Photo of Jamie & Lion

The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Spoons in brief

Today’s post in my autism awareness week series is probably the easiest. It’s about the spoons metaphor.

First read the original piece by Christine Miserandino.

That covers most of it. The much shorter version is that spoons are a unit of energy. I start most days with 10 spoons and doing things uses spoons. A shower, 2 spoons, commuting 4-6 spoons etc etc.

When I run out of spoons, I tend to get very spaced out. Beyond that, if the pressure continues, it tends to cause a panic attack.

I actively manage my spoons throughout the day. Knowing which activities drain spoons gives me a tool for ensuring I never push to far.

Published: 30 March 2015 | Categories: Permalink

Autism and my senses.

Today is my second post for world autism awareness week. Today I’m going to cover some of the sensory side of autism and how it feels to be on the spectrum.

I have used a cake based analogy to explain autism for a few years.

The basic idea is that the features of autism make a layered cake. Each layer builds on the last.

The base is made of sensory perception. If the sensory environment isn’t right nothing else is possible till the sensory environment is made right.

The middle layer is communication skills and the top layer is social skills. The very top (the cherries) represent relationships.

This post is about the bottom layer. Sensory stuff.

Perceiving and processing sensory input keeps our brains busy. For the majority of people, the filtering is so effective then can choose freely what sensory input they perceive.

For example, most people won’t be distracted by ticking clocks, they can ignore background noise and focus on what they want. It happens without effort or planning. Listening to someone speaking is natural, there’s not perception of the background noise.

I can’t. I perceive everything and have to actively filter stuff out. This takes a huge amount of energy and focus. Many auties have the same thing.

The additional load due too filtering can make some environments completely unsustainable.

To reduce the load I use technology. For my sound perception I use ear defenders and noise cancelling headphones. For my vision I use sunglasses. When the detail of everything is overloading. I often take my glasses off entirely to reduce the levels of input. Effectively. If I can’t see the distracting small details (number plates, signs, the number of stripes on a shirt) I don’t have to filter them.

This filtering effects all my senses. Sound is the most obvious day to day, but it also effects my internal and external senses. Hunger, temperature and pain are extremely inconsistent for me.

If ever someone on the spectrum is having a bad day. First look at the environment. Noise, movement, light, and smells all require filtering.

Be aware of the environment and accept that people on the spectrum don’t have a choice about what we perceive. So we must furnish ourselves with the tools to manage it.

For me, that means I will often refuse to remove my ear defenders. Others find the feeling of an exposed head difficult and need a hood or hat in order to filter that sense.

Demanding that someone on the spectrum removes something they are using to filter the sensory environment. Is exactly akin to demanding someone with no legs to stop using a wheelchair.

Sensory stuff has a fun side. Sensory experimentation and seeking can be a huge source of joy and happyness.

The giant lion toy in the photos alongside this post is Mr Dennis Straction (Mr D. Straction). He’s a very large sensory toy. Covering textures, sounds and motion.

I think he does for me what smoking and alcohol does for others. He is awesome. The sensory input he provides can totally take me out of a situation and help me to relax and regain control.

So I hope that gives some context and explains a bit about the sensory side of autism. If you have any questions or comments. Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch via email.

Published: 29 March 2015 | Categories: Permalink

Autism and my identity

I’m going to try and write a post a day about autism for world autism awareness week. This post is the first. Today I’m going to write about the concept of my autistic identity.

I really only started to understand I was autistic when I was a teenager. I remember the final diagnoses. I remember sitting infront of this lady and calmly explaining that because of how much I had read about autism I was ‘un diagnosable’. That any attempts would be invalid. I believed I was beyond help. Due to die soon and generally of no value.

At the time I was living in a homeless shelter. The discussion around my autism had been ongoing for a few years but in that moment it really mattered. That’s the day that would decide if I got support, or would be left to the streets when I turned 18.

I had only been part of the discussion about my autism for a few years. Becoming aware of the condition and what it meant when I was about 15. However, unknown to me, the discussion itself started when I was 9.

These days, I identify openly as someone who is autistic. I have a diagnoses and I accept that I see the world through a different lens to most people.

When I was 16/17 I was not coping. I could pretend to be normal but the cracks were showing and my peer relationships were failing. I just could not keep up.

In hindsight I am really happy I saw it coming. When my life collapsed I had nothing and very few relationships in my life. I in effect had to start again. As I rebuilt i was open about the autism and built a life and lifestyle that was autism friendly. Suitable for me.

That was almost 8 years ago now. The last 8 years have been an amazing ride but ultimately it’s all been made possible because I am open about being on the spectrum.

Lion, my big fluffy plushie companion, is not a secret. I don’t fear needing ear defenders and I have learnt to ask for help. In the BBC I have found an employer who respects me for who I am and works to build on my strengths.

Autism is part of me. It provides a handy framework of tools which enables me to understand the world and seek out appropriate support. I don’t let if confine me, but I do let it help me understand my own limits. I built a friendship group who knew I was autie from the start. That’s been key. Most people in my life knew I was autistic from day 1. No need to pretend otherwise.

World autism week is about raising awareness so that more autistic people can be themselves. From awareness we can create acceptance.

Acceptance that I have a giant lion, or wear ear defenders is what enables me to focus my effort on my work. Ultimately, my work gives me purpose and from that purpose i derive my happiness. I am autistically happy and it is awesome

Published: 28 March 2015 | Categories: Permalink

Older Articles