A socially awkward (Philip) Stewart! – Autism West Midlands – July 2014

As a new guest blogger for Autism West Midlands’ Connect, a social media community where people with autism and loved ones of people with autism can come together to share real experiences and beliefs, A socially awkward (Philip) Stewart! gave me a chance to share a little bit of myself with likeminded people. You can read the original version of the blog piece on the Autism West Midlands website or read it below.

Communication and social skills have always been a problem area for me. As a child and as a teenager, I spent a lot of time on my own at home and at school.

On the subject of communicating for people with autism, like myself, it is believed “individuals with autism often lack an understanding of what communication is for” and that “not realising they can have an impact on their world and the people in it, they may fail to develop the essential communication skills the rest of us take for granted”. Continue reading

Working together to assist job seekers with autism – Autism in Practice – July 2014

As the focal point of my final feature for the July 2014 issue of Autism in Practice, I had the opportunity to explore the relationship between The National Autistic Society and Tate in assisting people with autism in employment. As this is an area I’m passionate about from personal experience, it was a pleasure to find out how employees with autism are now being successfully integrated into the workplace.

Only 15% of all people with autism in Great Britain are currently in full-time employment.

The National Autistic Society offer specialist training and consultancy services to employers to help recruiters and managers to become autism confident. Eleanor Martin, Manager of The National Autistic Society’s Employment Training Service, says: “For many people with autism, all they need is a combination of the right support and the opportunity to make their ambitions a reality.” Continue reading

Autism in Pink EU project concludes with free web resources – Autism in Practice – July 2014

In the second feature of three for July 2014’s Autism in Practice, I had the chance to find out more about Autism in Pink, an EU-funded project that helped to bring women with autism together from Great Britain, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain. The project aimed to show how autism can present differently in the female form, rather than the male form. This has resulted in issues that can prevent women from receiving the autism diagnosis they seek.

Autism in Pink was a project for women with autism funded by the EU and supported by The National Autistic Society in Great Britain, Lithuania’s Edukaciniai Projektai, Portugal’s Federacao Portuguesa de Autismo and Spain’s Autismo Burgos.

The project embraced the phrase “nothing about us, without us”, gathering a group of women with autism in each country to attend workshops, giving them a unique opportunity to contribute to the materials produced by the project, meet influencers and politicians as well as attending international events to meet the groups from other countries. By taking part in the project’s research to produce materials to increase awareness and help others, many of the women volunteers themselves gained more personal insight, increased their confidence and overcame personal challenges. Continue reading

Asperger’s syndrome and mental health: A personal perspective – Autism in Practice – July 2014

In the first feature of three for the July 2014 issue of Autism in Practice, I had the pleasure of meeting Callum McCrosson, a man with autism who has dealt with mental health issues along a journey that has resulted in him becoming employed by The National Autistic Society. His story inspired me as I live with depression and anxiety myself.

Callum McCrosson, 26, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 23. He has also experienced life with a mental health issue as a teenager that left him isolated.

Ten years after he first experienced panic attacks that manifested as stomach cramps and muscular contractions, he developed a mental health issue he now feels was “mostly caused by being autistic and not being aware of it.” Continue reading

Birmingham professor wins lifetime achievement award – Autism in Practice – April 2014

In the final feature of four for the April 2014 issue of Autism in Practice, I had a chance to write about the substantial achievements of Rita Jordan that have shaped how education standards for people with autism have been improved over a period of 40 years. She was honoured with an award to celebrate all she has achieved in the field of autism at The National Autistic Society’s Autism Professionals Awards 2014.

University of Birmingham Emeritus Professor Rita Jordan, has won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Autism Professionals Awards after dedicating her 40-year career to improving education standards for people with autism.

Rita has worked as a teacher and then a trainer of professionals to develop theory and research on autism, and has written about and researched educational practice and the needs of children and young people with autism. More than 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism, which affects how a person communicates and relates to others, as well as how they see the world. Continue reading

Double win for Stafford-based psychology team at Autism Professionals Awards – Autism in Practice – April 2014

In the third of four features for the April 2014 issue of Autism in Practice, I shared the success and looked into the work that Midlands Psychology was commended for at The National Autistic Society’s Autism Professionals Awards 2014.

Midlands Psychology is a Stafford-based community interest company (CIC). Run by professionals who have a history of working with people with autism and parents of people with autism.

Midlands Psychology offers support to not only children and teenagers on the spectrum without the need for an initial referral from a medical professional; they also offer an Introduction to Autism course for families who have recently had a child diagnosed with autism. Continue reading

How do you assist people with autism in bespoke palliative and end-of-life care? – Autism in Practice – April 2014

In the second of four features for the April 2014 issue of Autism in Practice, I explored the process undertaken by Scottish Autism as they delivered bespoke palliative and end-of-life care to an existing client they worked with. Through understanding autism, they took their existing best practice into account and shaped it into a plan that worked for the client, the loved ones of the client and also themselves as a care provider.

Jill Ferguson, Services Manager at Scottish Autism, and Val Laurie, a Senior Autism Practitioner at Scottish Autism, work with a team that includes community nurses, consultants and specialists to provide palliative and end-of-life care for people with autism.

The team have recently assisted a service user to access specialist assistance after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Steps were taken to provide physical, psychological, social and spiritual support for the individual. Continue reading

Exploring the link between autism and gastrointestinal issues – Autism in Practice – April 2014

In my new role as a freelance feature writer for Autism in Practice, an e-newsletter that is put together by The National Autistic Society for professionals who work to support people with autism in Great Britain, I wanted to share the first feature I’ve put together with you all that was written on a possible link between autism and gastrointestinal issues. There is growing awareness of a potential link and through the examples I’ve used in the feature, I hope I show this.

Danny Bovell, 20, and Nicky Monks, 15, have both experienced issues with their gastrointestinal systems that have resulted in the need to wear a stoma bag for the foreseeable future after ileostomy surgery. They both also have autism.

Virginia Bovell, Danny’s mother, delivered a session at the NAS Professionals Conference 2014 in Harrogate on the possibility of an overlap between autism and gastrointestinal issues alongside Professor Simon Murch, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at Warwick Medical School. Continue reading

Finding a few more puzzle pieces!

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! Continue reading

An irreverent (irrelevant) take on the NAS Professional Conference 2014!

 

Thinking about the list of honour The Boy, a child who John Williams spoke of with a lot of love and affection as he transferred his My Son’s Not Rainman blog into a session at The National Autistic Society’s Professional Conference 2014, drew up by getting banned from holiday camps, summer clubs and schools made me laugh!

Ros Blackburn showing captivated listeners a quote from her mum at her talk on how autistic people should never use can’t in life, but instead use cannot as a way of showing something can’t be done yet but it can be done in the future, made me cry.

Being around an incredible group of autistic advocates who have fought unique battles in their unique lives made me feel humbled. By spending an amazing three days in Harrogate, Great Britain with autistic heroes, professionals who work with autistic heroes and employees from The National Autistic Society itself, I experienced experiences and felt feelings that were much stronger than I’d planned for. Continue reading