It’s that time of the year again: Halloween 🎃

It’s that time of the year again: Halloween 🎃 I hope everyone has a Halloween that suits them – whether you are going all out and dressing up, trick or treating or even partying (or if you’re just having a nice quiet night in with a book and a bath!)

I’ve done a little doodle above describing some of the things we autistic / sensory people struggle with when it gets to this time of year 🍂 It can be quite an overwhelming season (Halloween, Bonfire / Firework Night and then the Christmas festivities 😱) it all seems to follow one another in quick succession!

What is masking? 🎭

Hello everyone I’m here again to share another little doodle, this time on masking 🎭. 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 doodle 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 ☺️

Things that are difficult for Sensory Beings…💭

I did a quick little doodle on what us sensory beings find quite difficult to do in our daily lives (Obviously these things aren’t exclusively difficult to just sensory people, these can apply to many different people).

Is there anything that you find particularly difficult to tolerate? Feel free to share coping tips and tricks below in the comments and let’s all help each other out ☺️

What is stimming? 🤷🏻‍♀️

Hi everyone 👋 this is a post in collaboration with the wonderful @agonyautie. Sara suggested working together on a post together all about stimming and what it looks like visually. Here are some wise words from @agonyautie:

‘Stop shaming stimming. Stimulate yourself through your senses. Have fun, Stim freely, be respectful of others and Stim Shame Free. Make sure to stim safely and stim boldly!’

I’ve tried to visually represent in my two illustrations ✏️ the wide variety of things that can be referred to as stims (which is short for self-regulatory behaviour). Stimming helps a person to self calm and process overwhelming environments. Some stims can be quite subtle such as hair twirling or chewing whereas others are more noticeable and can be destructive such as skin picking (dermatillomania) or hair pulling (Trichotillomania) which can cause damage.

It’s important to recognise that stimming safely (whether you are a child or adult) is okay and not something to ever be ashamed of. It should not be looked down on or discouraged. Go forth and stim freely! 🙌

Link to my original Instagram post here

An important pie chart 🥧

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Hi everyone! Hope you like my important pie chart drawing ✏️ does anyone else have a range of clothes but also just stick to your favourite, old, most worn and comfy clothes? I find it SO hard to wear new clothes and new shoes 👟 (it has taken me actual years to get into new shoes!). It’s so difficult sensory-wise to get used to new clothing 👕 and it always ends up that my clothes have to be washed multiple times before I feel comfortable wearing them…

Do not get me started on itchy / scratchy tags and labels, ugh! They are the worst 😭 how do you cope with clothing and footwear? Any top tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below. Please feel free to share my post on social media platforms but do please credit me @21andsensory thanks!

Can you turn the sound down please? 🔇

Hello everyone – hope you are all having a good day. I’ve done another little drawing which I thought I would share with you all. I am very sensory defensive when it comes to sound. I am constantly asking my parents to turn the sound/volume down on the TV 😂 It’s always too loud for me 🔈

I’ve also been struggling this week with a busy open plan office at work which is noisy and bustling and generally wears me out! 😱 I also jump at anything even slightly loud (even people sneezing 🤧) I’ve been using my noise cancelling headphones but does anyone else have any other good tips for dealing with loud noises?

Also: I’ve reached 1,000 followers on Instagram! Thanks so much to everyone out there who follows along – my main aim when setting up my blog and Instagram was that if I could help out one person out there by providing sensory advice / tips / support / etc to them then I would be happy!

An Instagram Q&A…

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Every so often I like to do a Q&A session on my Instagram Story. If you’d like to get involved do follow me @21andsensory. Here’s some questions from this week that I was asked:

Do you ever feel weird / different / insecure because of your Sensory Processing Disorder?

Great question. If I’m honest I do 100% feel weird because it’s like my senses are always on high alert and everything is too loud, bright, colourful, strong smelling, scratchy, etc! I do feel very different especially because of my age I think people expect me to be out 24/7, socialising, drinking, partying, that sort of thing. But…that’s why I made my blog and my Instagram / Twitter / Podcast! I really wanted to find others out there struggling with the same things daily and just talk all things sensory related and share tips and tricks. I’ve chatted to so many amazing people it makes me feel part of a community of other lovely people who understand exactly what it’s like.

What’s the first signs you notice when you’re beginning to be sensory overloaded?

Hmm. For me it tends to be my mood plummets and I have a ‘fight or flight’ response which means I’ll start to cry and escape the environment quickly. I’m quite good at removing myself (for example) from a loud situation if I’m starting to feel super overwhelmed or on the verge of a meltdown. Also I can get super hot or super cold and feel totally zoned out which is never very nice!

What happens to you when you’re in sensory overload?

Equally a good question but always a weird / hard thing to explain. It’s almost like I’m shutting down like  I’m shutting down like a computer I think. I feel totally overwhelmed , incredibly emotional, tearful, zoned out and generally odd. I bite my nails really badly and this ramps up even more during times like this. I can go quite non-verbal and not explain to anyone what’s really happening . I tend to find the nearest toilet that I can lock myself in and escape the environment or situation that started the overload. I retreat to my room and lie under my weighted blanket / duvet. I did then experience a sort of  ‘sensory hangover’ where I just need to be in a quiet place on my own for a bit to recuperate and feel better.

How does stress affect your ability to handle different sensory stimuli?

Stress makes everything sensory-wise like 100% worse. I find I can tip into sensory overload / meltdown much quicker when I am stressed and even a sudden noise or annoying smell can really grate on my nerves 😱 so I try and stick to routine and work the same hours each day and take regular breaks, etc. I also have a to-do list that keeps me on track daily in my life and work! I always try and avoid stressful situations where possible and say no to things like events I don’t feel I can handle.

How do you handle the overwhelm when you feel like you have made someone uncomfortable?

I try not to overthink things. The worst thing you can do is re-run over what you’ve said and over analyse things and it can lead to so much stress and unnecessary angst. I struggle with this as it’s so easy to lay awake at night and overthink things but just remember: the other person isn’t thinking about the conversation you had with them hours ago, they’ve moved on with their day and lives and I think it’s important to remember that a bit.

Not understanding typical boundaries in social or work context ie: talking religion at work?

This can be difficult because the boundaries are never very clear and I understand that. Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think ‘could this spark a debate or upset somebody?’ before you go ahead and talk about it? For example I don’t talk about politics with anyone because I don’t understand it all! 😂 and I know people can be quite sensitive to that topic.

Do you ever punish yourself by not allowing yourself to stim?

No I don’t think so. If anything I’m the opposite and forget that swimming can help me which is why I have a post-it-note on my sensory / fidget  box that says *HELPFUL CRAP USE ME* 😂 😂 😂 I forget in times of overwhelm what helps me! Also just to add: you should never punish yourself for anything. Whether it’s stimming

I hope this was an interesting / helpful Q&A ☺️

Sensory Supermarket Trip 🛒

Hi everyone! This video documents my visit to a supermarket (in the UK) as a sensory-person! I explain throughout the video via captions how I am feeling and what is affecting me. Do you also struggle in supermarkets or shopping situations? If you have any good coping mechanisms feel free to share them in the comments below!

Sensory Festive Season 🎄

Ah yes the festive season is well and truly upon us. Welcome to the ‘random questions Emily gets asked at this time of year’.

Yes I went to my team dinner at work. Yes it was painful. Yes I went to our company Christmas party. Yes it was painful and LOUD. Yes I got dragged onto a dance floor against my own wishes. But I survived the environment. Yet I miss ONE cocktail night out and a co-worker comes up to me the next day and says ‘didn’t see you at the pub last night’ and catches me off guard. UGH.

I’m trying to navigate this sensory world and my limit is usually one social / festive gathering and I managed two out of three! So what would make my festive season that little bit better? Less questions.

1. I don’t drink alcohol. For some reason this throws everybody and I am questioned beyond belief. I don’t like the taste. That’s all there is to it! And yes, I’ll have a lemonade instead please.

2. I don’t eat much meat. This throws everybody. Again: I don’t like the taste (although chicken is okay sometimes). It’s easier to say I’m a vegetarian 🌱

3. I do find it difficult to dress up. I can wear a dress but I don’t like anything ridiculously tight or short. And high heels are a bit of a no-go due to tripping over my own feet normally in trainers everyday!

4. I’m dealing with sensory stuff in a new environment and holy moly all these questions do not help!

I can have fun without drinking, eating and dressing up. (Aka: cosy nights in watching Bake Off, Top Gear, Brooklyn 99 or a Louis Theroux documentary. Equally tucked up in bed with a book is just great too!)

Drawing by me. This post featured on my 21andsensory Instagram

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!