Posts Tagged ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’


One of the biggest problems I face in my daily life living with Asperger’s is not only understanding the facial expressions and non-verbal communications of others but understanding how my own facial and non-verbal expressions ae interpreted and understood by others. I spend a lot of time wondering and worrying if I come across to others the way I intend or if I’m misunderstood, misinterpreted and come across in a completely different way. This last one could be a possibility as I have been surprised and confused by the reactions of others when I have looked at them and they have responded completely differently to how I expected.


I believe you
When I stare in your face
And see a happy smile
Beaming back at me

I believe you
When you tell me you’re
Happy to see me
And kiss me gently

I believe you
When you hug me tightly
Squeezing me warmly
Feeling your skin on mine

I believe you
I believe every word you say to me
Every touch of your person
I take it literally

I believe you
Because I know no other way
And whether you truly mean it or not
I still believe you

 


My eyes do not see you, as you see me
I do not see the emotion and fire behind your gaze
nor the hopes and heartache that your eyes must conceal.
The fears for the future, the anguish of the past, are all lost to me.
I only see your eyes as they are,
two deep blue pools set
in a face full of familiar features,
a nose sloping down mountain like
ears leading to deep tunnels,
teeth like prehistoric monuments,
They are all the same to me.
And when I try to read the stories
that live behind those eyes,
the life they must hold,
how I wish I could read them
like I read the words in my books.
But I cannot know them.
For to know them I must be able to read them,
and that I cannot do.
So all I can do is to sit here and imagine,
imagine what sights those eyes have seen,
the places they have been,
the memories they hold.
But as I do that I wonder,
I wonder if you can read my eyes
and tell me the stories they hold?
Can you read me in ways I cannot read you?
Can you open the pages that my eyes hold behind them?
Can you see the fields, the mountains, the lakes,
the skies that I have seen just by looking at my eyes?
If you can then you are indeed a lucky man
and you are truly gifted.
At least in my eyes.


Last Saturday 28th May I got an email for my sprint coach asking if I would like to represent Bradford and District in the Regional Finals of the Special Olympics on June 26th at Sheffield. I qualify for the Special Olympics because I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and have elected to run the 100m, 200m and possibly 400m.

To say I was surprised is an understatement as I have not done any track sessions in the past six weeks and as anyone who has run on the track will know it is very different to running on the road especially if you are running the short sprints as they are all about explosive power in short bursts with no second chances to redeem yourself if you have a bad start.

My shock soon turned into a feeling of pride at being asked and then apprehension at how I would approach the event mentally. I’m quite happy with my physical form at the moment and enter races knowing I won’t place but still with the intention of doing my best and enjoying myself.

With the sprint competition I have a chance of doing well as I will be competing against runners of a similar ability so much of my chances of doing well will rest on how I approach the event mentally.

Where to start though when you are looking for inspiration? Do you look on the net at the thousands of articles written by coaches and champions or do you look for something closer to home written by someone you have met and can relate to?

One person I have met through running is Ben Mounsey. Ben is a rising star on the fell and mountain running scene but someone who is down to earth with it and always willing to share his knowledge and experience of running and competing with everyone. Ben has written several blogs about his running experiences detailing his successes and failures and most importantly his approach to competing.

These blogs are extremely helpful as they give you an insight into the mind of an elite level runner who is a dedicated and determined winner and every runner of any ability can learn much from them if they have a desire to improve their personal performance and push themselves a little bit further.

One article had stuck in my mind that Ben had wrote called, ‘How to Become a Mountain Lion in 10 Easy Steps’. Here Ben details the changes he has made to his life in going from a top club runner to an international star. This includes tips on training, nutrition and equipment but importantly for me mental attitude.

This article is very useful as although it is written from the perspective of a fell runner it can be adopted to any form of running including sprinting.

Equipment is important and sprinters wear special spikes as many of you will know. I’ve never worn spikes so at this stage it is probably too late to change for this competition but in the future spikes will be on my list.

Nutrition is important in all forms of sport and for the next 3 weeks I will be following a high protein diet with plenty of fruit and veg. This is to ensure I have the muscle I need to maximise my explosive power off the line and be able to sustain that power all the way to the finish line. 200m is a long way when you’re going at full speed from the start!

And whilst I have lost a considerable amount of weight through running for this competition I need to strip away as much body fat as I can so all alcohol and fast food is out until after the event. If anyone needs a lift just ask! The leaner I am the faster and more efficient I will be.

How you train is important and as with Ben I will be running up hills to build muscle, power and endurance. I may not do as Ben does and storm up Trooper Lane but living in Queensbury I have plenty of hills to choose from to run up again and again and again.

I will also be on the track practising sprinting but also visualising what I am going to do on my run, where I will put the power down and where I expect to be going at full speed and pushing myself beyond my limits. Visualisation is another technique Ben recommends in order to maximise your run especially when you are competing.

I’m hoping that all this will enable me to perform at my very best on the day and whether I finish first or last I will know that I have done my best in my preparations and performed to the best of my ability and achieved more than I could ever dream about two years ago.

Whilst I will never reach the elite level Ben is at I can apply the techniques Ben has adopted in order to maximise my potential and be the best sprinter and runner I can be. And it is easier to be inspired by someone you have met and can relate to rather than someone who you only see on the TV every now and again.

Here is a link to Ben’s article if you want to read it: https://www.google.co.uk/#q=10+easy+steps+to+becoming+a+mountain+lion

 


watching people crossing
the bridge of life
going back and forth
so easily, so freely
and i stand here looking
for the path that will
lead me to that bridge
and onto the path i desire


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


This is an article I have written about my experiences with Mental Health Services and Learning Disabilities in England. The article is going to be used to help healthcare professionals in their training for people on the autistic spectrum. All comments are welcome.

The Autistic Impressionist

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 20 September 2015

I was at a meeting recently with some healthcare professionals from various backgrounds, but all with an interest in autism. The meeting is held every three months at Halifax, West Yorkshire. It is always interesting to hear the views and opinions of the professionals that attend with regards to developments in local and central government policy that affect both the professionals and people on the autistic spectrum.

One of the topics that came up was the diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and which local services a person with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome comes under. For myself and many others this was a choice between Learning Disabilities (LD) or Mental Health (MH). This is a topic that is often discussed because it affects nearly everybody who is involved with is on the autistic spectrum.

I recounted the story of when I was visited in my home by LD and MH services as they tried to determine which service I fell under and who would pay for any services I may require. This was of course far more important than anything else that may or may not decide I needed. What seemed to surprise some of the professionals at the meeting was the extraordinary lengths I went to, to ensure my house and myself were clean and well presented. What they didn’t and couldn’t know was how this also took over my life in the lead up to the meeting.

The advice I had been given by some support workers at a local autism charity was to present myself and my home environment in as natural and normal a way as possible for the meeting. This was to ensure that the professionals visiting me got an honest impression of how I lived and coped. This is to ensure that I or anybody else in the same position gets the right amount of support based on their circumstances and not based on false impressions.

However having Asperger’s Syndrome and quite possibly a touch of OCD as well this was something I just could not do. I had to tidy my house and prepare it as if it was a royal visit! And this was my problem. Despite knowing that this would go against all the advice I had been given and create the wrong impression, I still could not bring myself to leave my house as it was. The feeling to tidy up was intensely overwhelming and all consuming.

In the weeks and days leading up to the meeting getting and keeping my house tidy was all that occupied my every waking moment. There was nothing else on my mind, nor anything else I wanted to do. I had always been brought up to believe that you could live in whatever squalor you chose to do, but if you had people coming to visit you your house had to be a palace. And being on the autistic spectrum I took this literally and to extremes.

This was what, on reflection made my behaviour different to that of a neurotypical person. A neurotypical person would know when to stop and would not let the situation take over their lives in the way I did or at the very least have far more control over the situation than I did. In addition they would I believe take the advice of the charity and leave their home as it was.

But I am not neurotypical and I didn’t know when to stop cleaning. In the weeks leading up to the meeting I kept thinking that although things were clean they would get dirty again. But then I thought that unless I cleaned them they would be dirty on the day of the visit wouldn’t they? This cycle of thinking, cleaning and reflecting dominated my life over this period of time.

All these thoughts were going round and round my mind 24/7 in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting and they took over my life and overwhelmed my daily existence. However looking back I believe I needn’t have worried as much as I did. Nobody seemed that bothered by how clean or unclean my house was.

All they were bothered about was me and I hadn’t prepared myself for that either mentally or appearance wise. Again I got the impression that this didn’t really matter too much at the end of the day to anybody there. In the end Mental Health was selected as the service that would have responsibility for me and I had more in-depth meetings with people afterwards.

What I hope this story illustrates is how the desire to put on a false impression for people can takeover and overwhelm a person’s life to such an extent that is their life and the sole reason for existence. They may give the impression of being tidy, clean and in control but in reality they are untidy, dirty and have no control.

But the desire to create the right impression is all that matters to them and they will go to any lengths and endure all forms of mental and physical torture to do so.

What this also illustrates is the constant fear many people on the spectrum live in of being judged by others. This has an effect on an individual’s personality and impacts on their identity as a human being living in a social world they have tremendous difficulty understanding. As a result some people and especially people on the spectrum will do even more to be accepted and judged in a positive way even if this is detrimental to their actual situation and health.

I will add that this is my own personal experience and others on the spectrum may react to the same situation very differently and exhibit very different behavioural traits.

© Andrew Smith 2015


I had a really good run today. Not fast nor a long distance but good just for the sake of running and getting out into the countryside away from civilisation and this world we live in that seemingly never stops and just goes on and on constantly. And this got me thinking about why I run. The inspiration for this line of thought came from a blog I read from Helen Mort who also wrote about why she runs.

There are many, many reasons why different people run and all of them are valid. Some people run to lose weight and get fit, others to race and be seen as a winner and for some it will be the chance to show they are the fastest in a race, over a distance or if they are on Strava over a particular segment.

But for me and I hope for many others it is the sure pleasure running gives you in getting away from the seemingly endless and constant barrage of images, noises, words and much more that bombard so many people every hour of every day. Running for me provides a means of escapism from a world in which the avenues of escape seem to be reducing all the time.

For myself too living with the condition Asperger’s Syndrome a form of autism, running gives me a chance to clear my mind of all the thoughts and ideas that conspire to overwhelm my mind all the time in addition to everything else the world throws at me. Running enables me to start afresh with a clear mind free from clutter.

Today was a very good example of this. I am lucky to live where I do on the doorstep so to speak of the countryside. The opportunities for me to go on a run and get away from it all are endless. The only limit is my imagination for thinking up routes and my body which is getting on a bit now!

So today I set off with a route in mind and for once followed it. along the main road then left down a long road, one half houses the other half fields. At the bottom of this road I turned right down a short road and then right again past a farmhouse and onto some nice single track trail heading down into the woods.

And it’s going down into the woods that my mind begins to clear, thoughts disappear as I concentrate on where I’m going looking out for loose stones, tree stumps and wet mud picking the best path down the trail, running as natural as can be, running for pleasure and no other reason.

For me it’s a very uplifting feeling running along paths made by nature under a canopy of green leaves and brown branches through which a strong sun tries to shine rays of light. This is where I feel at one with the world and with myself. No computers, no television, no radio and certainly no mobile phone. Nothing to distract me from the pleasure of running.

My mind is clear and free not overwhelmed by thoughts of what I should and should not be doing, who I should talk to and who I should not, who I should have in life and who I should not and so much more that occupies my mind in this every increasingly complex world I sometimes struggle with.

The Japanese have a phrase for this Shinrin-yoku which translates as forest bathing. This is the practice of wandering the trails of the forest, taking in the natural beauty and feeling at one with nature. This has a calming and relaxing effect on your whole wellbeing and this is why I run and why I ran today through the woods. To find peace with the world and myself until the next time I am overwhelmed and go for another calming and relaxing run through the woods.


And so I move on in life

Onwards ever onwards

But the need to STOP

Reflect and reconnect to my

Inner self grows ever louder

It is time to go beyond me

Go beyond but I know

And reach new heights

Spiritually, mentally, physically

Or I will forever br

That piece of shit

On the pavement of life

That I was told I

Would be so long

Ago…

But now I can

Change my life

My circumstances

And say look at

Me

Look at what I can

Do

And go for it

And do your best

And see what you can do too…


This is a link to an article I have had published in my local paper the Halifax Courier about how taking up writing has changed my life for the better. Hope you enjoy it:

http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/calderdale/writing-gave-andrew-anew-lease-of-life-1-7200603