21andsensory Christmas 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,
  • 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: 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!
  • 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!

I visited a zoo…🐘

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At the weekend I got to visit a zoo (with my fav person) and I really enjoyed seeing so many different animals that I thought I’d share some photos I took. I haven’t been to a zoo in years.

(Short tragic story: last time I went when I was little I cried profusely during a free elephant feeding session during which an elephant touched my hand which freaked me out. Not cool…and my family remind me of this at every possible opportunity!).

Anyway…it was an interesting environment to visit. Lots of different indoor and outdoor areas and many loud children (not a complaint just an observation!) and lots to see and do. My favourite areas to visit were the incredible sea lion tunnel where we could walk underneath their huge tanks and see them swimming past – check out my @21andsensory Instagram post for the video I took of them.

Also I LOVED visiting the penguins at this particular zoo as we could see them swimming underwater and get up close to them on dry land too! Make sure you click through right to the end for a cute surprise…

Do you have a favourite zoo, park, museum, garden, etc that you like visiting? What’s your fav animal? Comment down below or post an emoji!

Things that spark joy

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Hello everyone 👋🏻 I made a new year’s resolution to draw more for my 21andsensory blog/social media. And here I am attempting to get into it more. I realise this drawing is 100% making use of @mariekondo tidying method of ‘does it spark joy?’ but I think this can phrase can apply to life and not just tidying our living spaces. So I’ve drawn some of my favourite things (and things I think most people enjoy!). It’s important to hold onto the little things that make you happy, even if it’s a nice hot drink or settling down to read a book. What sparks joy in your life?

Featured items:

  • Pantone 7461 mug – would recommend as it’s a lovely shade ☕️
  • Tangle it’s blue and glittery and is just the most amazing fidget, it’s relatively quiet to play with and works well in coat / hoodie pockets! 😍
  • Antsy Labs the original makers of the fidget cube – it’s a nice grey and black version that I have but they do some super funky colours too 👏🏻
  • Chewigem raindrop – such an amazing colour – looks like petrol as it’s all rainbowy. Also very glittery. It’s my go-to chew! ✨
  • Radox bath salts – these are my favourite! 🛀 they aren’t too strong smelling and are ideal if you have achey muscles too 😊
  • The Body Shop satsuma bath/shower gel is incredible – it’s such a nice clean smell that’s not too overpowering/overwhelming 🚿🍊
  • Sensory Direct weighted blanket ❤️ 100% recommend any products from here especially their weighted blankets! See my full review here

Side note: I’m more than happy for you lovely people out there to share my drawings to your own social media, etc but pretty please credit me! @21andsensory

Medications and being sensory

I’ve been wanting to write a post on my feelings on medications for a while. Have they helped me? What have I found difficult about them?

Medication is weird. Each time I try a new one it’s like a huge big change and I battle with the pros and cons each time.

Mental health medications:

I’ve tried them all. Well it feels that way. Since the age of 15/16 I’ve tried all sorts. Some with weird side-effects and some that have proven to be helpful enough that I’ve stayed on them for years. I have been/I’m still on a few. I’ve tried anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety medication, etc. I’m currently on two medications for my mental health. I use a weekly pill box so I know what to take each day.

Annoying side effects I’ve come across:

  • Never feeling full and always feeling starving hungry
  • Muscle twitching. Not ideal when you’re sat in a meeting at work and your entire leg twitches throwing you forward in your seat a bit (true story #lovinglife)
  • I regularly forget to take the flipping medication (not a side effect just Emily’s rubbish memory)

Cholinergic Urticaria:

Think of it like a rash / hives. I take anti-histamines to control it, otherwise I flare-up and look like a tomato. Think Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but red) and you’re not far off. If I’m honest I still flare-up and go bright red and develop a nice patchy rash in these places:

  • All over my face
  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Hands / knuckles
  • Legs / knees

Very random. Read more about my cholinergic urticaria in a previous post here: Cholinergic urticaria…and what on earth it is.

Other:

Night sweats. I take a ridiculously accurate amount – 3 quarters of one tablet that’s how sensitive I am to this one. If I take a full tablet I find I don’t pee. Like all day. At all. This is not good apparently. (It’s a tablet that primarily elderly people can take to improve incontinence issues but it is also used to treat excessive sweating. Interesting right?!)

My conclusion:

I think medications have helped me. In the long run. They never seem to kick in for what seem like months and then I feel more stable without realising and wonder if it’s the medication that’s built up in my system and is finally kicking in. Of course I’m no doctor or medical professional. Some people just don’t find medications work for them or have never tried them. And that’s okay too. It’s so hard to tell what’s helping and what isn’t so I totally get that. For me it’s something I think I’ve found beneficial and I have followed my own doctors advice on what he feels is best for me.

One thing I want to mention is that side effects do indeed suck, I 100% feel for all those out there who find their medication is helpful but are then are stuck with annoying and sometimes plain weird side effects.

Why not listen to my podcast surrounding the idea of medications and mental health here

And just a tiny bit of humour to finish:

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Illustrations in the slideshow by the epic illustrator: Ruby etc

 

I was interviewed!

Hello. This is just a little blog post to say: I was interviewed on a podcast!

The lovely people from Chewigem interviewed me and the episode titled: ‘SPD and adulthood with 21andsensory’ came out today! If you have a spare moment why not check it out here:

https://chewigem.podbean.com/e/spd-and-adulthood-with-21-and-sensory-sensory-matters-31/

Also you can check out the podcast here on Apple Podcasts

I am a Chewigem Affiliate! They are company who have years of experience, designing, adapting and creating a range of chewing, fidget and sensory aids for children and adults. Check out their website.

I’d love to hear your feedback and any comments you have ☺️

Chewigem October Offer…

Hi everyone! I thought I’d mention that Chewigem have an awesome October offer on their skull and cat pendants…

BUY ONE GET ONE HALF PRICE!

If you’d like to redeem this offer please click the links below and don’t forget to pop the code: ‘Halloween’ in at the checkout! 🎃🦇👻

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Let me know if you make use of the offer and what your favourite chewellry item is!

I am a Chewigem Affiliate! They are company who have years of experience, designing, adapting and creating a range of chewing, fidget and sensory aids for children and adults. Check out their website.

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My fidget and stim sensory box!

Hi everyone! I thought I’d upload a video on my fidget and stim sensory box. It’s travel friendly and super useful when on the go! Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel: 21andsensory. All the links are below…

I am a Chewigem Affiliate! They are company who have years of experience, designing, adapting and creating a range of chewing, fidget and sensory aids for children and adults. Check out their website.

Thanks for watching!

Book Review: ‘Odd Girl Out’

 

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‘Odd Girl Out’ is a book by the lovely Laura James. Laura is an author and a journalist (and the owner of a communications agency). She is a mum of four children and lives in North Norfolk, UK. Laura tracks the year of her life in this book after receiving a diagnosis of being autistic from her doctor.

Here is a little synopsis:

What do you do when you wake up in your mid-forties and realise you’ve been living a lie your whole life? Do you tell? Or do you keep it to yourself?

Laura James found out that she was autistic as an adult. Odd Girl Out tracks the year of Laura’s life after she receives a definitive diagnosis from her doctor, as she learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Laura draws on her professional and personal experiences and reflects on her life in the light of her diagnosis, which for her explains some of her differences; why, as a child, she felt happier spinning in circles than standing still and why she has always found it difficult to work in places with a lot of ambient noise.

Although this is a personal story, the book has a wider focus too, exploring reasons for the lower rate of diagnosed autism in women and a wide range of topics including eating disorders and autism, marriage and motherhood.

This memoir gives a timely account from a woman negotiating the autistic spectrum, from a poignant and personal perspective.

Quote from amazon.co.uk

My review:

This book is phenomenal and these are the main reasons why:

  1. Whilst reading it I’ve never felt SO understood.
  2. Laura is very open and forthcoming about her struggles. This is so refreshing.

The book covers Laura’s autism assessment and diagnosis, childhood, teen years and adulthood so far. It’s fascinating to read how Laura was assessed/diagnosed aged 45 and how she has built up so many different coping mechanisms in order to function in a neurotypical world.

Laura’s book also goes into detail about things like relationship struggles and her special interests. This was particularly interesting to read about and it really emphasised how important special interests are to autistic people, and reinforces the point that they should never be denied or taken away from someone.

‘All my life I had tried so hard to be neurotypical, but in that one moment it became utterly clear that I was never going to fit that mould.’ Laura James, The Guardian.

Laura writes about all the daily and mundane things that for some can be such a struggle. Like working in an open plan office. Neurotypical people can deal with this environment okay and sometimes even enjoy being able to talk to people freely around them. For Laura (and me!) it’s nothing short of a bloody nightmare. The sound levels change so frequently that it can be quiet one moment and so loud the next that you can’t think or function properly. Bright strobe office lights can be distracting and too much to bear (and if you haven’t already why not read about my fluorescent jacket troubles in my own office here!). Not to mention the varying smells, people touching you from behind to grab your attention, etc. New experiences really are so overwhelming. This book really will open your eyes to the world around you and make you think twice when you are in these sorts of environments.

The depictions of autism that are mainstream tend to be from things such as: RainmanThe Curious Incident and the Netflix series Atypical. This is all well and good but these films and shows sum up autism to generally be a very male condition when really it’s not at all. Female autism is less documented and understood and I feel that Laura touches on this: a lot of female autistics mimic others around them in things like social situations and are able to get by copying and learning from others behaviours. I think this is why a lot of girls are going undiagnosed for so long. Because we are able to just about manage and put on an act/mimic others to get by okay in life.

A lot of girls are told they ‘don’t seem autistic’. I think this is because we are able to cope on the surface of things and learn behaviours such as keeping good eye contact in order to fit in. It’s all about being able ‘pass’ socially in order to stay under the radar and seem ‘normal’. That’s pretty awful don’t you think? I constantly have to push myself into new situations that I don’t want to do and can’t cope with just to seem like I am normal. Then I can have meltdowns before and after these because it requires so much of my energy and is so hard sensory-wise.

It’s obviously slightly tricky to write a book review as I don’t want to giveaway large sections of what happens because people might want to read it!

I do just want to mention a couple of things. This book was a bit hard to read. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all – it was always going to be difficult to read a book on someone else’s life especially if they struggle with the same things as me (or you). I found that a lot of the autism and sensory parts of the book made me upset / triggered bad thoughts and feelings. This did not put me off and should not put you off either. I think I just resonated with a few of Laura’s struggles so much that I couldn’t help but feel upset but also relieved all at the same time. And yes, I cried through parts of this book. I’ve only admitted that to be honest, because so many things Laura mentioned echoed my own struggles.

The one other thing to mention is that the book can be slightly hard to follow at certain points as Laura jumps back and forth from her childhood memories/life to the present day but this might just be a dyslexic thing I struggle to keep track of!

I’m going to admit to something that you’ve probably already guessed by reading my blog. I have always been the Odd Girl Out. Throughout my life I have constantly struggled with the seemingly normal and mundane things through childhood to my current early adulthood. I hate all the things that neurotypical and young adults seem to love doing like: going to loud places, loud music, meeting up with friends, going to new places, parties in general, restaurants, going on holiday, buying new clothes, drinking alcohol, going to super bright or colourful environments, trying new food, travelling…look the list is actually never-ending. The point I’m getting at is…this book made me feel less alone. I know that sentence is a little bit sad, but it’s true. Because having these struggles all the time is very (very) tiring and nobody else truly seems to understand me (apart from my mum!) or what really goes on in my head. This book gives me just a bit of hope for the future.

I have passed this book onto my mum who is currently reading it. I really think the book gives such an insight into what goes in Laura’s mind and highlights what other autistic people struggle with everyday.

So how would I sum this book up?

Laura learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Conclusion: If you can, you have to read this book (no matter who you are!)

Read an extract of the book here

Read an article Laura wrote for The Guardian (UK) here

Buy the book here: UK / US / Rest of the world

Documentary Review: Aspergers & Me

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A couple of weeks ago I sat down to watch a documentary called ‘Aspergers and Me’ and I found it very thought (and feeling) provoking. I wanted to write a little review of it here on my blog to share with others…

The documentary follows a man called Chris who happens to be a BBC wildlife presenter. So here’s a little introduction to him:

“For most of his life, broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham didn’t tell anyone about the one thing that in many ways has defined his entire existence. Chris is autistic – he has Asperger’s Syndrome, which means he struggles in social situations, has difficulty with human relationships, and is, by his own admission, “a little bit weird”. (BBC Media Centre, 2017)

Like 700,000 or so others in the UK, Chris Packham is autistic – he has a developmental disability affecting how he relates to other people, and also how he experiences the world. Specifically he has Asperger’s syndrome. His documentary invites us inside his autistic world to try to show what it’s really like being him. He lives alone in the woods with his ‘best friend’ who is called Scratchy. Scratchy is THE CUTEST dog; but Chris also has a long-term partner, Charlotte, who discusses the problems Asperger’s creates in their relationship – she describes Chris as being sometimes “like an alien”.

Chris experiences the world in a very different way, with heightened senses that can be very overwhelming. He grew up at a time when little was known about autism. Chris wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his 40’s.

However with todays modern and scientific advances new possibilities are being offered to treat his condition. In the documentary Chris travels to America to witness new and quite radical therapies that seem to offer the possibility of entirely eradicating autistic traits. On the flip side of this Chris also meets those who are challenging the idea that autistic people need to change in order to fit into society. He visits one of many special schools in the U.S where children undergo repeated behaviour modification, in order to try to make them more normal. This makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Chris continues his travels, this time to Silicon Valley, one of the places where people with autistic traits are making massive contributions. Tech companies are slowly breaking the stigma and learning about untapped talent of autistic people. These people who are considered and often referred to as weird, geeky or lonely are starting to run the world.

Chris ultimately explores the question of whether he’d ever want to be cured himself, or whether Asperger’s has helped make him who he is today…

Would he ever choose to be ‘normal’?

“I’m anything but normal,” he agrees, staring at the floor. “I experience the world in hyper-reality. Sensory overload is a constant distraction. I’ve just been for a walk in the woods, and it was very different for me than it would be for you – the sights, the smells, the sounds.” He frowns, and glances at his partner, 41-year-old Charlotte Corney. “But we need to go to the supermarket later, and I’ll do anything to get out of it because supermarkets are a swamping of the senses. The lighting is hideous, it’s crowded, and the complex of smells is overwhelming.”                                                   (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

He is very good at getting across some idea of what it’s like to have a brain that is different, the sensory overload he experiences, sounds, smells and tastes. But what if there was a way of taking away these autistic traits?

“If there were a cure for Asperger’s, I don’t know if I’d want it. Humanity has prospered because of people with autistic traits. Without them, we wouldn’t have put man on the Moon or be running software programs. If we wiped out all the autistic people on the planet, I don’t know how much longer the human race would last.” (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

That’s the key, Chris says: not trying to change people, but learning to better understand and adapting to accommodate them. And, with this awesome and insightful documentary, he is really doing something to help with that.

The documentary was first aired (UK) on BBC Two, Tuesday 17th October at 9pm.