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Autism Acceptance Digest
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Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.
Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.

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‘There’s nothing wrong with me, I just experience the world differently from most people’
29 June 2018, by #Autistic self-advocate Bethany Black, The Scotsman

People ask me “how did you get into comedy?” Wrong question. I got into comedy because I wanted to. I had the opportunity and did gigs in pubs for a long time and then eventually got good enough to get paid for it. “Why did you get into comedy?” is the interesting story. I mean on the surface it’s because I’ve a pathological need to be liked coupled with an inability to feel joy, but it’s more than that…

I recently discovered I’m on the #Autism Spectrum. Actually, I’ve known for over a decade, but it was late last year I was finally diagnosed with Autism. Shortly after, I discovered I also had ADHD.

That was more difficult to figure out, as my sister kept saying “You’ve definitely got ADHD,” and I didn’t believe her because she likes diagnosing things. Anyway, she sent me the list of symptoms and I lost it. Then I got a second one and never read it. Then my inability to remember to do things – like lock doors, take towels into showers, turn ovens off and the like – became too much for my partner and she told me to get tested for pre-senile dementia. Whilst I was trying to remember to book an appointment I looked at the symptoms list and there were 21 diagnostic criteria, so basically, I couldn’t be bothered reading that.

I always thought I was a hypochondriac and over the last few years I found out I’ve actually got a lot of things wrong with me. It messed with my self-perception, I’ve always thought I’m a just loveable screw-up, but it turns out I’m a terrible burden.

I’ve struggled with depression ever since I was about seven. I knew that I was trans and realised that it meant the world wasn’t intended to be for the likes of me, that even if I was to be out and happy in myself then the world wouldn’t accept me.

By the time I was 20, trying to live with it as a secret had taken its toll and left me suicidal and, sidebar, taking a lot of drugs and drinking booze like it was a full-time career.

I came out and things got a bit better. I got clean and sober and things got a bit better again.

When you’ve had to cope with a condition your whole life it becomes so normalised it’s only when you talk to other people who’ve never experienced it that you realise how weird it is. It was after my fiancée dumped me at the age of 32 where everything fell apart over the space of about a year. I broke my leg, got ME, put on seven stone from not being able to walk for a year and our house got broken into the week before Christmas. On top of all of that, I had six friends and one kitten die. It was quite the year.

Broken, I went to the doctor and she leapt into action. She immediately put me on an eight-month waiting list to see a therapist, so all I had to do in the meantime was not kill myself. By this point I’d had 36 years of practice at that, so the last eight months were easy. My first session went so well I was convinced that within six months I would be, if anything, too mentally healthy.

On my third meeting with her she said, “Let’s talk more about your agoraphobia”. That came as a shock. “I’m not agoraphobic,” I said. Clearly not agoraphobic. That’s Sigourney Weaver in Copycat who never goes out or only communicates with others on the internet; or Matthew in Game On, a complete fantasist and… Oh my God, I’m agoraphobic.

But how could I be agoraphobic? I was at my therapist’s office, wasn’t I? I was out and about.

Turns out this was like OCD, and not like the version you see in films. My OCD unfortunately doesn’t manifest in a clean and ordered house, it mostly involves intrusive thoughts telling me I either have, or want to, hurt people I care about. So, for me agoraphobia means not going out except for work, and then going straight from my house to my car to the green room to the stage back to my car and then home again.

I find people terrifying. Crowds especially. Public transport is an absolute no go. Ever. I get panic attacks when groups of men get on, especially if they’re drinking and loud. As a result, I’ve not got a train or bus in years.

People always like to ask, “So why is that?” Like that’s ever going to be the story that gets the party started. Like there’s going to be an answer that goes, “well I was on a bus once and it filled up with rabbits and they all wanted a cuddle, and I realised then that I would never have a public transport journey as good as that again and can’t bring myself to try.”

Nope, the answer, “I got beaten up on a lot of trains and buses as a teenager,” as an explanation ruins any further conversation about it. So, I was referred for psychotherapy, where they said these responses are technically PTSD and I got discharged to look after my own mental health with a handful of Prozac and beta blockers and the phone number of the emergency psychiatric ward if it all gets too much whilst I sit on the two-year waiting list. Yay for mental health provision in the UK!

I told my therapist I think I might be on the Autism Spectrum and I finally got an assessment. I went with my sister as they needed someone who knew me when I was a kid (my parents now live in France), and over the three hours of testing I got asked a lot of questions about how I deal with things. It becomes clear that so many of the things I thought were just “comedian” traits match the diagnostic criteria for Autism.

The broadcasting rather than listening? Being afraid of being in crowds but being OK with being on a stage and awkwardness in conversations, (and honey, you haven’t seen awkward until you’ve seen two comedians who’ve never met before trying to have a conversation – it’s like watching one of those Japanese games Expos where they’re showing off their latest AI as it awkwardly tries to interact)? Autism.

So why didn’t they spot it earlier? Because, women are better at masking Autistic traits. Skills society teaches women are desirable; being quiet, reserved, taking a back seat in group conversations? They are all traits of Autism. That forming close bonds with animals over humans? That’s an Autism trait.

Suddenly it explained so much about who I am and why I am how I am. The relief was extraordinary.

But at the same time there was grief. That there was “something wrong with me”, as I felt it at the time, and that no matter how hard I tried to improve there were things I’d not be able to do. There was a guilt about it too, my OCD kicked in saying “maybe you’re just pretending so that you’ve got an excuse for every time you don’t want to do something”. The in-depth questions brought up a load of issues for me that I’d never even considered. It explained why I drank to be able to socialise. It also explained why I now find it hard to make friends. It also made me sad that no one had spotted it earlier and all the lost opportunities I’ve missed because I’d not had the support I needed to be able to take advantage of them all. In the end though it’s been the best thing that’s happened for me. There’s nothing wrong with me, I just experience the world differently from most people. It’s not exactly a super power (although my father-in-law did ask me how many Lego bricks were in his son’s room after I’d been in there) but by the same token it’s not something I feel I should hide away.

Oh yeah, and I finally read that ADHD list, I’m sure you can guess how that went? Suffice to say I was in tears of relief by the 21st symptom in a row that I had.

Bethany Black: Unwinnable is at The Stand 2, 16 North St Andrew Street, Edinburgh, 3-26 August, 3.50pm, £10 (£9), www.edfringe.com
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Being Autistic, My Loneliness May Not Look Like Yours, But It’s Just As Valid
What if parties full of other people make you feel more lonely than actually being alone?
4 May 2018, by Autistic self-advocate Carly Jones, Huffington Post.


This week, the National Autistic Society suggested that Autistic people are four times more likely to be lonely than the general public. This figure is striking but not all that surprising to me and many other Autistic people who deal with this everyday of our lives – just see the comments in response to the story on social media. It’s time we talk about our - often unique - experiences of loneliness. Only by talking can we make sure Autism isn’t forgotten in the national debate on loneliness and the Government’s upcoming strategy for tackling the issue.

Being Autistic, social events consisting of small talk and - even worse - networking are normally akin to being trapped in a lift with big spiders or your ex’s new, much less awkward girlfriend.

It was my friend’s birthday last week. He is the best type of person for an Autistic woman like me to be friends with: he’s an actor and can spot a fake smile in a million-mile radius and he is so straightforward it makes my communication puzzle so much easier. This year I finally found the confidence to go to a party he hosts each year. When I arrived he hugged me and said he knows I love him now as I actually left the house for him.

He gets it. He’s gay but why oh why can’t I find a straight man that gets it too? Oh that’s right, because I’d have to leave the house to find him.

What if parties full of other people make you feel more lonely than actually being alone?

Past events have also shown that, upon finding a nice man, they seem to not be as thrilled as I am at the prospect of, what I call ‘being alone together’, by week two. To me that’s heaven. Being alone together consists of being in the same room, not talking, yet the silence being comfortable.

Some people show companions they care by phoning them, making friends with their friends or committing valuable chunks of their free time to hanging out with them. In my case, it’s different – and not least because I need recovery time, alone, to recharge from simply working or being a parent. If I have ever left the house for you, on your terms, please view that as a genuine act of love. Please also know, when I’ve stayed home, this is not to be misunderstood as being anti-social, a lack of empathy or a lack of interest in others. It’s quite the contrary.

I feel everything, all at once without being able to process and therefore understand it quick enough. How can you make small talk when you have the biggest questions imploding inside your mind, yet you’re required to talk about the weather and their job roles (both very readily available on Google)? How can you let down your guarded poker face, disguising the fact that social small talk feels like an invitation to an archaeological dig with the most fascinating discoveries to be made yet you are only permitted to sweep the first layer of dust and leave?

It makes sense then perhaps, that just as I experience socialising differently, I also experience loneliness differently too. Does that mean my loneliness is less valid?

It’s often the case that at the very moment there is a logistical, ‘special interest’-based, purpose to be social that I become motivated and, to a degree, utterly blinded. A notable example of this being last year when I was invited to the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission at Parliament. I was attending in my role of a disability advocate with Scope. Parliament being one of my absolute favourite places on the entire globe, the objectives are clear, and my excitement was high.

Jo Cox famously said that we have “more in common than that which divides us” and her hope for more understanding and social cohesion is something that inspires so many of us. Just by being invited to be a part of the commission meant I felt included and a useful part of society. I went home with the appreciation that you do not have to be old to be lonely, you can be lonely from childhood. I started questioning whether I had ever truly not felt a degree of isolation? I was on stage acting at an early age. Was this purely because it was one of the best ways for me to have friends, a script being a rare time I was equipped with the right words to say?

In my role of a British Autism Advocate I wear many hats - speaking at universities around the UK, designing new empowering ‘Autistic girl power’ t-shirts, acting, writing, helping women in court cases and so much more. Busy, busy, always wanting to take on more.

What if, just like in childhood, my work has become my friend? What if over-achieving has become my spouse? What if I spent all evening writing this very blog simply because that’s what my brand of loneliness looks like?

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We grew up not knowing we were #Autistic
26 March 2018, BBC News

Some women with #Autism aren't diagnosed until adulthood - if ever. Here, a group of Autistic women open up about their experiences.

READ THEIR STORIES


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The secret to… raising a happy #Autistic child
24 March 2018, by Jessie Hewitson, The Guardian

Know that your child’s #Autism is part of who they are. It doesn’t make them any less valuable. Encouraging your child to behave in a non-Autistic way will not increase their chances of being happy and successful; being accepted for who they are and supported with the things they find challenging will.

Be aware of your child’s sensory differences. They may process sound, smells, tastes, textures, touch and light differently. If so, fix the environment rather than expecting them to cope. Give them noise-cancelling headphones in noisy places; create a quiet space they can retreat to during get-togethers; don’t make them wear clothes whose textures are painful to them; if they hate birthday parties, don’t make them go.

Try to limit anxiety. Offer structure (visual timetables) and routine (do the same for every holiday), and don’t push them too far outside their comfort zone (but do push them a bit).

Fill in the missing blanks. Explain unspoken social rules and use logic: “You shouldn’t scream as it hurts other people’s ears and they won’t want to do nice things for you if you do.” Write the explanation down, with visuals, along with suggestions of what the child can do if they think they are going to scream.

Value Autistic traits. My son doesn’t lie, he’s never sly or manipulative, and it would not occur to him to put anyone down. These are some of the many reasons why people like him and I’m proud to be his mum. If he weren’t Autistic, would these qualities be there? Impossible to know, but I suspect his Autism has helped to make him the funny, kind and clever boy he is.

• Autism: How To Raise a Happy Autistic Child, by Jessie Hewitson, is published by Orion Spring at £14.99. To buy a copy for £12.74, go to guardianbookshop.com.
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What It Was Like to Grow Up in Japan With Undiagnosed Autism
October 31, 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Kana Umagami, The Mighty

My name is Kana. I’m 22 years old and recently completed a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. I am also Autistic and this is the story of my life growing up with Asperger’s syndrome.

I have a passion, obsession and strong interest in Asperger’s, which comes from my recent diagnosis. The picture is from this April, when I presented my research on the chemistry between Autistic individuals and horses at a conference at Harvard University. I did not know anything about Asperger’s until my mom told me about it when she happened to be in a lecture by a person with Asperger’s last year. Then I started to search and read everything I could find about it. The first book I read was “Aspergirl” by Rudy Simone, which described her life and other women’s lives she interviewed. The book was a little bit of a shock, as I thought it described me.

I never thought I was Autistic, but I knew I was different from everyone else.

In Japan, the schools allowed us a lot of freedom within discipline. We did not use textbooks, and instead we worked on one college-level math problem in class from different perspectives or we did research on our interests and presented them in class for social studies. It allowed me to be myself in some ways, but I did not feel comfortable being in class due to sensory issues. Ballet, which I have been doing since I was 3, also hid my Autism.

I managed to make friends in ballet because all we talked about was about ballet. So I knew what we were talking about, unless they did social chit-chat.

I started my college education in Japan in 2013, where I was born and grew up, however, I decided to leave the college after a year and a half of being there. I had huge anxiety walking around the campus to get to class or being in class. My fingers or toes felt numb when I saw many people around me. I was also depressed at that time, and eventually could not go to class anymore.

Though I did not see it as a disorder at the time, I lost 15 kilograms when I started college. Like many Aspies, I am strict with myself and a perfectionist, so I decided to lose some weight at first and it went beyond anyone’s control. I went to see a school counselor in college, I went to see therapists and psychiatrists, yet the solution they reached every time was I was severely depressed and was prescribed medicine. With the medication, I gained weight and my face looked swollen, so it made me feel bad about myself and my life again. At that time, I was thinking of studying abroad to make a fresh start because Japanese college did not seem to suit me.

In February 2015, I moved to Boston to go to college. While I was studying in the U.S. for almost 3 years and using counseling centers, I noticed that students were using the service much more than in Japan. When I saw a therapist in college in Japan, she was one of the only two therapists. I never saw other people coming in before or after my appointment, because they adjust the time so students coming to therapy do not have to see each other. But this is all about the college counseling experience; what about seeing a local therapist? You usually have to wait for a long time to see someone in Japan. From my experience, the waiting list has been six to 12 months long. I always gave up on it because I needed someone to see me when I asked for help, not six months later!

Many of my American friends told me that Japan was a clean country and very organized. And it is clean and organized, but sometimes I feel rules take over what really matters, such as mental health. In mental health, I believe promptness is important because clients are struggling now. It might be the same as some Autism support in the U.S., as I was put on a 9-month-long waiting list when I first contacted an Autism center for assessment, but I ended up getting a diagnosis in a local clinic much sooner.

It was good that the U.S. had many therapists and clinics I could go to, but in Japan, especially for an Autism diagnosis, there are few clinics that specialize in it. I see this as a problem in Japan, as well as the stigma around Autism and mental illness. Furthermore, we do not have active Autism communities in Japan. Community is a very important part of support and its absence is not good.

I cannot do much by myself to change this, but because I am Autistic and have experienced challenges living with it due to the lack of support and understanding, I now strongly think I want to be an advocate and researcher to bring better understanding of Autism and to better support the community.
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STUDENT VOICE: As a person with #Autism, I spend lots of time studying, attending class — and explaining that I am not deaf

Let’s end campus ignorance about how speech-generating devices work

December 28, 2017, by #Autistic self-advocate Jordyn Zimmerman, Hechinger Report

Have you ever tried having a conversation with someone on campus, when they hesitantly and ever-so-awkwardly start signing to you? Or have you ever asked another student a question and had them respond to you in writing?

When I think of these experiences, I always laugh at how uninformed people are about individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (#AAC).

My AAC device is an iPad. As I told readers in a previous Hechinger Report article, I experienced a communication breakthrough at age 18 when I began using the iPad and was finally able to express my personal thoughts and share what I know. I had previously been unable to express most of my thoughts verbally. Many professionals, such as teachers and doctors, were unable to see how intelligent I was.

One day last month, I was walking across campus when someone asked me a question. As I looked down at my iPad to start answering, the individual repeated the question — as if I didn’t know that I had been addressed.

Acutely aware of the frustration, I quickly typed out a response. As my robotic voice spoke, the questioner stared at me, signed “thank you,” blushed and then loudly enunciated, “I don’t know any other sign language.”

Excited for another idyllic — if there is such a thing — opportunity to build acceptance, I hit a button that said, “I’m not deaf. I can understand everything you say, but I need this program to talk.” The person gave me the slang symbol for ‘OK’ and proceeded to walk away. While this certainly isn’t a unique occurrence, it doesn’t make it any less irritating.

Over the past few years, I have spent a significant amount of time explaining to people that I am not deaf, especially after enrolling in college. While there are individuals all over the world who utilize this communication because they are unable to hear, it is currently estimated that well over one million folks use speech-generating devices (SGD) as a means to express language, and many more could benefit.

Though wide adoption of speech-generating devices is slow and many individuals remain segregated, the truth is, with these growing statistics, your chance of interacting with persons who use these communication devices is likely.

Our future generations are full of prospective lawyers, scientists, teachers, cashiers, doctors and so many other amazing humans who may need access to these devices down the line.

I hope that years from now, when that stranger on my campus has another opportunity to engage with someone who uses a speech-generating device, they presume competence — and without hesitation.

Because ultimately, familiarity is what fosters respect, acceptance and empathy. Let’s stop assuming what other people’s challenges are. When we make such assumptions, we miss out on their strengths, their words and, most notably, their stories.
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Christmas for Autistic Adults: What is it really like?
December 13, 2017 by Miriam Gwynne blogging at https://faithmummy.wordpress.com

Three weeks ago my husband received a detailed written report which stated clearly that he was indeed Autistic. Of course he always has been Autistic but as this is his first ‘official’ Christmas as an Autistic adult I thought I would dedicate this special blog to the millions of Autistic adults who inspire me, encourage me and motivate me to do the best and believe for the best for my two Autistic children always.

I have to be honest and say both my children struggle with Christmas and I wondered if that got easier as a adult.

I asked Lisa how she manages Christmas both as an Autistic adult and a parent of two children with Autism.

I love Christmas and spending precious time with family. Family that I’m comfortable with. I love the events we have over Christmas but at the same time seeing people I have not seen in a while can fill me with anxiety.

It’s like I try so hard, too hard for it to be perfect. And that’s when my obsessive behaviour kicks in. I have to have everything looking just right. I want to attend so many sensory related events with my close family, the ones I’m comfortable with. When they don’t share my enthusiasm it brings me down.

I like to have set people around me and if they aren’t, it makes me anxious.

So as much as I love Christmas and everything that goes with it, i am often accused of trying ‘too hard’. Trying too hard to organise everyone, and pleasing everyone. I build myself up and sometimes I get overloaded with it all.

Social expectations and anxiety was something Chris from Autistic Not Weird also touched on too:
As much as I love Christmas Day (and speaking as a practising Christian too), it’s surprising how little I love Christmastime. The day itself is usually wonderful, but it’s preceded by a boatload of expectations- some of which you can’t match, some of which are unclear.

Worst of all is the expectation that everyone MUST be happy in the run-up to Christmas – including those with mental health issues. And not only that, but you must express that happiness in very specific ways. (Even on the day itself, it’s a time when getting drunk at midday is seen as acceptable but if you check Facebook to see your friends enjoying themselves, you’re being “antisocial”.) And having to do a hundred things “because it’s Christmas” has never struck me as a good reason to make yourself stressed- honestly, I’d rather celebrate Christmas in a way that helps me to access the beauty of the season rather than the social expectations. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus wants too.

Social events can be a struggle for many with Autism at any time of year but the extra pressure of so many events can be overwhelming even as an adult. I love how Nikki from Spectrum Girls 2 describes the after effect of so much socialisation as a ‘social hangover’ as this is something I see in my own kids regularly.

I do love Christmas, I think it’s magical and it reminds me of fond memories when family all got together when I was a child. I must admit I do get very overwhelmed with it all as there’s a lot of preparation required on top of being a very busy parent carer.

I find the shops so busy this time of year, music, crowds, lights and I try and avoid taking my girls into crowded shops as many people don’t realise I’m having my own sensory overload as well as trying to cope with both my girls getting overloaded. I do a lot of online shopping. With events like Christmas fairs, nativities, meals, I will cope during the event but will feel emotionally drained afterwards, I often need to go and lie in a dark room and find it difficult to talk after busy events. I’ve heard this being described as almost like a ‘social hangover’ amongst adults on the Autistic Spectrum. I do a lot of avoiding if I find something quite heavy going, I’m not keen on the wrapping of presents so I do put it off a lot! One of the more unusual feelings I get every Christmas time is a slight depressed feeling of ‘fear of missing out’ which is something that I’ve only just recently found out about. It’s a feeling that my children are missing out on experiences such as visiting Santa, etc but then I have to take a step back and think that experiences like this are not always positive due to my youngest having a fear of Santa, we have to do what is in their best interest.

Helen from Life and ASC echoed some of those same thoughts:
I love Christmas but in small measured social doses (I prefer to limit social events to 1 or 2 over Christmas). I have a set routine for Christmas . In fact the way we decorate the tree and the meal I cook is the same since I was about 10. The hardest thing for me is present giving – I am bad at keep a surprise or waiting till Christmas to open things. For me the greatest thing about Christmas is the ability to stay at home without having to do much – as I tend to use it as complete downtime.

Surprise presents was something Nigel struggles with too:
I’m not a big fan of Christmas. I find it stressful, it’s hard to do the weekly grocery shop when everything has moved around. The whole pressureto socialise, shops being busy, roads full of traffic andthe same old songs every year! I’m glad when it’s all over. I much preferpeople to give me vouchers or money so Ican buy what Iwant when Iwant it and not have to pretendwhat they have chosen is anything Ieven like!

I went on to ask Lee if he had any coping strategies that worked well for him:
Ear plugs/defenders, regular breaks to a quite area that others know are out of bounds (safe area/place) try and know structure of the day in advance like a timetable and also knowing who’s coming.

Which leads me nicely to the hope that Matt had for me:
As an adult I find christmas not to much of a problem to be honest, it makes a good excuse to drink and throw money up the wall lol. When I was younger it was a totally different storey though…

I hated the change of routine, things happening on different days, people turning up, tv programmes being cancelled,being so excited about the presents I was getting and staying up all night being sick and then being sick again when I didn’t get what I wanted and working out there was no such thing as Father Christmas and then feeling compelled to tell every other child I saw!

As I expected some Autistic adults actually look forward to Christmas and I really hope that one day what Riko from Dragon Riko thinks will be true for my children too.

I love Christmas and having loads of decorations, loads of presents, going shopping, going to parties and having people around.

As I debate wether to put a Christmas tree up or wether this change will once again be too much for my children I am filled with hope that while they will always have Autism they may actually one day love putting their own tree up for themselves.

Thank you to all the Autistic adults who not only helped me write this but give me hope daily. I hope by sharing your personal perspectives it helps more people understand and accept you all and makes the world a little more tolerant both for you all and for my children too.
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Why not make it an #AccessibleHalloween! Here is a tip regarding costumes from Parenting #Autistic Children with Love & Acceptance. #sensoryfriendly #Autism #AutismAcceptance
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Chris Packham on living with #Asperger's: 'I’ve spent 30 years on the telly trying my best to act normal'
9 October 2017, by Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph

Chris Packham, the BBC presenter and naturalist, has criticised the ‘charlatans and sharks’ trying to cure #Autism, claiming he would not have succeeded without the condition.

Packham, 56, who has enjoyed a 30-year television career anchoring programmes including The Really Wild Show and Springwatch, was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his late 40s.

In a candid new documentary, which will be broadcast next week, Packham allowed BBC camera crews to film his daily struggle with Autism for the first time, and travelled to the US to visit clinics and educational programmes which claim to be able treat the condition.

The presenter said he was troubled to see that the positive sides of Autism were often ignored in the desire to entirely stamp out the Disorder.

“There is no doubt at all in my mind that a great number of people in the past that have led advances in our civilisation have had #Autistic traits,” he said.

“We have to see this breadth of neurological difference as extremely advantageous to our species. There are many aspects of Asperger's which are enormously positive.

“I don’t like the idea of comparing Autism to a cancer that requires a sort of educational chemotherapy. These charlatans and sharks circling round a vulnerable group of people throwing random science at it and then peddling it like snake oil over the fence. We found it quite disturbing.”

In the film, Packham reveals how he has always battled to communicate with humans, preferring the company of animals and choosing to live on his own in the middle of The New Forest, because it is ‘the only place I feel normal.’

He also described how he was forced to develop a range of coping mechanisms to allow him to work as a television presenter, including learning to look people in the eye, and suppressing urges to make inappropriate or unprofessional comments.

But he claimed Asperger's also allowed him to acquire an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, by homing his focus on plants and animals, to the exclusion of everything else.

As a child he ate live tadpoles to see how they would taste in his mouth and even stole a kestrel chick from its nest and hand-reared it after the Home Office denied him permission to take the bird.

“I’ve spent 30 years on the telly trying my best to act normal, when really I am anything but” said Packham.

“At times it’s been immensely difficult. I suspect many people find me a bit weird which is one of the reasons why I choose to live all on my own in the middle of the woods. I don’t have the need for that social contact at all. Very obviously I prefer animals to humans.

“30 years on managing my Autism on national television still requires an enormous effort. Sometimes I fail, I do just go off on one. But I realise now there is no way I could do my job without Asperger's.

“What I do in terms of making programmes is afforded to me because of my neurological differences. Being able to see with things with perhaps a greater clarity, being able to see the world in a very visual way.”

However he described being bullied to the point where he mocked up photographs of himself as a corpse, and even strapped fake bombs to his head.

Asked whether he would consider a controversial new therapy which aims to ‘cure’ some Autistic traits using magnetic fields to stimulate brain cells, he said: “Not a chance would I allow anyone to put electrodes anywhere near my brain.

“On bad days I might have taken a pill to make it all go away, but on good days very definitely not.”

Chris Packham Aspergers And Me, will be broadcast on BBC Two on October 17.



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Milan Fashion Week’s Biggest Model Wants to Change the Way We Think About Asperger’s
September 25, 2017, by Janelle Okwodo, Vogue

Few people had a busier Milan Fashion Week than Nina Marker, the Danish top model who has been present for the week’s biggest events. Whether she was stomping down the runway with the supermodels at Versace, joining the crowd at Angela Missoni’s 20th anniversary collection, or walking for Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi, Marker made her mark. Given her schedule, it would have been easy for Marker to focus solely on the job, but just before Max Mara, she used Instagram to deliver a hopeful message. Sporting a T-shirt that read “Bee Kind, I Have Autism,” Marker reminded her followers that those on the neurodevelopmental disorder’s spectrum are more than capable of achieving their dreams. “It’s possible for us to be successful and have a good time,” she wrote in the caption. “Stay safe and protect your mind.”

Marker is passionate about using the platform afforded her by modeling to tackle meaningful issues. Diagnosed with Autism at the age of 15 after experiencing issues with her education and personal life, Marker hopes that speaking out will bring about changes that can prevent others from going through similar difficulties. “It’s important to me because the lack of [awareness] has created some issues in my life that maybe wouldn’t have been there if my Autism had been discovered earlier,” says Marker, who found out she had Asperger’s syndrome only after seeking out treatment for her mental health. “I went to a psychiatrist when I experienced a deep depression—which stemmed from my local education system handling my condition incorrectly.” Due to the lack of programs in place to help children with Autism, Marker faced an uphill battle at school. “There was still no support from the school or the systems behind it. This was rather damaging, since I didn’t learn or pick up stuff the way the other kids did.”

After being scouted at a McDonald’s a year later, Marker quickly won Copenhagen’s round of Elite Model Look in 2014, and began to balance classes with a burgeoning career. She worked locally for several years before landing a big break by walking Anthony Vaccarello’s debut collection for Saint Laurent, and has since steadily risen to become one of the world’s top runway models. Though the journey hasn’t always been easy, Marker has found in the industry a place where she can blossom. She grew up collecting images of supermodels and editorials on a Tumblr she describes as “mostly centered around photography and design—but also had vampires.” Fashion was always her dream career, in spite of her initial fears about the business’s reputation for snobbery. “I had these negative assumptions about the fashion world and the people in it that fortunately have proven to be completely incorrect,” she says. “People are awesome—I didn’t expect to make friends with all these nice, interesting men and women I’ve met around the world.”

Currently en route to Paris with model pals like Camille Hurel and Birgit Kos, Marker plans to continue being vocal about her Autism after she’s wrapped up her big month on the runway. “I hope that through spreading awareness, other kids will receive the proper help they need from everyone around them, and at an earlier age,” she says. A culture of open communication, in fact, is the thing she loves most about her day job. “[What’s most rewarding] is getting different perspectives on life from all over the world,” she says of modeling. “I find listening to people’s thoughts and feelings about an interesting subject to be the best thing.”

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