Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Shhh...I'm Reaching Middle Age

I have officially turned middle aged.

I know this because:

1) I turn down the volume on the adverts
2) I say things like 'What have we seen him in before?'
3) When Steve Wright is singing along to songs on Radio 2 it drives me mad, and so...
4) ...I am even listening to Radio 3 and Classic FM occasionally
5) I would rather shop online than bump into actual people anywhere

I mean, that's an abridged list. I could go on forever. An interest in gardening, the constant fight once out of bed in the morning not to get back in it again...

All this has made me notice that as we get older, we tend to shun lots of sensory input, unless we are in the mood for it. Remember when you were a teenager and the music couldn't get loud enough, and you'd hear 'Turn that down!' echoing up the stairs every evening? The buzz of hundreds of people bustling through town, or on the dancefloor, was a joyful experience? It seemed that my brain was craving input, input, input back then. Never enough noise!

These days, I have to be in the mood for noise. It's something I build up to, rather than surround myself with. It's given me a bit of an insight into sensory processing difficulties, because sensory processing is only really something we become aware of if it's faulty, or if it's changing.

When Bobby says that the noise of a classroom makes him feel like he is lost in a crowd, I kind of understand that overwhelming sensation. I have one of those brains that can't focus when there's a radio on in the background. I need complete calm to concentrate.

When I used to work in Public Relations, we had an open plan office, with desks separated only by fairly flimsy dividers. I would stare furiously at the press release I was trying to write whilst a colleague was laughing to a client at the desk opposite. It would drive me NUTS. I am perfectly suited to work from home, because I can get ten times more done.

When I suggested to Bobby that his brain was like an old dial up modem rather than Broadband, that got clogged with input very easily (that's something that Phoebe Caldwell quoted in one of her talks), he liked the idea but prefers to call it 'Weak Wi Fi connection'. Too much info? Try to open too many documents at once? Word is not responding! So frustrating, yet understandable.

Peace, quiet and space to process, that's all some of us need, just people with autism might need it more than others.

ps Funnily enough though, Bobby is able to play his Ipad and watch TV at the same time...when it comes to technology, the juggle seems so much simpler. But maybe that's because what he's juggling is visual, and processed a darn sight easier than sound.

Monday, 12 September 2016

One step too far...

Year 8 begins extremely well for Bobby.

Now settled and pretty sure himself, he refuses to take part in drama. "I can't do all that pretending to be someone else stuff," he tells me. "I'm not good at drama". The first bit I can understand, it's part of autism. But I beg to differ with the second statement.

It's a confident start and I decide that it might be nice for Bobby to venture away from the smallest cafe on site, designed for Year 7s, and have a go at one of the other cafes in the school. Partly this is because the other cafes have a healthier menu. The online payment system tells me what Bobby has been eating and it can't fool me. I know that 'stuffed crust' is just a posh term for pizza.

Bobby greets this idea with the same level of questioning that would greet a suggestion that he joins MI5.

"What if I don't like the food?"

Answer: Here's a menu, let's asterisk all the stuff you'll like.

"But what if I see it and I think I like it and then I don't like it and I waste it and then I'm hungry?"

Answer 1: Just go and get another meal.
Answer 2: I can pack extra sandwiches in case.

"But then what if you congratulate me and I don't want to be congratulated?"

Answer: I will pretend it is the smallest deal on Earth.

Obviously trying out a new cafe just like that is a bit too much of a step in a new school year. I've suggested that he just looks at the cafe first.

"But what if I end up in the queue and then I'm FORCED to get some food?!"

You don't have to queue you'll just peek.

I even suggested to the teaching assistant that they did a taster session for him...which they actually might, because it's that sort of brilliant school.

But for now, it's stuffed crusts and 'poshdogs'.