Happy 4th Anniversary!

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

Happy New Year! πŸ˜€ Please God 2021 will be a lot kinder to us than 2020 has been (current Irish lockdown aside πŸ˜› ).

It’s time again for my annual reader appreciation post! πŸ˜€

Can you believe it’s been 4 years already?! 😱 I know I say this every year, but I am genuinely shocked that I’m still here and that you’re all still interested in listening to what I have to say! πŸ˜‚

Thank you all so much for sticking with me whether you’re new to the blog or have been with me over the last few years. I greatly appreciate your readership and messages. Particularly during these difficult times, I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you this year; you’ve given me many warm fuzzies to lighten the darker days πŸ€—.

I’ll have a brand new post for you next week so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

Wishing each and every one of you all the best for 2021- we’ll make it a good one!

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

Merry Christmas 2020!

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Just the quickest of posts before the year is out to wish all of my loyal readers every blessing for the holiday season! 😊

Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a much happier and brighter year for us all! πŸ₯°

Stay safe!

Aoife

Autism and Face Masks

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Leading on from my recent post about autism and COVID-19, I’d like to focus in on the issue of face coverings and autism.

mask

With the debate raging in the media as to the true efficacy of face masks, there has been little discussion as to the impact that face coverings may have for autists. Face masks are not fun for anyone (except for maybe playing dress up), but for autists, they can pose a serious sensory challenge. Overheating, irritating materials against sensitive skin, the uncomfortable sensation of elastic bearing down on your ears, and last but not least, the feeling of suffocation from the mask pressing against your nose and mouth.

Thankfully in many countries such as Ireland, guidelines have been issued for people with sensory needs that do not require them to wear a face mask if they are unable to do so, however, if you can, it is recommended that you should. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen viral videos of anxious people berating those who do not wear face coverings, which can further compound anxieties for autists should they be targeted.Β  In these difficult times, whilst I know it can be hard not to judge people when they don’t wear a face mask in public spaces, try to spare a thought for autists. Autism is an invisible disability after all; when you don’t see a mask, consider what else you may not be seeing.

no mask

It is also worth noting that face masks can create further issues for autists as they act as a communication barrier. As autists struggle to read nonverbal cues and facial expressions, wearing a face mask can make communicating all the more difficult- especially given struggles with eye contact. So don’t judge us too harshly if we completely misread social situations with greater frequency than normal πŸ˜‰

Interestingly, in my own experience, I have discovered that face masks have an unexpected advantage in that they have actually helped to suppress meltdowns and have kept me from getting overwhelmed! When you hyperventilate (as I often do during a meltdown), the carbon dioxide levels in your blood drop as you are over-breathing. This can also cause your oxygen levels to drop. The restrictive nature of the mask creates a seal around the face causing you to inhale more carbon dioxide when you hyperventilate which will help to re-balance your blood gas levels and calm you down- just like breathing into a paper bag.

5de06c278af4de9e709bb22749385a57f3030d77ff4eb38bb66152364056f6a5.0

So ironically whilst the face mask may trigger a meltdown, it can equally help to offset one! πŸ˜‚

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Have a nice weekend!

Aoife

What I Wished I Knew About Autism

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

This week I’d like talk about some of the things I wished I had known about autism when I was first diagnosed. There’s so much to learn about the autistic spectrum, but here are just a selection of things I personally wish I had known:

2367c11bfeb8a8da66e7e817805c757b97d5a0e51583f811aa45cef767aff9a7.0

Autism is neurological not psychological– This is something that really stems from a lack of proper education about autism in the world. Because autism is so behaviour orientated, there is often a lot of onus on the psychology of the condition, and as such, people can be very dismissive of it. “If you just did this..”, “if you just tried to fit in…”- it’s not that simple. The autistic brain is wired completely differently to the neurotypical brain. There are chemical differences, differences in multiple structures in the brain, even differences in the number of brain connections. Behavioural changes can be made and coping strategies developed, but we need to be aware of the biological aspect- you can’t just swap out your brain for another. I wish I had understood that my own brain was hardwired to drop me into unfortunate situations growing up!

3ff4ecab47c14c9731380d8666b9a12a0fa143f6fca474294d069d13d17b94fa.0

Autism is a different way of thinking– The autistic brain is built differently, so therefore it thinks differently. It doesn’t mean that autistic thinking is not “normal”, just different.Β 

Autism is a spectrum- I know this one may seem silly as we’ve all heard of the autistic spectrum, but I wished I had known what being on the spectrum really meant. I had often heard the phrase “oh so-and-so is on the spectrum”, but took it to be a catch all term for people who were a bit odd, didn’t quite learn like everyone else, didn’t quite act like everyone else- basically people who weren’t quite “normal”. I never understood the minutia of the spectrum, that there were high functioning and lower functioning forms of autism. I wish I had known that traits were highly variable, that not everyone with autism is the same and that every case is unique. Perhaps if I had known this, I would have been far more understanding and less dismissive of my fellow autists growing up.

360caa9d0ff28163fb1a7597ec015198bed20c910faa8c89c01802c1027bab2d.0

Autists do experience empathy– We just may not be the best at expressing it. In fact as I’ve previously discussed, research suggests that we feel emotions on an even greater scale than neurotypicals.Β 

Autists want love– Asexuality is often thought to go hand in hand with autism. As I’ve previously discussed, most autists want to be loved, we’re just not sure how to communicate that or navigate the complexities of romantic relationships. Yes, there are a number of asexual individuals on the spectrum (as there equally are in the neurotypical population), but as with the spectrum of autistic traits, there is also a spectrum of sexuality.Β 

abbb6623d14fd35d3271de90deb1ab3d14aedcc9e318b85b1a4d57b2cc768b85.0

That I wasn’t alone– For much of my life I felt like I didn’t fit in, like the world just didn’t understand me. I was always saying or doing the wrong thing, regularly subjected to looks of disappointment and dismay followed by lectures about my behaviour. When I would meltdown, I was ridiculed or punished as I sat there baffled by my own reactions, unable to explain to myself or others what had happened. Everything changed once I got my diagnosis; suddenly my behaviour was not so abnormal after all. There were articles, books and blogs filled with thousands of similar stories to mine. There was a name, an explanation, a community- I never have to feel alone again.

That I was “normal” (whatever that means) – As a result of being undiagnosed and misunderstood, I was constantly berating myself for not conforming to the accepted “norm”. The world told me that I was weird, that I was “wrong”, where nothing I ever seemed to do outside of academics seemed to be “right”. Had I truly known and understood that there is no such thing as “normal”, had I, and the world, known that being autistic is “normal” for millions of people, my life could have been so much simpler.

bitmoji314050179

Hope you liked this post dear Earthlings! πŸ™‚Β 

Enjoy the weekend!Β 

Aoife

Happy Easter 2020!

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

In the midst of these trying times, I’d just like to send you all a quick Easter greeting for 2020! πŸ™‚

f5560dd1e44dcd6e84ec82ad129e271869d04c4181db11b7fa3b2ffc0130b9f4.0

I wish I could say that my Easter plans will look like this, however, the reality will unfortunately look a lot more like so:

isolation

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter wherever you are, and hoping that you’re all doing OK during this crisis.

Sending my virtual love to all my Earthlings!

b8aefdc00d8097e4c636dc51b4d5473548aba7811897a3aa5142296d9740cfa2.0

Aoife

Autism and COVID-19

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

bubble

As I am writing to you this week from an Ireland on near total lock down, I’d like to talk to you about the COVID-19 pandemic and how this affects the autistic community. While many autists will be content in isolation, concerns over contracting the virus, disruption to routine and difficulty obtaining preferred foods due to panic shopping can make this time quite stressful.

coronavirus

Here are some of my top tips for navigating the pandemic on the spectrum:

Try to remain calm– I know, easier said than done for the anxious and over-thinkers, but panicking will solve nothing, and will trigger meltdowns and shutdowns. If you’re struggling with your emotions surrounding the pandemic, try to write them down or talk about them with your family. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Stay positive- I know it’s hard to see the sun through all the cancellations (Eurovision and my recent non-holiday were particularly heavy blows for me), and the rising number of cases, but this shall pass. Try to see the positives of our situation- more time for family, new hobbies, a break from the office the environmental impact of restricted movements etc.

Know the facts– do not allow yourself to get distracted by fake news, this will only make things harder. If you must read about the virus, educate yourself using the official information released by the World Health Organization. Knowledge is power.

Turn off the news/take a break from social media– if you’re the kind of person who get’s easily weighed down by all the fake news and mass hysteria on our airwaves at the moment, just take a step back from the media. Limit and reduce your consumption- perhaps taking a break from social media might help to drown out the panicked buzzing all around you?

Keep busy– this is crucial for the easily bored autistic mind. Cabin fever comes on all too quickly when you’re not adequately entertained, so try to keep yourself occupied. Indulge your specialist interests and hobbies (why not even take up a new one?) take plenty of walks (if you can), sort out all of the items you’ve been procrastinating on your to-do list etc. Find a way to keep both body and mind distracted and the time will fly by!

And most importantly, stick to the following rules for preventing the spread of the virus:

 

 

I know it seems like the world is spinning out of control, but we need to do our best to stay calm to get through this time. We all have to do our bit to combat the virus- sacrificing our routines for a few weeks may seem difficult, but it’s the only way to lock this thing down and stop the spread.

Stay safe everyone! πŸ™‚

Aoife

Autism and the Catherine Noone Controversy

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

This week, I’d like to talk about a highly controversial incident that’s happened this week in Ireland in the run up to our general election on the 8th of February.

 

Image result for catherine noone

Fine Gael election candidate Catherine Noone has gotten herself into hot water this week for making the following comment about Taoiseach (aka our prime minister) Leo Varadker while out on the election trail:

“He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.”

In the wake of these comments, she initially denied them before a tape emerged of the conversation. Since then, Catherine has apologized profusely to the Taoiseach, which he has accepted, and she will not face suspension or sanction from their political party.

Image result for catherine noone

This entire incident has naturally caused outrage among the autistic community in Ireland that autism was used in such a derogatory way.

The biggest issue here is Catherine’s lack of education about autism and her sweeping stereotypical comments. Most people have a certain percentage of autistic traits, but that does not mean that they are on the spectrum. Moreover, someone can be perfectly at ease in social situations, but can still be autistic.

8d05dcfbee0eb3e07600751e226b81a3d0350af9e5b3aa38165df1061c6f553f.0

In my opinion, I found it quite insulting that this statement would imply that I, as an autist, am like the Taoiseach. I do not appreciate being lumped in the same camp as a man with such a serious lack of empathy for the people over whom he governs. The housing and homelessness crisis, our abysmal health service (despite being a trained medical professional), the death of rural Ireland – the country has been falling apart while the salaries of his cabinet have increased. As I have discussed previously, contrary to popular belief, autists are quite empathetic. We may not always know how to convey empathy, but it does not mean we are devoid. Few autists could sit back and allow what’s happened to Ireland in the past few years as our clear cut understanding of right and wrong would forbid it. To imply that I am anything like an unfeeling politician is extremely hurtful.

To be fair, this lack of empathy is fairly typical of most politicians- but I’m not one for stereotypes πŸ˜›

The world needs to be properly educated in the range of ways that spectrum traits can manifest, maybe then we would be far less quick to resort to derogatory stereotypes.

Hope you enjoyed thisΒ  post dear Earthlings! πŸ˜€

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

Autism Friendly Shopping

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

Shopping can be quite an overwhelming experience for an autist- the hustle and bustle, bright lighting, loud noises, strong smells etc.

As autism friendly events are all the rage at the moment, I decided to take some time to check out Lidl’s weekly autism friendly shopping hours.

bitmoji-20200108115640

So what’s so special about Lidl’s autism friendly shopping experience?

Every Tuesday from 6-8pm across all Irish stores, Lidl takes the following autism friendly measures:

  • Reduced lighting
  • No music or announcements
  • Lower till scan sounds
  • Priority queuing
  • Offers additional help if requested
  • Assistance dogs are welcome (sadly none of these cuties were around during my visit 😦 )

They also include a sensory map for kids which can be downloaded from their website to show you the layout of the store to familiarize yourself with it, even providing a key to indicate where there may be strong smells, cold areas, and items that you shouldn’t touch:

Image result for lidl sensory map

This map would also be of benefit for anxious adults on the spectrum, albeit the ‘do not touch’ symbols on the alcohol, pet food and cleaning products is a bit insulting. These symbols could be challenging for literal, rule-abiding adult autists- who says we don’t like to drink/cook with alcohol, have pets to feed or need to clean a toilet πŸ˜›

So how was my shopping experience?

I’ve lived and shopped on my own since college, so I’m perfectly at ease with the hustle and bustle of a busy shop (except for Lush in Dublin- so narrow, crowded and impossible to find what you’re looking for that I have to say a prayer before I enter πŸ˜› ). Nevertheless, I found the whole experience quite soothing.

bitmoji-20200108115447

My eyes didn’t recoil from the harsh transition from the darkness of the carpark to dazzling supermarket lighting, but rather gently adjusted to the dimmed lights. Even the freezer lights were turned off to reduce the sensory impact. The quietness of the store was similarly soothing. I could slowly walk around the store at ease, my mind clear to focus on the items in front of me.

I was really enjoying my experience, however, it was cut short abruptly without any warning.

Lidl’s autism friendly hours are 6-8pm on a Tuesday. At 7.45 I looked up from my phone to be blinded by the store lighting which had been turned on early. Granted, shops aren’t a sensory problem for me, however, had another autist been in the shop at this time it could have been a whole other story.

What if someone had started their shop at 7.30 under the assumption that they had a solid 30 minutes to get a few bits?

This begs the question as to why the hour ended early? Autists are very literal andΒ  would assume that when something is advertised to last until 8pm that that is when it ends- not 15 minutes earlier with no advanced warning. At this point in the evening, there were no children in the shop, so was it assumed that there were no more autists doing their shopping? My presence meant that there was one confirmed autist still shopping, who’s to say there were not others?

If the decision to end the hour early was based on the number of children in the store, it is highly insulting to adults on the spectrum. People still consider autism to be a childhood disorder, but it is lifelong. We keep forgetting that the child with autism will one day grow up. These autism friendly evenings appear to be mainly geared at children, but adults with autism may choose to shop during these hours too and this must be considered.

Aside from their disregard for accurate timekeeping, Lidl is nevertheless the perfect spot to go for an autism friendly grocery spree! πŸ˜€ If arriving later in the hour though, especially for adult autists, perhaps it would be worthwhile flagging it to a member of staff or carry a sign or something to avoid getting caught out like I did πŸ˜› πŸ˜‚

bitmoji-20200108115511Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! πŸ˜€

Enjoy the weekend!

Aoife

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Greetings Earthlings!

Happy New Year!! πŸ˜€ Hope that you and yours enjoyed the holiday season as much as I did πŸ™‚

Here we are again- another year’s blogging under my belt! 😲

bitmoji-20191218072718.png

No one is as shocked as I am that I have now been writing this blog for THREE whole years, and even more so that you’re all still enjoying my ramblings! πŸ˜‚ I am so appreciative for your continued readership and support. Reading your messages and comments about how my words have helped you has meant so much to me these past 3 years πŸ™‚

I’ve got some brand new ideas cooking away so roll on 2020! πŸ˜€

bitmoji-20191218072649.png

Aoife

Seasons Greetings!

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

bitmoji-368720544

As 2019 draws to a close (and so two does my third year of this blog! 😲), I’d just like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and every blessing for 2020 πŸ₯³

Thank you all so much for your continued readership, support and kind messages this year, and I look forward to writing for you all again in the new year πŸ™‚

Enjoy the holiday season dear Earthlings! πŸ˜€

bitmoji-20181214013654

Aoife

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑