Autism TBR Pile Review: Stim – An Autistic Anthology, edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

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Hardcover, First Edition, 216 pages
Published 2020 by Unbound
ISBN13: 9781783529025

Around one in one hundred people in the UK are autistic, yet there remains a fundamental misunderstanding of what autism is. It is rare that autistic people get to share their own experiences, show how creative and talented and passionate they are, how different they are from media stereotypes.

This insightful and eye-opening collection of essays, fiction and visual art showcases the immense talents of some of the UK’s most exciting writers and artists – who just happen to be on the spectrum. Here they reclaim the power to speak for themselves and redefine what it means to be autistic.

Stim invites the reader into the lives, experiences, minds of the eighteen contributors, and asks them to recognise the hurdles of being autistic in a non-autistic world and to uncover the empathy and understanding necessary to continue to champion brilliant yet unheard voices. 

My review

When Lizzie was hawking this book around Twitter, trying to get enough backers on Unbound, I asked to be put on the list for a gifted copy – that is, I was too poor at the time to support the book but if someone paid for an extra copy for someone without funds then I would be in with a chance of getting one.

I did, and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, but blog tours and my job got in the way. But in the last few days I’ve managed to get up to date with the blog tours for March and have some breathing room so I read Stim.

I laughed, I cried, a lot, I enjoyed the stories and the art work, it was so refreshing to read other peoples’ experiences of life and see my own reflected back. People from many places and with different support needs. The only thing they had in common was a diagnosis of autism/Asperger’s Syndrome/ASC/ASC/whatever we’re being labelled as these days.

This is a weighty little book, nice texture to the pages, right size for carrying around. I love the cover, it’s not overwhelming or too bright. The resources at the end might be useful for a reader who isn’t autistic.

Autistic people are quite capable of telling their own stories, whether in words, pictures or gestures, and this book shares some of them.

Feeling the need to journal – Anxiety 2021

Happy New Year. How’s everyone doing?

My anxiety has been high, unfortunately. Lockdown 3 has been a sudden change. I do not like sudden changes. It messes with my head. After the interruption to routine that is the Christmas and New Year break, I was looking forward to getting back to swimming this week.

The sudden imposition of lockdown at midnight on Monday/Tuesday meant that the pool was closed and my plans were thrown out of the window. I need to swim because it provides structure to my week, aerobic exercise that I enjoy in the form of walking and swimming, and a sensory environment that I find soothing. Warm tiles, the smell of chlorine, the all-around pressure of the water on my body, floating and stretching my muscles and lungs. It’s absolutely the best thing for my brain.

The state of the world isn’t helping, although my dogs are. Ezzie has taken up standing next to me when I’m at my desk and keeping her eye on me all the time. Gyfa takes over at night. She has a bed in my room and likes to climb into bed with me until I fall asleep.

I last left the house on Sunday when I had to go to the shop to get dog food. I have to go out later to get more dog food. I’ve spent the last three days persuading myself that it’s safe to go out to walk the dogs. We’ve just been out for a half hour walk, though so I managed to push through it. I need to go out with them again tomorrow or Sunday. I’m dealing with the anxiety of other people, the dogs being reactive and people treating us badly because they’re reactive, with dogs off their leads running at us and the dogs feeling threatened.

I’m scared of humans generally anyway, but there is a level of judgmentalism by dog owners at times. Ezzie and Gyfa are protective of me and reactive around strange dogs, while my anxiety makes it hard for me to talk, so it can be hard to be around other people and dogs. I prefer going out at dusk when it’s quiet, but I need to go to the shop later. That means I had to take them out earlier than usual.

I’m mentally gearing up to go to the shop. I have my visor ready, my bluetooth headband has a fairly full battery so I can listen to an audiobook and put the visor on. I tried wearing masks but the sensory pain is too much when added to the sensory overload of the shop. I like to go shopping in the evening when it is quieter and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. On Sunday it was rammed; I was not happy, I got so overwhelmed that I had to get a taxi home, and I think that put me in a bad place to start the week.

Every time I have a bad experience I have to treat the next time I do the same thing as though it were the first time and reset my anxiety and routine. It can take a while to feel comfortable again.

I need to rebuild my routine and make it through the lockdown.

Autism TBR Pile Review: I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, by Sarah Kurchak

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Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 22nd 2020
by Douglas McIntyre
ISBN:1771622466 (ISBN13: 9781771622462)

Sarah Kurchak is autistic. She hasn’t let that get in the way of pursuing her dream to become a writer, or to find love, but she has let it get in the way of being in the same room with someone chewing food loudly, and of cleaning her bathroom sink. In I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, Kurchak examines the Byzantine steps she took to become “an autistic success story,” how the process almost ruined her life and how she is now trying to recover.

Growing up undiagnosed in small-town Ontario in the eighties and nineties, Kurchak realized early that she was somehow different from her peers. She discovered an effective strategy to fend off bullying: she consciously altered nearly everything about herself—from her personality to her body language. She forced herself to wear the denim jeans that felt like being enclosed in a sandpaper iron maiden. Every day, she dragged herself through the door with an elevated pulse and a churning stomach, nearly crumbling under the effort of the performance. By the time she was finally diagnosed with autism at twenty-seven, she struggled with depression and anxiety largely caused by the same strategy she had mastered precisely. She came to wonder, were all those years of intensely pretending to be someone else really worth it?

Tackling everything from autism parenting culture to love, sex, alcohol, obsessions and professional pillow fighting, Kurchak’s enlightening memoir challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about autism and considers what might really make the lives of autistic people healthier, happier and more fulfilling. 

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Autistic Books Pile Review: Autism Equality in the Work Place, by Janine Booth

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Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 21st 2016 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN: 1849056781 (ISBN13: 9781849056786)

Neurodiversity in the workplace can be a gift. Yet only 15% of adults with an autism spectrum condition (ASC) are in full-time employment. This book examines how the working environment can embrace autistic people in a positive way.

The author highlights common challenges in the workplace for people with ASC, such as discrimination and lack of communication or the right kind of support from managers and colleagues, and provides strategies for changing them. Setting out practical, reasonable adjustments such as a quiet room or avoiding disruption to work schedules, this book demonstrates how day to day changes in the workplace can make it more inclusive and productive for all employees.

Autism in the Workplace is intended for any person with an interest in changing working culture to ensure equality for autistic people. It is an essential resource for employers, managers, trade unionists, people with ASCs and their workmates and supporters.

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Local author spotlight: Laurie Kennedy

I know Laurie through being involved in the local adult autistic groups, and he’s just published his book about mental health, Positively Negative. Laurie has kindly agreed to write a post for the blog about creating and publishing his book.

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Autistic need for sameness: an intrinsic part of autism or a soothing mechanism to cope with anxiety?

I might have mentioned I’m doing a course with the Distance Learning Unit at Grimsby Institute at the moment. It’s a free one, ‘Level 2 Understanding Autism’, and I’ve been getting a bit frustrated by the way the first part presents autism. For instance the insistence on using, even when it makes things linguistically and grammatically awkward, the phrase ‘individuals with autism’, rather than ‘autistic people’. The organisations they recommend to find out further information are ones run by non-autistic people. And they have an extremely poor description of neurodiversity. Seriously, the learning material are really out of date.

By about thirty years.

Continue reading “Autistic need for sameness: an intrinsic part of autism or a soothing mechanism to cope with anxiety?”