Posts Tagged ‘non-verbal communication’


my eyes do not see you as you see me
they do not see the emotion and fire behind your gaze
nor the hopes and heartache you have endured
your fears for the future
the anguish of your past
are all lost to me
i only see your eyes as
two round objects in a
face full of features
a nose, ears, teeth
they are all the same to me
i try to read the stories behind them
and what stories they must hold
but i cannot know them
to know them i need to read your eyes
and that i cannot do
all i can do is sit here and dream
dream about the sights
your eyes have seen
the places they have been
the memories they hold
i wonder if you can read my eyes
tell me the stories they hold
read me in ways i cannot read you
open the pages that are in my eyes
see the sights and visions i have seen
just by looking at my eyes
if you can then you are so lucky
and truly gifted
at least in my eyes


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 thought this inspiring story of how a young man with autism made a special bond with a barista showed how differences can be overcome with a little understanding. http://m.lancasteronline.com/lifestyle/aaron-and-anisa-young-man-with-autism-forms-special-bond/article_20a01f66-2941-11e4-9d24-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=jqm#.U_3uOCFsQec.facebook


Stood in a room

Surrounded by noise

Coming from walls

From glass, from lights

From people

But no words reach me

An indecipherable sound

A tsunami of noise

An avalanche of words

Nothing makes sense

I’m struggling to hear

To comprehend

To pick the words out

But the sentence is lost

All meaning is gone

I’m alone in a room

Full of people

Surrounded by noise

In the middle of a vortex

The eye of the tornado

As life goes on around me

Without me

 


The next area to examine is environment and the effect it can have on a person with AS. The environment a person with AS finds themselves in can and does have a very profound effect on their ability to function and perform at a reasonable level on a daily basis. This is because many if not all people on the autistic spectrum have issues with sensory sensitivity and the environment they find themselves in can and does have an effect on them to varying degrees (National Autistic Society, 2014). Whilst NT people have the ability to block out and ignore background noise, lights, movement, smells and tastes, to name a small selection, people on the autistic spectrum have tremendous difficulty in blocking out and ignoring these sensations.

An example of this and one of the reasons I chose the University of Huddersfield over the University of Bradford or the University of Leeds is the location and size of the town.

The University of Leeds would have been the most obvious choice to go to because of its size, location and reputation. Yet for me, it was the size and location that I found off-putting and perceived it as causing me the most distress. The size of Leeds was, I found, very overwhelming and I could not fit it into my mind. It was simply too big for me to comprehend and this was extremely off putting for me. Because of its size I visualised that I would find it difficult to navigate and that there would be many moments of sensory overload for me because of this. Travelling to Leeds would cause me similar problems because of the distance from my house to the university and if I was running late this would increase my stress and anxiety levels and leaves me close to breakdown.

The University of Bradford seemed too close and too familiar, although on reflection if I had thought about it more logically rather than believing that I need to challenge myself constantly in order to improve, it might have been the more logical choice based on proximity and familiarity of location.

The University of Huddersfield was from the point of view of physical environment view ideal for me as a university to study at. Huddersfield is close enough for me to travel to, and the town centre is a perfect size and shape for me to get around. This reduces my chances of being subjected to sensory overload and in turn reduces my chances of my levels of stress and anxiety getting too high for me to cope with. The same applies to the campus. Again this is quite small for a university and this makes it easier for me to cope with because I do not get overwhelmed by it. I can visualise both the town centre and the university campus in my mind and this makes it a lot easier for me to cope with.

When I go to a classroom or a lecture theatre I try and visualise what they will look like in advance so that I am prepared for the environment I am entering, even if I have never been in that environment before. This is to help me to mentally prepare for the lesson or lecture and reduce the time I have to spend getting familiar with my environment. Then rather than spending time looking around taking in my environment I can concentrate on the lesson or lecture. The visualisation is based on both personal experience and from watching television programmes and building up a database in my mind of the kind of environment that I can expect when I enter a classroom. For the most part this is quite accurate.

On occasion I have been thrown when the environment was not what I expected, but I have learnt to be more flexible in my thinking and anticipate different shapes and sizes of classroom and lecture theatre. One of the problems I have encountered at university is noisy lecture theatres. Some lecturers are not quite as good as controlling a lecture theatre and maintaining order. In these cases the noise levels have become overwhelmingly unbearable and this has resulted in my having to make other arrangements in order to continue studying. During these episodes students are just talking loudly whilst I am trying to work. This overloads my sensory sensitivity and I go into meltdown because I cannot cope with all the noise and trying to study as well.

Another environment which can cause difficulty for people on the autistic spectrum is where to study when doing revision or assignments. For me studying at home is not conducive to either task because of the distractions there such as television, housework, computer games and pub for example. Whilst on the surface this may sound normal and just an excuse for myself and I suspect many others on the spectrum it is a very serious matter.

On the one hand there is the need and desire to get the work done. On the other hand there is the need for balance in order to avoid burnout. What frequently happens is work is started and then I have a break. When I go back I cannot get started again and this leads to feelings of guilt, lack of confidence, frustration and anger amongst others at not being able to do the task in hand. The main issue here is that these other emotions take over and once again my system is overloaded and I cannot cope and function as I want to do. The end result is that nothing gets done and this merely exacerbates the problem even more. Because the concept of the home as a place of relaxation has been in my mind for so many years, it is now a very difficult concept to change.

However I have found some solace in a scheme called The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL). This scheme allows a student or other member of a university to use the library facilities of another university. For myself I use the library facilities at Bradford University to study in. This is a revelation for me. I have an environment in which to study which is close to home, quiet, spacious, safe and has all the books and materials I need to study effectively.

I have had only two issues here. One was where I studied and there was a lot of noise. This was my fault because I had not read the floor plan correctly and had gone to an area where talking was allowed. The other was where I went in one day and my usual spot was taken. At first it did throw me but I have now told myself that at certain times during the year I cannot expect certain spots to be empty and I will have to sit wherever I can. This is an environment where I can visualise myself learning and studying and my grades have shown a marked improvement since I started using this facility in February 2014.

Now I have an environment I can go to where you are expected to study. I can concentrate on my work and my senses do not get overwhelmed. I can also get out of the house which can get lonely and depressing from time to time and be in a different environment surrounded by people. Over the summer break I intend to make the most of the library facilities by catching up on my subjects and using the time to plan my dissertation and subject modules. What the issue is here is that the university should make students more aware of this facility because it can make such an immense difference to how a student performs and the grades that they achieve.

Copyright © Andrew Smith 2014


One thing I don’t do very often is rewrite my poems. However I have rewritten one called ‘I Believe’ and it got an amazing response when I read it recently at a poetry event. What do you think……………….

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


standing in a crowded room

surrounded by humanity

I feel dead to the souls

of these around me

 

breathing the same air as me

yet unaware of my existence

unknowing and uncaring

I am a statue of stone

 

to those who move and mingle

around me with laughter and joy

telling jokes and tales

of lives gone and lives lived

 

they look straight through as if

I am a ghost of the past

the present and the future

I do not exist to them

 

as I drown in an ocean

of ignorance trying to reach a

shore that never appears

but grows ever distant

 

a shore that will broaden the

horizons of these that confine

me to a voiceless universe

a poisoned chalice never to be

 

consumed for fear of having their

own perceptions and

preconceptions challenged

and found wanting

 

by those who will judge

others without the

utterance of a single

vowel to them

 

and never look in the mirror

and judge the faceless soul

that stares at them

and ask the question

 

what am I doing to this person

 


Last night was another auspicious moment in my poetry experience. I lost my poetry reading virginity! I was very, very nervous as you can imagine, but the evening was made far more relaxing by being held in a small restaurant called the Kava based in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. I had never been to the Kava before but it is a lovely little vegetarian restaurant with a very pleasant and convivial atmosphere, helped by the intimate surroundings.

I went there with two friends, Nuala Robinson and Gaia Holmes. Both Nuala and myself attend a workshop run by Gaia called ‘Igniting the Spark’. The workshop is held every week although we are taking a break for the summer. The workshop is a very friendly environment and achieves what it sets out to do. It has certainly ignited my spark and I am enjoying writing poetry and having my creative side challenged every week by the various activities Gaia sets us. It is the other writers who go to the workshop who also inspire me to write better poetry and without them I would not have come so far in such a short space of time.

In the Kava was another friend who I knew and this helped to settle my nerves knowing that there were people there who had come to support me and the other poets based purely on our performance on the night and nothing else. Gaia was the guest poet and performed several of her amazing poems to a spell bound audience. All of Gaia’s poetry was very well received and she had well deserved rapturous applause at the end of her readings. The compare Anthony then read a poem and after two other poets had performed some outstanding poetry it was my turn to perform.

I got up and very nervously began to read my first poem ‘She Dreams’. All of a sudden my first night nerves had disappeared and I just concentrated on reading my poetry to the best of what I consider to be my limited ability. My next reading was ‘My Eyes’ which is a very personal poem about how I see not being able to read and understand non-verbal communication because of my Asperger’s Syndrome and how I imagine it is for someone else. The last reading was ‘Emily Bronte’s Pen’ which is my interpretation of what it must have been like to be the pen with which Emily Bronte wrote ‘Wuthering Heights’, Every since discovering the Bronte’s and Haworth last year they have held a special place in my heart and every time I visit Haworth Moor or the Bronte Parsonage I feel a tingle down my spine at the thought of walking in the footsteps of literary geniuses who changed the literary world forever with there outstanding poems and novels which have stood the test of time and always will do. At the end of my reading everybody applauded loudly and vigorously, especially my friend Simon who should be a professional applauder! The relief from finishing my very first poetry reading and losing my virginity was immense. All I wanted to do was find a bed and lie down for a very long time! But being 20 miles from home and with other poets still to read I couldn’t lie down anywhere. 

The rest of the poets were equally impressive and I realised how much I have to learn about poetry and I took inspiration from the other poets and their readings. After the event had finished everybody congratulated me on losing my poetry reading virginity and said I was a natural. To hear this gave me a boost to my confidence and has inspired me to carry on writing and reading poetry. Having Asperger’s and suffered from bullying has severely dented my confidence, but I am slowly getting it back through my new found passion.

I cannot thank Gaia Holmes enough for the lovely words she said to me at the end of the night, nor for the owners of the Kava Café who let us have the venue and all of the other poets and people who made it a magical evening for everybody. I got some ideas for a theme for my poetry and I cannot wait to read some poetry again whether it is one of my poor attempts or poetry by one of the greats.