My Neurodiversity Journey Part 3
Autistic & Dyslexic Blog
Thank you for the feedback and positive comments from my first two blogs (see these here: part 1, part 2).
Some of you have visualised, heard and felt the shock, regret, the “ah ha” moments along with the laughs, on realising my ability to sprinkle bewilderment in many environments/situations. You may have experienced the same.
Different environments are not all accommodating for us neurodivergent people given our daily sensory challenges. Having personal boundaries, whether imposed by ourselves, parents, carer or significant other, is not selfish; its wisdom and self-care. They are essential, normal and healthy behaviours.
As a Neurodivergent with learning disabilities I’m constantly on guard to minimise sensory challenges that could cause “Panic Attacks” ,“Situational Mutism”, “Shutdowns”, “Meltdowns” or “Burnouts” that can last for weeks, months or years.
They are all totally involuntary as we all know. Having experienced of all the above; I am conscious of being hyper-vigilant with a cost benefit situation regarding all environments/situations.
This statement from the Inspirational speaker & trainer Alexander Den Heijer is something that I am constantly aware of: –
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
Overwhelm, is our enemy due to having a different operating system; it is not a processing error. Hyper-vigilance is a coping strategy whether conscious or subconsciously; however, this behaviour / awareness can bring increased anxiety and is a huge energy drainer.
Mark Twain said, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Personally, for me it was the day I was born and the day I found out I was Autistic and Dyslexic. Finding out your own “why” is liberating, you may find with total congruence with mind body aligned; your own unique identity and purpose.
Moving on from environments; what behaviours do we wish to experience in the different aspects of our lives however expansive or limited they may be? An Autistic neurodivergent person in the appropriate environment can flourish and meet or exceed our own and others’ expectations. The reverse can be disastrous.
Behaviours are the strongest form of communication; the experts say of all communication only 7% are words; 38% is tone of voice and 55% is body language.
I am reminded of Sir Prof Simon Baron–Cohen; world leading expert in Autism at Cambridge University, who tweeted on 5th July 2019:-
“So important for policy makers to understand: 45% of autistic adults said they’d had a period without enough money to meet basic needs; 20% of autistic adults who had been in a relationship had been sexual abused by a partner and 70% said they’d been bullied by someone they thought was a friend”
Bullying has been a most unpleasant experience for most of us on the spectrum in different times in our lives and in a variety of environments leaving the autistic neurodivergent person traumatised.
At school, I personally didn’t learn much that prepared me for an autistic life (although unknown to me and others I was autistic) I was just thick and stupid, as I wrote in previous blogs.
Learning about Pythagoras & Archimedes re 3.14 equals to 22/7 was futile – I was not born to understand these fine chap’s theories. However, life skills would have been more important and appropriate.
Personality traits and behaviours in the real world of other people and their agendas would have prepared me better for late teenage/adult life, providing more awareness with heightened skills to cope in the neurotypical world. Like most Autistic people I take everything that is said literally, which can lead to all sorts of difficulties and unpleasantness. I’m poor at hearing sarcasm and the nuances on the verbal word. This opens us up too many different types of abuse as Baron–Cohen stated above.
Why & how? Well, we naively assume everyone is like us, i.e. honest, maybe too direct at times and have no reason to lie. Unfortunately, the NT world is full of games. Life/human patterns of behaviour is part of daily living.
When I hear a word, phrase, gesture or event I consider three questions: –
1st Event: – Makes it plausible it could happen again.
2nd Event: – Increases plausibility of it happening again. People intend to infer that there is a probability it will happen again.
3rd Event: – This is now no longer a probability………This is now a reality – it’s who they are. Reality is what you tolerate.
How many times do you take to recognise a pattern? What action will you take? Harvard Business Review says that the first commandment of leadership is this: “Know thyself.”
At times we have to take responsibly for our own journey, setting boundaries, ensuring the environments and behaviours are accommodating and supportive of our unique skill set.
Environments that live by the Social Model of Disability, i.e. accommodating disability, with optimal outcomes. In contrast to the Medical Model of Disability, is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Until the next article, stay safe and be kind to yourself and gentle to those around you.
David Yeoman – Blogger & Volunteer; Scottish Autism, Contributor @ Autism Advisory Forum, Consultant for Dyslexia Scotland.