Examples of some everyday sensory struggles | Sensory Series 🖐

Hi everyone – I’m going to start a little text-based 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.

If you like my work and you are able to, please consider supporting me via my 21andsensory Kofi Page

The nightmare that is….clothes shopping 🛍👀

Hi everyone, here is a new drawing I did explaining what a nightmare clothes shopping can be for autistic and sensory people! (aka meeeeee)

  • *Needs new clothes* – I have trusty go-to t-shirts, jeans, etc that I find comfy and wear until they quite literally are falling apart. I’ve been like this since I was a child, I could never let go of clothing and really would wear things to the bitter end.
  • Tries searching for exact replacements – this requires much searching online for exact replacements (this is a pain because clothing lines change so frequently and I never think to buy multiples in case I don’t like them…and then I do like them after a while and it’s too late!)
  • They arrive and get put away… so I cut every single conceivable tag, label, instruction booklet out of them and neatly fold or hang them up which is super satisfying and I genuinely feel quite happy that I’ve managed to come across clothing I might be able to bear.
  • 3 years later…still feel too new to wear. DAMN IT. They ALWAYS, alwaysssss still feel way too new to wear. Sometimes washing the clothes a few times helps with this feeling but I am an absolute nightmare when it comes to wearing new clothes (so much so that I prefer to shop second hand a lot as then clothes feel more worn in and after a few washes smell okay enough to wear).

Things I have found that help: I get this a lot with shoes. It can take me YEARS to get into new shoes. Again buying them secondhand from places like @depop help but if I do decide to get brand new shoes (a tip my mum came up with) is to take them out of the box and put them in my room so I get used to the look of them and them being part of my life.

It sounds ridiculous I know but it really is an autistic / sensory thing – I am awful with change and new things and I am much kinder to myself now knowing I am autistic and that this is just a part of who I am and how my mind operates.

Do you struggle with clothing? Any top tips you have feel free to share in the comments below!

Disassociation and Depersonalisation 🧠

This is going to be a bit of a longer blog post, I wrote this in November 2020. I first started experiencing the things mentioned below in September 2020.

So I’ve been struggling a bit recently and I always get so much out of writing blog posts and really putting my thoughts down somewhere and I think it can be helpful to share my experiences (and you lovely blog readers always comment such helpful ideas and tips under my posts!).

So my struggles started a few weeks ago when I had a one weird moment of disassociation. Then it started it happen more, I’d have sudden moments where I’d disassociate briefly for a few seconds. So to describe the exact feeling I experienced I would look at my arms in front of me and not feel connected to them whatsoever. I was initially quite freaked out by the randomness of these moments but they then became more frequent and started to not seem so new.

It kept happening when I was brushing my teeth. It was like looking at my limbs and I just wasn’t in control of them at all yet they were still functioning and doing normal actions which was really weird. I almost wanted to keep slapping my forehead to feel more ‘present’ almost like I’d zoned out briefly. I think this relates closely to ‘Depersonalisation’ where a person experience a sense of disconnect from their body or a feeling of watching themselves.

Then it started to happen a bit more. For instance when I was driving. I’d be driving with my hands on the wheel in front of me (obviously!) but I wouldn’t feel like they were mine?! It was really odd. It felt like I was sat inside my brain like a visitor but I was looking at myself doing all these things but not really being there, I wasn’t right there in the moment experiencing things. I was obviously there driving but I couldn’t feel it at all…(but was driving fine).

It’s now getting to the point where I feel more and more like I am on auto-pilot. I go upstairs to the bathroom but don’t remember the feeling of taking the steps to get there like I don’t feel the process or the journey. I keep feeling this real disconnect from myself and my body. It’s happening when I’m driving like I can get from A to B absolutely fine but I don’t feel like I experience the journey – the bits in between the start and end of my trips.

I just don’t feel like I’m in the present and really experiencing things which is quite unsettling and it’s so hard to actually sum up what I am experiencing because I can’t liken the experience to anything else. It’s honestly the weirdest thing and doesn’t sound believable when I try and put it into words. I know that I am in control of my body and it’s mine but in those moments it really really doesn’t feel like my limbs belong to me in the slightest.

I know that dissociating is something that can happen as a way of your body coping with stress, trauma, etc by putting itself into this protective state. Mind (a mental health charity in the UK) has a really informative page on dissociative disorders here which I recommend browsing if you are looking for more info on the topic: More info on Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders from Mind UK

When I experience these feelings of dissociating I try to do some grounding exercises to put me back into the present, here’s an example:

  • Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you 👁
  • Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you 👉🏻
  • Acknowledge THREE things you hear👂🏻
  • Acknowledge TWO things you can smell👃🏻
  • Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste 👅

This can also be really helpful when I just feel generally anxious to because it’s a total distraction from my thoughts and feelings. I’m trying to be kind to myself and I think I’ll try and contact my doctor as I have a feeling it might be related to one of the medications I am on (and it’s always best to double check these things if you can, just in case!).

January 2021 update: I’ve spoken to a psychiatrist via telephone appointment which was really helpful and we are working out a plan of action with all the meds I’m on.

Born Anxious T-shirt Review 👚

I was sent this lovely Adult Headphone T-shirt from the team at Born Anxious – it’s designed to alert others that a person may find the world to loud, they may wear noise cancelling headphones and that they may become overloaded with too much noise.

I like how modern the design is (nice headphone icon) and generally the black and white design feels quite slick (it’s available in 12 fab colours and in sizes S-XL). It’s super soft and feels of a good quality. The ‘I don’t like loud noise’ design is on the back of the t-shirt along with the Born Anxious website and the front has a small Born Anxious logo on the chest.

What I absolutely LOVE about their clothing is it is all TAG / LABEL FREE! Yes completely label freeeeee. Which means nothing to have to cut out awkwardly! I can’t get over it not having a collar or side label like it’s honestly revolutionary. To know I can grab this t-shirt and just wear it without worrying about my mood is huge!

In replacement of removing the labels, they provide a recycled information postcard with each product, that holds the care instructions and information of who they support through donations from each purchase. They have chosen to keep our donations as local as possible to spread awareness within their little corner of the UK and to support each other in smaller circles and communities that will then help those to connect to the bigger ones.

In time Born Anxious will be expanding the range and will remain organic, as they feel this is important for people with difficulties surrounding skin irritations or sensory difficulties. They are aiming to be Planet friendly and fair trade.

Buy the T-Shirt here

Note: This is an honest review (I wasn’t paid or sponsored in anyway).

An important pie chart on clothing…👕

An important pie chart on clothing…ah clothing. It’s a NIGHTMARE for us sensory-beings. I wear a tiny proportion of my wardrobe. This is due to:

👕 New clothes. I cannot wear new clothes immediately like most people can. I can happily wait 2 years to wear new shoes (my brand new black converses are still sat in my wardrobe and I have another pair that took me literally 5 years to wear). I don’t know what it is but I have this huge fear of new clothes. My family is very aware of this and my mum actually gets me to slowly get stuff out of the box / packaging it comes in and just sit it in my room so I get used to the look of it. This can help. Also wearing stuff around the house can help but it’s so so difficult and painful for me to get into new things. I love second-hand and charity shop clothing for this reason!

🔖 TAGS / LABELS. Eww. The absolute pain of my life. They physically can change my entire mood if I have a scratchy label or tag inside my clothing. Also sometimes it’s no good cutting them out as that leads like a raw edge unless you physically unpick the thread of them. Also…Why do some clothes have literal books sewn into them? I get that we need washing instruction but gees. There are some great brands that come tag-free such as:

🙅🏻‍♀️ Fabric / texture. I am very fussy when it comes to the fabric and texture of clothing and how it sits on my skin.

👃🏻Smell – I have to wash anything new multiple times before I can even think about wearing it. This includes bedding – any new duvets go through a rigorous washing phase with the only detergent I can manage.

How are you with clothing? Any good coping techniques? Share them in the comments down below!

Fidget toys I got for Christmas…🌲

Hi everyone – I thought I’d do a quick little video do the fidget toys I got for Christmas – do let me know what you got for Christmas in the comments below!

Product Links:

I was a guest on the BBC Podcast ‘1800 Seconds on Autism’ 🎙

Hi everyone! Exciting news…I was on the @bbcsounds podcast 1800 Seconds on Autism! I chatted to Jamie and Robyn who are the hosts.

Listen here

Here are the show notes:

We chat about “scripting”, the rules of eating that no one tells you about, and avoiding crunchy food. This all comes before an email from a postman sparks lots of happy stimming.

Emily from @21andsensory explains how her autism diagnosis was given to her in a really positive way and on what occasions she uses the sunflower lanyard to show she has a hidden impairment.

We finish with tips for how to do Christmas in a helpful way for the autistic person in your life. 

Presented by Robyn Steward and Henry, Jamie Knight and Lion. Produced by Emma Tracey.

Listen via your smart speaker by saying “Ask the BBC for 1800 Seconds on Autism” or subscribe on BBC Sounds or wherever you usually get your podcasts!

21andsensory Gift Guide! 🌲

A 3-part Christmas Gift Guide courtesy of me @21andsensory!

  • Memory / Photobook: Try websites such as Vista Print, Cheerz, Free Prints, SnapFish, Photobox, Papier, maybe do a 2019 memory book?
  • Tangle: Just such a great fidget, it’s so easy and simple!
  • Chewigem Hexichew: Great idea for more moderate-heavier chewers
  • Fluffy Socks: Who doesn’t love a pair of super cosy socks?!
  • Ear Defenders: Worth looking at the Kidz online store and their store on Amazon (they do adult ear defenders too – don’t let the name put you off!)
  • Stationary: Try pound/dollar stores, WHSmith, Target, Kikki K, Ryman, PaperChase, The Works, Flying Tiger, etc
  • Fidget cube: This is the official fidget cube from Antsy labs but there’s lots of versions all over Amazon and in toy stores
  • Plushies / Squishmallows: Worth shopping around on Amazon or looking in toy stores like The Entertainer
  • Bubble pop keyring: Again available in toy stores too
  • Activity books: HobbyCraft and The Works are great for activity books in the UK. Also again worth shopping around online and looking on Amazon
  • Scented candles: Yankee Candles can be quite overpowering sometimes so I recommend trying out candles before buying them or gifting a voucher for a candle store! Also supermarkets and places like TK/TJ Maxx do great more affordable scented candles that usually aren’t as strong.
  • Reuseable ear plugs: Worth shopping around for online or even getting fitted for you own pair
  • Marble Fidget: Can also be found in pound/dollar stores too
  • Weighted jacket: Honestly cannot recommend the Sensory Direct weighted jacket highly enough – I bought my own (not sponsored) and honestly love it. Even the hood is weighted!
  • Weighted lap pad: Also worth looking at all the weighted products on the Sensory Direct store.
  • Books on Autism: so SO many great books available online on Amazon and in book stores such as Waterstones.
  • Books by Autistic people: I only had room to mention 3 above but please Google books by Autistic people further – there are such a wide range of fab books out there to read I couldn’t possibly name them all. Also look back through my blog posts to see which books I’ve read and my reviews on them! Listed above is ‘Camouflage the Hidden lives of Autistic Women’, ‘The State of Grace’ and ‘How to be Autistic’.
  • Retro games / game consoles: Have a look online at CEX, Amazon, Game, HMV, etc
  • Music subscription: Worth looking into a Spotify or Apple Music subscription as a gift/voucher
  • Vinyl / CD’s: Your best bet is to look online, in local vintage vinyl stores or on sites like Ebay for some good finds
  • Lava lamp: Double check you buy one that comes with the bulb as they can be quite specific and hard to find!
  • Liquid timer: Also available online in sensory stores!
  • Chewigem Eternity necklace: A stylish yet chewable necklace
  • Soft toys: again worth looking on Amazon and shopping around different toy stores

  • Happiness book and so many happiness journal books are available these days. I would recommend looking online at Amazon reviews and in larger book stores too
  • Mindfulness book and again mindfulness journals can be found everywhere these days. I’ve found lots of stationary stores have ranges of them too
  • Sunglasses: Vouchers for/towards sunglasses or tinted glasses can be super helpful!
  • Sweets / Candy: There are cute subscription boxes that will deliver sweets/candy to your door monthly, or just buy some old fashioned sweets from a local store or pick ‘n’ mix!
  • Noise Cancelling headphones: Worth researching into both Sony and Bose noise cancelling headphones. They both seem to be leading the way in terms of NC / ambient sound reduction. Also some great (much more affordable) NC headphones are available on Amazon at different price points – great whatever your budget! Might be worth getting a voucher towards headphones as that allows the person to go into a store and try before they buy.
  • Chewigem Chubes: Great for tying to the ends of hoodie drawstrings if you are a nervous biter like I am and end up ruining the strings on all your jumpers
  • Peapod keyring: The cutest and most satisfying fidget!
  • Chewigem Twister Bangles: So funky and subtle at the same time.
  • Arts and Crafts supplies: Again pound/dollar stores are great for Arts and Crafts bits and pieces. Also have a look at stores such as HobbyCraft,
  • Puzzles: SO many great puzzles online at Amazon, The Works, Argos, The Entertainer, the list goes on…
  • Fairy lights: Battery and mains fairy lights can be bought cheaply from pound/dollar stores, Primark, larger chain supermarkets, etc

PHEW. Hope you found this gift guide helpful, I tried to link as many gifts as physically possible!

BBC Commission ✏️

Hello! I was commissioned by the lovely people at the BBC to create a series of images providing tips on how to be more accessible on social media – check it out on the @bbc account! (see below!)

To mark the 25th anniversary of discrimination against disabled people being made unlawful in the UK, with the Disability Discrimination Act the BBC are sharing a range of content from disabled creatives. 

I will be making sure I add Alt text and image IDs on my instagram posts (in comments section below) from now on, I always have captions on my YouTube videos (I’m someone who loves watching videos with captions and I see so many benefits, for me it helps so much with my understanding and processing difficulties). I’ll make a more conscious effort to caption videos across my social media platforms and capitalise my hashtags for screenreaders.

Swipe / click through the image carousel below! >>>

10,000 Instagram Followers and an International Giveaway! 🎉

HOLY MOLY there’s now 10,000+ (10.2k to be exact) of you lovely people following meeeee on Instagram! It honestly means the world to me that so many awesome people follow little old me and my journey ☺️ Eeeeee! Thank you is all I can say – I’m excited for the future of my Instagram account and there’s lots more doodles to come ✏️ 

To celebrate reaching this milestone…I’m doing an International Giveaway of the below items over on my Instagram!

  • Lendoo Magnetic Rings Fidget Toy
  • Tobar Twist and Lock Blocks Fidget Toy
  • Flippy Chain Fidget Toy
  • Toroidz Flow / Kinetic Ring
  • Pocket Gecko Fidget Toy (Pink) I was gifted 3 of these and want to give one away
  • AND…I’m going to throw in a small hand drawn doodle from me which I’ll sign!

To enter go over to my Instagram!

Giveaway ends in 10 days (Monday 16th November at 11.59 GMT)