I often feel that once you have the diagnosis you aren’t helped to discover what things are related to autism or not, which makes it hard to accept or understand yourself.
Watching Paige’s videos has allowed me to go “oh, maybe that’s why I do this” and “its not just me” which goes a long way in actually understanding your feelings and feeling more at peace.
Paige has autism and anxiety and spreads awareness on social media. She does a lot of stuff about autism in girls. Which I found is something that I’ve struggled a bit with because sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in. I haven’t really told anyone, but I worry that people won’t believe me saying that I have autism because I don’t feel that I fit in some of the stereotypes of autism and everything that I’ve read and seen online.
I haven’t seen anything that really reflects what it’s like for me. I don’t know just feel a bit less alone with Paige’s content, just from seeing that other people may be struggling with the same kind of things.
I think that having some influencers with different diagnosis’ that young people can relate to is so important and would really help a lot of people.
Below I have listed some of Paige’s content that helped me.
Autism traits in girls
Awareness and information about autism in Girls
There are 4 parts, below they are in order from 1-4.
You probably know a bit about what autism means, but here’s a quick recap.
Autistic people all struggle with communication, socialising, and flexible thinking. Many of us also have problems with sensory processing, self-regulation, and “meltdowns” or other catastrophic reactions.
It’s a “spectrum” condition, which means that different people are affected differently. Some of us can live fairly independently, and others can’t. Some can drive but not catch the bus, others can catch the bus but not drive. A popular phrase is “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”. Very few things apply to all of us.
It’s a lifelong condition and in most cases, we don’t know what causes it. It’s likely to be partly, but not completely, genetics.
There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and about 12,000 in Surrey.
Here’s my attempt at an autism acceptance month blog post. It’s in the second person because that’s the easiest way for me to write, and it’s not perfect because I’ve learned that it’s much cooler to do things imperfectly than to not do them at all.
April was Autism Acceptance Month.
You used to think that if you ever wanted to not be autistic anymore, you’d just not tell people. You didn’t have to be autistic if you didn’t want to be.
You’ve now come to the conclusion that’s not how it works. Your common sense and life skills are slowly improving as you work on them, but you’ll always be obviously different.
And you need to accept that so that you can learn ways to cope and to change the world around you to be more okay. So you can live.
It goes something like this:
You have to go upstairs.
To begin with, in the back corner of the library, you need to type a number into a keypad next to a door, then push the door open and step inside.
First, you notice the warm wind hitting your face. Then it’s the overpowering smells. Next is the clutter and the obstacles, followed by the buzzing and echoing and kitchen and machinery noises. The harsh lighting isn’t helping.
You now need to make it through the corridor and type a different number into a keypad on the other side.
You can’t shut your eyes because the obstacles change multiple times a day. You can’t put your hands over your ears because you need to type in the number. You also can’t go back if you panic too much because the first door locks behind you and requires a code again. The only thing you can do to make it better is to hold your breath.
If you make it through the second door, you’ll notice the loudest, most painful and overpowering buzzing noise in the building. If you’re lucky, the smell won’t have travelled too much into here – either way, you have to breathe now. The lights are distracting and bright and different. One of the circular lights on the wall, about halfway up the stairs, is where the buzzing noise is coming from – it’s easy to spot because it’s a different colour from the rest. The square lights are mesmerising and unreachable.
The next problem is of course the stairs. There’s nothing between you and the ground except a small railing, and it’s terrifying and dizzying and you’re terrified you’ll die. You also have to walk right next to the loud light, and almost within touching distance of the square lights.
I usually just get the lift, even though it’s much slower.
But if you’ve made it up the stairs, you’ve made it through the worst. There’s still another keypad and some automatic lights to contend with, but that’s nothing compared to everything else.
Hot chocolate is upstairs, and so is Solar your weighted sloth. Your best work friend is probably hotdesking in the office, and you can see the town square from the windows. Upstairs will be okay.
It’s 9:00. You’ve turned on the lights and computers on your way in, and you’re drinking your hot chocolate and playing Animal Crossing. The library doesn’t open for another half an hour, but you’re in a shared building and plenty is going on already.
It’s 09:20. Your colleague’s not here yet. No biggie: they don’t start for another 10 minutes. They’re probably fine. Normal people aren’t an hour early to work. And you don’t start until 10, so really it’s not your business. You might put the money in the tills and do a quick walk-round check to make things easier for them.
It’s 09:25. They’re not here yet. This is normal and okay. You move your things to be not visible from the public area and go sit in the office and stay calm because they’ll be here.
It’s 09:27. They’re not here, which is fine because they still have 3 minutes, and you’re not going to panic.
It’s 09:28. You check the timetable to make sure it’s the right day and the right branch and the right staff and the right time. It is. Of course it is. It’s fine.
It’s 09:29. You will not cry. Everything will be fine. They’ll be here. You’ve pretty much forgotten Animal Crossing at this point in favour of calm grounding exercises. Your eyes are stinging with the tears you said you wouldn’t cry.
It’s 09:29:30. What if they’re dead? But you can’t think that! Because they’re probably fine! They’re always fine! Everything is fine! Normal people don’t panic! You’re not panicking!
It‘s 09:29:45. The library opens in 15 seconds. What are you going to do? Probably open the library. But you start at 10 and know you won’t be paid for the extra half-hour because you shouldn’t be here, and what if there’s a bus pass and what if you have to close again immediately and be sent to another branch and what if they’re lost or dead or injured or maybe they’re panicking!
It’s 09:30. You open the library. You do not cry or panic. One of the regulars comments “You on your tod again today?”. Yes. Yes, you are. No one has an urgent problem, so you stand by the window looking out for your colleague.
At 09:31 you phone the big branch to ask if everything’s alright and if your colleague’s called in sick. They haven’t. The big branch is busy and they don’t have time for this right now. Your colleague must have gotten in trouble on their way to work. Some kind of accident or injury or something. They’re probably dead. Maybe you shouldn’t have opened the library. Maybe you should do the book drop. Maybe you’ll be lone working all day. Should you tweet that you’re closing for lunch?
At 09:32:18 your colleague arrives. “Traffic”.
…at 10:00 you officially start work, so by 09:57 you manage to convince yourself you’ll be okay.
You’ll be okay.
Or even this…
You can’t think through noises.
You can’t figure out how to use your phone.
It’s too loud.
Everything is too loud.
Your head is on the ground and the floor is hard and cold and you’re trying to think.
You remember you’re not supposed to bite the inside of your cheek, so you bite your tongue instead.
The floor isn’t cold enough.
You need to feel more pressure maybe.
You can’t breathe.
You hug yourself and scrunch up your eyes and you can’t think.
You can’t think.
You bite through the inside of your cheek.
An hour later there are noises and people and you need them to stop and you can’t talk.
You can’t talk.
You need a cup of water and your sunglasses and ear defenders and lip balm and weighted mammoth.
You can’t understand what they’re saying.
You need them to not be touching you!
You need them to stop touching you!
You can’t think through people touching you.
Monty the mammoth.
You sit calmly. You do your grounding exercises. You hold your mammoth. You drink your water. You will be okay.
You’re sorry. It was all too much. You don’t want it to happen again. You’ll say something before it happens next time. There won’t be a next time. You’re fine. This is rare. You’re doing well.
(There will be a next time).
The reason you have a day off in between every workday is because autism is exhausting.
It’s exhausting even without getting into the fact that other people are different and alien and don’t make any sense.
But the library is one of the good parts.
For £10.35 an hour (£9.50 on weekends), you run a library and you are happy.
You’d happily pay £10.35 an hour for the joy of it, but that’s possibly because you’re still not great at budgeting.
You have thousands of books. They’re your books.
You unpacked them and stamped them and gave them homes on your shelves, and you allow anyone to borrow them as long as they promise to bring them back in three weeks.
You help people with the computers.
You show them the simplest way to print a returns label, and offer them some children’s scissors and sticky tape so they can post their parcel on the way home.
You tell them that if their phone usually remembers their password for them, they can find it by going to Settings and then Passwords.
You help people travel the world with flight tickets and covid passes. People complain to you that “everything’s online these days,” but you think it’s sort of cool because that means you can help with everything.
You make bus passes.
“Smile as if you’re about to get on a bus!” is one of your catchphrases.
You’re a fountain of bus knowledge. You know about the secret buses on Saturdays, which companies let you use your pass before 9.30, and the best places to make connections.
You run amazing events.
You have about as much patience as the children, so you have a great instinct for when to abridge a book or song at Rhymetime. Your current favourite book is Superworm, and you skip over the entire plot in favour of just reading about how great the worm is.
The regular kids think Wiggly Woo is a snail song, The Wheels on the Bus is about dinosaurs, and Sleeping Bunnies can be sung about any animal, including snakes. Their grown-ups can now predict the punchline to every new joke you invent, and you know which ones to look to for help when you lose count in Five Little Ducks.
You even make library cards and amaze people with the services we have to offer.
“Children’s books can be reserved for free on a child’s library card, which means that if there’s a book you want to read but we don’t have it here, then if another library in Surrey or Essex or half of London has it, we can bring it here for you to borrow as if it was one of our books!”
You also make sure everyone gets a sticker for joining, and a sticker for using the self-service machine for the first time.
Libraries and chocolate milk are two of your favourite things in the world, and from your perspective, sitting in your library drinking chocolate milk means you grew up to be happy. You didn’t become an astronaut with several PhDs, and you don’t live in Paris with four pet rabbits, but you have libraries and chocolate milk and you’re happy.
You know now that you possibly can’t fix the whole world, but you can work in a library.
Things are good.
Things are good.
One of my favourite ever library moments was when I was running Lego Club in Slough Library, and a couple of the parents of the kids who came from the local special school asked if I was autistic. We then had a great and open conversation, and one said that it was amazing having me run the club, because I gave them hope that their kids would grow up to be like me.
Honestly, at that moment I rather hoped their kids would grow up to struggle much less than me.
But that was more than two years ago now. Life’s got easier since then. I’ve grown to accept my autism, and I have more support to help me cope with the world. Things are good.
I’m only an expert on myself. Even then I don’t always have the greatest insight, so I’m not quite ready to give tips on how to fix the world to make things easier for all autistic people.
One thing I dislike is when people with autism or learning disabilities are referred to as “individuals”. Or “the individual”. We don’t use that word when referring to anyone else, and it comes across as othering. However, there is a lot of disagreement between autistic people and those around them about language, so my preferences won’t reflect everyone.
My favourite thing a professional working with me has ever done is my current community nurse rephrasing questions if I say I don’t know the answer, even when he knows I should know. If it’s a question I’m not expecting, I can’t always find the right thoughts and turn them into words. Especially not while everyone’s looking at me. That’s why it’s also really useful to be able to have a friend or carer with me during appointments – they can often find the words I can’t.
Here are some of my favourite non-fiction autism books:
When you want a simple, easy-to-read metaphorical explanation:
Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures this is due to an imbalance in brain chemistry so messages that travel between nerve cells or neurons become scrambled. A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical brain activity between the brain cells common symptoms of this are stiffening or jerking of muscles, confusion, loss of consciousness, unusual thoughts or sensations.
Here are the most common types of seizures in individuals with autism:
Generalised tonic-clonic seizures sometimes called generalised onset motor seizures– it affects both halves of the brain and causes both stiffening of muscles and twitching or jerking.
Focal Onset Aware Seizures- they start in one area of the brain and may cause loss of awareness, or the person remain fully aware during the episode. This is the most common type of seizure for those who have epilepsy.
Febrile seizures- this type of seizure happens to children aged 3 months to 6 years and they occur when the child has a high fever. This may be either a general or focal seizure. Sometimes this may lead up to the development of epilepsy.
Is there a link between autism and epilepsy?
20-40% of people with autism have epilepsy. Autistic people are more likely to develop epilepsy compared to those who are neurotypical and people with epilepsy are more likely to be autistic than those without. The risk of developing seizures increases as person gets older in life.
One theory suggests that the overlap in conditions may be because they share common biological mechanisms such as too much excitation brain which may stem from too little inhibition (an imbalance of the two). However, many experts remain sceptical about this theory despite the data to support this claim from a study published in 2003.
Other disorders related to involve seizures also involve seizures these include Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome and Tuberous sclerosis complex and Fragile X and many other syndromes.
Potential signs to look out for
It can be difficult to recognize seizure activity when the person is autistic this may be because of communication barriers and the overlap in symptoms of the two. Cognitive delay, impaired social interaction, aggression and irritable behaviour can be seen in children with epilepsy but also if in those who are autistic as well which makes it confusing to find the cause.
However, there are some red flags to note for seizure which may be useful:
Staring episodes (could be a sign of absence or atypical absence seizures)
Stiffening (could be a sign of tonic seizures)
Rhythmic shaking or twitching (could be a sign of focal aware/simple partial seizures)
Loss of attention (could be assign of absence or focal impaired awareness/complex seizures)
Atypical absence seizure– Starts in both sides of the brain and is unusual or different compared to typical absence seizures.
Absence seizures– Starts in both sides of the brain and causes a short period of “blanking out” or staring into spaces.
Focal onset impaired awareness seizure– Begins in one side of the brain and the person has a change in their level of awareness during some or all of the seizure.
Tips for managing epilepsy.
Know that it could happen– making sure friends, family and carers are aware the possibility of epilepsy developing in someone with autism.
Get a personalised plan– creating a plan with doctors can help family and healthcare professionals to manage the seizures.
Regular medication– it’s important to medication as instructed if prescribed.
Identify triggers-not everyone has triggers before a seizure but common signs to look out for is being overtired, missing meals and forgetting to take epilepsy medication. Keeping a diary of seizures can help to see if there are any triggers.
Avoid heavy drinking– heavy drinking can cause seizures and make medication less effective.
Regular reviews– this is important as it can see if your treatment plan is going well. If you find doctors appointment there are many adaptions in place to make this experience less stressful like asking if there is a quiet room or asking to book the first or last appointment of the day, so you don’t have to wait too long for example.
Safety checks– a safety check can help to identify and lower the risks before someone with epilepsy does an activity.
Side effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
AEDs are the most common used treatment for epilepsy and can be quite effective as they can help to control seizures in around 7 out of 10 people. However, side effects are common when starting the treatment and may pass in a few days or weeks or may not appear for a few weeks.
Some common side effects of AEDs include:
A lack of energy
Uncontrollable shaking (tremors)
Unwanted hair growth or hair loss
Rashes – this could a sign of a serious reaction so you should contact your GP or specialist.
Disclaimer- The medical information presented here is just information, not medical advice and should be used for educational purposes. If medical advice is needed you should consult your GP or any other appropriate medical professional.
Tom Stoltman is the current worlds strongest man after winning the competition in May 2022. He is also the:
2021 Worlds Strongest man
World record holder for the heaviest Atlas stone ever lifted (286kg!),
A two-time back-to-back winner of Britain’s strongest man,
A two-time winner of Scotland’s strongest man along with many other incredible podiums such as 3rd in worlds ultimate strongman and 2nd in the 2021 giants live finals.
Tom was diagnosed with autism when he was 8 years old and has spoken about his own struggles inside and outside of school. He has mentioned being bullied and worrying about what people would think if they found out he was autistic.
Tom’s Autism – in his own words.
However, he mentions that after telling his friends and others about his autism he felt a tremendous amount of relief after being accepted and supported by them. His friends made sure that he knew they accepted him for who he was and that it didn’t change a thing about their friendship which is truly phenomenal.
Luke Stoltman (Tom’s brother) has also talked about Tom’s experiences and growing up with him when he was younger. Referencing times that Tom would really struggle, he says,
Tom has said that he found it difficult when something didn’t go as planned, as he would become fearful and potentially breakdown. This also wasn’t helped when others would say that it didn’t matter, as this just made him feel very different to his friends and others.
Tom saw a great change in his life when he was first invited to go the gym by his older brother Luke as this was the start of an incredible ongoing career in the internationally competitive arena of ‘strongman’ for both. Tom found comfort in pushing himself in the gym as he mentioned he didn’t get along with the more traditional side of school such as maths and English, but he truly thrived when it came to Physical education and many other sports.
What he has done for the awareness of autism–
Tom Stoltman has gone on many podcasts, interviews and has personally made videos on him and his brothers YouTube channel. Some of these are linked below. He has been quoted saying phenomenal things such as:
“Autism is my secret weapon” and that it should be
“Used as a superpower”, he has also talked about how that just because he is labelled that it doesn’t make him different. He strives to be an example to other autistic children and show them that they too will achieve incredible things.
As an autistic student who is about to sit their GCSEs, I find it an incredibly daunting time for many reasons- the workload, fear of failure and finding ways to revise. That’s why I’m going to share with you some tips that will make your life a bit easier.
Your mental health should always be your top priority. Period. Although it may not seem like it now, school is actually such a small part of our lives. Yes, it’s important to try your best in school to get the grades you need and deserve. However, in order to fully function and do that, we need to prioritise ourselves. Especially for people with autism, we need a sensory break from the senses around us. Have a nap. Do some skincare. Watch a TV series. Whatever it is, you deserve a break!
Revising little and often
There often is a misconception that you need to revise for hours and hours on end to get those desired grades. Actually, it has been proven that your brain can absorb information more efficiently if you revise in small consistent increments. Try out the pomodoro method- a video is linked below that explains it in more detail:
Find revision methods that work for YOU
We are always told that specific revision methods are supposed to be the holy grail for exam success- but do they work for everyone? Some people prefer to revise in a more hands on way and others prefer to make flashcards. Find methods that engage you and get the information to sink in. Some good revision strategies are using Quizlet or Anki flashcards and blurting. A video for blurting is here: https://youtu.be/GPRj1ZhG2Uw Both of these methods consist of active recall where you retrieve information from your brain. You can adapt these methods to be quizzes which you can test yourself with which can motivate you more to revise!
These exams don’t define you as a person!!
This time can be so pressuring for so many of us and we can sometimes think that these grades will determine our whole lives ahead of us and that we won’t make it into our chosen paths. The number or letter that we get on a piece of paper doesn’t determine our worth as a person, it’s actually far from it. It doesn’t show how kind or thoughtful we are. Whether you don’t get the grades you hope for or get better than you expect, you’re still an extraordinary human being. Remember that.
Know that whatever you’re feeling is valid
I’m here to let you know that however you may be feeling is completely valid. It’s completely okay to be feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. In fact, it shows that you’re willing to do well and succeed. Use those feelings and channel them as power and motivation to get yourself to where you want to be. Your hard work will pay off and your future self will seriously thank you for it when you open that exam paper in the summer 🙂
One of our ATLAS members has shared their experiences about building friendships.
how ATLAS has helped me to build my confidence to make new friends.
I have struggled with friendships since I was 3 years old, this is due to my autism, anxiety learning difficulties and sensory issues to name a few. I found it very lonely and found it hard to fit in and make the right friends and to keep healthy relationships.
Going to ATLAS has made me trust and gain more confidence for myself. I have learned to make new friends and learned how to keep them.
I now have a lot of good friends to hang out with, we sometimes break up but then we make up again if we can and want to
I can make friends independently now. I used to have support to help me make new friends and to keep them. I remember that break ups and friendships get better, they get better for everyone.
One of our ATLAS members shared their experience with bullying
I got badly bullied through secondary school, which led to all of my frustration to do lots of bad behaviour to other people and myself. The bullying would not stop because the staff were rubbish about it. The bullying made me very anxious, it made my anxiety really bad. I found it very hard to trust people even my friends because I did not want them to start bullying me as well as other people.
Bullying does improve if you tell the right people who you trust. I trust my therapist and so I told her about the bullying, she was very helpful to me. Always remember to stand up to the bullies.
The bullies picked on me because I was different and had my own struggles. What I say to the bullies is that if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I also say can you please give me my own space and then I walk away from them and ignore the bullies.
Remember that you are much stronger than the bullies, don’t listen to them, they are just jealous of you and what you have. The bullies want to get a reaction so don’t give them one.
Meltdown – a response to an overwhelming situation that includes signs of distress.
Shutdown – where a person may withdraw from the people and environment around them. They may need their own space and time to process.
I don’t like meltdowns because when I used to have really big, long and bad meltdowns I used to say a lot of mean things, tell lies, say horrible things to others and myself.
Meltdowns make me look like I am refusing to do something or am reluctant to do something when I’m not – I’m in a meltdown.
I used to run off and hide, but I don’t do that anymore unless it is for a fun activity where people aren’t going to get worried. I used to also climb up trees and bushes to hide from people when I was having a meltdown, or hide underneath something, but I don’t do this anymore. I now cover my face with my hands, people understand I’m not hiding to be rude, I just need some alone time.
I don’t like to make people worried.
I like to walk, jog or run-in safe areas when I am having a meltdown to feel safe – I still do this.
Recently I have been having less meltdowns than I used to, which are also smaller than they used to be. I have been having a lot of shutdowns recently.
I have had a lot of shutdowns in the evenings since I finished college for summer holidays. In the last 7 weeks I have had a shutdown almost everyday.
During the summer holidays I have been going to a lot of clubs, and I have been having a lot of 10 to 40 minutes shutdowns at the clubs that I have been attending in the mornings and the afternoons. Sometimes I feel sorry for the staff who try to help me, but I also worry that they may call someone over and make it an incident.
A lot of people ask me if I am okay when I am having a shutdown, but I am not always able to answer, especially when I am really anxious. There have been a lot of transitions lately that are really busy and loud, which have not helped my anxiety. Some mornings I am too anxious to go into clubs and the staff I have good relationships with have to help me enter the site.
Some days I cry a lot when I am really anxious. People might worry because I might not seem like myself and then ask me a lot of questions at once about how I am and how I have been. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to talk about these things; sometimes I’m not ready to talk about it. When this happens, they might get into my personal space. I worry if people who don’t get tested regularly for Covid-19, get into my personal space.
Sometimes the behaviours of other children and young people at clubs and activities can cause me to be really anxious. Especially bad or violent behaviour.
When I am tired, I find things harder to do and possibly more overwhelming. This can make me cry and I don’t always immediately know what it is that has led to the problem.
How I manage overwhelming situations
Some of the ways I notice that I am becoming overwhelmed is when:
There are loud noises
There is a difficult situation
I see someone breaking the law or doing something dangerous
I get too hot
I am stressed
Some of the ways I look after myself when I am overwhelmed:
This film is about non-verbal autism and is based on the book The Reason I Jump written by Naoki Higashida when he was 13 years old. Naoki is now 28 years old and will be 29 in exactly 28 days. Naoki is a non-verbal autistic person from Japan. The book was published in Japan in 2007. The English translation was published in 2013 by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, English author David Mitchell who have a son who is autistic and non-verbal. Keiko and David were very passionate about this book because they felt this is the only book which helped them to understand their son. Naoki’s book is invaluable to help understand severely autistic children and young people because it is the only book about autism written by an someone who is autistic and non-verbal.
This film is part documentary, part dramatisation and has an actor playing Naoki Higashida when he was a boy. The film shows Naoki walking along the beach and countryside explaining lots of feelings, emotions and sensory input from his surroundings. While this is being shown there is a narrator speaking the words of Naoki from his book, where he expresses his thoughts and feelings around his autism and non-verbal autism in general. Naoki’s account being read out in the film is incredibly powerful, extremely insightful and very thought-provoking. In my opinion the most powerful quote of Noaki’s is, “To live my life as a human being there is nothing more important than being able to express myself”.
The idea of turning the book in to a film came from the parents of a teenager I’ll mention later on. His parents Stevie Lee and Jeremy Dear, were the producers of the film. They had read the book and it had transformed their understanding of their son. Without the parents of servery autistic children and adults this film would of not been made. The documentary part shows non-verbal autistic people from all over the world. From England they film Joss Dear a teenager who is severely autistic and can speak but speaks mainly by one word responses or repeating worlds from a long time ago that people have said, mainly his parents. Joss is very sensory, he enjoys blowing bubbles, bouncing on his trampoline and swinging very high on a swing. Joss is unable to explain why he does what he does and like what he likes. He just knows what he likes and people can see he likes it because he is showing experiences of pure joy. One of the reasons that makes the film so immersive and fascinating, is when the film shows autistic people from around the world doing what they enjoy. The words from Naoki that are in his book were said by the voice of the book Jordan O’Donegan. Where Naoki’s insight is invaluable because he describes the reason autistic people do what they do. His words describe Joss perfectly. When he is jumping, Naoki’s words are voiced over, while the footage of Joss being shown is a very good way of showing what incredible insight Naoki has given Joss’ parents and everyone else.
I really enjoyed the film and it taught me a lot, even as an autistic young person myself, about non-verbal autism, because I am fully verbal and only know a few people who are non-verbal. The cinematography is very good, shows some stunning views around the world and captures all of the people videoed in the film exactly. I feel one of the most important parts for people to take away from the film is about Naoki and two autistic friends from America who are non-verbal. These three young people have non-verbal autism however they are all very articulate and all use the letter board to communicate. They all have a very high level of understanding of themselves and the world around them. This makes the powerful point that non-verbal autism is not talked about much and still very much misunderstood. It is still very much the belief, that non-verbal servery autistic people with have a limited understanding and severe learning difficulties, which is not always the case. As these three in individuals show very powerfully. Another part I really liked was when Joss was looking over a fence at a mental green box with lots of cables in. He wanted to climb in but his dad told him not to because of course it’s too dangerous to climb in. It is incredible that Joss can hear the green box, without seeing it, from quite a distance. Listening and finding the green boxes has become a fascination for Joss and he can sit with his head to one of them for a long time.
I would recommend anyone with an interest in autism or additional needs to watch this film. It is a very unique film which is very thought provoking to all that see it. I would give this film a 5 out of 5 star rating because the director Jerry Rothwell did exactly what he set out to do. “As a film maker”, he said, that making a film about Naoki’s book would “offer a great opportunity to use the full potential of cinema to evoke intense sensory worlds in which meaning is made through sounds, pictures and associations as well as words.” He said by creating this film, “My hope is that the reason I Jump can encourage an audience into thinking about autism from the inside, recognising other ways of seeing the world, both beautiful and disorientating.” He also said, “I hope the film takes audiences on a journey through different experiences of autism, leaving a strong sense of how the world needs to change to be more inclusive.”
As seeing the film myself, I would say that’s definitely what I got out of the film and I think many others will too. This film will probably send you on a roller coaster of emotions from felling happy, stunned, sad, surprised and cross. At times the film is funny, sad, enlightening, inspiring, powerful and most of all, gives you a small insight of what it can be like for people who are autistic and nonverbal.
Anxiety makes you more anxious and nervous. It is harder for you to talk about your feelings and emotions. Sometimes it is hard to talk about your thoughts and what you are thinking about.
When you’re anxious it is really hard to talk to people because you don’t know who to trust. With anxiety, I find it really hard to trust people.
Things that cause me anxiety
There are a lot of things that cause me anxiety. For example:
Meeting new people and seeing a new place.
Because hospitals and the emergency services are scary.
For example, police, ambulance, fire engine, flashing lights.
Loud noises, alarms, vehicles, fireworks, thunder, heavy rain, wind, screaming and shouting.
Professionals knowing about my life and personal information and not knowing who will be told & who they may tell.
Cancelling or changing appointments with little notice or no notice.
Different primary and secondary school.
too many changes happening at once.
Moving to college and having to make new friends.
Negative things on social media.
particularly about covid.
Covid in general because you can’t see people and places.
I can’t see what is happening around me.
I can’t see what people are doing.
Fights and arguments because you don’t know what’s happening.
Small tight spaces: I feel stuck and scared.
People that are hurt or sad.
Sad knowing that my friends have anxiety and bad mental health.
My friends seeing me struggling.
Not understanding the whole process.
Not meeting family members that I don’t know.
Scary times from the past: being threatened to be kidnapped as a kid.
You don’t know if they’re going to hurt you or not.
They can be hard to ignore.
Not understanding what my disabilities mean: Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Learning Difficulties, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Anxiety, Sensory Issues.
Because I have SPD it takes me more time to process and understand information.
My meltdowns and shut-downs.
Sometimes I am non-verbal.
There are many coping strategies you can use to help with anxiety. I prefer some strategies to others. Ones that I like are:
Hugs (: This is a big one!
Hugs are great because they’re very soothing and relaxing.
I like the feeling of touch; it calms me down quite quickly.
I mainly like hugs from White Lodge staff.
Fidget Toys. Ones that I like include:
When you stretch the bands, they help to relieve frustration.
They help relieve the anger inside my mouth.
Walking and yoga.
Walking is really calming, and yoga really soothes you and makes you want to go to sleep.
The fresh air makes you happy.
Talking to people who I trust.
For example, staff at White Lodge.
They’re nice to cuddle.
For example, from a roller coaster!
You can have a bath bomb and a candle in there, put some classical music on, it’s really nice!
Washing products that smell really nice also make you smell great and clean.
Colouring in between the lines makes you feel really relaxed.
Mixing ingredients, for example, is very calming.
My dog really helps me! And my fish!
Make-up or face paint
I find putting these on a really nice sensory experience.
It is also very creative and a good way to express yourself.
I have a chewing gum with hemp in it that really helps me.
Lozenges and calming sweets can also be good.
When I am in a shut-down, I find crying helps me feel better.
Going to a library.
It is quiet and peaceful. It is nice to go in.
Looking through the books, choosing one and then reading is a good way to distract yourself.
When I am in a bad mood, but not in a meltdown, I often ask to go to the library.
When you are anxious it can be hard to make decisions. So, it can also be difficult to use coping strategies when you are anxious because you don’t know which one to use and which one will help you the most. Sometimes when you are anxious you can also forget about the strategies!
Using coping strategies
I find it easier to use coping strategies when I have a meltdown when people tell me to use them. But when I have a shutdown, I find it difficult. When I need to use my coping strategies, I remember them by:
I have two: an outdoor and an indoor one.
My mum, or the people around me, remind me.
When I am having a shutdown I like it when people check-in with me and ask what they can do to help me. I find that helpful. It is helpful when people try and ask what is wrong. When I am having a shut-down I find people giving me hugs helpful, but please ask me permission before you do!
I would like it if the professionals that work me had a better understanding of shutdowns and what I need when it happens.
If emergency services have to work with me when I am anxious, having a meltdown or a shutdown, I would like them to:
Not talk over each other.
It’s hard to understand what they are all saying.
Not ask so many questions.
They try to rush you to answer.
To communicate using sign language (BSL/Makaton) or flash/single cards.
When I am in a shutdown I find it easier to use a different way of communicating.
Understand that they are not someone that I trust to share my personal feelings with.
I know that they are not all trained medical professionals, for example the police.
Use less force and be more gentle if they need to touch me.
Give me more warning if they need to touch me, for example use a countdown.
It is well noted through observation and research that there is more gender diversity in neurodiverse people than neurotypical people. As gender and sexuality are social constructs, there is speculation that this relationship is due to the fact that being neurodiverse means you are less likely to adhere to cultural and social norms.
You may be wondering what all these terms mean:
Neurodiverse/Neurodiversity/Neurodivergent – variation in in the human brain. This term is used by people to express that their brains are wired differently due to having neurological conditions and/or disorders: ADHD Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, etc.
Neurotypical – this is a relatively new term that is used to describe people whose brain develops and functions in ways that are considered ‘normal’. It is the opposite of Neurodivergent.
Gender Diversity – is a measure of how much people’s gender differs from cultural or social norms due to their sex at birth.
Sexuality – is all about how someone identifies themselves in relation to the gender or genders that they are attracted to.
Social Construct – something that only exists as a result of humans agreeing that it exists.
Cultural and Social Norms – rules or expectations based on the shared beliefs of different groups of people that guide behaviour and thoughts.
Talking about experiences and difficulties of the LGBT+ community is extremely important to ATLAS members. This is not only because ATLAS want to be strong allies and raise the voices of minorities, but because a number of members are also part of the LGBT+ community themselves.
Autism and Gender
ATLAS members reflected on how they weren’t told about the relationship between Autism and gender diversity when they were diagnosed:
How masking impacts self-discovery
Masking is a survival technique that is used by people with Autism to hide behaviours that may not be accepted by the people around them. This is often achieved by learning to display neurotypical behaviours. Ultimately, masking results in having to hide the true self to be protected from negative consequences.
ATLAS members raised that as a result of masking, it can be difficult to work out who they are:
As a result some members felt unable identify with labels, which could help them find support from peers and communities:
Comphet stands for compulsory heterosexuality. This is where heterosexuality is assumed and enforced by society.
ATLAS members and staff loved this idea: members and staff are now invited to put their pronouns in their Zoom names if they want to!
Whilst family relationships can be extremely important for the wellbeing of children, young people and young adults, unfortunately stigma can lead to bullying, rejection and internalised stigma.
Neurodiverse people, people with Autism, people with disabilities are just as different and individual as neurotypical people, people without an additional need or disability. Talk to us, listen to our experiences and ideas: we are experts in our perspective and have a lot to say!
To make sure that the voices of children, young people and young adults with additional needs and disabilities in the LGBT+ community are heard ATLAS will be starting drop-in sessions to provide a safe space and a platform for voices to be raised.
At the age of 22 my life changed. I got what most would describe as a label, but I don’t.
If I did describe it as a label, I wear mine with pride.
I dislike the term ‘disability’ as it makes me feel like I’m lacking something or I’m less able than a ‘normal’ functioning person, so I call them my difficulties and additional needs. Because with hard work, help and support they can be over-come, and everyone is different any way.
I have Autism and I’m never afraid to admit it as it makes me who I am, so does my difficult past. No one should ever make you feel less of a person because you see the world differently or have difficulties fitting in.
One of my favourite quotes is “Another person’s craziness is another person’s reality” said by my favourite directors Tim Burton. This is my favourite quote because it’s so true and relatable to me. I now have this quote tattooed on me as a constant reminder that it’s ok to be who you are, whether you fit in or not.
I have made it a passion of mine to help and teach others by sharing my past and present life experiences and I take pride in where I have come from and where I’m going. My Autism has its challenges that some people don’t understand but I’m always working hard to help change their views and the stigmatism around additional needs and disabilities.
Over the years I have seen more acceptance of Autism and the challenges we face but there still is a lot of misunderstanding and judgement, its something I’m willing to help change and I will always challenge things as there is always more to be done.
Chris was born in Southampton in 1961. His big interest in wildlife seemed to form before he was even able to speak. His parents say that he liked to crawl across their lawn looking for ladybirds and fish for tadpoles and mosquito larvae in an old baby’s bath set in the corner of the garden.
When he discovered a song thrushes’ nest just before his 12th birthday his interest in birds first began to grow. The Observer’s book of Birds Eggs became his Bible and Chris became a young egg thief. In 1974 he met a teacher at his school, John Buckley, who immediately redirected young Chris’ interest in egg collecting towards scientific examination instead.
Chris found nests, counted eggs and chicks and made maps of all their locations and within a couple of years he started his first proper scientific study – The Population and Breeding Density of Kestrels in the Lower Itchen Valley. This was written up in his last year at secondary school and he won the Prince Philip Zoology Prize a couple of years later. A bright young scientist and nerd in training he studied Kestrels, Shrews and Badgers in his teens and undergraduate days at the Zoology department of Southampton University.
As a young adult and postgraduate, he began taking still photographs and trained as a wildlife film cameraman. The photography continues with exhibitions and invitations to judge prestigious competitions, but the camerawork gave way to presenting. Chris began with the award winning ’Really Wild Show’ in 1986 and has been working ever since.
In his late 30s Chris suffered with Meniere’s disease which is a disorder of the inner ear that is described as having episodes of feeling like the world is spinning, ringing in the ears and hearing loss. In 2003, at the age of 42, he began seeing a therapist after the death of his dog. As his work with the therapist concluded in 2005, Packham was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, aged 44.
On 17 October 2017 Chris Packham released a documentary on BBC 2 about his life growing up and his Asperger’s, this program is called Asperger’s and me and can still be watched on BBC iPlayer. After receiving so many responses to the program he replied back to his fans and the messages he received with a letter that can be found and read on his website https://www.chrispackham.co.uk/news/aspergers-and-me-thank-you
You may have heard of Sia’s new movie, Music, which was criticised before release for casting a non-autistic actor as a mostly non-verbal, autistic main character.
In the midst of Sia lashing out at criticism on social media, ATLAS members talked about how the casting of Music and the release trailer made them feel.
Many of the young people were disappointed that a potential opportunity for representation of girls with autism was overwritten by ableism:
Other young people were torn, because they felt that additional needs and disabilities have been successfully portrayed by actors without additional needs and disabilities elsewhere:
Overall, ATLAS members did not feel that the casting of ‘Music’ was positive.
The portrayal of autism in the media
Sadly, this film does not stand in isolation. The majority of ATLAS members reported that they felt the portrayal of autism in the media was either ‘not very good’ or ‘really terrible’.
There were mixed views around having non-speaking autistic characters in films, however there was a largely positive response to having female characters with autism.
Film is a powerful medium. When used correctly, it can empower and educate people. When somebody sees a film focused on autism, that may be their first exposure to the idea of autism or to an autistic person. This provides an opportunity for people to talk about and approach autism in better ways. Unfortunately, if the film misrepresents people with autism, then the ideas taken from a film could lead to autistic people being viewed and treated in negative ways.
two people with the same condition can have completely different experiences of it
the level of disability someone might experience can vary from day to day.
When people don’t understand the nature of fluidity in disability, it leads to stereotyping and contributes to how disabling society is. People with additional needs and disabilities are actively excluded based on assumptions and passively through it being ignored.
The most important thing to do is listen.
You don’t need to understand how an additional need or disability affects someone to accept it. To believe the individual. To accommodate.
I’m going to crush you with my love
Perhaps one of the most dangerous misunderstandings the film portrays is the use of prone restraint. Restraint should only be used if there is an immediate danger to that individual or others. When that danger has passed, restraint should stop.
ATLAS recently talked about the use of restraint in schools for managing the behaviour of young people with additional needs and disabilities:
Participation, participation, participation
The film Music being released at the same time as ATLAS is starting to look towards Autism Awareness Week (29th March to 4th April 2021) highlights to me the sheer importance of participation and listening to the voices of people who are experts in their own experience!
How different these events could have been if the voices shared around the release trailer of Music had been properly listened to and acted upon. How different the representation of minorities, vulnerable groups, discriminated groups, those the industry continuously promote stereotypes about could be.
Film can reflect society, but it can also heavily influence it and bring about positive change.
ATLAS members have some advice for anyone reading this who wishes to portray characters with additional needs and disabilities:
Written by Sabrina Peters, Additional Needs and Disabilities Participation Officer and edited by Rowan Foster, ATLAS member and Bank worker for the User Voice and Participation Team.
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience the world differently. They have different strengths and weakness and they may behave differently to the people around them. Everyone with ASD is different!
My mum and me were receiving support from White Lodge because I was finding it very hard to communicate and I was having ‘moments’. For me, moments are when I struggle with a lot of things and I get frustrated. The staff at White Lodge recommended that we see a doctor that they knew, who diagnosed me with ASD when I was 3 and half years old, which was very helpful.
Girls with ASD are underdiagnosed because they don’t meet people’s expectations due to stereotypes. My mum did not anticipate my diagnosis with ASD.
My life has changed quite a bit since I was diagnosed. Obviously not everyone has ASD, I am aware that I am quite different to other people. In my experience there are both positive and negative impacts of having ASD.
I am different to other people
It would be boring if we were all the same!
I think about problems differently and come up with different solutions.
I express myself differently to others
Some people with ASD communicate differently. For example, some people can’t use their voice.
I speak three languages to help me communicate: spoken English, sign language (Makaton/British Sign Language), using feelings boards/bracelets/cards.
Due to my experiences in life and my participation in ATLAS, I am able to appreciate other people’s perspectives.
When I speak to people that I know well, I have a lot to share about my interests and experiences
I know a lot about sensory toys!
I find it hard to make eye-contact
People might not think I am talking to them or that I am talking to somebody else if I don’t make eye contact.
I find it hard to keep a conversation, for example to keep focus and keep on subject.
I find it hard to manage my feelings, emotions and thoughts.
Loud noises, crowds, small spaces, lock rooms, flashing lights and the dark are difficult for me to cope with.
Flashing lights can include discos lights and even emergency vehicles!
I am very sensitive to touch.
I don’t tend to like people touching me, it feels uncomfortable. I don’t always know if people are going to be gentle and nice when they touch me and that makes me anxious.
Transport can be difficult because I don’t like long journeys.
All the sounds and people can be overwhelming.
Sometimes people come too close when I am travelling.
It can be difficult to speak to people that I don’t know.
When you meet someone with additional needs, such as ASD, you shouldn’t make assumptions because you don’t know that person.
“Before I came to participation groups, I didn’t talk.”
“Like this [conversation] was a no go … and then I went to my first session and then like, you couldn’t stop me talking, because I realised I was allowed to speak and I was allowed to know things.”
“Professionals don’t know that we don’t know we’re allowed [to speak and know things]. They make us feel like we can’t have knowledge of ourselves, which is what we’re meant to have anyway!”
“That’s been my biggest part in this [participation], is knowing myself, instead of knowing what they want me to know. Without this, I wouldn’t have been able to spread my voice. I would not have a say in terms of what I struggle with.”
Satoshi Tajiri is Japanese and born August 28, 1965. He is the creator of Pokémon which became a huge global success and he has Autism.
When Satoshi Tajiri was a young boy, he loved to explore the outdoors and was really interested with insects. He loved to collect insects, looking for them in ponds, fields and forests, constantly trying to find new insects and coming up with different ways to catch insects such as beetles. He had such an interest in collecting and studying insects that he earned the nickname “Dr. Bug” among other children and friends.
In the late 1970s, the fields and ponds that Tajiri loved as a child were used to build apartment buildings and shopping centres. At this time, Tajiri’s passion for insects moved to video games and arcades. Because of his new obsession captured so much of his time and attention that he actually cut classes and wound up flunking high school.
His parents were concerned; they actually didn’t understand his obsession with games and thought he was a delinquent throwing his life away. He eventually took make-up classes and got his high school diploma, but he only did a two year stint at the Tokyo National College of Technology studying computer science and electronics.
In the early 1990s was when Tajiri first saw two children playing together with Game Boys using the Game Link Cable. He imagined insects crawling along the cable between the two systems. As he thought about the uses of the Game Link Cable, his idea for Pokémon grew, as he wanted to give modern children the chance to hunt for creatures as he did as a child.
He pitched the idea for Pokémon to Nintendo, and although they didn’t fully understand the concept of the game, he was given some initial funding anyway. Tajiri spent the next six years working on Pokémon. Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, and Donkey Kong, was assigned to help in the development of the initial versions of Pocket Monsters, Red and Green. While working on the game Tajiri came to admire Miyamoto as a mentor. As a tribute to Miyamoto and Tajiri, the main character of the original games and his rival have “Satoshi” and “Shigeru” among their default names.
After six years of development, Pokémon Red and Green Versions were completed. Although the Game Boy’s hardware was becoming outdated, the game still grew steadily in popularity because younger children could not afford brand-new console games so they turned to the inexpensive Game Boy games.
The success of Pokémon led to various manga adaptations, an anime, and more Pokémon games and spinoff games.
Satoshi has gone on record saying that he wanted the games to give children the same joy as he had during his bug collecting. People with autism tend to take up collecting as a hobby, so Satoshi gave them and everyone else a gift that only he could create: a whole new thing to collect.
While Mr. Satoshi Tajiri has confirmed that he has ASD, he does not publicly talk about his condition and would rather remain away from the spotlight, focusing on work and on pursuing his own interests above fame and fortune.