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The Autistic Voice

To inspire, entertain and most importantly help you realise that while life doesn't always follow your chosen path, there is always something positive to be learned and more to be gained. Dr Sandra Beale-Ellis

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND: AUTISTIC CONNECTIONS?

Hi Readers

Now this is unusual for my blog; to write about a tearoom.  What I am really writing about I suppose is one of my favourite childhood books (away from my obsession with Enid Blyton anyway).  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I loved the book and still have my childhood copy given to me by my godparents; red faux leather with gold embossed lettering, published in 1975.  Just getting the book off my bookshelf this evening, has made me want to read it again.  I chose the black and white image rather than coloured ones, as that’s how they appear in my book.

Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is one of the famous people named on many of the lists of famous autistics.  He preferred the company of children (!) and was very antisocial.  He disliked dealing with more than one person at once.  His time management was such that he missed meals and bedtime, in his bid to concentrate on writing.  He had a curiously naïve belief that others could be converted to his way of thinking.  He was extremely rigid in thinking and planning. He was  an obsessive photographer.   Several of his characters show potentially autistic traits apparently.

These are just some of the traits which have been linked to him.  It certainly sounds as though he was on the spectrum but of course he died long before Hans Asperger or Leo Kanner had described these traits or before they were named.

Local to me is a new tearoom; aptly named Alice and the Hatter.  It is a lovely big colourful place; not strictly following everything Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but there is a very large nod to the book itself.  It is really an assault on the senses; perhaps if autistic and you’ve had a difficult day, it might be a little too much, or simply pick a quieter late afternoon weekday visit.   This seating area is just one section; there is a massive long table with grass going all down it, either for eating at or for children to read or draw, and there are usual grown up tables and chairs.  There is a literary scheme where local businesses sponsor the tearoom to buy ‘Alice’ books to encourage children to read.  I believe the children can take these home with them.   Food is named around characters and scenes from the book.  There is ‘Disney type’ music playing.  At events there is a Mad Hatter and Alice.  It really is quite lovely.  I am trying to encourage the owners to open an ‘Enid Blyton’ themed tearoom next.  I can imagine eating the Famous Five High Tea with ginger beer and rock cakes!

It makes me wonder if I was drawn to Alice when I was younger, being autistic?  Yes, I must read the book again soon to find out if there is any relevance.

 

If you are passing through East Kent, pop in for a visit, but it might be worth booking; at the weekend, it was jam packed.  Until then, just revisit your favourite childhood book; I love to get out of the adult world from time to time.  Let me know what your favourite childhood book was and what memories it stirs.

Until next time…


www.theautisticvoice.co.uk

AM I AUTISTIC? DO I WANT TO BE?

Hi Readers

This image depicts a slice of a conversation I had this afternoon with a young teenage girl and her mother.  I had been asked to chat to her as there has been talk that she may be autistic and she was struggling to cope with the world, and school in particular.

Her parents are trying to get the help she needs; meanwhile her life feels topsy turvy while she tries to make sense of the world around her; and the peers who should be her friends but just appear as though they are ‘aliens’.

One day she feels on top of the world; the next she feels as though she is not worthy.  She is a beautiful young lady, with a heart of gold.  My fur babies instantly fell in love with her which makes her a good person in my eyes.  Within seconds of meeting her, they were rolling around waiting for tummies to be rubbed.  Holly, usually very wary of strangers and especially children, was snuggling up to her as she would to my husband.

Secondary school is difficult for her; she is aching to find her place there but it is not easy.  I confessed that I felt the same at her age; it was the year I was bullied: emotionally, name calling, bag being thrown carelessly around the room; every attempt to embarrass me.  Why… I still don’t understand.  I had done nothing to anyone; I went to school, I read mostly, hated PE, and wanted to learn.  Why was this bad?  I watched my peers, trying to copy their clothes, the way they did their hair, or used eye shadow.  Did I want to be like them?  Perhaps.  Mostly I just wanted to fit in so that they would leave me alone… literally.  I would offer to help teachers tidy classrooms; anything to prevent me from having to interact in the playground.  Perhaps I was seen as a teacher’s pet.  Looking back it was highly likely.

Chatting with this young lady was supposed to be for her benefit… it began to feel like therapy for me; a way to let out all the feelings I had kept locked up for decades perhaps?  I talked and talked; so much I exhausted myself.  Despite us autistics not being able to read facial expressions, I knew the moment she’d had enough; the moment I had given her too much information.  I tried to slow down, to wrap it up, but still my voice kept on going.  Now I feel exhausted and guilty that I had overloaded her as I was trying to help.

I left her with a few small coping strategies.  I always maintain I don’t just want to cope, but for now that’s what she needed from me.  Enough to at least get her to school without a panic attack.  She is going home to start a journal; where she can let out whatever is in her thoughts and heart, without saying it aloud, without having to engage with another and not know what to expect in return.  She is going home to work with her parents, in building a ‘chill out zone’ within her room, or somewhere in the house.  Another autistic child I know has a ‘tent-like’ space in his room with lots of squishy cushions, lights and books.  His quiet space.  I would quite like a version for myself in fact.

My own get away is go visit the cinema alone during the day when I can.  I love to do this; sitting in the dark, focusing on a movie, not having to engage with anyone else.  I always pre-book my seat in the same position of the cinema – top right hand corner looking at the screen.  I have a wall behind me for safety; a little shelf for my bag to safely sit and I can see every position including the entrance from this seat.  No surprises.  Complete control.

I feel bad that she and her parents are now going to start the often horrendous process that is diagnosis and all that goes with it for a child.  I hope her school are sympathetic and will do something to help her find a ‘chill out space’ within the school.  Ironically she wants to be a primary school teacher when she is older; perhaps help other children not to experience what she has herself.

When will girls get the help they need; the recognition that autism is not just for boys?  We don’t want to just cope.  We want to thrive, to live…

Until next time…


www.theautisticvoice.co.uk

GRATITUDE – NATURE

Hi Readers

I know… its been a couple of weeks and I should have been blogging about my gratitude challenge.  I am a little behind but I will catch up – promise.

The exciting news is that my book Sensing the City, has finally been finished and is now with the publishers.  As soon as the cover has been finalised and approved, I will reveal it plus a synopsis of the book content.  Just be patient… its due out on 21 August and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

For now, I shall concentrate today’s blog on nature.  I have been inspired today by weeding!

After a lovely yoga class this morning, where concentration was the theme, we practiced balances including tree posture and its various forms.  I then went into my office for a few hours where I became quite stressed and in need of more relaxation.  I decided, for the first time this spring, to do a little work in our large garden.  My plan was to do no more than half an hour, just some tidying and sweeping.  I have just come in from the garden (it was about to get dark) having spent just shy of an hour – I cleared weeds in one large area, collected dog poop (yep, reality kicked in), and walked around the whole garden assessing what was next to be done.

Rather than being tired and fed up as I often am when I leave all the gardening to the weekends, I felt invigorated; grateful for the opportunity to get my hands (well gloves anyway) dirty, to smell the earth and the weeds, to chat to the cockerel as I weeded alongside the chickens, to see the sun in the sky as I grovelled on my hands and knees, pulling grass and dead stuff; clearing space to add beautiful plants and flowers.  All around me were daffodils and hyacinths rising to attention, and snowdrops just beginning to flower.

Often when I finish my normal work day, I will sit in the front of some nameless show on television for a while to ‘relax’.  I am not sure that it really relaxes me; I just feel as though I have wasted an hour of my time.  Today I felt productive, excited that I had started to make the garden look better, and grateful for the opportunity to really feel part of nature.

I go into the evening with renewed vigour, keen to continue to be productive but in a relaxing kind of way.  I am sure I shall sleep better, I will have achieved something useful, and I will have more time at the weekend after teaching, to do something more exciting.  For this Sunday, I have planned an audition to take on a small part at my local theatre; it is years since I was on the stage so I am looking forward to this, albeit nervously.

I may end up working behind the scenes this time if the parts involve too much line learning; but the possibility is exciting regardless.  There is a need for a production assistant as well; perhaps I should take this on; I can be very loud when I need to be; bossy, me… surely not?!!

Wish me luck for Sunday.  For now I am off to feed my fur babies for which I am so grateful.  I need a good long sniff of both of them, and then I shall be very happy for the evening.  I also have a lovely camembert in the fridge ready for baking… a certain LB influenced this one.

Until my next blurb…


 

GRATITUDE – THE REALISATION

imagesHello Readers

I have always considered myself a positive person, who is grateful for what I have.  I am in the midst of a yoga foundation course, and have to write a journal as part of the course.  The comment from the tutor, is that I need to make more notes about showing gratitude, rather than my usual critiquing and reflecting.  During the recent day of training for the course, I heard myself saying rather too much, ‘I can’t do that’, ‘oh I’m rubbish at that’, ‘my balance is bad on that leg’…  I hadn’t realised how much I put myself down when I think I am struggling with something.  It has been a real eye opener.  As I was teaching on Saturday, I heard the same from some of my students, yet I became impatient with them, knowing only too well, that they could do it.

I then had a conversation with my husband, over the weekend, while he was washing my car, as he does every weekend.  Have I been grateful for this activity, or do I take it for granted?

The conversation was around the support we give each other in our lives, for our study, our work, our passions.  I began to doubt myself; do I give him enough gratitude for what he has done for me, for what he loves to do.  Does he give me enough in return?

I had a day of being overwhelmed last week, and my two pooches came and sat on my lap, one of them licking my face as a few tears rolled down.  Am I grateful for the love they show me unconditionally, do I play with them often enough to prove my love for them?

I have an assistant in my office who works hard and steadily through her work without complaint, while around her are two stress-y autistic bosses; one who loses patience at many small problems, and the other who is either hyper-active in all that she does, or feeling as low as can be (that’s me).  It can’t be easy for her, yet she seems to take it in her stride.  Are we grateful?

I have a beautiful house in the country, with a large garden, hens, doves and I grow my own fruit and veg; am I grateful?  At the weekend I moaned quite a bit about how much cleaning it takes… yes I love what I have but perhaps I don’t appreciate it as much as I should.  I am not sure why I moaned – I had a lovely time cleaning and clearing out yet more clutter.

I am quite distraught by the fact that I do not seem to be as grateful as I should be, that I am perhaps not as positive as I thought.

I am therefore setting myself a challenge, which you might want to join in with as well.

I am going to find something I am grateful for each day and write it into a journal (my usual notebook on a special page), for 30 days.  I shall blog about these.  They could be just privately acknowledged, or as a declaration on a social media platform, or just said out loud to your family each day.

Once I have finished the whole 30, I shall publish them as an article on my website, www.theautisticvoice.co.uk.    In the meantime keep coming back to my blog for updates as I progress through my journey.

Good luck to us all.

Until next time…

sandra

 

 

THE ANTICIPATION OF SPEAKING

Welcome to February.  Where has the first month gone?  My goal for the year to simplify life and take on fewer commitments seems to have gone awry.  I have taken committed to a few speaking engagements in the next few months so this blog is about the pre-speech.

20120626-223607.jpgThe night before a ‘talk’ and I’m starting to feel anxious; that knot in the pit of my stomach which threatens to burst if I think about it too much.

My notes are all prepared; no PowerPoint for me this time.  Just me stood in front of a group of people who apparently are eager to listen.

This one is a lunch and I’ve already refused to eat with them.  The autism which is part of me, avoids social functions if possible when small talk is involved.  Add in the after lunch speech, and my anxieties would have been sky high.

The train journey to London has gone too quickly; in a couple of hours the time will be upon me.  This time my husband is at the lunch; the first time he has seen or heard me speak in a professional capacity.

He goes off to lunch and leaves me in a hotel lounge with the train tickets… dangerous.  I was tempted to go home but decided instead to rearrange my notes.  Nothing like last minute changes.

I leave the hotel and head to the venue, only to find they are running late and not even eaten the main course yet.  So I quietly sit in a corner waiting, until eventually they try to persuade me to eat.  Anxiety once again sets in… Delays, expectations not fulfilled, being coerced into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation – everything an autistic individual tried to avoid.

Wish me luck.

Until next time

sandra

 

www.theautisticvoice.co.uk

NEW BEGINNINGS

Happy New Year to you all.635856536729266387-1590926749_new-years-resolutions-photo

‘A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour’.

This is the computer search definition of a New Year’s Resolution. Traditionally we all make some kind of resolution, but how important are these really?

I stopped resolutions years ago, but instead set myself a few well-chosen goals. For example in 2014 one of my goals was to become a doctor.  I knew I could achieve it, my doctorate thesis had been handed in December 2013, and my viva for the end of January 2014 was already arranged.  It wasn’t a foregone conclusion however so it still provided me with a challenge.  I passed my viva with minors, so I still had work to do to achieve my goal.  In fact as it turned out, I had many tables to prepare as the examiners apparently needed these to prove my work in a more visual way!  Click on this link to my thesis Perspectives of the Autistic Voice: An Ethnography Examining Informal Education Learning Experiences if you are interested in checking it out.

‘Resolutions’ or whatever you call them should be achievable, with practice, with work, with determination.   Adding a couple of definites; things you will achieve without question, can also help with motivation.

One of mine in the past has been put my keys in the same place every day so I don’t lose them. Meaningless to most, but to me a lifesaver and an act which has saved my sanity. I still remember the time I was walking around the house and garden with my keys, loading my car with charity bags, and I dropped my keys into one of the bags by accident.  Luckily I didn’t take the bags to the charity for several days (I couldn’t find my keys to drive there) so I eventually emptied out all of the bags one day in desperation and found them!

Mostly I try to make meaningful goals which may help others in some way as well, even if it means I am calmer or less anxious and therefore a nicer person to be around.

In 2015 one of my goals was to finish and get published my book Autism and Martial Arts: A Guide for Children, Parents and Teachers. (The details are on my website home page) This was achieved with a lot of work and countless edits and proofreading which was exhausting.  I wanted to achieve this goal to help autistic children; to give them confidence to achieve whatever they wanted to do; to guide parents to find the best clubs for their children; to provide information for teachers to give the best possible experience in martial arts for autistic students.

So, for last year’s goals. One was to take my yoga further and gain more knowledge; I am now in the middle of my foundation course with the British Wheel of Yoga so I have definitely achieved that.  I am aiming for teacher training later this year.  Another made mid-year was to give up eating meat; this was for various personal reasons, but aspects of my health have clearly improved since then.  I am also currently in the middle of my second book editing and I will blog more about this as it gets closer to publication.

I also made several small and seemingly insignificant ‘lifestyle decisions’ some of which I will share with you copied verbatim from one of my many notebooks!:

  • No more skinny jeans unless stretchy!
  • Comfort is key and constantly fiddling is not stylish!!
  • When hair is good colour – don’t change it! (I still change it!)
  • Quality rather than quantity

Now these are hardly life-changing goals but I am sure there are plenty of you out there who feel the same way and write similar things in your notebooks. By the way for those of you who know me well, the last decision has even applied to my ‘notebook collection’.  Yes, I actually pared down my collection last year and try to use the same good notebooks for most things – quality, the ones with the pockets at the back and elastic.  I just add pen loops.  If you need to know about these pen loops, contact me.  They are wonderful.  I digress…

So now, I shall leave you to ponder your goals or resolutions or promises to yourself… I am off to work on one of mine for 2017: finish this second book before my editor emails me again!!

Don’t forget to check out my website www.theautisticvoice.co.uk

Until next time

sandra

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Hello dear readers

Just putting out a beautiful image for the New Year. Back soon for a new year of blogging. 

Sandra

DOGS ARE MY COMFORT

IMG_0079As an autistic individual, I can honestly say that my two little dogs are what get me through the day sometimes.  Whether it is for a quick cuddle, or a sniff to heighten my senses, or even a long hug for my benefit probably more than theirs, they are always there for me when I need them.  In return they are spoilt rotten and know exactly how to get around us.

Of course sometimes they are the cause of the stress; an unwanted wee, snatching any tissues whenever they can, pinching the last bite of a sandwich from my plate when I get up to answer the doorbell (Rosie!).

I have been unwell for nearly three weeks, following a several week period of overload.  Today I became really stressed after work and just needed to hold them.  They let me, even when I had a shouty fit at one point (this does not happen often for me but today I just let go).  I sometimes feel bad that they have to listen to these meltdown episodes but I suppose they are used to them and just seem to know instinctively that we need a cuddle or a kiss.

They are always here if I am unwell, having a fit of tears, or just want to talk to them.  I know it sounds bizarre to the non-dog owners among you, but I swear they understand and know exactly what I need.  It’s more than I can say for many human beings.

So thank you with all my heart to my babies, Holly and Rosie, for being there for me and for my husband Joe who also needs them.  Happy birthday for Friday Holly; 10 years old!

Until next time…

sandra

POST GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN AUTISM

20120626-223607.jpgHi Readers

Today I especially welcome the students of the London Post Graduate Certificate in Autism and Asperger’s. I write this the night before the last day of the course, when I am scheduled to present.  Sadly, I have been suffering with a chronic chest infection for a week already and I am in no fit state to travel to London right now.  Therefore I have had to speak to Dr Luke Beardon, Course Director and we have mutually agreed I won’t travel this time. By the time I publish this, you will have just finished and be about to leave for home after three days of intensive work.

I love to present to this course and have been doing so for some years. The course literally (I don’t use this word lightly) changed my life.  It was at the course, during the sensory lecture especially, that I had a lightbulb moment and realised that my darling husband had Asperger’s.  So much of what was being said was relevant to him.  After some time for both of us to adjust to this possibility, he sought clinical diagnosis.  A few months later and I started my doctorate at Sheffield Hallam; it apparently became clear to many that I might also have the syndrome.  Later that year I was also diagnosed.

This course for me involved three separate trips to Hertfordshire (192 miles round trip), followed by two papers of based on research and literature reviews. The course opened my eyes to the good, the bad and the ugly of autism and even more of the attitudes others have towards it. It enabled me to really look at my teaching, to listen to my students and to explore the autistic teacher’s experiences as well.  It was a good grounding for me to move onto my EdD, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As you finish your teaching day, and leave your new found group ‘siblings’ (thanks Jenni for the phrase I know you use for your fellow autistics) ready to go off and get on with your research, may I give you a few tips from experience?

  1. Be really clear about what you want to research, and think how it may fit into any future study (Masters and beyond).
  2. Type up your references as you go – we always think it will be quick to gather them at the end, but believe me… IT ISN’T and there is always one missing which will take you hours to find!
  3. Take note of the list I offered in the second of my presentation slides within your pack. This is so important when considering, working with, researching or writing about us autists ( I hate both terms of aspies and auties). (Apologies, the rest of the slides were not offered as it would have given my game away; as it turned out this was futile).
  4. Read as much as you can around your subject. If you happen to be researching any kind of sport, physical activity or martial arts, my third slide may be of use. Also consider my doctoral thesis which uses ethnography, reflective practice and auto-ethnography as research methods.  The link to this is on my website.
  5. Use Blackboard. I found it really useful but was so frustrated that it was only utilised by a few. As a distance learning course, I really needed to debate certain issues with someone in the know, and there never seemed to be anyone else available.
  6. If you have questions, are unsure, or need support and advice, contact your tutor without fear or anxiety.
  7. Enjoy the process.

I am so sorry I wasn’t able to be there for you today. You are very welcome to contact me if you have questions, comments or just need to sound off about an aspect of your study.  You can find me via this blog, of course; my website www.theautisticvoice.co.uk; twitter @Beale/Ellis or Facebook www.facebook.com/theautisticvoice.  All of these links are on my website as well.

Hope to ‘see you’ here soon

Until next time…

sandra

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