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.

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An Insight: The Fluorescent Jacket…

Why on earth am I writing a blog post about a Fluorescent jacket I hear you ask…just bear with me and read on:

Picture the scene: I am working away at my desk and at around 9.05am one of the company directors get into work. All normal and well so far. He then proceeds to hang up his fluorescent bike jacket on the hook by his desk. Now this jacket is visually brighter than the sun to a sensory being like me…(I realise this sounds utterly ridiculous but stick with me).

This jacket is in view just behind my laptop screen and is immediately screaming at me visually. It is so loud almost like a noise to me and is instantly distracting and grates on my mood.

I think back sometimes on how I feel when things like this affect me. They seem so big at the time and engulf me, taking up all my thoughts and feelings. How crazy is that? A bright neon jacket can affect me that much! In hindsight it’s a teeny tiny small insignificant part of my life – it affects me but I learn to cope and move on (through distracting myself and repositioning to face away from the indoor sun…!)

How do you feel about bright coloured objects, clothing and environments? Comment below with any stories and coping mechanisms!

And for more of my ramblings why not check out my podcasts? Links below!

anchor.fm/21andsensory

Apple Podcasts

Google Play Podcasts

The Mystery Blogger Award!

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Firstly I just want to say a big thank you to the lovely Bec for nominating me.  I would definitely recommend popping on over to her blog here. Her blog focuses on anxiety/mental health and she shares some amazing thoughts and ideas on it!

This award was started by Okoto Enigma on her blog, it’s an award “for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts.” Click the link to the blog for details!

Here are the rules of this award:

  • Name the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Place the award logo or image within your blog post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer your nominator’s questions.
  • Nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  • Share 5 links to your best blog posts.
  • Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay here goes…3 things about me:

  1. I love apples and blueberries. If I could eat them all day everyday I would.
  2. I love wearing Converses. I wear them 24/7 and luckily can wear them to work too!
  3. I love succulent plants I think they are wonderful.

If you could have the perfect 3 course meal, what would it be?

Ooooh. Okay erm…I’d say dough balls and garlic butter for starter (I love bland meals!) Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese for main meal and then definitely some form of ice cream for pudding!

What’s your biggest fear?

Now this is a tricky one. At the moment my biggest fear is socialising with people and loud noises! I am more then happy with great heights, rollercoasters, bugs, etc!

What would you say is your best characteristic?

Hmm. I love helping people out and problem solving things for people so I would say hopefully my best characteristic is being helpful 🙂

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I love anywhere by the sea so I’d either say maybe somewhere in Devon or Cornwall or even somewhere on the coast in Italy!

How are you today? (Strange question, but I want to know how you’re doing)

I think I’m okay today. I’m also excited because it’s Friday tomorrow which means the weekend and I get to spend it with my favourite person.

Okay here are my 10 nominations:

  1. highlysensitivelifeblog.wordpress.com
  2. sociallyawkwarrd.wordpress.com
  3. introvertedthinkingblog.wordpress.com/blog/
  4. sensitivegiraffe.wordpress.com
  5. potsitivityy.wordpress.com
  6. anonymouslyautistic.net
  7. myanxietydiariesblog.wordpress.com/about/
  8. sensoryseastar.wordpress.com
  9. inmyaspergersworld.wordpress.com
  10. mariner2mother.wordpress.com

And my 5 questions for the nominees to answer:

  1. What makes you smile?
  2. Where would you most like to go no holiday next?
  3. If you had one day completely alone how would you fill your time?
  4. If you could have any job besides the one you have right now, what would it be?
  5. If you could rewind 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Lastly my five favourite blog posts I have written:

  1. My Sensory System
  2. Loud Environments
  3. Change and why its difficult
  4. Memes to do with me
  5. DIY Sensory Box

Book Review: ‘Almost Adulting’

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So you may have heard my recent check in via the app Anchor (if you haven’t it’s a podcasting app for mobile – I’m going to be doing more recording of my sensory experiences and advice on it, scroll down my blog for the post I did!) anyway on my latest podcast I mentioned that I was going to be doing a book review soon on my blog and I mentioned how I think it might be helpful for others to read too!

So as you’ve probably seen by the heading (and the shiny image above) the book is called ‘Almost Adulting’ and it’s by a super lovely lady called Arden Rose. She is an Actress, Producer, Comedian, YouTuber and now a published author as well!

So Arden’s book centres around how to survive your future adulthood. This is written in the form of  journal-like-sections relating to different topics such as:

  • Self-Care (think eating well, washing regularly, making time for yourself to unwind and de-stress)
  • Making internet friends
  • Dating and Relationships
  • Clothing and how to dress on a budget
  • How to travel alone
  • Moving out and decorating your new space
  • Going on adventures and making the most of life

Arden documents her own struggle with OCD in the form of trichotillomania. Trich is defined as having a compulsive need to pick out or pull out your hair. At the age of 13 Arden realised that after pulling out all her eyelashes and eyebrows she was struggling with Trich and needed help. It became a habit for her in times of stress and she started as a freshman at high school with carefully drawn eyebrows and a cover-up coat of eyeliner. I won’t mention anymore because the book explains it much better than I ever could but the way she copes and distracts herself with other mechanisms definitely makes this book a worthwhile read.

I really do recommend it especially to teenagers as it does give you a heads up of things to come later on in life but even as a 23-year-old I found it useful (I don’t feel like I’m an adult yet but all the little adult things I find myself doing add up I guess.)

The book involves a real mix of essay-like chapters, great advice in the form of motivational lists and also features a lot of quirky illustrations. Arden writes in a very open and honest way which is enlightening but also put me at ease – it’s hard to do adult things all the time!

After reading this book I felt kind of more content because it occurred to me that adulthood creeps up on us all. And nobody knows what on earth to do in the start. It’s all about practice and challenging yourself to go out into the big wide world (and trying to keep up with all the bills, chores and socialising at the same time!).

Image credit: Carolyn Suzuki (whose awesome illustrations are on the cover!)

My zen garden experience ⛩

Today I visited a Japanese Zen Garden and thought I would document my experience there! It was a very quiet and calming place with lots of bamboo, wildflowers, wooden decking, carved benches and waterfalls.

There was a huge zen garden with tiny pebbles that could be raked into different patterns and a viewing deck to look out from. Large wind chimes kept blowing in the breeze and being shaken gently by visitors as they went past them. There was a smooth lake with huge Koi Carp fishes swimming just beneath the surface (although they seemed to like to hide under the bridge!)

Overall it was a super peaceful and calming experience and I could have quite happily have sat in the garden for a while longer if it hadn’t been raining a lot on and off here!

Where is your nearest calm spot to walk or sit in? Is it your own garden? A public play area, field, garden centre, allotment, beach, etc? Comment below with the place or space that brings you the most calm. Also feel free to comment below any questions you might have for my up and coming Sensory Q&A blog post – thanks!

Filmed using an iPhone 6S and edited using Instagram Stories: 📸​​ @21andsensory

A sensory experience review…

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I was lucky enough to go on a little adventure a few weekends ago to the Isle of Wight (UK). It’s a lovely little island with loads to see and do – so much so I already want to go back and explore more!

Whilst I was there I went to an AWESOME water show called Waltzing Waters which I thought I would do a little review about.

Here is some more information:

“The world’s most elaborate water, light and music production. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before”…a triumph of artistry and engineering. Visitors are overwhelmed by thousands of dazzling patterns of moving water synchronised with music in spectacular fashion.”

Anyways: it was SPECTACULAR. So kind of think of it as awesome music throughout the ages coordinated to a water display. There were hundreds of nozzles spraying ridiculously high-powered jets of water so high and then falling and twirling into phenomenal shapes.

I know these sorts of water shows can be quite popular at resorts in America and especially in places like Dubai in shopping centres and public places. Somehow I had never really come across one before and because this show was based on the Isle of Wight only a handful of people turn up to each set time – which was fab as no crowds and lots of seating to choose from!

I just wanted to do a little write up to almost sort of say as a sensory being how lovely I found the whole show and that I really recommend seeing a show whether you have sensory problems or not 😊

One of my next blog posts will be a Q&A on all things sensory! Feel free to comment below with any questions you might have – tweet me or comment on my Instagram!

Awesome Video Resources ✨

So I thought (seeing as I watch a lot of videos and tutorials on Youtube) it might be quite good to put together a list of helpful videos / YouTube channels to share on my blog…

Megan Rhiannon:  Megan is a 19 year old Autistic girl who makes fab Youtube videos and autism talks on her channel. Be sure to follow her for great tips and advice.

Routines can often leave us feeling bored and uninspired. Sonia is a brilliant YouTuber and artist who explores the importance of Escape as part of the creative process. Cheer up after a bad day or week with some of Sonia’s suggestions!

Lucy Moon is a fab YouTuber who openly discusses her battles with anxiety and mental health. She does a lot of chatty videos as well as vlogs and provides some great advice.

Becky (presenting the videos) is the founder of Sensory Spectacle. Sensory Spectacle share lots of information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and also provide experiential learning environments which can be used in workshops, at events, etc. Becky also is invited to speak at conferences about sensory processing difficulties and the experiential work she is doing.

This video is part of a  ‘Homelife’ series is a short video each week sharing information about why we might see some of these characteristics in people with sensory processing difficulties.

Conan Grey is a young creative and Youtuber. In this video he discusses how to deal with mood swings, anxiety and being able to relax (as well as get on with your day) no matter how you are feeling.

Amelia and Grace Mandeville are two sisters who enjoy making Youtube videos about their daily lives, experiences and even film the odd comedy sketch too! This video discusses how to survive school and some top tips.

Charlotte is a lovely YouTuber and also a fashion promotion student and intern, occasional blogger and veggie enthusiast! This is a great video describing her first year at uni. She discusses a range of topics including loneliness, excessive working and anxiety.

ASMR / Relaxation videos: I can’t not mention them! If you search on Youtube for ASMR videos (and google their definition) they are some of the most relaxing videos out there!

So there you have it – 8 brilliant YouTube channels which I have found super helpful – let me know of anyone I should be following and that I can add to my list!