Sunday, 29 January 2017

'Why can't you just....?'

Dearest readers,
I hope January is treating you well. This post came to me a few nights ago. While reflecting on the past, all of a sudden the phrase 'why can't you just...?' came to mind, and it seemed poignant. I then proceeded to make a list of the various 'why can't you just' times that I have experienced throughout my life. Some stem from misunderstandings, some stem from frustration, some stem from assumptions and some, only a small amount thankfully, stem from malice. Many were non intentional. After having this list, some seemed to group together and fit around certain times or themes. I thought I'd share a few here...:

'Can't you just talk?'; 'why are you so shy?'; 'haven't you got anything to say?!'
Starting with probably the most obvious and frequent in my case. I've had this through school, when I've been in larger groups, in new situations when trying to process everything going on around me. It's almost as if having a more measured approach and not naturally gelling has some sort of wrongness attached to it. I have to be honest, there are multiple points raised out of these. One is the concept of watching, fitting in with what is going on and masking. This reflective practice allowed me to not be as obvious that I did not always know what to do. It allows me to gauge before acting, which is part of my personality anyway but further demonstrates this. Especially in new situations, just because you have learnt something works with one group does not mean it won't go down like a lead balloon here! Furthermore school was busy. It was noisy and with lots of information to take in. Lots of rules and regulations of school world and 'girl world'. A lot of the time I found it very hard work, in fact too hard work if very noisy (one of the main sensory issues I have realised I have is auditory). Therefore picking out which conversation I was supposed to be listening (as they all blur to white noise), processing what it meant in which sphere/world and then finding an appropriate response took time. I have found as I have grown up that putting less pressure on myself has resulted in better outcomes. I am also a naturally introverted and reserved person! In a society where extroversion and socialising is seen to be the required and preferred norm, and where I like appreciate having friends, but trying to break through a noisy and sometimes violent stimuli, seems a no brainer that this would never end well. 
As I have grown older I have become better at manipulating the environment around me: 1:1 is better for me environment and focus wise. Finding friends is never easy but learning that for me, at least, there is no immediate gel but seeds that grow, has allowed me to become more confident gradually. 
On the inverse I an also get 'can you not be as noisy' and 'why did you interrupt?' when I do strike it wrong. Still happens and I expect it to happen throughout my life. We are but only human and make mistakes. I just seem to be very good at not always judging well! 

'Can't you back off?'; 'why are you following me?'
This was much more when I was much younger, like at school. I thought when I had 'pallied up' with someone, and thought I had made my decision and implication known. But obviously I hasn't and it would not be understood what I was doing, hence causing confusion. Other times I have been known to blow cold or be over friendly, but not realise I had done this, or that not to be the implication. 
I think that sometimes I wear my heart on my sleeve. Also I think I sometimes misunderstand other people's intentions, sometimes thinking people are more friendly than they are intending. This confusion between friendliness and friends still gets me from time to time but I find the 'importance' on friendship to have changed since school too. 
I have also found since I have taken pressure off of myself to be 'standard' or to be what society expects, and to not cram myself into this box that clearly doesn't fit. But rather accept me as a person and value who I do haven my life. I have thus found that I find people who are like minded and being open to friendliness and friendships and accepting the value of both. 

'Can't you just do it?'; 'can't you do it alone?'; 
This is clearly a response of frustration to something I either have or have not done. I normally find that I need to be shown how to do something for the first time, almost like a practice run first. I find it really hard to plan if I do not know exactly what I am doing. One example that comes to mind is collecting the register at school, or getting the bus. It's almost that I had to be shown what to do, as I could not put the steps of the sequence together, and just did not know what to say. I needed to be shown the method. Not knowing the method made me very anxious and the more anxious I got, the less able I was to put the steps together, resulting in even more jumbling and stress. 
This is still relevant now but as I have more experiences, the more I have effectively 'learnt'. But equally ebbing an adult brings many new and untouched experiences to learn. I guess I've also learnt ways to 'navigating' this, like asking for clear instructions, doing practice runs or doing things accompanied. 

'Why don't you get it?'; 'don't you see what you've done?'; 'can't you just be normal?' 
I guess this can be seen as the most wide bearing group of all the statements. I often found if I had upset someone or had done something 'off' I usually had no idea what I had done that was so bad. Maybe because I didn't think it would offend or hurt me. Maybe also as I didn't always have a grasp on what I was doing in the context. 
But it's not something you can 'teach' really, as it is all so situation specific! Life is spontaneous and random. We cannot always be right. It is just that some are right and wrong on different things. Shouting or getting cross at someone about something that do not know that they did wrong or how they got there in the first place is null and void. This will only result in frustration on both sides.
And also what is normal? Is anyone really normal? I guess in this instance that normal is interpreted as 'what the majority do'. And what it is to say that what the majority do is correct? it is just socially accepted and not necessarily questioned. My brain is wired slightly differently, so no I cannot 'just be normal', as it is uncomfortable to squeeze myself into this mould that does not fit. We need to accept diversity and celebrate difference. 


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Second Workshop - for foster carers

Hi again all,

After having neglected this for a while (oops) I thought I would update after the second autism workshop I have completed and update on further progress on both projects. If someone had told me I would be doing both of these projects and my research project at university this time last year, I would have laughed in their face quite frankly! I still can't believe that I actually have the confidence to do what I am doing and being told that I am confident and a good presenter. (Today I even got full marks for content and 'trainer' on the evaluation forms!) I guess this partly comes from being passionate about my subject and the topic at hand, but also faith in the right words coming for the right people at the right time.

This workshop was for a different target audience to the last one, as foster carers for a fostering agency. The support group ended up being quite a small group of 10 of us in total, but it actually was the perfect size for a workshop style open table. I had adapted my materials from the autism and churches workshop to use examples more relevant to this target audience (for example instead of describing how may feel walking into a busy church foyer, how it may feel walking into the O2 and waiting for the gates to open for a concert). I also included a small section on SPELL as a pointer regarding this, more as a signpost to other sources.

The discussion throughout the presentation was really interesting and insightful for me as someone who has only a basic knowledge of the care system in the UK and hearing about some of the things we have discussed in our Service Issues and Case Study modules. It gives real context to what I am learning so I am very grateful for this information that I got to hear and discuss with the carers.
One of the things that seems to have been a real plus through having a smaller group is the discussion that comes out of the material that is presented, and real questions and answers can be given after thoughtful reflection. We as a group had much great discussion not only on the information at hand, but questions peeling off the topic like 'is a diagnosis beneficial?', ideas around independent living and growing independence and the reality of being a carer in modern Britain.

We also briefly discussed a comment brought up at the end of my last training session regarding autism and churches, that an autism friendly church is beneficial for everyone, not autistic individuals and we further explored the idea that this is actually the case in life. This made a particularly interesting discussion as we all believed that society should be more accessible for everyone, not just for certain groups of people in certain ways.

I also never like to stand at the front when I present... I don't believe anyone is truly an expert on anything (especially autism) and me standing at the front makes it feel like a classroom. We aren't in a classroom, we are all adults who are here to learn differing things from each other, which is why I sit on a chair. Also for the practical reason of anxiety making my legs shake and that being a distraction... but this informal style seems to have a positive outcome.

I have been invited to two further support groups in two other counties and maybe even to do a training day in addition - watch this space!
Bis bald

Why should I get angry for you to notice?

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