I’ve had an epiphany. This tends to happen every now and then because even though I know I have autism, I don’t always recognise the way it affects me.
On Tuesday 1st April 2014, Horizon: Living with Autism was broadcast on BBC Two. Showing a window on a magnificent world full of lateral thinking and brutal honesty, the documentary focussed on three case studies who have found ways of getting through life while they’ve lived with autism. There was a feeling of complete positivity for me that shone a bright and beautiful light on the autistic mind.
Particularly, the relationship between Kathy Lette and her son, Julius, made me smile. I’ve had a chance to write about Julius before, but I have never seen him. During the documentary, he was asked to define autism but he struggled to do so. This made me think and over the days that have passed since, I’ve reached a little eureka! moment!
I’m no closer to defining autism as it affects everybody in the spectrum in a wealth of different ways. But I have found a few of the puzzle pieces I need to make my own life with autism fit together.
By taking time to relax and think after delivering two presentations on care provisions for adults with autism in Great Britain during an Autism Awareness day, organised by Fairway Training as a homecare and training provider who look to work with clients who live with a variety of disabilities to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day 2014 on Wednesday 2nd April 2014, two quirky things I do became crystal clear. This has made me laugh and has worried me in equal measure:
- When I enter a room full of people, like a busy office, I feel really uncomfortable if there is no purpose for me being there. But I just stand or sit, and don’t leave!
- If I start talking about one of my obsessions, I actually can’t stop talking. I lose all track of time. There’s no off switch!
With the first of these quirks, realising the awkwardness of this situation has surprised me.
I’ve realised if I have a purpose to be somewhere, this being delivering my presentations, I can do that and feel part of a big crowd. When I don’t have that purpose though, I’ve realised I can go into a room full of people and happily stay when anybody or everybody else in that room is just confused.
“What are you doing here? What do you want?” are probably the words on the lips of the people who need to be in that room for an actual purpose, and I must reply in a subconscious state with “I have no idea. But I figure I’ll just sit over there for a moment and be incredibly odd!”.
Now, the natural response if you feel awkward would be to leave the room wouldn’t it? Just walk away, close the door after you’ve walked out of it and wonder what on earth just happened?
That’s far too obvious! By being unusually non-lateral in my thinking patterns, I just stay. Whether I’m stood or sat, I’m rooted to the spot. For that moment I’m being an oddball, common sense doesn’t prevail. It does when I have the epiphany and realise what I’ve done but at the time, there is no voice shouting “LEAVE! LEAVE NOW!”.
This quirk is niché. It’s a specialist one but with talking about obsessions until the cows do not literally come home, this strikes me as being something a lot of people with autism can hopefully relate to?
Sport is my thing. Watching it, more than playing it, but it is something that can be discussed until the end of the time. If you know me, never make the mistake of steering a conversation towards sporting activity unless you really want to talk about it. Having a choice never becomes a choice as one brave soul found out at Fairway’s Autism Awareness event.
He used to be an athlete. A hurdler, if we’re being detailed. He told me about an injury that ended his career prematurely and spoke of the training partners he had who have become household names in Britain. We talked and talked and it was brilliant, but the realisation again set in that there is no stopping me if I’m talking about something I love.
If there is a big sporting event going on, clear the schedule. Nothing productive of sorts will really happen for a while!
Losing track of time easily happens and hours can go by. Getting so enthusiastic about a great love can take a day away and by throwing in the added bonus where body language isn’t always easy to read, the poor soul who dared to bring your favourite subject into conversation could have switched off a long time ago!
Right, that’s enough soul searching for one blog piece. I’d be curious to know though if you’ve found similar puzzle pieces to these, if you have autism? Perhaps not the first one though? I’m sure you’re all far too socially aware to have the first one!