Cutlery Struggles

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My knife and fork skills are atrocious. Yes I’m 21, but age doesn’t make knife and fork skills any better or easier. I eat the ‘wrong way round’ to everyone else, with my fork in my right hand and my knife in my left hand. I have real trouble cutting food. So much so that my boyfriend or friends end up cutting up my food for me sometimes just to make it easier!

It is embarrassing but I just can’t get the hang of using a knife – I use it to tear food away from itself and have never been able to cut smoothly through a piece of food. It’s almost like my hand muscles don’t have the strength or dexterity to manage cutlery.

I also prefer to eat most things with a fork. Im know famously in my family for liking and always choosing to eat ice cream with a fork! Anybody else struggle with knife and forks? How do you manage?

Dyslexic. Different. Proud.

tumblr_mkc2oeoUVK1r8rdovo1_500Im awful with numbers. It took me 3 times to pass my maths GCSE. It’s quite hard to hide my difficulty with numbers publicly. For example I’m not good with money, time, reading timetables, or maths related questions. I never count my change in a shop to check if its right because I would be there for an hour slowly counting trying to work it out! Im severely dyslexic and dyscalculic (essentially the maths/number version of dyslexia, read more about it here: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia)

It also takes me longer to write things. I was forced as a a child to have joined up handwriting in primary school. I just could never write joined up no matter how hard I tried and it would slow up my writing speed because I would be thinking about joining each letter up. I used to work in class with a coloured overlay sheet (mine was purple – but different colours work for different people). I also found writing with a berol fine tip pen in school helpful. you can also get weighted and vibrating pens/pencils which are great for sensory feedback and can be useful when writing.

Top tips for anyone with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or anyone who suspects they may have either:

  1. Get tested if you haven’t already- I only found out I was dyslexic at uni! It took years for me to find it out. If you think you might have difficulties there are  test centres you can get assessed at. My assessment was subsidised by my uni but I still had to pay a bit to have it,
  2. Use your report as evidence – I’ve used my report as evidence of my diagnosis and it has enabled me to get 25% extra time in exams, Disabled Students Allowance (UK) which allows students with special needs and learning difficulties to take advantage of technology such as laptops, dictations software and dictaphones, books, printers, etc in order to help them learn effectively. I love my dictaphone and am always using it for lectures!
  3. Learn effectively – use highlighters, mind maps, large sheets of paper and get creative! Being dyslexic I find my memory is quite poor so I use loads of different methods to revise like revision cards, posters, mind maps, bullet points and lists, etc. I also draw things next to key words and facts to make them more memorable – associating a drawing with a fact can make it easier to recall in your head as its more visual.
  4. Don’t be afraid – I hate telling people I have trouble counting and writing as its a basic skill but most people are understanding. I have a close group of friends at uni and two of them are dyslexic too so I don’t feel alone. Dyslexia is recognised worldwide unlike SPD which means theres more awareness and understanding of it, especially in workplaces.
  5. Don’t let it stop you – I always use my phone calculator in restaurants or when having to split costs between me and my friends. Im determined to not let my difficulties get the better of me. My friends are all great and know to ask me if I’m okay if I’m struggling.

Surviving the Noise

 Im not good with loud noises. Actually scratch that. I’m AWFUL with loud noises! You name it I hate it: fireworks, concerts, busy restaurants, parties, theatre shows, shopping centres, the list is kind of long.

According to my parents they could see from an early age there was something slightly different about me. I was affected by noises such as a people sneezing – this would make me burst into tears! I also hated to be held as a baby and didn’t like hugs.

I tend to totally zone out in busy, loud and distracting public places. This also means I can lose people im with as everything is so loud and bright. The other day I was in a supermarket and everything in the stationery aisle was just to bright and colourful and it was such a noisy environment that I felt tired and nauseous just being there.

I think what parents, friends, therapists and schools need to understand is that if a teenager or young adult has SPD it becomes very tiring to manage all the time. I managed in secret the entire way through primary and secondary school and still manage in secret at uni today.

I would bottle up my feelings all day at school and come home and have a meltdown. My meltdowns were over things like loud noises – I remember once a teacher shouting at the student next to me telling him off and really yelling – I wasn’t even in trouble but it really affected me. I also had a teacher who used to play loud classical music whilst we sat mock exams and wrote essays. I don’t think he understood how loud and distracting the music was and how overwhelming it is for an SPD person.

My top tips for coping on this ridiculously loud planet we call earth:

  1. Ear defenders: Get a pair they are awesome! (Posted about these in a previous post) they don’t have to be a particular brand just the sort of ones you get on a construction site. They are great for concerts and fireworks,etc.
  2. Escape often: give yourself a break from the noise – I usually excuse myself and go to the loo just for a 5 minute break in a cubicle on my own. It’s enough to calm me down and stop me having a meltdown.
  3. Practice if you can: I’ve become better in restaurant situations and I don’t say no to going out and at least give it a go (I like to always be back home before 11pm though!)
  4. Music: Wear music headphones or earphones – you can choose whether or not to listen to music or just use them to block out loud noises – no one will be able to tell if you tuck the wire in your pocket! 😉
  5. Distract yourself: when its too noisy I will tend to get my phone out and just mess around with it to give me something to do so I’m not concentrating on the loud noises. This could work with a portable games console, etc.

Learning to Drive

 I’m not going to lie. It took me 2 attempts to pass my theory test and 3 times to pass my practical driving test…but I did it! It’s been almost a year since I passed.

Learning to drive was tricky. I’ve always been into cars but never been very coordinated. I’ve always had trouble with my left and rights forever getting them mixed up – that was the first hurdle I had to overcome.

After having a not very understanding instructor for a number months, and having failed my practical test twice, I sought out a better more understanding instructor. I wanted to find someone that could understand my anxiety, sensory problems and my lack of coordination. I found a brilliant instructor who used stickers and hand signals in order to prompt me where my left and rights were, he was quiet and didn’t shout and spoke calmly and he gave me more confidence out on the road.

My top tips for learning to drive (in the UK) with sensory problems,etc:

  1. Highway Code and Practice: there are loads of online practice tests you can do before your driving theory test which definitely helped me understand the wording of the questions and what to expect. Also there are a ton of books which involve multiple choice questions just like in the test which are useful
  2. State your difficulties – I stated that I was dyslexic on my form before my theory test and I was given extra time which was super helpful. I always use all my extra time even if I’m finished just to check over my answers.
  3. Practice makes perfect – boring I know but I used to go out driving with my dad on the weekends or evenings in empty car parks and practice my skills.
  4. You can ask for your examiner in your practical driving test to give you hand signals (useful for left and rights) and to repeat the instructions as much as you like so don’t be afraid to ask.
  5. Draw diagrams – I used to draw diagrams of all the manuveures you can be asked to do in your test such as left reverse, bay parking, parallel parking, etc and then write down each stage of the manuveure next to the diagrams – it broke down the long thought process for me and helped me remember what I needed to do!
  6. Keep calm – I did so many things wrong when driving and I still make the odd mistake today. Try not to panic if you make a mistake – you didn’t mean to and you learn from every one of them.

I used to find I had to think about everything I needed to do in the car like changing gear, steering, checking my mirrors, indicating, clutch, brake and accelarator….the list goes on! But now I can get in the car and I don’ t have to think about what I need to do I just do it! Driving becomes more natural the more you do it – if I can drive anyone can! 🚙🚕🚗🚙🚕🚗🚙

Relationships and SPD

the-world-is-your-oysterFor a few years now I’ve been scouring the web and SPD books for information on SPD teenagers and adults and how they manage with relationships. There’s literally no information out there, apart from a few chapters in some SPD books but they never went into enough detail. I never thought I would have a boyfriend, It’s not something I thought I would be able to manage so I steered clear of relationships, I just didn’t know enough about them.

I’ve had a boyfriend for 2 years now. 2 YEARS! I never thought I would be able to cope but actually I’ve learnt so much from being with him and I’ve become a better and more outgoing person because of him. Its been challenging definitely but he is very understanding of me – even when I can’t explain how I feel when I’m having a sensory meltdown. We started out as friends and then it became more – I think this is the best possible way to start a relationship if you have SPD. As friends it means you already know what the other person likes and dislikes and you have a foundation that you can build a relationship on.

Yes I had to work really hard at the start in order to cope with my boyfriend touching me – I still flinch sometimes when he touches me from behind or if I’m not looking! Tight hugs are the best (it’s literally like having a human weighted blanket!) and we’ve had some awesome adventures together. Neither of us enjoy partying or clubbing and would much rather a night in with yummy food and Top Gear on the TV! I’ve found an awesome friend and boyfriend in the same person and I consider myself very lucky. At school I always found it easier to make friends with boys rather than the girls in my year – boys are less judgemental and I had similar interests with them such as football, skateboarding, surfing and gadget/car TV shows!

My top tips for managing with sensory problems in a relationships:

  1. Best friends – I found it much much easier being friends with my boyfriend before hand, it gives you more to talk about and you’ll already have a background on the person.
  2. Go slow – It wasn’t until we were going out that I explained I had SPD, etc. Take it slow there is no rush or pressure to explain your difficulties straight away, but it might help the other person understand your needs better.
  3. Be yourself – so so much easier said than done, I know, but I used to do my body brushing (see my sensory box blog post) and take rescue remedy before I went out with him for the day and that helped.
  4. Don’t think ahead – it will only overwhelm and worry you – just think about each day as it comes and getting to know the person better and enjoying yourself 🙂
  5. Suggest activities to do together – e.g We both like to go on dog walks, go on the swings in children’s playgrounds (I know I’m so cool), go out to quiet restaurants, watch films and TV, help out with family DIY, you don’t have to always go out on ‘dates’.

In the future I will be posting more on the topic of relationships so keep an eye out 😉

OCD and Me

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I find my OCD can be manageable and fade into the background of my life and mind one minute and the next it can be at the for-front of my mind and take over my life when I’m stressed.

My OCD things:

  1. I always wash my hands after patting my dog or any other dog. Even if its one pat.
  2. I count windows and read every detail of road signs when I’m out and about alone it calms me internally.
  3. I don’t like to wear new clothes or shoes straight away it worries me that I don’t need to wear them until I need to go out somewhere and look nice and also that they might get dirty or faded overtime.
  4. I always use the same shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and washing detergent. But I’m getting better using different soaps 🙂
  5. I find it very difficult if anyone else sits on my bed in my bedroom, friends, family,etc doesn’t matter who it really almost hurts my senses as its my only place that’s truly mine. I find it hard when people wear perfumes and aftershaves as it leaves a scent behind which bothers and irritates my nose. I tend to cover it with a blanket or change the duvet after people leave…
  6. I have to shower and/or bath when I come home from staying at another persons house even if it was only for a night. I find other people’s scents and washing detergents bother me so much and I don’t smell right or like me.
  7. I can’t stand my nails growing or them being long – I’m a bad nail biter especially when I’m nervous or anxious!
  8. If someone touches me on one arm or one leg, e.g to get my attention, I have to make them touch my other arm/leg otherwise it really bothers me, I like the feeling to be symmetrical on my body.
  9. I go through phases of needing to touch products in shops that I see with both my hands. At the moment I don’t need to do this but it comes and goes.
  10.  I have to eat blueberries in groups of 5 otherwise I can’t cope. Also my OCD forced me to make this list 10 points long rather than 9…

I know the OCD exists in my head. And when I have a sensory ‘moment’ ‘attack’ ‘meltdown’ or ‘overload’, whatever you want to call it, I realise that I’m not in control of my head. My tips for dealing with OCD are quite basic and straight forward. You’ve got to say to yourself that the OCD is in your head and that it doesn’t rule you. Nothing bad will happen as a result of you not listening to your OCD thoughts. If we think of it really basically OCD seems to be based on the idea of gaining order, routine and harmony within a persons life. It’s when it becomes obsessive that’s when it become unhealthy.

Anybody else suffer with OCD? How do you cope with it? Feel free to share any strategies you find useful 😀