Magazine Cover Illustration ✏️

I was commissioned by the lovely people at The Royal College of Psychiatrists to create the front cover for their Summer 2022 RCPsych Insight magazine! 

This issue explores how and why the College is leading the way in demonstrating the value of a visibly neurodiverse workforce and much more. It’s a digital and print magazine that’s sent out to thousands of members!

The idea behind the design is that the person (representative of an autistic psychiatrist or doctor) is looking down on a maze and are trying to navigate it by getting the four balls to each corner all at once…which is tricky.

The person is trying to get these multiple balls past things such as stress and stigma to get to the four positive corners. I wanted to show there are hard things in the way of the positives but they are well worth getting to.

The link to read the magazine (it’s free) is here!

The struggle of buying and using new (and second hand) products 🛍

  • Black and white icon of two shopping bags 'The struggle of buying and using new products'. The a pastel green line with '@21andsensory' underneath and in the top right hand corner of the post there is a pastel green box that says ' SENSORY SERIES' in to show what series the post is part of.
  • Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it: I recently bought a new mobile phone as my current phone was practically a landline and needed to be plugged in multiple times a day to stay on. It’s something I had put off countless times as I hate buying new (and even second hand) things because they feel new to me no matter where they have come from. I’m finding it almost upsetting to use, as it feels ‘too new’. I keep putting it back in it’s box to keep it safe.
  • Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it: Dealing with new things is something I have always struggled with and I find it is hardest with new clothes and especially new shoes. For example I was bought a pair of Converse shoes by my family a while back. It took me around 4-5 years to physically wear them because they just felt ‘too new to wear’. I stick to wearing the same clothes or using the same electronics until they fall apart or don’t work anymore.
  • Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it: I’ve tried things like unwrapping and unboxing new things and putting them out in my room to make them feel less new and different or trying them on briefly...I haven’t found it helps much. I like to buy second hand if I can because then it helps to know that things have already been worn or used and I am not the first person that’s owned them (although for both new and second hand clothes they need multiple washes in order for them to smell right for me to wear!)
  • Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it: If you swipe to the end slide you can see one of my previous illustrations I did on struggling to wear new clothes. I know that it is the way I am, and there’s very slow ways of coping with it, but I am trying to be proud of the tiny steps I manage to make. Do feel free to comment down below if you also have difficulties with change and newness (if you’d like to!) and maybe we could share our struggles and any top tips too!
  • An illustration with a main title and a comic split in 4 sections Title: Clothes Shopping (Autistic / Sensory Edition) Four sections: - *Needs new clothes* Drawing of a pale green t-shirt with threads coming loose and holes in it, a pair of grey drawstring shorts with a large stain on them, a pair of blue skinny denim jeans with threads coming loose at the bottom and rip on the knees, and a pair of orange and white socks with a hole by the big toe. Text saying ’DAMN IT’ next to them to show how annoying this is! - Tries searching for exact replacements: A woman with black hair sat at a white desk with a blue and white tangle fidget and cup of tea in a mug with her grey MacBook laptop open in front of her. Text says *SCROLL* and *CLICK* next to her to show she is searching online for new clothing - They arrive and get put away… a folded pile of t-shirts in pale green, orange, blue and pink next to a pastel purple jumper hung up on a black coat hanger. Next to the jumper there are two ‘sparkle’ emojis to show the jumper is brand new - 3 years later…still feel too new to wear. Shows a brand new pale green t-shirt, blue denim skinny jeans, pastel purple jumper and grey pair of shorts hanging up on a black metal clothing rail which are still brand new and have never been worn. A woman with black hair and a pale blue t-shirt is next to the clothing rail sighing and her hand is resting on her forehead in disbelief.
  • 21andsensory logo (person holding up a white board with '21andsensory' on it. Underneath it says: If you like my work and you are able to, please consider supporting me via my Kofi page (link in bio). Or why not have a listen to my 21andsensory Podcast! With social media icons underneath.

Hi everyone – I thought for the next post in my Sensory Series I’d discuss the struggle of buying and using new (and second hand) products.

In my Sensory Series I’ll be sharing text slides on different aspects of Sensory Processing (in between my regular posts of illustrations) so I can share my own outlook on all things sensory.

I thought it would be interesting to share my own experiences, tips and tricks along the way, feel free to scroll back over other posts in this series too! Please do share this post and feel free to comment down below.

Alt text in Image ID.

DIY Sensory Box

Hello! Today I wanted to share some top tips for making your own DIY Sensory Box. My sensory box is something that’s definitely evolved over the years, as I’ve been able to tolerate more (but also less) things sensory-wise. I think of it as a box to dip into when in any mood as it can be helpful when feeling overwhelmed or burnt out but equally when you just want to experience a little bit of joy and indulge in something like a visual stim you love.

So:

Start with a plastic tub or storage box – I’ve found that one without a lid or an open-top one can be handy if you want to dip in and out of it quickly (I found having a lid meant I stored stuff on top of it and I’d forget I had it / not end up use it!)

I have suggested a few things you might like to pop in your own sensory box in my drawing and in more detail below:

Fidget Toys: Any fidget toys you already have, think of this box as a collection of lots of different sensory items you already own, there’s no need to buy anything new (unless you want to!). Put a range of them in!

Favourite Books: Put a couple of your all-time favourite books, magazines, activity books, notebooks, anything you can read or do in the box.

Safe Snacks: Pop in any go-to snacks you love (that won’t go out of date too soon). I love anything crunchy like crisps or that are the right sort of chewy like skittles, fruit pastilles or mints. Honestly so handy when you need some sensory input and helps as a distraction.

Visual Stims: Anything visual! For example bubble / liquid timers, spinning fidget toys, that sort of thing.

Headphones: Ear defenders, ear plugs, headphones or earphones.

Nice Textures: For example a favourite feeling fabric, I have some sequinned things in mine as I like the visual of sequins and the texture of moving them back and forth

Calms Scents: Essentials oils, candles, etc. Only scents you like and can tolerate. (I don’t have many and that’s also okay if you don’t too!)

Soft items: Soft toys, squishies, soft blankets, fabric off-cuts, that sort of thing!

Also: I very much appreciate that not everything will fit into a sensory box…but I have a solution: a Sensory Corner! There’s a video on YouTube channel (see below) all about my version of this if you are interested, it’s essentially a dedicated corner that you can set up in any room and really tailor to your own sensory needs and include bigger things like a nice comfy rug, interesting lighting that sort of thing!

Currently Reading 📚

I am currently reading ‘Ways to be Me’ by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott. This is the third book in the series and I have really enjoyed the whole series (and don’t want it to end!)

You might notice as well that this book has a plastic cover over it…I’ve joined my local library! This is the first book I have borrowed through it and I have never been so excited to receive a lil’ membership card and be able borrow books, ebooks and listen to audiobooks too!

I’ve said in a previous Instagram post (about the 1st book) how I feel so much for the main character Tally. A lot is flooding back to me about the hell that was my school years as someone who didn’t know they were autistic and masked her way through. 

Check out my book highlight over on my Instagram for some more fab autism related book recommendations 🙂

World Autism Acceptance Day, Week and Month.

Hi everyone. Today is World Autism Acceptance Day. Within World Autism Acceptance Week. Within World Autism Acceptance Month. (Phew that’s a lot to get your heads around!). 

It’s a time of mixed feelings for a lot of autistic people. It’s a tricky one, there has been progress due to the name change from awareness to acceptance. However I think it needs to go even further beyond acceptance. We really need greater understanding within society.

It is a yearly opportunity that comes around to raise awareness about Autism and how it affects people which is great. Many people take part in different sponsored events to raise money for charities that support autistic people and their families which is brilliant however I wish there was more of spotlight on autistic people and their voices and opinions, it’s getting there but there’s a long way to go.

To me it should be a month that celebrates and elevates autistic voices and appreciates and respects us for who we are. Things need to go further than just the month, for example I’d like to see companies that have posted about it really committing to making their workplaces more inclusive and diverse. 

Also: I’ve never been contacted so much within the space of two weeks as many people rush to get the point of view from Autistic people like myself. Which is great don’t get me wrong (overwhelming for sure) but it’s a shame it’s all based around April. Myself and many other autistic people are keen to be heard all year round.

It’s not just a month to us, it’s our lives and our everyday and more people need to understand that. It is essential to listen to and value what autistic people say about their experiences. 

The Everyday Struggle of Giving Eye Contact…

Hi everyone – I thought for the next post in my Sensory Series I’d discuss the everyday struggle of giving eye contact…

In my Sensory Series I share text slides on different aspects of Sensory Processing and Autism (in between my regular posts of illustrations) so I can share my own outlook on all things sensory related. I thought it would be interesting to share my own experiences, tips and tricks along the way, feel free to scroll back over other posts in this series too! Please do share this post and feel free to comment down below any tips you have to do with eye contact.

Image description:

Slide 1:

Black and white icon of  a wide open eye with eyelashes with text underneath:

The everyday struggle of giving eye contact…

The a pastel green line with ‘@21andsensory‘ underneath and in the top right hand corner of the post there is a pastel green box that says ‘ SENSORY SERIES’ in to show what series the post is part of.

Slide 2:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:

Eye contact. Just writing those two words make me cringe inside.

It’s something that’s not built into me and it isn’t automatic. It can feel horrible, awkward, forced and very uncomfortable. 

It is overwhelming and feels personal to look at someone so directly. It’s something I am constantly thinking and overthinking. I have to analyse every situation in terms of eye contact and what might be expected of me.

Slide 3:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:

I am also awful at knowing how long to look at someone for.

How long is too long? Do I look away every few seconds? Am I coming across as odd?

I find it much easier to talk to a person by looking around them and not at them…but that’s not exactly recognised as a ‘natural’ way to engage in conversation.

I wish it was. It’s far less stressful.

Slide 4:

Eye contact for me is also something that has been massively impacted by the pandemic (and many others I am sure).

I lost all the previous ability I had built up to interact and look at people because I was out of practice and not having to do it daily. Now I am having to build it up all over again.

It’s physically tiring and draining to look at people. This is really hard to explain and communicate to others.

Slide 5:

Pastel green vertical line on left hand side of the image with text next to it:

I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that I can actually think about what I want to say much more easily when I am not having to look directly at someone. I have a clearer thought process when looking away.

I wish eye contact wasn’t associated with coming across a certain way, such as being rude or not interested. 

I am listening, I am (mostly) interested but I might not always be looking at you. I wish that was more understood.

Slide 6:

21andsensory logo (person holding up a white board with ’21andsensory’ on it. Underneath it says:

If you like my work and you are able to, please consider supporting me via my Kofi page (link in bio). 

Or why not have a listen to my 21andsensory Podcast! With social media icons underneath.

The Constant Autistic Internal Monologue

Hi everyone here again to share another drawing…this time on the ‘Constant Autistic Internal Monologue’ which is something that I experience.

Let me explain it a bit more…I didn’t realise (until literally the day of my autism assessment) that most people don’t have a constantly internal monologue running inside them. I was chatting to my assessor and casually explained that I have this constant running internal monologue inside of me of how to act, be, live, etc. By this I mean a constant voice inside me (that is me, not a separate person) telling me things like:

  • ‘Try and keep eye contact Emily!’ 
  • ‘Maybe sit up straight and try and look a bit more interested?’
  • ‘You might be walking to close…maybe back off a bit?’
  • ‘They might want a handshake? A hug? Be prepared’
  • ‘Does my face look engaged? Is my expression okay?’
  • ‘Am I looking awkward?’
  • ‘You could go sit in the toilet for a bit and decompress?’
  • ‘Did I not talk enough? Did I come across weird?’

(As you can see it can be in a range of person tenses and talks in present and past tense too)

It’s constantly suggesting things to me and is very wary of not fitting in and seeming different. It warns me of things, prompts me to maybe do things which would seem more ‘normal’ and it’s not something I can switch off. I think it is a part of masking but it is not something I cannot drop (v.frustrating). It’s something I have always had, I remember it right the way through school trying to guide me and failing to help me. Also as you can imagine, this continuous internal monologue is taking up a hell of a lot of my brain power and I am dealing with this on a daily basis alongside just existing and juggling things like work and my mental health…which isn’t ideal.

The suggestions aren’t always helpful too which is frustrating because it’s hard to ignore or not listen to them or at least take them on board. I wanted to share this in case it’s something others struggle with too though and because it was something I thought was built into everyone (apparently that’s not the case!).

Hope this all made sense.

Is this something you struggle with too? Let me know in the comments below.

‘Supporting your Neurodiverse Child’ Digital Book…

Takiwatanga Autism Support Services got in touch with me a while back to ask if they could use my graphics in their digital book with Essex Family Forum called ‘Supporting Your Neurodiverse Child’ which is for parents, written by parents from Send The Right Message alongside professionals from across health, education and social care.

It includes over 200 pages of hints, tips and useful information for example: information about the diagnosis process, how to get support for your child at school, health and wellbeing and much more. The team have shared their own experiences and hints and tips, along with those of parents, carers and young people from across Essex, Southend and Thurrock.

There are also signposts to useful books, blogs and online resources which are all tried and tested resources that the team have used and found helpful.

Click here to have a look at the book!

My latest podcast episode with Special Guest…My Brother!🎙

Episode 53 of my 21andsensory podcast has a very Special Guest on…My Brother! 

We chat about his FASD and Autism diagnoses and a bit about his life and growing up (including being adopted). We also chat about his special interests and hobbies.

If you haven’t heard of FASD it stands for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. It is a term used to describe the permanent impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol during pregnancy resulting in a spectrum of physical, emotional, behavioural and neurological characteristics.

Some great FASD resources / Twitter accounts to follow are: 

More info on FASD: nationalfasd.org.uk/about-fasd

I was also a guest on the @SpotlightonFASD podcast. We chatted about my brother who is adopted and has diagnoses of FASD and is Autistic. I also spoke about my Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. Listen here: https://youtu.be/TcQNRbq7FdM

My episode with my brother can be heard wherever you usually listen to your podcasts:

Describing Masking 🎭

'What is masking' written in black with six hand drawn images below with text describing each written in capitals underneath:
- Hiding your feelings and mood: A blonde girl with a teal jumper is covering her face so you cannot see it
- Imitating facial expressions: A girl with black curly hair and a pink jumper is holding a handheld beauty mirror up practicing facial expressions in the mirror
- Trying not to go non verbal: greyed out volume sign with a red 'x' over it shows no sound and a pair of blue over ear noise cancelling ear defenders next to it.
- Bottling up anxiety, thoughts and stims: lots of coloured water in water bottles jiggling around representing bottled up emotions!
- Trying to focus on conversations but zoning out: Colourful speech bubbles filled with text saying 'are you listening, no thanks, got to go and sorry'
-Trying to act 'normal': Boy with a bright mustard top on with a mask on his face
Text under: This can lead to autistic burnout + sensory hangover

Hello everyone I’m here again to share another drawing, this time on masking 🎭.  I did one a while back when I first started out sharing my illustrations here on Instagram. I don’t love how it looks so decided to redraw it!

So what actually is masking? 

Masking involves trying to hide being autistic so others will accept us. It’s also referred to as camouflaging. This means we act in ways that other people will think we are ‘normal’ and to try and be accepted socially. My drawing includes a few examples of trying to mask.

Over the course of my life I feel I have perfected the art of masking (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). I am extremely good at with-holding my feelings and emotions, bottling them up until I get home. I would cry when I had to go to primary school each morning. Then speed forward a bit in time and I’d come home from secondary school each day very tearful. I even used to cry up in the SENCOs (special needs support) room at break and lunch times because secondary school is quite literally THE most overwhelming place I have ever had to cope in 👀.

But slowly through sixth form and university I began to build up a resilience to the world and although I still get overwhelmed I can always come home, have a bit of a sensory meltdown (and a good cry) then move on with things. 

Socialising will always be hard for me and I think I will always cope with the world like this. But that’s okay. I have to actively remind myself that ‘normal’ isn’t real. And I think you should too. Masking is an autistic and sensory way of coping with the everyday and just trying to get by. Now that is brave. To go out in the world and just exist is a huge thing.

Do you have any tips related to masking? Feel free to share below ☺️