears, can grow and become a creature of its own making, a thing with talons and bright eyes, waiting in the shadows, waiting for me to notice it just before it pounces.

My list of fears, all brought on by the offer of a wonderful opportunity, is long and detailed but comes down to the very real and practiced anxiety of becoming lost and confused in a big, public place and with no one there to help me. I will be surrounded by many talented and grown up people and will be expected to move as one of them.

What I really need is a helping hand here, someone who knows I lose my mind in a crowd, who knows my face is changing not from fear of the speech ahead but at the sight of the double doors into the foyer opening more and more and more to admit people, pouring in off the street, until the place is so full there are people swimming above each other, reaching for the ceiling as we all drown in societal agony.

I'm sorry, I really should go and talk to a responsible adult for a while. One who can explain to me why London is not a terrible place and how all cities can be managed and how most people are good and welcoming and won't pour in off the street in a smothering, rippling torrent.

What I have to remember is that, if I make it down there and cope with the journey and get past the clowns, I can use that magical 5 minutes to explain how, for me, Thinking Outside the Box is often just getting out of the house in the morning. And then I will produce The Box, because if we're thinking outside of it and talking about it, we should at least have a look at it.

Readers, I will be the wild-eyed woman on stage, holding a box and a crumpled, hand-drawn map which I daren't let go. And I will be scanning the audience for the tell-tale sight of a curly wig, blackened eyes and a wide, wide smile.

Amanda




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How to deal with an aspie meltdown




How do you deal with an aspie in  meltdown? I deal with it very badly, even though I'm on both sides of the fence. When I'm in full lava flow down the hill myself, I'm in no mood to be dealt with at all; but when RT Teen is being the lava, I feel like I should fix it.

Even knowing how he is feeling and how supremely, outrageously aggravating the whole world has suddenly become, I still tip-toe in and try to help. I poke him with verbal offers of help, I reach out a hand (I must be insane) and try to give him a comforting pat. I talk to him from a distance, hoping logic will prevail (you can guess the result).

I don't do this to make it all worse, though I know it might. I risk making it all worse to make it better. And sometimes it does help, just not very often. But there is that magical moment where you can stop the meltdown before the volcano has done more than choke out a few smoke sobs and done a bit of lava-spitting.

When RT Teen has a meltdown these days it is much more emotionally charged than when he was little and that makes it harder to deal with. When he was younger, he was a raging ball of sorrow, fury, anger, despair - you name the negative emotion and he was the raging of it. I treated him like when he was younger still and let him calm down on his own, unless there was something breakable between him and his predicted crash site.

The smallest things set him off then. Once he was given the choice between sweets and candy floss at the Christmas fair. He chose sweets and ate them, but then we walked past the candy floss stall...

The result was a full-on meltdown: legs, arms, head held in that special arc of protest which gives the lungs their best chance of shouting to the heavens. He also would not move. (Only an aspie in full meltdown can somehow be a flurry of action without moving from the spot).

In a crowded Christmas shopping centre what could I do? I couldn't let him bellow out his temper with an audience like that, so I did the next best thing: I moved him to a place where he could bellow it out in peace. I lifted him by the back of his coat (carrying him normally would have meant getting hurt by flailing limbs) and I carried him through the whole of the fair, back to the car.

The walk was a long one. At two hundred yards, it wasn't long in steps but in terms of suffering, it lasted a very long time. Right through the crowd, screaming six year old being carried by his coat, his arms and legs pointing downward but moving like his batteries were on overdrive; his head pushed back as far as he could manage while he screamed, maroon-faced, eyes clenched shut in pure, candy-floss-deprived anger.

Whispering, voices, stares, pointed fingers, tutting, shoulder-turning: a general wave of why-isn't-she-doing-anything as I struggled through the crowd. Not Helpful. What might have been helpful was to recognise I was actually doing something - I was carrying my raging child out of their way and back to a safe place.

I know now that all the whispers and condemnations were probably not what they seemed and some were a result of me feeling so watched and judged. Now, I can look at a situation like that and recognise a child on the spectrum, along with struggling parent. Then, as the parent, I felt alone amid a sea of people whose children had stopped this behaviour before they were three.

Now, with RT Teen as an almost-adult, I couldn't carry him through the town if I had to, so I suppose it's a good thing that his meltdowns happen mainly at home and are so focused on emotions rather than frustration-fuelled physical activity. But even so, you can look to the child he was to see what must be done.

If someone has reached the stage of meltdown, be they child or adult, and you have missed your chance to stop it before it starts, then all you can really do is make sure they are safe (and the rest of your house/pets/family are safe) and let them be.

You know that volcano analogy? Imagine you could pop a top on it, just as it's about to erupt. The relief as the lava is held in, the terrible, ravaging destruction is stopped, the world is safe. But then, you know, volcanoes do not erupt because of forces coming down on top of them, do they?

They erupt because of pressure building within, beneath the seen, under the visible part. They erupt because they are forced to and nothing in the world can stop them reacting to that build-up of pressure. The only way to be rid of the pressure is to allow it to pass.

Putting a lid on it and forcing down the eruption does nothing to stop the pressure building underneath. What it does is the opposite. That pressure now builds even more, it has to if it is to escape and re-set the balance. It now has to push against your imposed control, as well as what has built up within the volcano. It has to break through two barriers instead of one. And the eruption, once the pressure builds enough, is far, far worse than it might have been.

When your aspie is having a meltdown, try to help if you still can. Otherwise let them be, let it out, let the pressure rip through the air instead of through your aspie's feelings and defences - and then through yours. Let the meltdown do what it is designed to do, which is to reset the balance.

And when it is over, take comfort from the fact that if your aspie did not erupt and could not let go of the pressure, they would not be the person you know between times.

How to deal with an aspie meltdown? Just be there, somewhere, for when it's all over.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



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Conversation Code




Category: Conversation

Sub-Category: Small talk/gossip

Subject: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden

Response Required? Y/N

...

N

Change subject? Y/N

Y

Y...Y

Change subject? Y/N

(hammers internal keyboard) YYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Subject: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden (continued)

Response Required? Y/N

Y

(respond that if front garden such an issue why not finally confront Mrs Neighbour and solve issue)

Interruption in conversation - restart? Y/N

Y

Subject changed: Successful installation new software patch

Interruption in conversation, error code 33anger2

Subject changed: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden (restart)

Response required? Y/N

...N...

Response request: (empty file)

Response request: (corrupted file)

Response request: (there was a problem opening this file)

Change subject? Y/N

Y

Y (please)

Subject changed: Successful transmittance of relationship advice to new friend

Subject interruption: Broken message, garden, neighbour

Would you like to quit this conversation? Y/N

Y

Are you sure you want to quit? This conversation is still Open.

Y

Quitting conversation failed. Cannot quit.

Response request: (error: distraction code face-change)

Conversation quit successful. Would you like to walk away?

Y

Congratulations! You have successfully Walked Away.


Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

The Disgruntled Aspie



It stands, like a disgruntled bull at the farm gate, watching you as you cross the kitchen. You are followed, the angry eyeballs moving only to track your progress as you tip-toe past on the way to the bread.

'Would you like a sandwich?' you ask, your voice an imitation of innocence. You know your aspie won't have a sandwich, it's the wrong bread, but you pretend not to know and ask anyway, just to break the thunderous silence.

The silence holds, then an exhalation like hornets exiting stage left as your aspie loses the fight between frozen anger and needing to answer a question when it is asked.

'No,' they manage, breathing in, then out, then failing once more to resist routine, 'thank you,' they add, angrier with themselves now as well as you.

You make the sandwich, very conscious of the laser-beam gaze fixed on your back. In trying to pretend normality, you hum a little tune, like you do when you are on your own in the kitchen. Big mistake.

'Stop it!' a strangulated whisper comes from your aspie. Yet another misdemeanor to add to your list. Or their list, you can never tell whose list it is anymore.

'There's yoghurt in the fridge, would you like some?' you venture, feeling awfully brave. If people who understood could see you now, making conversation with a fiery aspie, they would be very proud.

'Ungh!' Your aspie sounds like they just bit their tongue but you are complicit in the ways of such creatures and know the pained squeakish grunt means they are biting back a torrent of flaming fury because you asked another question and now they have to answer it.

'It's cherry!' they gasp, forcing out the reply. 'I don't like cherry!' they add, getting a better hold of their temper and fanning the flames again.

You sigh. This isn't going well. You did hope that by ignoring the steaming firebrand in the middle of the kitchen that you would also avoid the meltdown associated with your terrible crime. But it seems that pretending everything is fine is not going to make this go away.

You sigh again, opening your mouth to say something mollifying, still hoping for salvage.

'It's not like I ask for anything!' The wailing starts from behind and you pause, hand on cheese. 'I only wanted one afternoon to myself!!'

You take your hand off the cheese and look longingly at the waiting bread. Oh well. Turning to face your aspie, you rearrange your face into what passes for I'm Not Going To Lose My Cool and open your mouth again.

Sensing comforting words, the aspie gets in first, keen to stop you from minimising their suffering. 'And I am not making a fuss about nothing!' The hands clench at the sides and the face thrusts forward.

'I know you're not,' you say, accidentally doing an eye roll. As usual, the aspie who notices no expressions ever sees this one thing and takes complete offence.

'Stop rolling your eyes at me!' they shout and turn on their heel, ready for the Storming Out. At the last second, they pause to look back. 'And for what it's worth,' they add, looking justifiably superior, 'I might have wanted to come to the birthday party, if you hadn't sprung it on me.'

The feet march off, the aspie body marches almost in tandem with the feet and the kitchen is clear once more. You turn back to the cheese, thinking how nice it is to have uncomplicated dairy in the room instead of an aspie.

Soon you will have to risk offending them again by re-springing the party invitation. Until then you know to enjoy the quiet time in between, just you and your sandwich and maybe a little glass of something later. With a bit of luck your aspie will sulk all the way through your favourite show and you won't have to swap over to Trucks That Tumble again.

Perhaps tomorrow you could bring up the party? Or maybe the next day? Sometime soon anyway. You have only a month between now and your brother's birthday to convince your aspie to come along. And you know your aspie hates having these things sprung on them.

What was your brother thinking, only giving you four week's notice? Does he not know you need lots of extra time to spoil your aspie's day/afternoon/morning/bedtime? Does he not realise how horrid you will have to be between now and then, with all your awkward silences and making of sandwiches?

Sighing happily, you retreat with your sandwich, pausing a moment to listen for the keyboard clicking in the other room. Safe.

Nodding to yourself, you settle down, ready to recharge for the next time you need to corral your aspie into doing something awful, against their will and just because you want to spoil their day.

Amanda




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Once more, with feeling.




'Do you like it?'

Some bright and wonderful thing is held before my eyes and I take in the iridescent gleam of light bouncing off its surfaces. My eyes sparkle in reflected beauty and my mouth opens to praise it in all its magical glory.





'Hmm, it's nice,' I say, 'I like the sparkles and stuff.'

The gaudy treasure is replaced as my less-than-enthusiastic response renders it unworthy. We move on with me giving backward glances to the beautiful thing and wondering why it remains unbought.

I said it was nice and I said I liked the sparkles but if my opinion was really needed, perhaps it would have been better to pass me a pen and paper instead of asking me to speak my thoughts.

I can love something and sound lacklustre; I can adore and covet a glorious object and only be able to stand, holding it this way and that, revelling in how I feel about it without expressing myself.

And then I can love something and go on about it so fulsomely and endlessly that the other person is turned off it before they have reached the shop door.

If I am in favour of something, it seems to be an irritating fact that I either sound only vaguely interested or as if I am from the Cult of Glitter-Ball Refugees.

The same applies to being told good news. If I am pleased by the news and interested, I might exclaim,

'That's brilliant, well done!'

Most of the time this works quite well, though I never sound as enthused as I mean to; the rest of the time my words will be right but my tone sounds sarcastic.

Why on earth do I have to sound sarcastic so much of the time? Not many people respond well to sarcasm, especially not the ones who want you to congratulate them on something marvellous. You don't want to go through life with a Bill Murray-esque tone at the ready to crush the hearts and minds of anyone with news to share. (Or do you? Tempting, at least half the time).

It only makes it worse if you try to explain you always sound that way, you don't mean it, you really are pleased, and so on. People don't want you to make up for it after the event - that means nothing! They want you to react the right way at the time, because that means your feelings are true.

And there is the problem: people think your first reaction is the true one, so if you sound depressed or bothered or irritated or sarcastic, then that is how you feel about them and what they are talking about. You can't blame them, can you?

Once your brain has caught up with the conversation, you realise how you feel and you can then express yourself perfectly. Or at least sound more enthusiastic. But by then it is too late. Feelings have been hurt or the moment has passed and you are left looking like a Sarcastic Susan or a Terse Terry.

Yes, I like your new hair (now I've had a moment to get used to being able to see your face again). Yes, I like your new car (though why you needed to buy another is beyond me). Yes, I like the pot plant your Aunty Flossie got you that looks like the offspring of a giant alien mixed with a small, ugly dog. And yes, for heaven's sake, I do like your child's rendition of Alice Cooper's loudest and most explicit song, even though she is only ten. Lovely!

So yes, once more with feeling is the way to go when someone asks what you think or how you feel. Instant answers are not always to be trusted (and neither are considered ones, if it involves bad cover songs).

Trust me when I say that most of the time I am not as sarcastic as I sound and that I do appreciate you sharing this with me. Trust me, I can express myself, given the time. Honestly, give me the chance to say it once more and then we can move on.

And please, don't ever ask me about your hair again.

Amanda




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That's not the way you feel. Turning off the outer voices.




Harsh experience is one teacher; self-belief is another. And somewhere in between fall other people and what they have to teach us about ourselves.

A good friend can stop a meltdown in its tracks and make you feel it's worthwhile to get up and try again. Never underestimate the power of someone else's faith in you and their ability to help you when you need it most, and in the small things scattered along the way.

And still, I have to say, also be aware of people who do less to help, who speak of our difficulties and triumphs in terms of what they think and feel, and not because of what we need. They can be right alongside the calm voices and also sound calm. They can be on the phone right after the soft words and their words sound soft.

Soft words, though, they are spoken softly - we should be aware of what is said in that voice, the one which sounds like it has our best interests at heart. The difference is in the words used and how they make us feel, rather than in the tone.

One friend might tell you that you can succeed the next time, you can make it better, you will manage. Another friend might say never mind, at least you tried; it's okay, you don't need to do that anyway; don't worry, you can do this other thing instead - that one didn't suit you anyway.

It's a subtle difference. One voice is there with encouragement to try again, the other with consolation that you failed. It's really hard to discern the difference between them at the time, the clues lie more in the way you feel after hearing the words.

You may be angry with yourself and feel like a failure; you may want to hear you are a rubbish, useless person just so you can be even more angry with yourself. The supportive friend may say the kindest things and still be wrong, at that moment, because right then you want to be against yourself.

Later, given time to soak in, the words which build you up are still there and they carry you on to the next time. Once you are over your anger and disappointment, the right words help you feel strong enough to have another go.

The other words, those of consolation, they can trigger your feelings from anger into self-pity and a justified type of distress. You are right to be upset! Why did you ever think you could do it? At least this person understands how hard it is and, because they are kind, they give you a way out of having to upset yourself again. They are only thinking of what is best for you, after all. If they think it's better to leave it and do something else, then perhaps they are right.

And afterwards, when their words have had time to soak in, you feel a deeper sense of loss because you really did want to succeed this time, you really hoped you had it right and could go on to a new phase in life. How sad to be proven wrong again. And even though this consoling friend is there for you, you feel let down and alone.

I'm not saying the consoling friend doesn't care about you but I want to point out they may have a fixed view of you and what you can do. More importantly, they probably have a fixed view of themselves and judge what you can do to change and grow compared to their own capabilities.

The consoling friend covers two bases: they shore up their own self-esteem by patting you on the head and telling you to get back in your box and they also make themselves feel more secure by seeing that you are going nowhere fast.

Meanwhile, the encouraging friend will try again and you are faced with these two points of view, these two images of what you are. It can be frustrating to have people you care about say different things about you and expect you to act on them. It can be easier to fly off the handle and stomp off, hoping they won't be around when you come back.

You know, if you do that, one of them won't be there when you come back. The consoling friend doesn't like it when you show your doubts by having an emotional episode. They only expect emotional episodes when it is appropriate. They will divert off and wait for you to calm down and be reasonable again.

The encouraging friend is the one at the door with light spilling out from behind them as you come back. They've waited around, got someone else to pick the kids up from school, done a load of washing for you while they waited and they have the kettle on, ready for your sorry self appearing at the door.

Without a word they step back and let you into the warm, bright room behind them.

'Let's have a coffee,' they say and fill one of the cups they already set out for you.

Quietly, you pick it up and are soothed by the warmth. Sometime later there will be talking and it could take a long time, but the encouraging friend has the patience to wait while you work your way back round to where you started, ready to try again.

Amanda




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How do I really feel? Turning off the inner voices.




Sometimes words are difficult to find, especially when it comes to explaining how you feel. And sometimes, the feeling comes before - and rises above - the words.

I am very guilty of listening to my internal voices, most of them critical. I let them through when I have an idea or make an assertion about myself. I just want to be my own sounding board but I end up criticising myself without being aware of it..

An easy example would be that my hair was looking nice this week. My first thought was to remind myself if I used good quality shampoo, it would always look nice. If I took more time to get ready, it would always look better. If I just generally cared more about my outer appearance, then having nice hair wouldn't be rare.

Do you see it? A flood of little barbs, all aimed at myself. I realised I was far too ready to accept these as truth: I immediately portrayed myself as a lazy woman who wasn't willing to spend time on her appearance. In reality, I am always careful with how I look, even if the look turns out to be rainbow socks and blue shoes.

As for the criticisms, I can't always afford the good shampoo or I use the yucky stuff and let the kids have the nice one. If I took more time to get ready? Well, spending time on myself, it's just not a priority.

And if I cared more about my appearance? There is the crux of this argument. I do care, but it's only appearance. I care more about getting the latest book finished or walking the dog than I care about looking a certain way.

If you dissect your own internal voices you also pull apart some of the reasons why you criticise yourself. It's not easy, though. If you have those voices to begin with then they are well set in place, comfortable in their surroundings; it takes an extra leap to even question what they say. Why should you think of criticising a voice which has always been there?

Except it hasn't always been there, has it? Do you think your five year old self looked in the mirror and said, 'You should try to mix more with the other children, it's your own fault you get left out'? Or did she whisper, from the edge of the door, 'You should be a nicer person and then you wouldn't be afraid to go in the room'.

No, your child self didn't have the same voices but this is where it starts. The little me wanted princess hair when she looked in the mirror but the inner voices were too small to put into words the feelings of being left out in the school playground. The little me wanted to live in a world of magical creatures and spell books, but she couldn't have told you why this was so far removed from the feelings of being hurt and upset by people she loved.

Children learn how to feel before they learn how to explain. They feel sad or bad or upset and then think of what they can do to stop it happening: be nicer, more friendly, quiet, loud, funny - whatever works. They have the feeling and then the action follows the feeling: it's only later that definite thoughts bind the two together.

With age and experience you learn to blame yourself for things which go wrong because what you did seemed to make them wrong and then what you did to fix it had no effect. Children don't automatically consider other people might be to blame for bad feelings or events because children haven't yet considered that other people aren't the same as them.

Once grown, some of the lessons about other people remain only partially learnt: we know they have separate feelings and motivations but these are often inexplicable and knowing something isn't the same as feeling it. So if we know someone has had a horrible day we might sympathise but if that same person verbally slaps us up the side of the head (because of the horrible day) we immediately think they are verbally slapping us upside of the head. Because they are.

We can't process the hard day part along with what happened to us. Mainly because they were just plain old nasty with us so why should we care about their horrible day? Maybe if they were nicer to people instead of verbally slapping, then they wouldn't have such a horrible day in the first place!

On a positive note, if you can learn to question your inner voices and accepted internal statements, you reach a stage where the feelings come first again, without any interruptions. Emotions, good or bad, are freed and by being able to experience them without critical background noise, it becomes possible to untangle those emotions from an adult perspective. Logically, diligently, lovingly, pick apart your feelings and lead yourself back to where they come from. It takes time but it can be done.

If necessary, ask someone else to help you pry them open so you can see what is inside your unexplained emotions. Someone who knows you well but isn't likely to criticise you - very important!

Above all, re-learn the sheer uncomplicated rush of feeling which used to flood through your body when you were small, before you tried to fix things and be the 'right' kind of person. Go back a few steps, see things in a fresh, yet old-fashioned way and give yourself permission to simply feel before you react to the feeling.

It works, readers. And though it can be confusing to allow this feeling without immediately needing to explain or dismiss it, it is a vital step on the road to accepting yourself and demanding that other people do so too.

Amanda




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You can behave if you really try!




In the minds of unenlightened people, all that children on the autistic spectrum need is clear guidance, given in uncompromising tones and with no room for naughty behaviour. As children we are trained to behave well and treat others with respect so when a child cannot do that, they are often treated as if they will not.

This is so far removed from the truth it would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. Would you chastise a deaf person for not trying hard enough to hear? What if they tried a little bit harder? Wouldn't they like to fit in with the other, hearing children? Would they not like to spend their days listening instead of causing all kinds of problems by not being able to listen?

If someone tries really hard and puts all their effort into it and follows all the instructions given by these genius-level educators, then well, actually, that person will still not be able to hear if they are deaf to begin with. It's a strange aspect of nature that if a creature has not been fitted with an in-built hearing system, then the hearing system will not work. Living in a world governed by the laws of physics, no amount of telling off will make it happen.

Yet, despite this kind of knowledge, and the vast majority of humanity understanding that a physical problem such as deafness cannot be overcome by will alone, most people do expect a child on the autistic spectrum to behave when they are told. And not just to behave, readers, but to behave the same as everyone else.

Let me be blunt: children were not born onto the autistic spectrum because their parents ticked or unticked a box. It is not a choice. It is a fact, hardwired into the very being of that child and it grows with them, just like the rest of their bodies change and develop over time.

Which leads me to another blunt fact: Guess what adults on the spectrum are? Can you guess? Well, they are (are you ready) people who used to be children on the spectrum!!! I know, get that! Amazing isn't it?

Those same children who were told off for misbehaving, for shouting at the wrong times or saying the wrong thing or finding all manner of creative ways to make school life a misery for everyone - those glorious children grow up and become glorious adults. Adults on the autistic spectrum. Who used to be smaller types of human, on the autistic spectrum. and didn't grow out of it, no matter how much telling they had thrown at them.

Yes, behaviours can be modified and children can be trained, bless them, to behave in a way the rest of the world finds more palatable (sometimes I really hate you, world). This is not the same as changing the person, though. The child who learns not to shout out in the quiet assembly because they enjoy the acoustics, that child becomes an adult who is nervous in public places because they know their behaviour might get them into trouble. The steps in between are multitudinous and often painful. At the end of their current journey, all adults on the spectrum have been the naughty child with severe words rained down upon them. Forgive us if some of those adults choose to use severe words of their own by the time they are fully grown.

All adults were once children and this will be the case until we can just grow humanity in a giant test tube. The children told to behave today will become the adults of tomorrow and those adults will have learnt that other people are hard to please - they won't necessarily have learnt any of the desired behaviour though.

What we remember as adults are the kind faces and the soft words. We remember the people who made us feel safe and whose presence brought light into a dark school day. We remember those people, even if we can no longer think of their names. And in the adult world, where the rules seem to change as often as they did at school, we are always looking for that one face, that one voice, which makes everything else all right again.

Be that person, even if it only happens for a moment in a crowded room.

Amanda




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I see an aspie in the distance




Aspie-dar doesn't just work when you meet someone: hearing about a person second-hand can also send a ping on the radar. It seems that even at a distance, Aspergers is recognisable.

IT's girlfriend, IT Girl, is on a new course at college (go on, guess what she's studying). She's the only girl and seems to be surrounded by, well, what looked like a group of mild-mannered students with a penchant for check shirts, faded jeans and bags large enough to fit a laptop. She gets on well with her group, she's made friends with almost all of them but she keeps coming home with talk of Tony.

Tony is loud, you know. IT Girl and her posse will be having a nice conversation about the elemental nature of gaming tech and in barges Tony with a joke about chickens. He hangs about on the outskirts of groups and makes comments at inappropriate moments.

He's just plain rude. He walks through doorways and holds the door open long enough to let himself through safely then leaves it to close without a backward glance. And he's incredibly immature.

I suggested he might be an aspie but IT Girl said he'd been on a test (I expect it wasn't a driving test or a test for colour-blindness) and he was just fiiine. He's obnoxious, that's all, and he thinks he's the most important person in the world!

Also, he invades personal space all the time and has no idea he's not wanted so he is just plain old rude.

Ahem.

I don't know Tony and I haven't seen him in action and I don't know the exact details of his chicken jokes. I haven't witnessed his personal space invasion or his badly-timed tricks with doors. I haven't even heard his loud voice which breaks through the whole room and makes everyone's nerves shiver.

I just have a feeling that a lot of the above will be familiar to aspies and their families. That if we haven't been guilty of space invasions (keep away, thank you very much) we will have seen aspies for whom personal space is that little point of fresh air right between your eye and theirs.

I know I've been the door-flapper (I really, really feel bad about some of those old ladies). I've done the voice and I've so very definitely done the jokes. I've also had a lot of experience hanging about on the outskirts of groups, waiting for the right moment to become part of things and wondering how everyone else got in there so quickly.

Tony might be rude. He might be a space-invading, door-flapping, voice-raising tick of a person whose sole reason for being in college is to annoy everyone around him.

Or he might go home each day confident that he has made progress: no noses whallopped with doors today and only one inappropriate comment over dinner.

Tomorrow might be the day he makes it into the group. And sooner or later they'll all understand his chicken jokes.

And once they do, he's free to spread his brilliance throughout the small universe of college life, no matter what people do to try and stop him.

Within every aspie there's a Tony waiting to break out and take over the world, quietly or with banging doors. It remains to be seen if, within this Tony, there is an aspie waiting to be heard.

Amanda




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