Autism and relationships

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well? I’m recovering from some bad nights’ sleep resulting from Storm Dennis, but nothing worse than that and thought I’d write another blog post!

The clearest sign that I am autistic is in my relationships.

It’s in the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (quoted here from the DSM 5):

Diagnostic criterion A3:

“Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behaviour to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.”

I find that I can hold a conversation, I can socialise, but actually making friends doesn’t come naturally to me. I have always felt different from others and my autism diagnosis last year confirmed those suspicions!

It seems to me, that in relationships, there are 2 extremes that a person can take:

1. “I am completely different from you”

2. “I’m just like you”

In extreme number 1, a person is asserting their individuality, but perhaps to a point that it makes relationships difficult because it can be tricky forming a connection with a person who insists that they have nothing in common with you!

In extreme number 2, a person is emphasising that they are part of a social group, which can make it easier to develop friendships, but possibly at the risk of losing a sense of personal identity.

We all fluctuate somewhere between these 2 extremes every day, although as an autistic introvert, personally, I probably spend more time towards extreme 1 than extreme 2.

In any case, I am Samuel and I am the person God created me to be, just as you are the person God created you to be.

The most important relationship in my life is with Jesus Christ, and when that relationship is not going well (my fault, not his!), I find that relationships with other people are more of a struggle (I suspect the two are connected!)

As Jesus said (reference Book of Mark, chapter 12 verses 29 to 31):

“‘The most important [commandment],’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.'”

Love in Christ 🙂

Samuel

Autism and social energy

Hi everyone,

I am currently exhausted, so naturally I thought I would write another blog post!

I am not physically exhausted though, instead I am socially exhausted.

I will explain.

I have an autistic brain, which means that my brain takes in information in a way which is divergent from people who are not autistic (who incidentally make up 99% of the human population!)

Essentially, I take in information in extreme detail, which means that my brain is more prone to getting overloaded than most people’s.

In social interactions, my brain has to do a great deal of work:

-Listening to the other person

-Making eye contact with the other person

-Interpreting the other person’s facial expressions and body language

-Filtering out background noise and other people’s conversations, so that I can focus on what the person I am listening to is saying

-Not getting distracted by people walking past or other visual input

-“Reading between the lines” of what the other person is saying?! (I am not good at this!)

-Prepare a spoken response to what the other person is saying.

Since I tend to see things in such extreme detail, I see the above as separate and discrete components and sometimes I can only do some or just one of them.

However, neurotypicals (non-autistic people) can do all the above relatively effortlessly by intuitively “feeling their way” through the conversation.

I have to do it by intellect and analysis and it is therefore extremely tiring.

This means that I am more prone to exhaustion in social groups and prefer to interact with other people on a one-to-one basis, otherwise I have to multiply the processes above by the number of people I am talking with, leading to social exhaustion even more quickly!

I am happy that God created me to be autistic – it’s other people that I can find exhausting to be around at times, so I sometimes need a break from other people (this should not be viewed as an act of rejection on my part!) 🙂

You’ll tend to find me in the corner or in a quiet room recovering from social exhaustion.

Gearing up for church tomorrow, the most socially exhausting day of the week – and I thought Sunday was to be a day of rest! (Well, it is from work!)

Love in Christ,

Sam

P.S. Saw a good video on this subject today:

Thoughts on the (almost!) first anniversary of my ASD diagnosis

Hi everyone,

It’s almost one year ago to the day that I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 30 (so now 30 + 1 of course).

It has been a roller coaster year and there are still some ups and downs, but that’s life!

Overall I am happy I was diagnosed and feel that I have grown and developed over the past year, though still not quite back to “normal” yet (whatever that means!)

I would describe it as a sort of “mental rebirth” as I realised that I was and am and always will be autistic and therefore different from 99% of the human race.

It’s been a painful journey (and continues to be), but I am very grateful to God for all the support that He and my family and friends have given me over the past year – thanks 🙂

I am still Sam and I am still Christ’s – that has not changed:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” [you are the same you never change lala per the song etc.] Hebrews 13 verse 8; and

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” Hebrews 6 v 19a

Love,

Sam

Time and space and MBTI

Hi everyone,

I read somewhere recently that autistic people don’t understand time. I fundamentally disagree with this as we autistics do understand time, we just see it differently from the 99% neurotypical majority.

I don’t see time so much as a continuous flow, as as a series of moments.

To illustrate, let’s use a metaphor:

As autistic people we sometimes see things in extreme detail, such that we are told that we can’t see the wood for the trees.

That is about space, apply it to the fourth dimension, time:

We sometimes are so in the moment, that “we can’t see the day for the hour, the hour for the minute, the minute for the second” (you catch my drift!)

Autistic people can find being in the moment a restorative, so mindfulness can be really useful.

The further I mentally (i.e. in my mind) travel back or forward in time, the more exhausted I get, so coming back to what is going on right now, is a really good idea!

As an ISTJ (I will explain below), I can also find thinking about the past to be an energy restorative.

I find the future the most exhausting time to think about, as my motto is “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”, which inevitably means that sometimes I arrive at a “bridge” and then realise that it would have been really useful to have thought about earlier something I ultimately needed to cross the bridge (which is where more brainstorming types thinking ahead have an edge over me!)

ISTJ is from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It means that I am:

1. Introverted – I restore my energy by being alone.

2. Sensing – I focus on facts rather than ideas.

3. Thinking – I prioritise logic over emotion.

4. Judging – I prefer decision-making to opportunism.

It means that I am not:

5. Extraverted – I get exhausted by social interaction as time goes on.

6. Intuitive – I struggle to “read between the lines”.

7. Feeling – I rarely get sentimental.

8. Perceiving – I can be very inflexible once I have made up my mind on something.

Of course this is being very “black and white” (that’s autism for you!), but everyone is introverted/extraverted, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving in different degrees, but each person will have one that is stronger in each pair (there are 16 different combinations).

Here’s a video on ISTJ’s like me (of course it only describes part of me!):

If you’re interested you can take a test at the link below if you are interested in what “type” you are:

https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

Feel free to let me know what type you are if you want!

Just remember, no type is superior to another – we are all unique and have our individual strengths and weaknesses (cf. 1 Corinthians 12 vv 12 – 31) and Jesus is the best!

Love in Christ,

Sam

2020

Happy New Year everyone!

Hope you are all well and have had a good break over the Christmas and New Year period.

I’m just having a rest day yesterday – I can find this time of year tiring due to the social exhaustion of seeing family, both my Mum and my Dad’s families and my friends – but I think that’s an issue for both autistics and neurotypicals!

As it’s a new beginning of sorts, I thought I would take stock of where I’ve come from and where I’m going.

It was almost exactly one year ago that I received my diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and experienced some severe mental health issues (i.e. anxiety), as I came to terms with what it meant for me to be autistic.

Having already been off work for 3 months, I was then off for a further 5 months until June.

Then an attempted (ultimately failed) return to work at my employer for 3 months until September and a few weeks of unemployment until starting a new job.

By now I’d say I’m pretty well 100% recovered and am doing a 33 hour working week (36.25 hours are full hours for me).

I’ve grown in self-knowledge big-time in 2019 and though it was a very rocky road, I can praise God that I was diagnosed with ASD (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5 v 16-18).

I am looking forward to how I will be growing and developing as an autistic person in 2020 🙂

Hopefully see many of you soon!

Love,

Sam

The 3 Laws of Christians (just a bit of sci-fi related fun!)

Hi everyone,

I’m into science fiction and have read some books on robotics by a Russian author called Isaac Asimov.

In his books he wrote about 3 Laws that were input to every robot that was manufactured (apparently these have been input into some robots in real life!)

So, the 3 Laws of Robotics are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

My attempt at the 3 Laws of Christians would go something like this:

1. A Christian must love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.

2. A Christian must love others except where doing so would conflict with the First Law (but in practice, I reckon they wouldn’t contradict?!)

3. A Christian must love themself provided that such action does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

(Just an illustration of the kinds of random thoughts that run through my autistic brain!)

Love,

Sam

Time to change the world!

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well. I just thought a lazy Sunday afternoon would be a good time for another blog.

I’ve recently read a report from the National Autistic Society called “Not Enough”, link at:

https://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/not-enough.aspx

What is becoming clear to me is that people generally just don’t understand enough about autism to be able to help autistic people. Though there is much greater awareness of autism than in the past – there is still a pervasive lack of understanding and acceptance of autistic people as autistic.

It is sometimes said that people with autism have shortened life expectancy, see the article below for example:

https://www.nhs.uk/news/neurology/people-with-autism-are-dying-younger-warns-study/

The article doesn’t make the comfortable reading for me, but it makes an interesting point towards the end, that perhaps in cases of autistic people dying younger than expected it is more due to the neurotypical majority not understanding how to help them rather than anything intrinsic to autism itself.

Personally, I’m lucky that, per the clinical psychologist who originally diagnosed me with autism spectrum disorder back in January, my autism does not shorten my life expectancy.

However it upsets me that autistic people are dying younger than we should because of ignorance around autism, another example below:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-50301184

Still it looks like things are gradually changing (bit by bit), but the sooner the 99% non-autistic population understands the 1% the better, be they doctors, nurses, employers, clergy, police, MPs, job centre staff or just everyone really.

Much to pray about 🙂

Love in Christ,

Sam

P.S. Saw this vid on YouTube which I thought was good for explaining how autistic people are being disabled by a society which does not cater for autistic people (the “social model of autism”) rather than autism being a disability in and of itself (the “biological model of autism”)