AUTISTIC NICK’S EXPLAINS IT ALL
I’ve written 300+ blog posts since I started writing for Autistic Nick and during that time, I’ve covered a lot of ground in terms of what it’s like being Autistic and what challenges and obstacles I’ve faced and still face today.
Every day on top of experiencing the world through my lens – I have to deal with the sensory onslaught too.
I can’t expect that every one of my followers reads all 300+ of my blog posts.
But I live in hope!
For those of you who don’t (and you know who you are!!).
I’m going to explain it in this handy to print out guide just for you!
TOP TEN SIGNS THAT I’M FEELING OVERWHELMED
I start to yank on my staff pass, threading it through my fingers numerous times. I will also pull on the string bit and let it go snapping back and forth again numerous times. I may also wrap the cord part around the pass itself and then let it unravel.
Stretching my fingers. This is a very soothing thing for me to do in order for me to prevent myself from heading into a potential meltdown situation.
Twirling my hair. I will grab with my finger some of my hair and twirl it around my finger and then let it go and repeat that whole process.
Banging out a rhythm on my chest with my hands. I will get a beat going with my hands and that is very soothing for me.
I barely say two words. So, here a couple of things have happened. One is that the incident had been that horrible that I am still in the processing stage.
This is where I will replay what happened repeatedly in my head on a continuous loop. I will analyse each section piece by piece. Dissecting as I go along. Two I am about to or am in the early stages of a shutdown. Here it’s best to leave me alone to experience this.
Shutdowns are when the Autistic person is still experiencing perceived sensory overload to an environmental trigger. Shutdowns can be defined as a person’s brain going into a protective mode, where it ‘shuts off’ momentarily.
If I begin stimming or fidgeting in any way, then that’s a big sign that I’m upset. It could be stretching my fingers, or playing with my staff pass cord, I may also start twirling my hair, or slapping my chest with my hands.
Conversations are brisk and my word count/vocabulary becomes limited. You may start a conversation with me, and I will do my best to end it as soon as I can. It’s not you and I’m not being rude (if this happens to you). I may not be able to communicate with you how I’m feeling, or I maybe so overwhelmed that I simply cannot tell you what’s happening to/with me.
I will do my best to live in my own bubble and have every possible means available to make that happen. If I am wearing my noise cancelling headphones, then take that as a polite sign that I don’t wish to chat with you.
I also will spend any time that I have on my own and I will retrieve from engaging with others in any way, shape or form possible. I will live my life as a monk to some degree. Just know it’s something that I need to experience and when I’m ready I’ll chat about it.
If whatever’s happened has occurred at work, then I may take myself off for a walk. I’ll let you know where I’m going, I just won’t say anymore. It may come to it that it’s all becoming too much for me and in that case, I’ll just inform you that I am leaving for the day and that I’ll make up any hours at home. I won’t feel the need to explain any further. It also means that I won’t wish to discuss it there and then.
TEN QUESTIONS THAT I AM FREQUENTLY ASKED
Q. Why do you wear the colour navy a lot?
A. I wear the colour navy a lot because I feel safe and secure by wearing it, also if I’m feeling frustrated, nervous, anxious etc I feel calm and collected in wearing it. If I wear it head to toe, then take that as a sign that things are maybe not well with me and that I am attempting to calm myself by wearing the colour navy.
Q. Do you have the same meal for lunch each day?
A. Yes, I do. I often will have ham/tuna/cheese, cucumber, dukkha hummus dip, sweetcorn, 4 buttered crackers, a hot cup of tea. Occasionally I’ll have a sandwich but that’s very rare.
Q. Why do you wear your noise cancelling headphones for and what does that mean if I want to come and chat with you?
A. Headphones can be a valuable tool for me as an Autistic person, helping me to block out overwhelming noise and sensory stimuli. They can also provide a sense of calm and focus, and in some cases may help me the Autistic person communicate better with others.
Q. If I see that you’re getting frustrated, overwhelmed, you’ve barely said two words, what can I do to help you?
A. Well, firstly approach me and simply ask me if everything is, ok? If you don’t want an honest answer carry on walking, allowing me to come to a decision on what my next move will be, once you’ve asked me. This could be something as simple as going for a walk and allowing me to have a conversation with you, or just going for a walk-in silence. Either way I’ll let you know what’s happening and what can be done. In some cases, nothing can be done and I simply need to go home. https://autisticnick.com/2023/05/01/autistic-nicks-plan-if-youre-feeling-overwhelmed/
Q. if you have a meltdown at work/home/outside/on a support what can I do to help?
A. Two blog posts that can help you out are this one https://autisticnick.com/2021/10/11/autistic-nicks-meltdown-shame/ which outlines the three stages of what having a meltdown looks like and this one titled would you know what to do https://autisticnick.com/2018/03/19/would-you-know-what-to-do/ which outlines in eight steps to assist you in being more aware and knowledgeable.
Q. What is a shutdown?
A. Shutdowns are when the Autistic person is still experiencing perceived sensory overload to an environmental trigger. Shutdowns can be defined as a person’s brain going into a protective mode, where it ‘shuts off’ momentarily.
Autistic Individuals experiencing sensory shutdown often appear immobile; they may lay in one position and not move or blink. They may not hear their names being called and are unable to respond.
These individuals during a shutdown often retreat from the outside world, by going inside, or within themselves for comfort, in an effort to self-calm and remove whatever caused their stress. You can read more here in this blog post titled 10 signs that Autistic Nick is heading into a shutdown https://autisticnick.com/2022/10/10/10-signs-that-autistic-nick-is-heading-into-a-shutdown/
Q. How do you deal with your fatigue and a possible burnout and what tools do you use to deal with it?
A. There are various things that can cause Autistic fatigue. Autistic adults suggest several causes, including:
Dealing with social situations.
Masking or camouflaging their Autistic traits.
Q. What is SDP and how does that affect you being Autistic?
A. Many people who are on the Autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, and at different times. These sensory differences can affect behaviour and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.
I have written about SPD before (https://autisticnick.com/2018/09/03/sensory-processing-disorder-spd/) But I want to take a more in depth look at how each of our senses can be triggered as well as looking at some of the effects of hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, balance and body awareness. You can read a blog post titled Autism and sensory differences here https://autisticnick.com/2019/02/25/autism-and-sensory-differences/
A sense of not meeting other people’s/society’s expectations of them.
Changes in your routines or day-to-day life, such as a change of school or job, can increase anxiety and can be additional causes for Autistic fatigue and burnout.
For me I feel that I’m going to have to put in place some strategies around monitoring and managing my expectations and knowing the signs that I may need to step outside for 10-minutes to catch my breath or to have a stim, having that extra support with the support worker will put my mind at ease. You can read more in this blog post titled how I dealt with Autistic fatigue and a burnout https://autisticnick.com/2021/08/31/how-i-dealt-with-autistic-fatigue-and-a-burnout/ https://autisticnick.com/2019/08/12/asmr-sensory-processing-disorder-and-autism/
I hope that this handy guide has helped you and I expect to see it printed out and laminated next time I see you!
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
As always, I can also be found on Twitter:@AutisticNickAU and on the Official Autistic Nick Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/AutisticNickAU/
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.
You must be logged in to post a comment.