Autism, Experiences, General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind: Early Autism Years

By the time I release this post, it will be the New Year. And with a new year comes changes. An old WWE promo with Mankind is going through my head. I’m sure there will be plenty of changes for me this coming year. I really hope I get to make some advancements with my writing. But today I want to talk about a time in my life when things really started to change for me. A time when I started school and my Autism really started to affect me. Now I’m thinking of an Equestria Girls special where the human characters become ponies. I just corrected a spelling error there. Although my iPad doesn’t recognise it. Now I’m typing with both hands instead of just Intel – ‘one‘, not ‘Intel‘, auto-correct! I watched Channel 4‘s adaption of The Tiger Who Came to Tea earlier. I think they unintentionally made the tiger quite scary. Anyway, I don’t remember much of what happened between the time we moved to our new house in Welling, Kent and school. I somewhat remember going upstairs to explore and see if there was anybody up there. I do remember I was terrified of being on my own. I’d always get scared at night and had trouble sleeping in my own room. I didn’t even like being downstairs on my own when everyone else was upstairs or vice-versa. I remember when my sister and I started nursery at Hook Land Primary School I was very shy. Every day they would select one of the children to welcome the parents inside to pick up their kids, and I could barely look at them without being embarrassed. There was a boy like that in an after-school club I volunteered for later in later in my life. Nursery was the only time my sister and I were ever in the same classroom. There was never another point in primary or secondary school where we shared a class or even a homeroom. I think schools prefer to keep twins and siblings separate. But there was another pair of twins in our primary school who were almost always in the same classes. Anyway, now I’m thinking of the opening to Jimmy Neutron (the movie) and The Fairly Odd Parents. I still remember the name of my nursery teacher: Mrs Swane. And I think her classroom assistant was called Miss Doettey – or something like that. I also remember there was a girl in our class who was constantly disruptive. I think her name was Michele or Rachel, and she was always getting into trouble for doing things like crawling under tables. I don’t think I ever remember her talking. I do, however, remember she had to leave our class for some reason and she kissed everyone goodbye. It was the most behaved I’d ever seen her. Now that I think about it, I wonder if she might’ve been Autistic too. There are other things I vividly recall; like some of the songs we sang, the games we played, the stories we heard, the activities we did, the Christmas tree we decorated. There was always a bigger one put up in the school hall, which every student helped decorate. And in the rare times it was snowing outside in the field or playground, they would actually stop class to let us go out and play in it. Anyway, I think it was when I moved into reception that my Autism started to gravely effect my behaviour. The teachers must’ve known I had it because this was the earliest time I remember having TA support. I’d have several teaching assistants over the years, but the one who stayed with me consistently was a lady called Sue – I don’t know if I ever leaned her surname. Sorry for the pause – I’m recalling the end of Disney Pixar’s Cars when they’re watching car parodies of older Pixar films. Specifically, the one on Monsters Inc. called Monster Trucks Inc. There was also Toy Cars Story. My earliest memories of reception was working on a project based around our field trip to a farm. I wanted to use certain pens for my drawing, but the felt-tips were only for the teacher to use. I think I was so worked-up about it that I wasted all my time complaining and just didn’t draw at all. But it gets worse. Apparently, I was so easily distracted back then I’d sometimes notice a pigeon outside and try to go out after it. In later years, I spat, scratched, was very spiteful, and one time I punched another boy some many times he started bleeding. I set the fire alarm off once – though it wasn’t completely intentional. I’d pee outside behind some bushes – where no one could see me – because I was afraid of going into the boys’ toilets. And then there’s my worst primary school memory. Every now and again the teachers would put on a video for the infants in the school hallway. We’d already watched the whole thing once – I think I might have been an episode of Thundercats – but for some reason they put it on again. And then they stopped it halfway through and I wasn’t happy. In fact, I got so angry that I got up from the floor, ran down the hallway screaming, through some double-doors to the centre of the school, almost ran into some people and then ran back. I’d made such a scene that my parents were called, and I had to be collected from school and taken home. As you can tell, I was a little nightmare. Hang on, I’m thinking of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Bambi. And Arthur Christmas. Looking back on it now, I am rather ashamed of how I acted. My Autism just magnified my emotions and made it difficult to read certain situations. There were even cases where my Autism resulted in me getting in trouble at swimming and gym lessons. I will say, though, my teachers had a very good method for teaching me about my bad behaviour; I wasn’t just sent to the head teacher all of the time. If I misbehaved too much in class, they’d write my name on the board. If it got written up there three times then I wouldn’t be allowed to play on my computer at home – which was my favourite thing to do. You might think doing something like this is a little extreme or humiliating. After all – hang on, I’m remembering Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. After all, writing a child’s name up for the whole class to see how naughty they are might be considered singling them out. But to be honest, I didn’t take much notice of what others thought. All I was worried about was making sure I didn’t get three names up there and lose my chance to do what I loved. True, I did lie to my mum somethings about how many names I got. And maybe there were one or two loopholes I found – I couldn’t use the computer, but I still had my Game Boy. However, this method did help me immensely with improving my behaviour over the years. I think later on in the juniors, I might’ve stopped getting names on the board because I was improving so well. I’m thinking of Disney’s The Little Mermaid II – a direct-to-video sequel they released. I also remember one year the Year 6s took on the teachers in a football match. Now I’m thinking of episodes of Mona the Vampire. Anyway, I think if you want to help a young child with Autism improve in school, a method like the one I was given really helps them to think about their actions. Plus, I had mostly the same teaching assistants help me through my many years of primary school. If they have something familiar to latch onto and see them through the major changes in their lives they’ll feel more confident in moving forward. I think what triggered some of my early Autistic outbursts was that everything around me was changing so much. And there were many things I couldn’t wrap my head around. Simple things like having one-to-one support can make all the difference. I wouldn’t say all of my problems were immediately solved. There were still others I had to deal with like bullying, playing and working by myself, and continued bad behaviour. But I would’ve been a lot worse off if it wasn’t for what my teachers did for me. I’m only just realising how much I’ve written at this point. I’ve been very focused on what I’m saying without many thoughts interrupting. Although, saying that I’m now thinking of Disney’s Hercules. I’m almost at 1500 words now. So I’ll continue talking about my later primary school years in a later post. Until then I hope you have a wonderful New Year. Wow – exactly 1500 words!

Experiences, General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind at Christmas (2)

It’s that time of year again. Christmas Day is tomorrow. I don’t know why I’m thinking of Jimmy Neutron right now. But, yes, it’s Christmas time and I’ve got a busy day of festivities. I just needed added a comma there. I know I shouldn’t be working Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – especially as I’ve just come off an almost 9-hour shift at work. I’m thinking of the old Mr Men and Little Miss books me and my sister used to read. For the last few sentences I’ve been thinking of My Little Pony and the Christmas specials they’ve aired. Although in Friendship is Magic they actually celebrate a holiday called Hearth’s Warming. Hasbro released a Christmas album several years ago and I’ve listened to the whole thing twice this December. I’m being reminded of a Family Feud blooper from years ago. “During what month of pregnancy does a women begin to look pregnant?” “September.” But, back onto Christmas: I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. I’ll be seeing my dad, step-mum and sister for dinner. Then there’s my girlfriend. Yes, I have a girlfriend now – it’s a long story. I’ll be seeing her at her relatives’ house. Then we’ll go back to my dad and step-mum’s, if it hasn’t gotten too late. I just corrected some spelling mistakes there. Now, I’m thinking of the movie Elf. How can you not think of that movie this time of year? Ever since it was released it became an instant classic. I’m thinking of other Christmas movies and specials, too. There’s Arthur Christmas – I just had to look up on my phone how to spell Arthur. Saying that name makes me think of the classic CBBC show that was based on a successful book series. Anyway, other Christmas specials include The Muppets’ Christmas Carol – which I’ve just watched a CinemaSins video on. Sorry for the pause there. Now I’ve remembered one I always used to watch: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: the Movie. It’s the one with Eric Idle and Whoopie Goldberg. I’m trying my best not to repeat myself from Into My Autistic Mind at Christmas (1). I should say, the reason I’m doing this one is because I had planned on posting a review on New Year’s Day. But now it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to finish it in time. My perfectionism is causing me problems as usual. I think I might write another Into My Autistic Mind on New Years Day. There’s been something I’ve been meaning to continue for some time. I’m also hoping to finish something on the Autism book I’ve been working on. I did promise to give a preview of it in June after all. I’m just trying to keep my mind focused on Christmas. I’m looking at a TV guide next to me right now. I never usually buy a TV guide. But I wanted to know what was on at this time of year. Today things like Kung Fu Panda 3, EastEnders, Not Going Out, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Toy Story 3, Small Soldiers and The Tiger Who Came to Tea have been on. Yes, they’ve made a TV adaption of Judith Kerr’s famous book. I just failed miserably in trying to remember her name. I haven’t seen any of these specials today because I’ve been at work. I was watching WWE RAW, when my manager called me. He asked me to start two hours earlier than I was supposed to. It was a bit short notice. But money is money. Plus, I got half an hour taken off at the end. It’s given me the time to right this before I go to bed. I’m trying to finish this before midnight. Don’t want Santa to see me awake do I (wink, wink)? Saying that reminded me of a Simpsons’ episode when Chief Wiggum did something similar. It’s also reminded me of an episode of Friendship is Magic when Trixie does soemThey’re – holy coyote, what it that typo/auto-correct I’ve just been given? Anyway, Trixie does the wink thing, too. Other cartoons are going through my head now, but I’m going to pause for a sec. There now. I wanted to have a sip of my tea. Also, the fan in my kitchen has finally stopped. It turns on whenever you flip the light switch and then whirs for about half an hour after you’ve switched it off. It can be annoying when your trying to get to sleep. Then again, I live next to a motorway. I’ve gotten used to the noise it makes noise all night. You learn to ignore it. I had planned on writing this yesterday, but I was at Bluewater shopping centre doing some last pre-Christmas shopping. I also called my mum and saw some friends who I haven’t seen in months. Everyone in my family is unusually busy around Christmas and Boxing Day. So everyone who I’m not seeing tomorrow I’ll see on the 28th. I’ve just started humming some Christmas songs. Specifically, those from The Muppets’ Christmas Carol: It Feels Like Christmas, Marley and Marley, and Love is Gone. The latter actually has a sad story behind it. At some point, they decided to cut this song from the movie and later releases didn’t contain it. Even when they trying restoring to movie, the scene with the song hadn’t been rendered over the years, so they were unable to include it. Or so I’ve heard. It’s a shame, too. Because I remember seeing it on video and it was a beautiful song. The reprise by Scrooge is still at he end of the film though. I’ve just spent the last 10-15mins trying to make those sentences about Love is Gone sound right. That’s my perfection setting in. These ought to be my unfiltered thoughts, I know. I’m thinking of a scene with the ringmaster from Dumbo now. And that’s making me think of circuses – like the one in Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather series. One second. I’ve just finished my tea and taken care of some business. I’ll tell you what love is NOT gone though. Mine. As I said, I have a girlfriend now. And I’ll be spending my day with her tomorrow. I still need to wrap her present. I hope she likes it. I’ve actually spent a lot on her this Christmas. More than anyone else in my family, in fact. But I do think she’s nice. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve. But it will be rather tricky. You see, not only am I working on New Years Day – one second, I’m thinking if Disney’s Sword in the Stone. Also, I can hear somebody watching Elf in an apartment near mine. Anyway, I’m not only working on New Years Day, but I’m starting at 5am! At least the store itself doesn’t open until 10am. Actually, I’m not sure it is Elf they’re watching. They were earlier. Don’t they know you’re supposed to be asleep when Santa Claus comes (wink)? I should probably end this soon. I want to get to bed before midnight. Maybe I’ll have this posted before Christmas Day is over. But even if I don’t, I still hope you all have a very festive season and never forget that the best gift of all are your friends and family. Love and cherish them with all of your heart, and be good to those less fortunate than you. Happy Christmas! 

Experiences, General, Reviews

Friendship is Magic – a series for everyone

I know it’s only been a month since my last post. But this couldn’t wait. There’s something I have to talk about and give recognition to. Because, honestly, it’s had a major influence on my life. About three weeks ago (October 12th, 2019), something truly eventful happened. One of the finest television shows of the modern-day came to an end after nearly ten years on the air: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Let me explain.

We’re all familiar with the famous toy-line, merchandise and other forms of pony-media over the decades. But never has there been a TV series based on My Little Pony that became a global phenomenon like Friendship is Magic did. I know it’s hard to believe, but this was a seriously great show. There were ideas and concepts explored in the episodes that other series would never dare to.

For example, there’s a character in the show called Scootaloo, a pegasus pony, who’s one of the three young fillies we follow. Now, despite this, many fans noticed she was never seen flying in the series. Well, it turns out, she can’t fly; she has a disability that prevents her from doing so. And some episodes do focus on her dealing with the grief that she never will. In another story, the six main characters – Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy – all visit a village on the edge of their world. It seems to be a place where ponies live equally. But there’s something off about their wide grins and matching body marks. That’s because the village is a cult! And their leader actually captures the “mane six“, extracts part of their souls and tries conditioning them into forgetting their individuality. It is so dark and foreboding. Not something you’d expect to see in a show for little girls. But then, that’s the whole idea.

When Lauren Faust created this series, she didn’t want it to be another generic girls’ show. Instead, she aimed to make this the best TV series, period. Something the whole family could relate to and learn from. Hence why she placed heavy emphasis on world-building and character development. And you know what? It really paid off. The stories centre around real-world issues and morals; the characters all have fleshed-out personalities and life goals; the lessons are for adults as much as they are for kids. And, in my opinion, it has some of the greatest songs ever written, by the one man who could perfectly compose them. Seriously, if I were asked to hire someone to write songs for TV, this is who I would want: Daniel Ingrim. This guy is a creative genius. Not only has he penned more than 80 songs for My Little Pony, but they have the power to make you feel things you never thought possible. For example, Seasons 1-5 had an earth pony named Diamond Tiara; she was the typical bully character who nobody liked, and that’s all there was to her for a while. But then it’s revealed what her home life is like, and why she’s feels pressured into acting the way she does. And when we hear her sing Pony I Want To Be, we don’t just feel sorry for her, we feel ashamed for ever hating her because we didn’t know the full story.

But that’s one of this series’ strongest points; it’s never afraid to challenge its audience. True, it talks about basic things like kindness, honesty, generosity and loyalty. But it also teaches complex and mature subjects, too. These include racism, depression, civil war, stress, anxiety, disabilities, death, even gay relationships. That’s right; the last episode implies two sets of female ponies get married to each other. And nowhere does the series shine greater than its lessons about friendship.

We tend to forget just how important friends are to us. Sometimes we take them for granted because it seems easy or pointless making them. But this show reminds us how essential they are. Pretty much, if you had nothing else; no money, no home, no family; friendship could mean the difference between life and death. Plus, there are many different layers to it. Sure, you can make friends. But how exactly do you do that? And, are you making the right friends? Do you treat them all fairly? Can you respect their differences and communicate? What do you do if something in your life changes things? The lessons and benefits are endless, and this show never gets repetitive with how it teaches them. When it says “Friendship is Magic“, it’s not just a tagline; it’s a lesson in life everyone needs to know.

With so much going for it, it’s little wonder why the series gained universal appeal. Not just from little girls, but older girls, boys, teenagers, their parents. Even grown men and celebrities are obsessed with this show. Some of which provided their voice talents to it. These include Sia, Weird Al Yankovic, Lena Hall (who actually referenced the show during the 2014 Tony Awards), Emily Blunt, William Shatner. And their most-recurring guest star, John De Lancie as Discord. Yes, the man who played Q in the original Star Trek, also voices the Lord of Chaos, in My Little Pony.

However, what I love most about this series is that it listens to its fandom. Even before Season 1 ended, it was clear they were influencing the show’s writing and animation. Whether that was giving them stories they wanted or making pop-culture references. And they could get very diverse with these. How many little girls would know when a pony is referencing The Shining, or Metal Gear Solid or Game of Thrones?

But most touchingly of all, this show encourages viewers to create their own fan-content. And have that represented in the series. The prime example of this is Derpy Hooves. Originally a random background pony, people noticed she had cross-eyes during one frame of the first episode. This was an animation error. But people thought it was a lovely way to represent diversity. They then took this pony and made her the official mascot of their fandom. Hasbro soon took notice; and they started featuring Derpy more prominently in the show, along with a new design to include her cross-eyes. Even when they removed her from the series, due to controversy, fans campaigned so passionately (#SaveDerpy) that they brought her back. This then culminated in the show’s 100th episode, where she and other fandom ponies were the stars of a story – described as a “love letter” to them.

Putting it simply; its because of their fanbase that Friendship is Magic has lasted so long. It ended after its ninth season. But it’s legacy lives on through Equestria Girls, the upcoming “fifth generation” and the numerous fan-content creators it inspired. Criminally, though, there are still people who refuse to give this series a chance because it’s called My Little Pony. They’re so focused on what it used to be that they can’t accept this new show being different. Except it is. My Little Pony today isn’t the same My Little Pony made in the 80s or 90s.

If you’re still not convinced, take a look at me.

When I first heard boys and grown men were obsessed with Friendship is Magic, I couldn’t believe it. I’d seen how sissy My Little Pony used to be, and its writing was atrocious. These guys must’ve been crazy. But then I happened across the episode Lesson Zero. More specifically, Twilight Sparkle. Even if she wasn’t autistic, I noticed her traits and behaviours were similar to mine. In fact, all the characters had distinct personalities. Surely the show wasn’t this detailed? Plus, its quality was unlike anything I’d seen before – right down to the Flash-style animation. So one day, I decided to watch the first season out of curiosity. And I’ve never looked back since.

Truth be told; I was going through some hard times during my last year of college. Seeing what these ponies had to offer really helped me stay above high water. Plus, I can honestly say I’m a better person, thanks to this show. Whenever I see someone acting generous, I always think of Rarity. Whenever I’m tempted to lie, I remember Applejack’s honesty. And every time I’m stressed or trying too hard; I think I’m behaving like Twilight. But more importantly, I’ve realised how essential making friends is. And I’ve since made better efforts to communicate with people and form lasting relationships. I want everyone reading this to have that same opportunity. If you ever get the chance to watch Friendship is Magic, or just a few episodes, definitely watch as many as you can. Lauren Faust wanted to make this the best all-inclusive show of the modern-day, and that’s exactly what she did.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this article. I know I talk about this series a lot, but it’s honestly that good. And I had to do something to commemorate the end of its final season. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

Experiences, General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into my Autistic Mind: Show Week Looms

I had wanted to write something else for this month. But work and rehearsals have kept me constantly busy. So here’s another edition of Into My Autistic Mind. This one shows my unfiltered thoughts before one of my rehearsals.

***

Let’s see what I can write in an hour. I typed ‘u’ instead of ‘I’. Now I’m thinking of the Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin and Wreck-It Ralph – which I watched last night. I’m planning on watching the sequel soon because I bought it recently. I’m thinking of some ‘Equestria Girls’ animations now. But I’m not talking about the topic I want to. What I want to talk about is how I’m feeling about my upcoming show at the Orchard Theatre: Footloose. I play Lyle; one of Chuck Cranston’s cronies. I got to write my own actor’s profile for the program. This will be the first time I’ve performed at the Orchard Theatre in a while. I’m still thinking of Wreck-It Ralph and Equestria Girls. Anyway, I’ve been doing shows at Heathfield Hall in Dartford for a while and they’ve been fine. I even got to play Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol. Now I’m thinking of An All Dogs Christmas Carol. I’ve got to be honest, though, I’m not feeling very confident about this show. I feel this way whenever show week approaches. I don’t know, for whatever reason I’m not as invested as I normally am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be in Footloose and I love performing. It’s just this one feels different. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the movie. Or because I don’t get to do a lot of acting. Or because the dance numbers are some of the most complex I’ve had to remember. But for whatever – hang on I’m repeating myself. And I’ve just had to add a word I missed out in a previous sentence. It’s been tricky learning the dance numbers. I’ve got that Celebration song in my head because it was in Wreck-It Ralph. “Celebrate good times, come on!Footloose by name, footloose by nature. I know all the moves in the dance numbers, it’s just executing them right. And timing things perfectly. And remembering to sing the right lyrics while doing so. Specifically, there are two numbers I’m struggling with. The first is The Girl Gets Around because we haven’t had a chance to practise it with everyone a lot – absences cause major problems like this. The second is Still Rockin‘ because there’s a lot of precise choreography and singing. It’s a lot to take in for an Autistic mind like mine. For some reason I’m remembering a random Nickelodeon advert where they’re advertising two episodes of Mr. Bean back to back every day. I’ve just corrected some spelling mistakes. As I’m typing this my dinner is in the oven: sausages. I need to turn them over and put some pasta on, too. Then I have to eat it in time to leave and get to the hall. We’re having our first full run-through tonight and some of us like to get there early to practise and get our props ready. I’m randomly thinking of scenes from Elf. I’m sure things will come together in the end. It always does whenever I do a show. Maybe not everything goes exactly well. But you know what they say: “nothing can go wrong as long as it’s live.” If you make a mistake when it’s live, you meant to do that. It was WWE Chairman Vince McMahon who said those words. I’m thinking of a random wrestling segment now. I’d rather not say what it is. I’d also rather not repeat myself with some these sentences and their wording. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie video game is going through my head now, and an episode of the show, and an old advert for the breakfast cereal Sporties. I’d still like things to go well with the show. I just took a little break there. I always say to myself when things aren’t going well in rehearsals that “we’ll get there” – like Michael Jackson did when rehearsing This Is It. We always do in the end. It seemed like yesterday we had four months to go before show week. Now it’s less than three weeks and I still don’t feel entirely ready. I also haven’t been able to rehearse in my own time as much as I’d like. Maybe it’s because I thought I’d have more time or wanted to finish something else sooner. Or maybe I’ve just gotten lazy. In any case things haven’t come together like they usually do. Not helping is the fact that I’m constantly working 7-10 hour shifts. Sometimes I finish work and go directly to rehearsals. It adds up to around 12+ hours of working a day and I just want a chance to relax. But instead I’m rushing to bed because I’ve got to get up early for work the next day. As you can imagine it’s difficult finding time to rehearse when you’re already run down. For some reason I’m thinking of old episode of ‘Pingu’. My mum used to love watching that with its claymation style. There have been many famous claymation movies like The Adventures of Mark Twain – the only film that’s made of 100% clay. And then there’s that controversial scene with the Mysterious Stranger. Look it up on YouTube if you want to see what I mean. More distractions are coming into my head, but I’m going to choose to ignore them. My dinner smells like its coming along nicely. It doesn’t help when I want to rehearse but I’m tired. And if I work multiple days and long hours it’s even harder. This week I’m working for five days. Today was only 6 hours long. But the others will be 14:00-23:00 Tuesday and Wednesday, and 10:00-19:00 Friday and Saturday. I can’t rehearse all day on Thursday either because I’ll be introducing someone to my sister in the late afternoon. I’ll have to see where my performance goes in Footloose. I’m sure I’ll be able to fix things up in the two numbers, and more, in time. We’ve even been given some extra rehearsal dates. I’m sorry I’ve had to do another one of these. I had wanted to write an article or review in this 2-month period, but I just haven’t been able to with everything else that’s been going on. Hopefully, I’ll have something better next time. Speak to you all again soon.

General, Into my Autistic Mind

Into My Autistic Mind on Holiday

Okay, I have about an hour to write this. I’m thinking of a manga I just read in the car, but we’re going out for dinner soon and I want to make sure I get this written and edited. Sorry for the pause. I’ve been taking a break from writing long articles after my anniversary special. I’m thinking of the ending to 101 Dalmatians – the animated Disney film. And now an old Pokémon card game you can play on the PC. And now a similar game that was released on the Game Boy Colour. Anyway, I’ve been holiday in gin – sorry – holidaying in Devon. I’ve been coming to this side of the country for years since I was young. I’m thinking of Peter Pan after writing that. I always remember being in a caravan by the seaside, with amusements and late night clubs where you could do karaoke, play mini-golf, play in the arcade and watch shows with costumed characters. I remember we always used to. To to – sorry, I’m having typo troubles. I always remember going to Haven the most. The one with Rory the Tiger. Pontins had a crocodile mascot – I forget its name. But the weirdest one I stayed at had a mascot called Fizzer and he had his own theme song that ended with you counting from 5 to 1. I’m starting to think of a scene from Best Gift Ever – a My Little Pony Christmas special. Right now I’m sitting – sorry, more typing issues. I’m sitting in a room that’s clearly meant for a very young boy. When they rented the holiday house there were five rooms and I got the one with the bunkbed. I’m not sharing the room with anyone, but I’m choosing to sleep on the bottom bunk. It’s strange, I write certain words and it makes me think of certain movies like Tom Hanks’ Big. I saw Toy Story 4 recently – the ending was something. And now I’m thinking of The Rugrats Go Wild and Snow Dogs. Anyway, as I was saying, the room I’m staying in is clearly meant for a young boy. It’s got blue sheets. There’s a blue bookshelf with Doctor Who books and several others that I’ve owned over the years myself. Including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and…hold on…Holes. I remember the movie with Shia Le- I can’t remember how you spell his last name. We did the book once during English in my secondary school. In the room there’s a wooden toy clock and a small toy box, but there’s also old time advertisements for seamen recruits and a shipwreck from 1798 and 1796, respectively. I’ve got an old Recess episode going through my head now. Several in fact. It’s been a good few days out here in Devon. And I’ve been able to forget my worries about work and just unwind a bit. Who knows when I’ll do something like this again? Especially as my family live so far apart now. Oh well. I don’t know why that’s made me think of a random line from a random Disney video I’d rather not mention. My portable charger is to the left. As is my phone and my Sword Art Online wallet. I love that anime. I’m went to Hyper Japan Fest again not so long ago. I didn’t offer quite as much as it usually does and I didn’t spend nearly as much money. But at least Scott and Paul, my friends, were both there this time. Have you ever seen the remake of It? There’s a deleted scene where Georgie actually avoids being killed by Pennywise and the latter thinks “oh (swear word)” – I’m trying to keep this blog family friendly. I just heard a banging. The downstairs toilet door hits the shower if you don’t close it properly. Also, the light constantly flickers. I haven’t been able to eat as healthily as I normally do because – my mind is focused on Monsters Inc. – because we’ve been eating out a lot and it’s common to eat things like chips and other fried food when you’re by the beach. That’s not to say I haven’t been trying to get my five-a-day. McDonalds made sure to remind kids of that with their old Yum-Chums alerts. Sorry, adverts. That’s put another movie in my head: Bruce Almighty. Only Jim Carrey can make a word like “eroding” sound entertaining. I’m just rubbing my hands as I think of what to say next. We’ve been to two places today. One was town where we walked along the harbour and then had lunch – I had a 1/4 pounder and chips. And then to a proper seaside where we walked along the shore and let our three dogs: Buster, Bertie and Harper run freely. There was a giant jellyfish in the sand at one point. Nobody wanted me to touch it, but I did…with my big toe…and I was fine. It’s only the tentacles that are dangerous, not the top parts – as Finding Nemo demonstrated. I just corrected a spelling mistake and now I’m hearing voices in the next room. Now I’m thinking of the Monsters Inc. PC game as I say that. Holidays are a nice way to unwind. I don’t think anything will beat the time I went to Florida for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. That was the year I tried my first upside-down ride and enjoyed it. I then had the bravery to go on Dueling Dragons at Universal Islands of Adventure. Twice. I’m glad they kept that open while they were Renatinho – I don’t know what that word is my autocorrect just gave me – while they were renovating the new Harry Potter land. The two coasters stopped dueling after an incident where a loose item slipped out of someone’s pocket and caused another park guest to have his eye removed. Now the ride is gone completely and been replaced with a Hippogriff dark ride. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve been watching DefunctLand, Yesterworld and Expedition Theme Park on YouTube to learn the history of some theme parks, their rides and, occasionally, their closures. I’m now thinking of the end to Spy Kids 2…and 3…and 1…and the fourth film they released years later. Okay it looks like I’ve written enough. Have to make sure I’m ready to go out for pizza soon. Hope you enjoyed this edition of Into My Autistic Mind. 

Autism, Experiences, General

My Publishing History (4th Anniversary Special)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). And today is the 4-Year-Anniversary of this blog. So before I begin, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. Whether you follow my work regularly or stumble across it by chance, I really do appreciate every one of your views – no matter where you are in the world.

Anyway, for this anniversary, I wanted to talk to you about something personal to me. Many of you already know this, but my biggest ambition in life is to become a published author. Since I was 4-years-old, I’ve had creative ideas swimming in my head, eager to get out. Then one day, I tried writing a mystery novel. I’ve never looked back since.

Admittedly, when I first started out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no idea what I wanted to my writing to achieve and even writing itself proved tedious given my Autism. However, I was keen to hone my craft. That’s why I applied for a Professional Writing course at the North (West) Kent College in Dartford. Since then, I’ve had varying degrees of success in getting my work out there. So, today, I’m going to look back on some of the more significant ones; telling you how they came to be and what I learned from them. This is George Harvey/The Autistic Blogger’s publishing history.

First Publication (The Real Me)

My first publication came about during my first year of college. And how it happened was actually due to a happy accident. It all started when we were given a writing assignment. I can’t remember what it was exactly – it might’ve had something to do with Creative Non-Fiction. Anyway, I decided to write mine based on my Autism; explaining how it affected me, what I thought of other people representing it, and how you can’t understand the condition properly unless you have it yourself. Follow the link below to see it:

https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/the-real-me/

After completing the article, I printed it off and left it on the side for later. I was planning to put it in my bag, but then my mum just so happened to be passing by. After noticing the piece and reading it, she came to me and said it was one of the most aspiring things she’d ever read. In fact, she insisted I let her have a copy so she could show her work colleagues the next day. One of these colleagues had connections with the NAS; who then asked if I’d like to feature it in their Communication Magazine. I agreed without hesitation. And after a few edits, it was released in their Summer 2013 Edition.

Looking back on it now, while this was my first publication, it also wasn’t my best-written. I hadn’t taken English as one of my Sixth Form subjects, and it clearly showed in my grammar; I was using dashes rather than commas too often, and some of my sentences could’ve been better structured. However, the NAS didn’t seem to mind. All that mattered to them was having someone like me who was willing to share their opinions and life experiences with Autism. And then it suddenly hit me.

For the longest time, I’d been so unsure how I was going to sell myself as an author. What made me different from the billions of others who wanted to be published? After this article, however, I had my answer. Unlike many of those people, I had experience in a specific field – one that not everybody is willing to talk about. If I could express my Autistic experiences through writing, then those who had the condition could relate to it, and those who didn’t would be given a better understanding of it. At long last, my path in writing was made clear; I would write to raise awareness of Autism and other personal issues.

Second Publication (Successful Studying)

My second publication was more of a group project. And it was released mostly due to my tutors’ involvement. However, it was still satisfying to see my name credited in a real book. Towards the end of my first year, we had the opportunity to write a guidebook called Successful Studying. This would be made available to future students and help them to overcome the difficulties of studying at a university level. For copyright reasons, I can’t post the chapter I wrote here – so I’ll leave you a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Successful-Studying-Neil-Nixon/dp/1907502130/ref=sr_1_31?keywords=successful+studying&qid=1559068665&s=books&sr=1-31.

To summarise, though, I give readers tips on how they can stay focused on their work, even if they have learning difficulties. These tips include: interacting with fellow students, asking for help from their tutors, staying in contact with everyone, not stressing over workloads, studying at home and knowing how to manage their time efficiently. I then ended the chapter by revealing it was written by a student with Autism – assuring them disabilities don’t prevent success.

Compared to the magazine article, this piece was much better-written. There were still some grammar issues, but my structuring and overall presentation had improved since the year began. It was also the first chance I had to make use of my new writing style. Because I was drawing from personal experience (i.e. using studying methods that had worked for me as examples), it made writing the piece that much easier. Plus, the way I conveyed it made things more relatable for the reader – adding something of myself to it brought out its full potential.

Working to my Strengths

As the course continued, I would use this writing strategy wherever I could. It would even be the driving force behind my Overcoming Limitations presentation, which I gave at the end of my second year (see my 1st Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/1st-anniversary-special/).

After that, however, things became more challenging.

My third year of college was, quite literally, make or break for me. I’d moved away from North (West) Kent to Greenwich University (London). And it brought changes that I ultimately wasn’t prepared for. The new workload and deadlines were so tight that I barely had time to relax my mind anymore. It got so stressful that I was actually waking up every morning, shaking and vomiting with anxiety.

But even with the course taking a toll on my health, I was determined to make the most of any opportunity presented to me. That’s why I became a student ambassador; it was another chance to share my experiences and advise younger students on how they could survive university as I had. I also briefly joined the student magazine, before committing to it became impossible. Arguably the best opportunity I had, though, was contributing to another book. This one was called Making Our Mark.

Making Our Mark

Towards the end of the year, a project manager was looking to feature students’ work relating to future ambitions. Although I was up to my neck in deadlines by this point, I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass. Who knew when I’d get another chance to be published? So after attending a briefing on the book, I wrote two pieces of flash-fiction for it. Both of which were included in the final publication. Again, for copyright reasons, I can’t post them on this blog – so here’s a link to the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Reeves-Editor-19-May-2015-Paperback/dp/B013RPI1VY/ref=sr_1_159?keywords=making+our+mark&qid=1559072399&s=books&sr=1-159.

But I will share what each is about.

First of all, although the book says flash-fiction, my pieces were actually based on personal experiences. So they were technically “creative flash-non-fiction“. Not that the editor minded.

Anyway, the first piece was titled Never Judge a Book… and drew inspiration from my time as a checkout operator. The idea was that people who saw me probably thought I had a very easy job; beeping items, sitting down for hours and getting paid for it. However, they couldn’t see how I felt on the inside: the strain of repeating the same actions, the stress of dealing with challenging customers, the overall dissatisfaction I had with the job. They didn’t know it, but I had connections in the world of writing and was fixed to become something greater than they could imagine. Emphasising you should never judge a book by its cover.

Aside from my usual grammar errors, this piece turned out better than I expected. It comes off as insightful, creative and even metaphorical at times. It’s an inspiring piece to anyone who’s striving to become better than what they are.

The second piece, Believing is Achieving, was more of a story. It draws inspiration from two of my past experiences: seeing my work published for the first time and receiving advice from Jacqueline Wilson. It features a boy named James (me), who is surprised to find something he wrote (The Real Me) published in a magazine (Communication). He never intended to show it to anyone because he lacked the confidence and doubted the praise his mother gave him. Realising she submitted it on his behalf, however, he sees the positive effect it has on other people. He then makes the bold move to contact his favourite author, Mrs W (Jaqueline Wilson), who actually replies to him and gives him some advice. From then on, James is more determined and confident to become a successful writer.

Like the first piece, this was intended to be something inspirational. Names and events were changed slightly, but the message was the same. You shouldn’t let your disabilities/confidence prevent you from pushing forward in life. With the right motivation, you can achieve almost anything.

Making Our Mark proved, once again, that writing from experience was my winning formula. However, once I left university, I knew it would be harder finding ways to be published. I wouldn’t have nearly as many resources, contacts or opportunities as I once did. Consequently, this was the last book I contributed to as of 2019. But that doesn’t mean it was my final publication, period.

Ambitious about Autism

Going back to when I was writing for the Student Magazine, I had the opportunity to interview Johnathan Andrews; someone who was heavily involved with promoting Autism. After I graduated, he invited me to join Ambitious about Autism; an organisation that works to improve the livelihood of people with the condition. Some of their previous work includes setting up Treehouse School (http://www.treehouseschool.org.uk/) for severely Autistic children and advising producers on how to represent Autism in the media. During my time there, I took part in several of their projects. Including Know Your Normal, where I was a panellist discussing what normal is for people like me, and Are You Autistic? – a documentary by Channel 4 (see my 3rd Anniversary Special: https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/are-you-autistic-review-3rd-anniversary-special/).

The most fruitful of these projects, however, was their Employ Autism campaign. Not only did I give a presentation, explaining why employment needed to be improved for adults with Autism. But Ambitious held an event teaching employers what to look out for when recruiting these people. A brochure was made to assist with proceedings, and I wrote an article detailing my own opinions:

https://georgeharvey2015.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/autism-in-the-workplace-2/

Unlike my previous publications, this one didn’t have much creativity. It was just me giving my honest thoughts about what could be done to fix employment procedures. It still came off as professional though; explaining what problems Autistic people face when applying for jobs, and what support they need when starting out. Additionally, the message about not using Autism as an excuse to refuse employment was made abundantly clear.

However, there was one issue this article had in common with my other pieces. It’s limited availability.

If I was going to continue producing content, I needed a proper outlet; somewhere to showcase my work to as many people as possible. That’s when somebody introduced me to WordPress.

Blog

Like many things, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to achieve with my blog at first. I didn’t even give much thought to the title, hence why I called it the least-searched Google term in history: georgeharvey2015. Over time, however, I got a better idea of it’s identity. It started off small, with short pieces about Autism and how it affected me. They weren’t anything special, just samples to show everyone the kind of person I was and what I wanted to achieve. It later grew to include reviews – like the ones I’d been writing on Amazon for years:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AHNGEVB42MLFVOSAZTJJKBFBACEQ

But these had an emphasis on disabilities and personal issues. If I felt something touched on a subject like Autism (Lesson Zero), child neglect (Lily Alone), or living independently (Kiki’s Delivery Service) very well, then I’d feature it on the blog. Hence its tagline: “Home of Reviews and Autism Advocacy“. I also started a second blog to show off my older Amazon reviews, but regularly updating it proved too difficult; I was torn between fixing old pieces and writing new ones, and the latter required more attention.

As time went by, my ideas got bigger. And my Autism pieces got longer. I knew I couldn’t keep writing something every fortnight. So I decided to pace myself and write new content only when I had the mindset for it. This would evolve into the once-every-other-month schedule I have now.

Today, blogging continues to challenge me. But the benefits have been invaluable. My presence on the internet has put me in contact with many new people. Including those who’ve asked me for advice, and others who’ve listed my site on their own. In 2016, I even got in contact with somebody who ran after-school clubs for Autistic children. After showing her my posts and giving my Overcoming Limitations presentation, she invited me to become a volunteer myself. This would mark the beginning of a new ambition for me.

New Ambition

Until now, all of my future goals had been writing-based. But working with Autistic children made me realise something. The best people you can confide in with your problems are those who’ve experienced them personally. What made me such a valuable asset was being the only volunteer who also had Autism. This made it easier for me to relate to those children and understand their behaviours (shyness, isolation, lack of motivation, etc.). I also remembered something else. Some of the best support I’d had was during my school years. Without my various TAs keeping me on track, I never would’ve made it through school – let alone attended university. From this point on, I wanted to try becoming a teaching assistant. And that brings me to where I am today.

Hopes for the Future

Currently, I’m 25-years-old and have been taking courses in Special Educational Needs. I’ve also had chances to go into schools and get experience, but they haven’t lead to anything permanent so far. I still get notifications about positions today, but applying for them isn’t as simple as it used to be. Why? Because like most people, life has caught up to me.

I now live in my own studio flat; paying bills, going to work and occasionally meeting with friends and family. Additionally, the job I have is full-time with the hours and days varying from week to week. This makes it difficult for me to plan anything long-term, as I never know my rota until a month in advance. Even if I wanted to quit my job and become a full-time TA, I’ve been made aware of several money issues I could face – it’s tricky paying my rent even now. However, I don’t want to give up on being a TA. Because if I become one, it will be a two-way benefit; I can help children overcome their Autistic problems and learn what life is like for them in primary school. The latter of which would be essential to my most ambitious project.

Ever since my first year of college, I’ve wanted to write a children’s book series that raises awareness of disabilities and personal issues. In recent months, I’ve been brainstorming more solid ideas for it, but I still have a long way to go before writing the first story. And that’s not considering the time I’d need to finish the thing and refresh my memory of the publishing process. It might sound easy. But there’s a lot that eats into my spare time; work, socialising, drama, relaxing. Even blogging.

One reason I keep writing is to maintain my profile. I don’t want people to think I’m some random person who wants to get published. I want them to know how devoted I am and what I want to achieve. But like I said, blogging takes time for me. Sometimes I wonder whether I should even hold back writing longer pieces and push forward with my personal projects. My book series might be a long ways off, but I still have other ideas that could work. There was even one that came close to being a reality – before the organisation said they couldn’t provide what I was after.

I think maybe I should set a goal for myself. For the 5th Anniversary special, I should get something of a finished project completed and share it with you on this blog. Even if it’s not published at that point, a sample will show the progress I’ve made, and keep me motivated for the future.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for this post. Again, I want to say a special thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting me. It really helps to know that my work is being shared and enjoyed by many people. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, or have any questions, then please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay tuned.

Autism, Experiences, General

Autism in the Workplace

*This article was originally written for the Ambitious about Autism ‘Employ Autism’ campaign brochure (February 2016)

My name is George Harvey. I am 21 years old and I have been diagnosed with autism since I was three. My condition has made life challenging for me, but I’ve always strived to do my best despite my limitations. In recent years, I’ve been very ambitious about using my skills in creative/professional writing to raise awareness of autism and give motivation to others like me. In the past, I’ve written for the NAS Communication magazine (Summer 2013, and made contributions to books such as Successful Studying (2013) and Making Our Mark (2015). My dream is to one day write a successful children’s book series that touches on disabilities and personal issues.

I have worked as a checkout operator for almost three years now. I’ve personally never had an experience where my autism has cause me discrimination at work; the people I work with are respectful and threat me the same as any other colleague. However, I think it is important for managers (and the like) to be aware of their employees’ autism, if they have it. This isn’t to say the condition should be made a big deal of and it should never affect how fellow colleagues see or treat that person. But it will help them to remember that certain colleagues need additional help sometimes.

Whilst it’s never happened to me, personally, I have heard cases where somebody was turned down for a job, because of their autism. In other cases, people have applied for things like driving lessons and only informed their instructor about their condition later, which then harmed their relationship. Naturally, not everyone understands the effects of autism and not everyone feels they can deal with a condition they have no experience of. Sometimes there are only certain driving instructors who specialise in teaching autistic students. However, the fact that somebody has autism should never determine whether they’ll be given a job or not.

The misconception is that because someone with autism may have learning difficulties, they won’t be able to handle the pressures/requirements of a certain job. But if this were true, why wold they apply for the job to begin with? If anything, they have better knowledge of their autism and what their limitations are. So if they’re still passionate about applying for the job regardless, they clearly don’t think their autism will be much of an issue.

Of course, it is still important to inform managers (and the like) about having autism. Just because there won’t be many issues as they might think, it doesn’t mean there won’t be an at all. If a person with autism knows their limitations, they’ll know if there’s something that could pose a challenge to them in a role. If this is the case, they should be given the opportunity to tell managers, recruiters, etc. what they might need – preferably during their application process. Usually these requirements are very small and don’t affect a job (or management) too greatly. The slightest thing, like one-to-one support or being reminded regularly of how things work, will all the difference to somebody with autism. And soon they’ll be settled enough into a job that they won’t need additional help or support anymore.

Everyone’s worried about making mistakes, but sometimes having autism makes a small mistake seem big. Managers (and the like) should be aware that autistic employees may be more stressed when staring out, which is why they sometimes need additional help. They should also be aware that just because an applicant requests additional help with some things, it doesn’t mean they won’t have the skills to do a good job. They just want to be assured that they’ll be supported during their early days/weeks and can settle in more easily. It’s not like they’ll come into a job and request it be drastically altered just to better suit themselves. If they knew there was too much about a role they couldn’t handle then they wouldn’t have bother applying for it.

In my opinion, any kind of application should allow people to say if they have a condition, like autism, and note down some additional requirements they may have. But I don’t think this should affect whether somebody will be given a job. That’s why I think information about disabilities should be given at the end of an application form, so the people making the decisions can judge people on their work skills first – after all, this is what they’re looking for in an application. If the applicant really wants to make it clear they have a condition straight away then they can mention it in their profile/summary – in addition to the section at the end. If application forms were completed this way, the beginning would have to state that applicants will have the opportunity to mention their disabilities and requirements at the end, but it won’t affect their chances of employment.

One final thin worth mentioning is that I feel manages (and the like) shouldn’t tell other employees about certain colleagues having autism. This should be left up to the people themselves, so they won’t feel like they’re being singled out and others won’t treat them differently because they know about their condition. People should be given the opportunity to settle into their new workplace and establish themselves on their own. Then they can let fellow colleagues know about their conditions when they feel it’s appropriate. Even to this day, there are people at work who don’t know about my autism. But I prefer it that way, as I don’t always like to make a spectacle of my condition. I only bring it up when I feel it’s necessary.

In summary, what I’m saying is this. Employability should be decided on a person’s work skills and (sometimes) their experience. Although an applicant still has the responsibility to tell employers about their autism, how much it’s made an issue of should be left up to them. They will know their limitations and requirements better than the employer, an they’ll know how often they want their autism brought up in conversation. It’s up to the managers, employers, etc. to be prepared and offer additional help when, and only when, it’s required.

Some workplaces have the things I’ve mentioned in place already.  But if all of them did, people with autism would feel less concerned about their ability to be employed and the community would be a better place.