Bye 2020!

Well, 2020 was an interesting year to say the least!

In January I travelled to Melbourne. Little did I know this would be my last trip for a little while. While in Melbourne, I caught up with friends and saw Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As many will know, I am rather fond of my theatre. I was able to continue writing my Theatre People column and took over the role of editing, organising and formatting it this year. The column celebrated 200 editions in December!

With my friend Katrina after seeing her perform in Come From Away.

Later that month, I travelled to Northern NSW for Autism Camp Australia’s inaugural camp for autistic children and their families. During this time I ran into my cousin Rebecca who happened to be staying at the same campsite as me.

Rebecca and I
With the team at Autism Camp Australia

I worked FOH (Front of House) for the Savoyard’s production of Into the Woods. Savoyards is a theatre company based in Brisbane. I have done a few shows with them and very much enjoy it. I have met many new friends there.

During covid closures, I celebrated my birthday by sharing cake with my house mates. A few friends delivered lovely gifts to my house which was beautiful. It was a different experience but lovely and peaceful.

My Birthday Cake

I worked hard as a first year Teacher Aide, working at numerous schools around me. For now, I am doing relief work which turned out to suit my lifestyle quite well. Together with Autism Camps in the holidays and Teacher Aide work, I work as a Tutor for a company called Autism Goals. I am learning a lot about advocacy in the school environment as well. During the first part of the year, I worked as UOW as a Tutor, unfortunately due to budget cuts, this work didn’t continue during the second part of the year.

I am still actively involved in the circus community and teach when extra hands are needed on the Gold Coast at a Circus School run by Dr Kristy Seymour, a University Lecturer and Academic who wrote her PhD on Circus Training for Autistic Children: Difference, Creativity, and Community.

At Circus School

I have continued my volunteering at QAGOMA and thoroughly enjoy it! I work with the learning and education teams once a week, assisting with creating spreadsheets, databases and assisting with the Low Sensory event planning. It has been a pleasure to have so many amazing mentors and friends in my life.

Low Sensory Day signage

The AFL Grand Final was held in Brisbane for the first time ever, dad and I were lucky to get tickets. We were very close to the action on the evening. Dad slept over my house that evening and we went for breakfast at a cafe near me the next morning. We will have life long, happy memories.

Dad and I at the AFL Grand Final

My education is going well. I completed my Certificate IV in Education Support in 2019 but due to everything going on, the ceremony was postponed to December 2020. I was presented with the Outstanding Student Award on the evening. Currently, I am completing my Master of Autism degree through UOW. If all goes well, I will finish at the end of 2021. During my first semester, my two subjects were research focused which was fairly new to me. I enjoyed learning and finished with two overall distinctions.

Textbook Overload!

The theatre industry has been challenged during this time with shows closing down. The theatres have only started re-opening and restrictions are in place. This is the same for the circus community, many have set their big tops up on their property so that they can continue training which is necessary to retain strength and prepare for life on the road again. I have been working on my plate spinning skills and I can’t wait to show you!

Lastly, I have enjoyed spending time with my mum, dad, brother, sister in law and niece. I look forward to many more adventures soon, stay tuned!

My Brain

Artwork by Holly Oakley. (instagram: @art_by_hols )

My brain is multiple levels and degrees of functionality entwined, weaved and interlaced into a messy, frayed and tangled organisation of nerve endings, thoughts and instructions. Currently, my favourite quote is from The Queen’s Gambit, no it is not because I am particularly able when it comes to manoeuvring chess pieces but because for once in my life, I have a way of describing the inner workings of my brain to myself and to others.

I feel like even though she is a fictional character, I relate to her so much.“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be… beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame”-Beth Harmon

Words can be very powerful and when I lack in ability to verbalise when a topic isn’t one which I have encyclopaedic knowledge of, I write. Writing was initially introduced to me as a way to explain emotions and to self- regulate but it has become much more than that in recent years. When I write, there are constant short video clips dancing through my mind. For example, my brain has an ability to capture small, minuscule images that can be viewed later, I can pause them, rewind, fast forward however I have lost the stop button so if you find it, please return.I take medication that slows my brain down to a level that allows me to compute what is going on long enough to think through before I react. I constantly see patterns, for me it is words and numbers. When I travel on the bus, I play games such as using a cars number plate letters to form the longest word I can think of but the letters in the word must be in the same order as on the number plate.

When my mind is clear, I can feel my brain acting as a calculator with numbers. The numbers move as though one is completing the sum on a blackboard or piece of paper. It is how I recognise that my body is fatiguing the numbers slow and slowly the dancing becomes slow until it stops. I adore excel spreadsheets as I can formulate patterns and re- calculate when a variable changes. I can still recite my times tables up to 12 x 12 in under 4 minutes and when I see a theatrical production i can dissect it. The first time I did it, it was 7 pages long and the last one I did was 13. It took until someone told me that it was amazing to realise not everyone’s brain worked that way but at the same time I didn’t know anyone else whose brain did so.

I like to use the analogy of when I was wiping a coffee mug one day, this white, one handled coffee mug was in my left hand as the pink and blue pale striped towel wiped it and all of a sudden that coffee mug, it shattered in my hands and fell to the floor. I began to cry and ran from the room slamming my bedroom door. To others it was a broken coffee cup but to me the pattern and predictability had smashed into many different shards and lie alone on the timber floor.This is what happens when I step outside my scripted and practised world full of predictability into a world where I need to allow someone else to control even a little inch of the formula. My brain becomes frightened, I make mistakes and leave my King wide open or I miscalculate a sum that I should of easily performed. I need to then retreat into the reclusiveness of familiar space and resuscitate by brain. I apologise for allowing danger and hurt. My whole body shuts down, it crashes like the coffee cup, the king as you lay it on the chessboard and a computer with no battery.I crash until patterns once again fill my brain, numbers and words dance as they have never danced.

Once again, thoughts are entwined, weaved and interlaced and I am safe.

Book Review

This afternoon I wrote a book review. I love autobiographic books and reading. I also love travelling.

REVIEW:

There have been many moments in history where women have had to fight to do what they were passionate about.

In the late 1970s and early 1980’s an Australian woman by the name of Deborah Lawrie took a then large Airline Company to the High Court because they wouldn’t employ her as a Commercial Airline Pilot simply because she was female.

Across the Pacific Ocean in the USA a woman by the name of Beverley Bass was paving the way for young girls and women everywhere who also had a dream. Bass became American Airline’s first female Captain in 1986 and later that year (December) captained American Airline’s first female crew. Since then, Bass has inspired many young women to not only become pilots but to pursue roles in fields that aren’t traditionally thought of as being female.

In September 2019, Bass first published her book Me and the Sky. Me and the Sky is a picture book aimed at children between the ages of 4-8 but I believe it is a book for girls and women of every age and everywhere. The book speaks in the beginning of an 8 year old Bass who would jump off her family washing machine and for that small moment, fly.

She loved that feeling of flying, of soaring in the air and was jovial when she achieved her pilot wings. I believe this book should be read by parents and teachers and by children themselves. I would even go as far as saying that it should be on school’s reading lists.

This autobiographical picture book documents Bass’s career from the beginning and includes the events surrounding her stay in Gander, Newfoundland following the closure of American Airspace after September 11th , 2001. In addition to the beautiful illustrations by Joanie Stone it includes some great real life photos of Bass.

Bass has taught a whole generation to not take no for an answer and to dream big. This is why I have not only bought a digital version for myself but will be purchasing physical copies for my niece and the schools I will visit in Nepal later this year.

Travelling

 

These days I find myself travelling more and more. Whether it be a train ride to another Brisbane suburb or travelling overnight on a plane it is important to plan ones trip.

Here are a few things that I do when I travel that may help someone else.

WHERE ARE YOU GOING? 

To start organising a trip I find it helpful to have a starting point. Whether you choose this by closing your eyes and picking a spot on a map or you are travelling for an event or conference is totally up to you.

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LOCATION SPECIFICS 

Now you know where you are going and possibly when, you will be able to do a little research on the location. Here are some of the questions that I find it good to know the answers to:

Timezone: how far in front or behind is the country you are visiting?

Weather: What season will it be during the dates I am there? Does it rain a lot ? Can I wear that new summery dress or should I buy some snow gear ?

Language Spoken: Does my host country speak my mother tongue or should I buy a phrase book?

Currency: What currency is used? Should I get cash out before I go or are ATMs widely available? Have you thought about splitting between cash and card ?

TO BOOK OR NOT TO BOOK?

Accommodation: When I travel, I will stay with family or friends if possible but sometimes it isn’t so one must look for somewhere. Not only do I like to know where I am staying but many countries require an address within that country on your entry card. Book places that have public transport close or have Uber/ taxis services close. I like the convenience of having a grocery shop close too for those unexpected and unplanned moments.

Depending on what you like to do, some activities sell out months in advance such as The Harry Potter Tour in London. If you know you really want to see something, book in advance to avoid missing out.

Flights: Always shop around. If you have the flexibility to travel weekdays it is cheaper . Also just because a flight is cheap, doesn’t mean it is good. Go with your gut instinct. I prefer to travel with Jetstar or QANTAS and you may have a preference also

You can often get cheaper flights at certain hours of the day or on sale.

 

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WHAT TO PRE- BUY/ CHECK

Travel Insurance

Passport– many countries require 6 months or more left so check it.

Visa– Do you need a visa to enter the country/ countries you are going to ? Do you need it before or can you buy when entering?

Travel Vaccines- Do you need to have proof of certain vaccines? Is there a high risk of conditions eg. dengue fever?

Currency– even if you are going somewhere with ATMs I find it less stressful to have around $50 of local currency for emergencies or food when you arrive so you do not have to find an ATM as soon as you arrive.

Sim Card- Data can be expensive. I recently travelled to Singapore and it cost me $12.00 for 100 GB on a Singapore SIM card and it was the best idea. Also turn your phone on airplane mode and you won’t risk a high phone bill when you get home.

Adaptor– Check the kind of adaptor you need and buy one.

Medication

Purchase your prescription from home, an overseas venue may not have what you need or it may be under a different name. It is better to be prepared. Also gain a doctor’s letter stating details of medication and dose and some countries may need this to be presented eg. If the ingredients in medication are restricted. I have a little yellow book which has my vaccinations and medication recorded.

Tickets– I struggle to do spare of the moment things so I book my theatre shows, sight seeing, bus and train tickets, theatre tickets etc all in advance and keep them in a designated folder either physically or in an email inbox folder.

Itinerary– I know you probably aren’t like me and have 36 pages printed out that tells you what you are doing in multiple time zones and currency but having a rough idea is good! Also many places like to know that you have a return flight eg. Aren’t going to illegally stay in their country.

Contact Details- Keep your loved ones numbers on paper as well as hotels, tour companies and any other numbers you may need.

Copies of Documents-

Give copies of important stuff eg. Passport to a trusted person in case the worst happens and you need backup!

 

BUDGETING

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Ok, let’s face it- I am a bit of a weirdo and I love excel. I love nothing more then calculating what I have bought and what I need to buy with mathematical formulas.

You may not go this far but at least make sure you have enough money for everything you are planning.

It is better to over budget and have left over currency then to under budget and find yourself stranded with nothing. Make sure you take the exchange rate into mind and have a variety of payment methods as some small markets etc may not do card.

PACKING

Here is the list I created for carry on. It covers all bases and you can add to or take from to  suit your travel needs.

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Pretty much, anything important- carry it in carry- on!

GENERAL TIPS FOR AIRPORT/ FLYING

-If your airport has the opportunity  of a hidden disability scheme such as England’s Sunflower Lanyard – use it. If not you can request special assistance when you book a flight

-Take chewing gum or lollies on plane, chewing prevents your ears from popping and that pain.

-Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for help or questions.

-Take a coat even if you are going somewhere warm as planes, trains, shopping centres and venues may be very cold.

-Take a travel pillow, they are so good even when watching a movie on the plane

-You are allowed to take own snacks on plane as long as a) they are within the weight/ size limit and b) you don’t carry fruit / other items across state and country borders.

-If in doubt declare- declaring food items or souvenirs may be required, if in doubt- declare. It is better then the consequences of not declaring.

-Stimming/ sensory overload

Pack and carry sunglasses, headphones, things you can squeeze or chew or your favourite stuffed toy. Don’t be embarrassed to wear glasses inside or explain to a friend that you are anxious or overloaded. They will understand if they are your friend.

 

-Leave plenty of time to transfer, you don’t want to attempt Olympic running record speed to make your boarding gate. Talking of boarding gates, check the board your flight could even change gate while you are at another.

-Read the website, familiarise yourself with where the places you need are.

and last of all HAVE FUN!

 

 

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NICHOLE GOES INTERNATIONAL ✈️

I thought today would be an excellent day to write a new blog post. Plenty has been happening of late and I may of forgotten to update.

On Wednesday, I fly to Singapore via Sydney arriving in Singapore at approximately 9pm Singapore time.

People have been asking me whether I am nervous and I am but I am also excited, anxious and a whole mix of other feelings that I haven’t been able to name yet.

My anxiety and nerves have nothing to do with the conference though. I know at autism conferences I can walk around with a green dot on signalling that I am cool to talk to anyone and if I want I can change it to yellow which means I would like to talk but not really to people I don’t know. I think life would be so much easier if people adapted the dot system in everyday life.

I like autism conferences because on the most part, I can be myself. I can walk around bare feet the whole time. (except for when I speak because I think photos of me wouldn’t look good bare feet especially if I wanted to use them at a later date for promo on my page). I like the feeling of things and being able to feel with my feet is heaven. For my speech I have packed my silver sparkly shoes, I like sparkly things because they look cool and they often have a great tactile base and I love touching things.

Autism conferences you don’t need to hide your feelings, if you need to you can go chill in the chill out room or you can socialise with the others there. As autistics we don’t have expectations, if you want to stim you can, if you want to communicate non verbally you can, if you just want to soak in the conversation you can. I don’t get told off for sucking my shirt collar or the need to have something in my hands when I talk. I am me.

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Getting back to where I was before I went on my tangent though (I am good at that) the part I am most anxious about though is finding the transfer gate in the airport to go from the domestic to international airport. I have a map and I think I know where to go but I am still feeling an overwhelming anxiousness that I will screw this up. I have informed the airline that I am autistic and may need help with this. Hopefully it all goes smoothly.

The hardest thing at conferences (and in general) are the neurotypicals who seem to think just because you don’t fit into their mold of autism, you can’t be.

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But I am.. below I have described how autism is for me in the hope of being able to educate others that it is not a one size fits all diagnosis.

While I come across as good at socialising, it has taken years of practise and mimicking of others.

-I struggle reading others emotions although I absorb them which has difficulties of its own as I don’t know which are mine and which are theirs.

-I don’t know when someone is finished talking or they are simply pausing.

-I want to say something before it is no longer relevant but unfortunately it is at the expense of someone else talking and they get angry. I am sorry for this. Telling me to shut up though will not offend me .

-I make friends easy but often come across as intense and struggle to maintain friendships.

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-I am working on not being monotone during conversations and speeches

-I get distracted easy

-I need something in my hands when talking as I don’t know what to do with my hands and I get really anxious so this is a coping  mechanism so if you see the stuffed quokka or the phone, know it is actually helping me to focus better on what you are saying

-I must pack using lists, in fact I live my life with lists, I have shopping lists on my fridge and a white board outlining what I need to do on my desk. I feel lost without my lists.

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-Don’t change my routine, often I change it like bus numbers etc but it has to be initiated by me. The times are the same, I catch the 6:50 train Saturday and swap at Central cause Roma St is huge and hard to navigate and I hate when there is rail work as it throws my plans .

-if you are going to be late, please message me, I won’t be upset I will be happy that you took time to tell me.

-Don’t get me started on musicals or gymnastics unless you want a huge conversation.

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-I will wear sunglasses sometimes at night to block out lights so please don’t make me feel bad for doing so. My eyes don’t like flashy lights so if I can block these out I will.

-I watch movies with subtitles and rewind multiple times cause I can’t auditorily process what I am watching. Same with musicals, yes I know I waste money seeing them multiple times, that is my problem. I have however sometimes found the script online and been able to read it so I can fill in the bits I miss.

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-I seem to only need warm clothes on the top half of my body, I can have 4 jumpers on and be bare feet

-I am the worst person to take into a shop cause I will set off all the noisy toys and touch everything.

-I will rock in public when I am anxious or nervous

-I am sensitive to criticism but it is welcome if done lovingly by someone I know.

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-Don’t force me to look at your eyes when we talk. I can pay attention to you better if I am not.

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-I love warm, tight hugs from people I know/ people who ask.

-I am clumsy, I will walk into walls and tables.

-I have a horrible short term memory, I place something down and I have no idea where it is but I can tell you what happened many years ago in crystal clearness. For this reason if you give me instructions make a list or only give me maximum 2.

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– I need downtime after socialising.

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-Autism is not new, neither is ADHD, we are just getting better and more knowledgeable, the first book describing what we now know as ADHD was published in 1846.

I am leaving you with the story of the first boy/ man diagnosed with autism.

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/people.com/celebrity/donald-triplett-autisms-first-ever-patient-now-82-has-continued-to-grow/amp/

We will always be autistic and if you are kind and friendly you may get to know my non masked self.

 

GOOD INVESTMENTS

I thought it was about time that I updated my blog but postponing doing so until I received notice of very exciting news which arrived last night. With no further excuses to use, here are the stories of what I have been doing and where I have been galavanting to in the last four months.

In the last chapter, I had been assisting FOH (Front of House) at a Brisbane production of Chicago. Here is a photo of myself backstage in preparation for the Opening Night Party.

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In October, I completed my final assignment for my Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies; all 3,215 words of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of the academic component of the course as well as learning a lot about myself in the mean time. I earned my Graduate Certificate with 3 Distinctions and a Credit for my four subjects. My overall mark equated to a 75.75 which is an overall Distinction.

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I have recommenced my Certificate IV in Education Support through an Education Provider in Brisbane although I have chosen to continue my studies through Distance Education. I am completing my prac at Brisbane Montessori School in Fig Tree Pocket and loving it. My goal is to be finished by December and to gain 2-3 days of employment per week in 2020.

2018 also saw me participate in the Autism CRC Future Leaders Programme with other autistic young people from around Australia. Most of the components were online but the programme also included training in Brisbane as a group. There will be many long term friendships from this group and in fact the Brisbane based members of the programme met up for dinner and catch up a few weeks a go.

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As part of the programme we are required to do 50 hours of prac. I am completing mine on Wednesday at QAGOMA, the Art Gallery/ Modern Art precinct in Brisbane. It is of walking distance along the river from home and I am loving it.

In November I travelled to Perth for the first time and spoke at the Autism West Symposium for 45 minutes !!! Other activities during my time in WA included meeting new friends, visiting Fremantle and Fremantle Prison, visiting Perth Girl Guide Units and Rottnest Island where I partook in some seriously memorable experiences.

In December, I attended a ceremony at Government House with my mum and dad where I received a Special Commendation in the Individual Achievement Category. I was able to meet up with Cynthia and Summer, friends who I had met through online advocacy and mum, dad and I met the Governor of QLD. Talking of awards, I also received my 10 year service award from Gymnastics QLD at a ceremony in early 2019.

Now for my exciting news. In the last three days I have received notifications that made me really happy. On Tuesday I received an email saying I have been nominated for an Autism Spectrum Australia’s Recognition Award in the Inspiration Award for Individual Achievement- Adult Category.

Yesterday, I received notification that I have been accepted to speak at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Singapore in June. I am part of a group of many Australians going so I will know others and won’t be alone. I am learning how to tighten my spending and save 😬😂

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Last bit of news, I am now teaching Circus on Saturday as part of the Umbrella Circus Program which is for individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

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Life and all that jazz…

Sometimes life becomes a little chaotic and I forget that (despite all thoughts and well meanings ) i need to update my blog. Other times, my mind is experiencing so many thoughts at once it is difficult to sit down and pick out individual moments to write about. More or less, it usually both of these combined and when I look at the calendar I go “um when did it become mid September 2018?

 

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So here is a quick update

 

Gymnastics 

I commence my volunteer role on September 30th at the National Clubs carnival on the Gold Coast. National Clubs was my first competition (back in 2005). Apparently I did something right because I am still here. I will be doing various jobs which include medals, music and managing the WAG and RG warm up gyms.

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Chicago

So I am helping out with Savoyard’s production of Chicago doing FOH and anything needed during rehearsals. There may even be a little surprise ☺️

Chicago commences previews next week at Iona College.

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then we…

 

Uni

I looked up and we are into week 9 of 13 of this semester. I received a credit for my first assessment of this semester with one more to be marked and two more to complete. I am very much enjoying it and have learnt so much about autism in general and myself.

 

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Guides

As many of you know, I am a leader at both Chermside and St Lucia units, I am finally fully qualified as a youth leader again and have taken on the role of John Oxley Arts Person (St Lucia is John Oxley region while Chermside is Brisbane North). So that is my usual Monday and Tuesday nights.

Recently my St Lucia girls raised $250 for Orange Sky Laundry at their cardboard sleepout, pretty much we slept in cardboard boxes, taught the girls about the challenges the homeless face and raised money for a good cause.

At Chermside we went camping at Bribie Island on the weekend and enjoyed the circus themed activities, walks and building sandcastles on the beach and performed a show for the parents at the end. The girls created their own skits.

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General

I have been busy writing my presentation for Autism West’s symposium in Perth in early November, I will be speaking on the Saturday morning (November 3rd). I also attended the Autism in Education Conference in Brisbane recently.

I have also writing my weekly theatre column for Theatre People.

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MY experience as a Future Leader in my field.

Before I begin to write, I would like to reiterate that whilst the Future Leaders event of 2018 was run under the umbrella of the Autism CRC that these words and thoughts are my own.

 

For those who may stumble across this blog in your galavanting over the world wide web, let’s catch you up to speed. My name is Nichole and I am a 32 year old woman who is diagnosed with ASD / anxiety and identifies as a member of the LBGTIQ community.🏳️‍🌈 I moved to Brisbane in January 2018 because let’s face it, I was pretty much living here anyway. I am currently a student at the University of Wollongong where I study my Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies by Distance Education. 📚

When I applied for the Future Leaders Program I was extremely nervous, anxious and unsure of what to expect despite it being fully laid out before me. For me to fully understand something it takes full immersion in something before I am able to grasp the whole concept.

I was once again very nervous when I found out I was accepted. As the Future Leader’s Workshop (June 3-6, 2018) drew closer I became extremely nervous not only because I would be learning a huge amount of new skills but meeting new people. Out of the whole group inclusive of staff I had only previously met a few at past conferences.

I made the decision of staying at the hotel instead of home which was given as an option because I wanted to be fully immersed in everything. I want to learn all I can. On the day of arrival, I was met at the bus stop by one of the staff who thinking out of the box took a picture of herself at the bus stop and sent it to me. I was glad because no one looks like their headshot.

Over the next few days, I learnt many things but received as much value from the unplanned lessons as I did the planned:

I am accepted for me by those who matter

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a few quirks such as wearing no shoes despite having an extensive shoe collection, not feeling the cold on the bottom half of my body so I can look like I am going to the snow on top and still be in shorts and barefeet.

I talk a lot and rapidly when excited, when I know an answer in trivia my body literally looks like a light switch has turned on. I do have meltdowns but it is ok because those who matter don’t mind, I am no longer going to not stim such as rocking, hanging upside down, fiddling or chewing things because you are uncomfortable, I take medication and shouldn’t be ashamed and I love hugs.

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Today is my first day out of Autistic space and I am already stressing and anxious. Be kind to everyone you do not know what they are going through.

 

Much love,

 

Nichole.

xx

Moving House

Moving house can be stressful for everyone however being an adult on the Autism Spectrum means a monumental change. Changes such as moving can add challenges, stress and anxiety.

This is my third move in 12 months so I am becoming quite good at it if I say so myself but … there are somethings I do every time to make every step of the way a little easier.

How are you moving?

Will you be playing the best tetris game of your life by cramming your belongings into every inch of your parent’s car, perhaps a friend’s vehicle or will you hire a truck or a professional moving person.

Don’t leave it till the last minute, ask your family member / friend and place it on their calendar or in their diary so they don’t forget or double book. If you need to hire a truck or moving person, ring and book at the earliest possible opportunity (and shop around for deals).

No you don’t need to take three Christmas trees

So what will you do with all the things you don’t need to take ?

Moving is a perfect opportunity to declutter and downsize. I was able to go through literally every item I owned and sorted it into three piles- keeping, throwing and op shop. We have a family storage unit and because I moving into a place that requires me to take own items such as dining items, cooking stuff etc I literally had to dig it out. We went through the storage unit and did a huge clean out.

Packing

Start packing as early as you can. Some days you only feel like doing a little bit and some days you really get into it. It doesn’t seem like such a big job if you spread it out.

Changing your address

Lists!

Write a list of everywhere you need to notify of your new address such as necessary services eg.doctors, banks, family, friends, organisations that you are a member of, government services. Tick the list items off as you do these. If you change them just before you move (a week) you won’t need to pay for mail re- direction.

Make a first few days kit

Nothing like moving and you are struggling to find a clothing item or your toothbrush. If you put a few days clothes, toiletries, a towel, medication and anything else you may need in one box or bag then it makes the transition a little easier.

Where’s the closest shopping centre

The last thing you want to do when you arrive is spend hours trying to work out where you can buy a loaf of bread. It can become very overwhelming very quickly. Once you know where you are moving you can use google to locate shopping centres, pharmacies and a coffee shop for when you may need that caffeine hit.

Fill out forms

If you are anything like me, you hate filling out paperwork which is one of those necessary evils. There are some documents that you are required to physically print and sign such as rental documents. If you need certified copies of documents take them to a local JP all together and have them certified, this will save stress and constant running around.

Look around your new environment

If feasible, travel to your new house and go for a walk. Familiarising yourself with places such as bus stops, train stations etc will make it easier to transition once you move there.

If in doubt ask questions !

Emails are great for this. If you need to clarify information or ask any question no matter how small, do so. This will make settling into your new place easier (especially if it is student accommodation).

Join Facebook Groups

Becoming a member of groups such as those relating to your new local community, your university or sporting clubs allows you to meet others who are also participating in those activities. You will have a sense of familiarity once you meet them in person.

What this ASD adult wants you to know …

IMG_9407.JPGThere are many lists on the internet titled “things I wish you knew about my kid with autism” or similar sounding titles. Some days I become frustrated because ASD is seemingly cute when someone is a child, like when they can relay to you the name of every dinosaur that ever lived or correct you on a factual error. It however apparently becomes annoying and frustrating when an adult with autism does it.

When I walk into a new environment around new people I often think to myself “how soon is too soon to come out as having ASD?” My mind usually hovers around the I am going to appear quirky/ weird/strange to people anyway. I am not trying to excuse any inappropriate behaviour, I want and need your help in teaching me, I like learning.

Over the years I have been on the receiving end of some interesting responses to “coming out” to people as someone with ASD and different behaviours that I may exhibit. I have written a few things down that I have noticed from experience or from what others have communicated to me.

1. Please discard your stereotypes right at the beginning
Autism Spectrum Disorder is just that, a spectrum. Every person on the spectrum is an individual and just like neurotypicals (non- asd folk) we have our own heart beat and own thoughts so please don’t think because your sister’s brother’s cousin’s friend is one way that I am also like that. The most efficient way to learn about people with ASD is to talk about it. If you want to learn we are very willing teachers.

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2. Children with ASD become adults with ASD
We may outgrow the stage where our encyclopaedic knowledge is cute but as a whole, we will not outgrow our ASD. There are many therapies, training courses, medications etc. that help us to become functional, functional is good but there is no magic that causes everything to become “normal” when a child turns 18. Many parents often don’t want to believe or think about this because it scares them. We as adults on the spectrum are paving a path and knocking down barriers now so that the adults of tomorrow don’t have to.

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3. Person with Autism vs Autistic person
Please do not tell me “you should not put your autism first” for me, on one day I may say person with autism and on others I will say autistic person, aspie etc. Do not condescend us or use politically correct language as a way of superiority. The best way to work out how to address someone is to ask or listen to how they speak.

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4.  You must have a very mild case
If I had a dollar for every time I was told this or something similar such as “you don’t seem autistic” or “you seem normal” I would be very rich. It is not a compliment to be told that I hide my quirks well enough to be “normal”

Yes, I am very good at masking myself when in public. This takes a lot of energy and effort and the energy to do so is exerted stronger when I first meet someone because I don’t like the thought of scaring and driving people away. I think a lot about how I have communicated and interacted and it has caused many a restless night if I think I have offended someone or given them a negative impression of me.

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5. You’re very smart, it surprises me…
Have you been watching too many movies? It is a spectrum, like everyone else some of us are good at maths, some sport and some music. Just because we communicate in different ways then you may be use to does not make us less smart. Just because someone on the spectrum may have limited vocabulary or communicates through an iPad it does not mean they have a cognitive impairment.

I have a funny story to demonstrate the ignorance of some-

I walked into a bank one day and because I was frustrated and knew I would become angry at someone over a situation not of their fault I used my iPad to communicate, I explained I was autistic and what the problem I needed fixing was and at the end of reading it the lady said to me “that’s very good, did someone else write that for you?” I was angry at this assumption but also I didn’t have the heart to tell her I am a published writer.

Presumptions are not a good thing.

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6. I talk too loud or too soft- there is no middle ground

The best way to combat this is to verbalise! Use your words ! Tell me if you can’t hear me or if the whole of the town can hear me. Hand signals are always good.

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7. If I talk too much, tell me to shut up
I say this all the time to people, I won’t be offended if you want to change the topic. I have learnt that everyone is different. If you want you can always teach me about something you like to do.

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8. Please be blunt
If you do not like something I am doing or saying, tell me. I may be offended for a while or hurt (especially if I know I have hurt someone) but if I do not know, I can not rectify. I will often miss cues or facial expressions that tell me this so please be patient.

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9. I am happy!
This has become apparent most recently. Just because I am not smiling does not mean I am not happy! I may be in deep thought or listening intently. I may even love something and still not smile outwardly but I am not sad just cause I don’t have a huge cheesy grin.

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10.  Eye contact
Please don’t force it, it hurts! I am not lying when speaking, being rude or anything else, it hurts and why do I need to stare at someone’s eyes to talk? If you unsure if I am listening or need me to focus on you, tell me, say Nichole I need you to focus.

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11. Yes I am 31, no I don’t have a license
The reason I do not have a license is because when I went for my license a few years ago, I went into a full blown anxiety attack before we even left the car park. I was so sure that I would get it as I had done well in my lessons and when questions about the car features were fired at me I just lost it.

Anxiety is real and I learnt then and there that I was not ready. What would happen if I melted while driving? I would never forgive myself if my behaviour or medical episode hurt someone.

I also suck at decision making, more then 2 options or split second decision making is difficult. Oh I also have no depth perception.

I am however very apt at transporting myself around, I will find a way and I hate relying on others so I will only ask for a lift as a last resort or if someone is going the same place as me. These days you can track public transport on apps so you know exactly when to get off. If you are worried, I will message you when I get home.

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12. I make friends, just can’t keep them
I relate easier to people younger then me and older then me and I am not sure why that is but it is common for those with ASD. I have grown up with those younger and older then me and maybe that plays a part. I do not mean to freak people out with the fact that I relate to children easier, I do not mean to harm anyone. I am becoming better and better at talking to people my own age and it is a skill I want to establish.

If I become full on, tell me and I will tone it down, just don’t cut me off because then my mind will fill in the gaps.

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13. We are not dangerous
I cringe every time there is a shooting because I just wait for the announcement that the perpetrator was autistic, quirky, a loner etc. Not everyone wants to shoot something up. When there is a shooting I go through a curled up crying stage because I struggle to understand how someone reached that point where that is the last resort, option for them. Why are they not getting help before it comes to this?

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14. I am human
My name is Nichole, I like circus, theatre, gymnastics, unicorns and anything that is pink and sparkly. What it comes down to is we can be friends, sometimes it may seem one sided or an effort but we can compromise and work and learn.