Actually Aspling's Sensory Overload!

Bang, crash, wallop! Loud noise and a crowded environment, lots of smells, too much happening at once. All the things I dread.

Overload is a unplesant yet valid experience. Its a time when things become too much and our senses become overwhelmed. People often dismiss meltdowns, they see a person struggling and just lable it as bad behaviour, when all we need is support.

For me overload builds up over time, like a bucket flowing with water that eventually will tip over. Stress and anxiety builds up until I break.

During a meltdown I feel powerless, helpless and worthless. I feel like I’ve lost myself to a void, like there’s no way back. I feel like I need to escape the small tight box I’m in and run away. My emotions take over and I lose all rationality. I lose my voice and all I can do is cry.

In that moment my senses are overloaded, everything is so much worse. Sounds seem louder, lights brighter, smells stronger and I feel trapped in an enclosed space all eyes on me like I need to get out.

When I’m in overload sometimes I get angry, this is because I am frustrated, although I feel strong emotions I am unable to communicate them, this is extremely frustrating and difficult to deal with.

During that moment I cannot process information, I am harder to calm and it takes so much more effort to calm. My brain is buzzing, confused and scared trying to figure out what to do.

I find at this time I need to move away from the environment and into somewhere I feel safe, somewhere familiar with people who understand me well. That way I am able to try and focus and calm myself.

When I experience sensory overload my self awareness diminishes, I forget about everyone around me, because my brain is too busy trying to soothe my senses, trying to escape the overwhelming feeling.

People stop and stare, they make rude judgemental comments, they lable us naughty or say we are throwing a tantrum. Its important to understand and remember that a meltdown is an overload, where our senses become overwhelmed, it is an uncontrollable experience, something that is unplesant and which we do not enjoy, it is not planned or thought out.

Part two: calming tips for during a meltdown coming next week!

Actually Asplings Official Christmas Blog 🎄

It’s here! My much anticipated Christmas blog! Honestly though, this year I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to write about. I’ve been so busy and caught up in everything I’ve not had a chance to plan.

Christmas is such a busy time of year, there’s so much to do and organise before December 25th.

There’s the end of work and all the fancy Christmas parties, organising the office for the New Year and so much planning! It can be a hectic time for any organisation. But for me I’ve found work to be incredible as always.

Then there’s the family planning. The Christmas tree, all the decorations, the present shopping and buying all the amazing food. There’s so so much to remember during this festive season, it can sometimes become overwheming.

I honestly love this time of year, it’s my absolute favourite! I just enjoy everything about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it difficult, because at times I do. I find it noisy, too bright, too crowded, and there’s too many demands.

People think that during Christmas I’m a Grinch, but people don’t understand that the Grinch actually loved Christmas, it was the people he hated.

It’s often hard for people to understand that sometimes I just need alone time, time to recharge. Being social 24/7 can be tiring, staring at Christmas tree lights can be too much, Christmas music can be overwhelming.

It’s not that I’m being unsociable or a Grinch, it’s just that it’s exhausting keeping it all up for long periods of time.

I recently spoke about my experiences at Christmas to the with Autistic Society, and it was interesting to hear similar perspectives, in that many Autistic people do enjoy the holidays, it can just be too much sometimes.

Christmas although overwhelming is fantastic, it’s such a festive holiday full of family and fun. I hope wherever you spend it it’s a happy one!

You can read last year’s post here: I’m sure it’s different in some way and could possibly be more informative!

Merry Christmas,

Love Aspling x

Actually Aspling Just Checking in!

I know I know… its been a while since my last post, but honestly, I’ve been none stop. These past few weeks have been absolutely crazy.

First off I’m coming to the end of my degree, with less than two months until my final work is due in. The stress has already set in and I’m trying to spend every last minute perfecting everything.

Not to mention Christmas is just around the corner. I LOVE Christmas, its my favourite time of year. There’s so much joy, glittery lights, decorations and warmth, not forgetting the christmas music!

So, what else have I been up to?

Well, I’ve been working on my new #SunflowerTrainStation campaign. Trying to get all rail stations to implement the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme, and if you’ve been following my social media you’ll know I’ve been posting about this regularly. I think giving people the option, the choice and having something in place is so important. At the end of the day its all about supporting the indivdual, and that is why I’m campaigning.

You can read about the campaign here: https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/131311/middleton-blogger-with-autism-wants-all-uk-railway-stations-to-adopt-hidden-disability-sunflower-lanyard-scheme

Like last year, I’ll be writing up a post all about Christmas, and how I experience this as an Autistic adult. I’ll probably also do a post about New Year too, summarising again my experiences.

If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write/blog about then please do get in touch!

For now, stay safe, love always

Aspling.

Actually Asplings Hunt for Comfort

When I was younger I absolutely hated wearing a bra, they were too tight, itchy, and generally uncomfortable. As an adult I’ve learnt the benefit of wearing one, in that they hold everything in place.

A reaccuring theme ive heard amongst Autistic women is the sensory issues that come with wearing a bra, for example the fit, not to mention the stress of shopping for one.

There’s too much choice, and being indecisive I can be stood browsing the same bra shop for hours… Literally. There’s so many different options to choose from, it’s never simple. There’s different styles, for example, balcony and plunge. Then there’s lacy bras, t-shirt bras and the varying colours and patterns. It’s all too much to process.

I find bra shopping exhausting usually, most places don’t have my size in stock to try on, or the shops are too crowded. However, the other day I decided to look in Victoria’s Secret, not knowing that they catered for my size. I had a brilliant and pleasantly surprising experience.

The shop had a logical layout, showcasing a variety of bras but not too many that it was overwhelming. The shop was surprisingly quiet, with the music being low and the lights dimmed, all of the things I preferred.

Throughout the shopping process I was supported by a lovely member of staff who guided and advised me on what bras to choose. This made navigating the shop easier and less stressful.

In the end I chose a powder pink t-shirt bra. I chose this for several reasons. The fabric was incredibly soft on my skin, the fit was perfect, and most importantly I felt comfortable. This bra was 100% perfect for me, there were no sensory issues and the size was right.

I had previously been fitted at another shop and honestly I disliked the atmosphere and the staff attitudes, plus I’m pretty sure they sized me completely wrong.

This was my first time shopping at Victoria’s Secret but my experience was extremely positive and I’d 100% recommend them for bras. Its a fantastic shopping and sensory experience.

Actually Aspling’s Road to University

Starting university, or even returning after the summer can be daunting.

If you’re a new starter then there’s so much to consider, so much to do and so many worries. For example: how many will be in my class, can I manage the workload, and will I make friends? All these are common, and honestly natural fears.

Whether living at home or in halls, you never know what you will be faced with, so much still remains unknown, and for Autistic people this is where the anxiety sets in. One thing I recommend is if you have any questions, email ahead beforehand to ask these – this can reduce anxiety and help you prepare for your first day.

Secondly, check if there is a reading list – this can be super helpful. If there is have a look at books/papers ahead of time, just to brush up on knowledge and give you a head start with processing time.

Next comes the classes, the lecture halls and the people. I would advise heading there in advance to check it out in prep for the day. Also, on your first day head over there early to beat the rush and pick a good seat (note: this may be your seat for the year, so choose wisely!).

There is so much to consider on the first day, one being making friends – everyone is in the same boat here, granted NT’s don’t have as much to worry about. Just smile, and someone may start conversation – remember they are just as nervous as you! You’ll settle in eventually and this will become more natural once everyone gets adjusted. And don’t worry about your wardrobe, this is another new student thing, eventually it’ll get to the point where you don’t care what you throw on!

In lectures (if allowed) I recommend recording classes, that way you can play them back at a later date to allow processing (it takes me days to process information, sometimes weeks!). This can be really helpful when revising too as you can hear all the extra tips/tricks without missing something that could be potentially important. Taking notes can help too, I used coloured Irlen paper and coloured pens, one because they stand out and two because then things look pretty!! Flash cards are a life saver too, especially when it comes to revision!

Its important to also be aware of deadlines, because things can pile up! I’ve had three classes each with two assignments each and a 10,000 word project all on the go! It can be hectic, but with good organisation and scheduling it can be manageable. Make a schedule/plan of when to work on each item or module/class, that way it’s a visual and helps organise your time. Make a list of each assignment and deadline date, again a visual to help keep on track, and once one is complete you can cross it off and move onto the next.

For returning students, it can feel odd coming back after such a long time off. You may have forgotten everything – this is pretty normal after a break, be sure to revisit old notes for a refresher!

Its like starting all over again, depending on what you are studying class sizes can be smaller. For me, we were split into three pathways, which meant bye bye large lectures (YESSSSS!). One good thing is you’ll still know people, and won’t have to make friends all over again, a huge weight off your mind.

One thing you won’t have missed – the early starts and late finishes, along side the essays and exams. Deadlines are looming and work begins, so be sure to prioritise and get back on track!

One important thing to remember throughout all of this is that if you are struggling then ask for help. That is what lecturers and support services are there for, to help, to provide guidance. Several times throughout my undergraduate degree I had to ask for help, for clarification – it is not a sign of weakness and will most probably give you a push in the right direction.

University can be overwhelming, noisy, crowded and too much at times, so be sure to make a note of quiet areas, places you can go for some space, to just chill out. Its important to look after yourself along your journey, and recharge when you need too!

University is such a challenging yet rewarding place, full of ups and downs, like a rollercoaster, but I loved every minute (hence why I’m carrying on!). Being a student is full of pressure, but it will all pay off. You’ll learn and grow with every minute of every day and become a brighter better version of yourself!

University however, isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly okay. Whatever you do, just be yourself, your Autistic self, be wonderful!

Actually Asplings Advocacy Journey

Advocacy is… Sharing your story
Advocacy is… Using your voice
Advocacy is… Educating others
Advocacy is… Standing up for what you believe in

I started advocating for these reasons, because I wanted to make a difference in the world, a difference in my community and a difference for others.

I started my journey alone, quiet and unaware, but now I’m surrounded by friends, raising my voice and promoting acceptance.

We live in a society in which we do not fit in, a society unwilling to change, a place where we have to blend in to get by. Awareness is not enough, we need acceptance.

From a young age we are taught to conform, to behave in the way society wants us to behave, forced to make eye contact to please others, rather than being told to be proud and embrace who we are.

I grew up feeling lost and alone, unaware of myself, troubled by my differences, I’m showing people that it’s okay to feel different, to love who you are regardless.

I advocate for accessibility, for autistic rights, for understanding and to be accepted within our society.

I advocate for the right to be our autistic selves in a world which we are taught to conform.

I adovcate to educate those who lack understanding, to offer support for those who are struggling, to be a light in the dark.

That is why I advocate, to give Autistic people a voice in a world which wishes to silence us.

Advocacy is… Sharing your story
Advocacy is… Using your voice
Advocacy is… Educating others
Advocacy is… Standing up for what you believe in

Actually Aspling Autistic Friendly

McDonalds, overcrowded and over stimulating, not my first choice for food. I sat there this morning in cloud of haze, feeling completely overwhelmed. Loud noises filled my ears, people talking, music blasting. Bright lights shone from the screens and children we’re running round aimlessly. This was my idea of hell, and drive through wasn’t an option.

I live in a small town, with not a lot going on, most times I can cope reasonably well, but this morning I was tired. I’ll be honest I don’t know of any autistic friendly places to eat where I live, and sometimes I wish I did.

I’ve heard that some places are intentionally noisy and busy to deter autistic people from entering, but this notion to me just seems crazy.

Organisations which work with autistic individuals and autism as a whole need to have an understanding that it is vital that they are autism friendly, however in some situations this is not the case. In the past I’ve attended Autism events, expecting them to be autism friendly, then turn up to find them completely overwhelming. One place in particular sticks out in my memory, an event I attend annually: an event for autistic individuals, parents and professionals, one which you’d expect to cater for actually autistic people – what you expect and what you actually get are the total opposite. An over crowded hall, bright lights, people expecting social interaction and loud loud noises. My idea of sensory hell.

A few weeks ago I attended an event just outside of Manchester, something that to me seemed interesting, Arboria. A place filled with wonder, a sensory heaven.

Arboria, a large inflatable tent filled with luminosity and colour, glimmering with shining lights upon the reflective plastic structures.

With a theme of ‘trees’, Arboria provided me with a sensory escape where I could be at peace with myself and my surroundings.

Upon arrival I was anxious to see a 40 minute queue surrounded by multiple groups of parents and children. I was aggitaited and some what frustrated with the idea of waiting. I decided that I couldn’t cope with standing in a noisy crowded queue, so I went to speak to a member of staff to see if they had any autistic friendly options, I wasn’t hopeful. Every single member of staff was polite and friendly, even allowing us to jump the queue straight to the front; as they could see the distress and anxiety on my cold pale face.

I was extremely grateful to the staff for allowing me to go straight into the inflatable tent of wonders, and what awaited me was incredible.

A large structure with an array of lights and colours encompassed me, all I could see was light, and my ears were filled with sounds from the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest.

Each section had its own colour, ranging from blue and red, to yellow and green, each with its own unique design, representing the theme of the trees. There was so much to look at, so much to feel, so much to take in, but my senses were overjoyed!

The lighting was dim, this suited my eyes, the temperature was just right, evertything was perfect except for the crowds.

If this event was only open to adults, or offered autistic friendly sessions it would be perfect. Instead it was full of little children running round screaming with happiness. Their faces full of laughter as they made their way around the tent.

For me this was overwhelming, as everywhere I looked I was greeted by a small child, and I found it hard to navigate with all the people inside.

This event ran for three days, giving people enough time to experience the magical wonders inside, and honestly 15 minutes was enough for me. I spent my time exploring each tunnel, sometimes stopping in small caves to take photographs and just breathe.

Overall this was an amazing experience, made ten times better by staff with great understanding and awareness. Without this I’d never have gotten a chance to experience the wonder. I’d have given up and gone home miserable.

More and more places are offering Autistic friendly sessions, allowing people to experience things without the crowds, without the loud noises, without the distractions. It’s important to ensure Autistic individuals have the chance to experience things just like their neurotypical peers, ensuring no one misses out. Its amazing how one small change can impact an event and create positive experiences for those on the spectrum. It’s really not complicated to achieve and be life changing!