Pretending A Little Less- book extract

It’s Autism Awareness Month and each week we’ve shared a series of blog posts on books by, for, and about autistic adults. Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Expanded Edition is an updated edition of the bestselling story of a woman who, after years of self-doubt and self-denial, learned to embrace and appreciate her Asperger’s syndrome traits.

Liane Holliday Willey shares, with insight and warmth, the daily struggles and challenges that face many of those who have AS and charts her inspirational journey to self-acceptance.

“When Pretending to be Normal was published in 1999, I saw society as if a big mesh fence surrounded it. I could poke my fingers through the holey mesh, and see the blurry images on the other side, and put my ear against the tight weave to hear conversations within the webbed walls, but I couldn’t break down the barriers that were so real, they might as well have been made of steel chains. Read blogs and memoirs from those on the spectrum and you will quickly note most of us felt like we were on the outside looking in, always trying with all our might to prove we had potential to offer, kindness to share and skill sets to turn into productive work. We tried everything to just get a foot in the door of the NT world. We knocked and knocked and pleaded and fought and bribed and pouted and joked and offered favors and turned over every leaf to find a way in to typical society until we were exhausted and spent or until we found a way to pretend we were what society wanted us to be. Though our pluses outweigh our negatives, we are different thinkers who can act in ways not always socially acceptable, leaving society confused…”

To read the full chapter, CLICK HERE.

To find out more about this book visit our WEBSITE, or browse a selection of our books written for autistic adults HERE.

The perfect job – book extract

As you might already know, we’re marking Autism Awareness Month throughout April by sharing a series of blog posts on books by, for, and about autistic adults. Featuring personal stories from those with Asperger’s Syndrome, Sarah Hendrickx’s book, Asperger Syndrome & Employment highlights successful scenarios and provides suggestions for employers and those in search of work. This extract looks at key criteria which can be helpful to think about. 

Is there any such thing as the perfect job? Or is this an oxymoron? A suitable job is one which allows best use of specific skills and minimises the areas of weakness. Lone working, excellent factual memory, logical analysis and problem-solving are likely strengths for someone with AS. Jobs which have been suggested to be more suitable for those with AS include:

  • aspergerpostman – lone working, lack of pressure, involves exercise
  • gardener – lone working, lack of pressure, physical work (can be relaxing)
  • IT technician – lone working, technical precision required, problem solving
  • software engineer – problem solving, working to precise specifications
  • photographer – creative, lone working, using technical skills
  • researcher – analytical, focused, detail-driven
  • accountant – proficiency with numbers, accuracy
  • librarian – system focused, excellent factual memory
  • piano tuner – perfect pitch, lack of pressure, lone working, specialist interest

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‘Hey presto world, I have my vagina, let the pleasure begin.’

There is currently a lack of practical information and advice available for trans women (and trans men) who have undergone realignment surgery. In this extract from ‘Queer Sex,’ Juno Roche reflects on how she felt, emotionally and physically, after her realignment surgery, and how the after-care involved affected her relationship with her new ‘neo-vagina.’ 

When I had my realignment surgery, I sat back and somehow expected my vagina to do all the talking, all the walking, all the work and all of the flirting. I imagined, ‘Hey presto world, I have my vagina, let the pleasure begin.’ I naïvely thought that somehow my sexuality, my desire and my pleasure would be located in my neo-vagina, my vagina rather wonderfully fashioned from the bits and pieces I was keen to let go of – my penis flesh now made sense. I imagined that my new vagina would have an inbuilt sense of self and purpose, like a microchip embedded just under sensual skin. I genuinely believed that after surgery, after the healing, there would be no more work to do. Surely my neo-vagina would take over from there on and do her stuff.

Of course it didn’t happen like that. It’s just flesh, penis and scrotum refashioned – different tissues sewn together to create a rather beautiful neo-vagina that resembles a cis vagina, but actually it works entirely differently. My vagina is crafted from penile and scrotal skin but has entirely different qualities and drawbacks than a cis-vagina. It is beautiful and it feels unique but it never came with a handbook or a set of illustrated and labelled diagrams. Its construction confused me. I felt like ‘badly prepared trans woman’.

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Forest School and Autism

Upon the release of his book, Forest School and Autism, we spoke to author and practitioner Michael James about what exactly Forest School involves, and why it’s so well suited for autistic learners. 

What exactly is meant by the term ‘Forest School’?

The term “Forest School” describes a specific approach to outdoor learning. Forest School has a strong ethos of learner-centered practice combined with an understanding of the benefits to wellbeing which come from regular contact with nature. Forest School is attended by people of all ages and abilities.

forest school

How is Forest School suited to the needs of autistic people?

Well, I’m always very aware of the saying “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met one person of autism”! The learner-centered ethos of Forest School seeks to accommodate the individual needs of different learners, and this flexibility can allow autistic learners the space to be themselves and engage on their own terms. This space includes the physical space of natural settings, which is far greater than in indoor settings, and also there is more space in time afforded by the Forest School approach. In my experience, this approach can suit autistic learners very well. Another strength of Forest School is the heightened awareness of place which can encourage practitioners to consider the sensory environment which is obviously important when learners have different sensory needs. For Forest School to best meet the needs of autistic learners the practitioner needs to develop autism awareness, and this book aims to promote and encourage that.

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How can we stop anxious thoughts from spiralling out of control?

Anxiety losing controlClinical psychologists Sue Knowles and Bridie Gallagher discuss mindfulness as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.  Their article has been adapted from their new book, My Anxiety Handbook: Getting Back on Track, which provides young people with guidance on how to recognise and manage anxiety’s difficulties. The book is co-written by a young person with anxiety, Phoebe McEwen.

Do you ever feel like your mind is full of worries about what’s happening in the past or could in the future?  Sometimes we have so many things in our minds that it can seem like never-ending noise, a whirlwind or even a washing machine!

Mindfulness is a technique that helps us to calm our thoughts and focus on the present moment.  This means that we try to think about the here and now, and not the past or future.  If thoughts are racing around your mind, you may feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed or stressed.  It can be useful to take some time just to “be aware” in the present moment, accepting what is happening around you.  Mindfulness is quite different from relaxation, although it can lead to you feeling more relaxed.  With mindfulness, the goal is to focus your mind and be more aware of what you are experiencing; whereas with relaxation, the goal is simply to relax or release a tense body or mind. Continue reading

Autism & Ageing – book extract

The latest in our blog series for Autism Awareness Month, we’re looking at Wenn Lawson’s excellent book for autistic adults. The first book to look seriously at the practical issues facing older adults with autism, Wenn Lawson’s groundbreaking handbook Older Adults and Autism Spectrum Conditions offers support, advice, and sensible ways in which to look at the issues. In this extract, Wenn uses himself as a case study.

autistic adults

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed a few changes related to ASC that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve divided them into physical setting, emotional wellbeing and social setting, though clearly each overlap.

Physical setting

This broad topic includes health and mobility at home, outside home, at work, using public transport, and visiting family and friends.

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How to Cope Productively with the Effects of Unemployment and Jobhunt with Confidence- book extract

Thanks for joining us for week two of sharing content from a selection of our rich resources for autistic adults. Last week we featured The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mid and Later Life. This week’s extract is from Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum: How to Cope Productively with the Effects of Unemployment and Jobhunt with Confidence by Michael John Carley.

Addressing the high rate of unemployment among people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this vital guide offers advice on how you can overcome negative emotions, maintain your confidence and process unemployment in an emotionally healthy way.

“‘Lying?’ Now, why is a discussion about ‘lying’ an appropriate segue into a chapter on securing employment? Because it’s a concept, a sensation, and an interpretation that seems to plague our spectrum world’s potential for employment.

So much of what is essential to finding and keeping a job revolves around behaviors we refer to as ‘professional.’ There’s professional appearance (good clothes, hygiene, etc.), professional attitude (staying positive even when you don’t want to), and professional behavior (the unwritten rules about what’s expected from us as we relate to one another in the workplace). All of these scripts are adaptive—for no one’s born that way. These are tricks that the majority of the business world demands from those who choose to inhabit it.

To a higher percentage of neurotypicals this resonates as ‘no big deal,’ because they pick up this behavioral code a lot more instinctively than we do, and because they don’t initially see as much harm in adapting. But to us, so-called professional behavior can often feel like lying. It’s not who we really are and this bothers us more…”

To read the full chapter, CLICK HERE.

To find out more about this book visit our WEBSITE, or browse a selection of our books written for autistic adults HERE.

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Coming Home to Autism

New book Coming Home to Autism takes a room-by-room approach to guide the parents of a newly diagnosed child through day-to-day family life. There are ideas and routines to try at home, including advice on toilet training, diet and nutrition, sensory play, and much more. We sat down with co-authors Tara Leniston and Rhian Grounds to find out more…

Congratulations on the publication of your first book! We want to let our readers know a bit more about it, so, can you tell us who this book is for? Who did you have in mind when you were writing it?

Tara – When my son was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago, I was looking for a book like this. I needed simple practical advice that was easy to read, and something I could use at home.  All the books that were available at the time were either very medical based, diaries of other people’s journeys, or books on pointing fingers as to why your child had autism.  I was very fortunate that I lived in the London borough of Wandsworth at the time Dylan was diagnosed, and I had access to the best help. I was also in a position where I could throw myself fully in to learning all about autism and Dylan. While I was writing I was thinking of all the information I wish I’d had in one place – as opposed to spending hours, weeks and months researching and wasting a lot of money on things that didn’t really help at all.

Rhian – Yes, as Tara says, it was written for families with younger children and those children with a relatively recent diagnosis. I was constantly thinking back to all the families I have worked with, what they said was most useful during their sessions and what they wished they had more advice on. I was also thinking of all the other professionals I have worked with over the years and how their knowledge has contributed to helping children and families consider and plan for all their child needs; from the day to day activities, sleep and communication. This book really is a combination of all those experiences and expertise.

autism

How did you discover your shared desire to help and advocate for autistic children?

Rhian – My career has been dedicated to working with all ages with ASD. I have worked, volunteered and supported autism awareness campaigns. At the same time Tara was raising money for the National Autistic Society; launching herself off buildings, clearly advocating for Dylan and autistic children! She was also supporting local families with advice and signposting them to resources and services. Through our common desire to advocate and consider ASD as part of our families and communities we developed a friendship.

Tara – I gave up my career as an actress to help Dylan and I threw myself in to learning all about autism and how I could help others in the same situation as us. The autism community is a fantastic group of supportive people, families and professionals. I believe Dylan brought Rhian and I together to write this book.

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