Sunday, 27 January 2013


The best kind of Socialising, me at Lamplighter
Pub, St Hellier, Jersey in 2010.
When I first received my Individual Budget in 2008 one of the strategies in my new support package was the employment of a Network Facilitator to help me to build up social networks in the local community.  This was both to help increase my quality of life and to make sure there would be people in life who would look out for me once my parents were no longer around.  The job of the network facilitator was the most difficult role in my new Individual Budget and I pitied the person who had this job, because it is the one (to this date) that we never got right, and whilst I haven’t given up, I strongly suspect that this may be something I never achieve.  This month’s blog will hopefully give an insight into those experiences.

Network Facilitator

            My network facilitator and I investigated a lot of opportunities to build social networks.  We looked at taking part in the local Dolman theatre (an amateur theatre in Newport) either to try acting, help out with the stage/ lighting etc., and whilst I quite enjoyed watching the actors rehearse I found it very difficult to get motivated.  We looked at me possibly helping out at Newport County football club on match days, helping either as a steward or in the club shop (whatever needed doing) but even that didn’t thrill me a great deal.  It was a nice day out but again couldn’t motivate myself to take it any further.  Ju-jitsu, Pontymister Football Club, Ninjitsu, Karate, Kung Fu, all the same, it just didn’t inspire me.  The man who did this job really had the most challenging job on the entire team and since he has left his position, my remaining life coach Bernard Pearson and I have taken over this search for social networks and although we are a little further on I am still not enthralled.  Socialising causes me so many problems, the biggest of all is the fact that I really struggle to see the point of it all.  I find it incredible that there is such a thing called a pass-time in which people find things to do solely for the purpose of wasting-time.  I find that incredible.  Maybe this is where being on the autism spectrum does really show itself in my nature.  But how much of this is because I am autistic how much of it is my personality and how much is it as a psychological response to past difficulties with socialising.  Am I hiding to avoid past pain?

The Autism Quotient.

            There have been times in my life when I have doubted whether I am on the autism spectrum.  This is for two main reasons, firstly, I am me and my experience of the world I live in and who I am are very unique to me (as they are to you) and like all of us, we don’t see ourselves the way other people do.  We don’t always see our defects or our differences in the way others do.  Once of the other reasons is the fact that autism is so strictly stereotyped (and my autism is particularly so complex) that it can be difficult to always recognise myself in how autism is supposed to be.  Two things always remind me of my autism, one (most importantly) was the autism brain scan I had as part of work Research Autism did with Professor Declan Murphy and Dr Christine Ecker as part of their autism brain scan technology.  My brain scan clearly showed that I was firmly on the autism spectrum (I have never doubted my autism since that day) and also when I look at Simon Baron-Cohen’s Autism Quotient.  I just have to read the questions on there and it really reminds me of how different I am.  One question more than any other really reminds me that I am autistic and it is this one: -

13. I would rather go to a library than to a party.


            I think my logical brain is one reason for this.  They say there are several types of intelligence; two of those are the academic and the social.  I believe the more a person lacks social intelligence the more they have to use the academic/ logic side of their brain to make up the deficit.  For some people it makes them look so rigid and stereotyped, I don’t believe it is that bad in my case (although I don’t believe I look particularly natural) but it is mentally exhausting and maybe this is the crux to why I don’t like socialising.  I also believe too – that logically it doesn’t make sense to socialise.  Why would a person waste time burning up time, drinking several pints of beer, when there are so many things a person can do with their time.  We live only once, I want to make sure that I do something with my time which justifies my existence.  For many other people, a good life is working to earn enough money to enjoy themselves, to live for today, to pass time before they die.  I actually think that is such a waste of a life.  Each to their own I suppose.  I think another reason I find socialising difficult is because people annoy me enough anyway, and placed in a social context without any real purpose or structure, they increase their capacity to annoy me.


            One of the first activities I did when leaving social care in Manchester and moving to Newport was to join my Dad’s local skittles club, to help me mix in with ‘ordinary’ people in society and increase my social skills.  It definitely helped me up to a point and it was a real education, but again up to a point.  It was a night out, I could have a pint and let off steam but most of the time it was a real chore.  I hated being tied down to do something which just didn’t make sense to me.  Why would blokes play skittles in a pub?  Why would grown adults get smashed and enjoy it?  And why do people take these things so damned-seriously.  But most all I think skittles reminds me of how human people are and maybe that is my real problem.  People are analogue and not digital, they are flawed and (whilst I am flawed too) the flaws of the general population are so very different to mine.  I know I am not perfect but I really don’t believe I would ever do anything at others expense.  I don’t want to control anyone, manipulate anyone or get one over on anyone.  Maybe I am being cynical but this is how I view humanity.  Human beings disgust me far more than they ever inspire me.

            For instance at the skittles, people seem to get on well with me and they comment to my Dad that they think I am a nice lad.  I do appreciate that and because of that I feel bad about what I am going to say, however I am going to be honest.  I do find the way some of them behave appalling, if not bullying.  People shouting each other down, talking over people to prevent them having a say (my Dad is particularly talented at that), people bitching about each other when they get a bad score, ignoring you when you say hello to them or just grunting (because they aren’t on top form themselves) or scoring points against each other when they don’t get their own way.  These are people mostly in their fifties upwards and it still amazes me that they can be so ignorant.  Why would I want to put myself in that situation week after week?  Nobody wants to be our team’s secretary or our captain and when somebody reluctantly takes on the position for the sake of the club they can often be the subject of abuse and ridicule because they weren’t played in the position they wanted.  A good excuse to blame others if they get a low score.  Yet the people who take this abuse keep going back for more (when it clearly upsets them).  For someone like me who tries to be polite and amiable and doesn’t have any issues around ego it can make me vulnerable, which heightens the anxiety and nerves I have around conflict and subsequently makes me less prone to mixing.  Because social skills are more than just being polite and courteous, sometimes you have to make sure that others don’t take advantage of you too.  If that is the way the world is then why get involved any more than you need to?

The Pub Quiz

            One of the events which has been more successful is the pub quiz which I attend with my life coach Bernard Pearson.  It is a far nicer and less aggressive atmosphere than Skittles and everyone is generally very warm and friendly.  There are still times (like in all walks of life) when I feel offended by the odd thing someone says etc. but on the whole it is a completely different social experience.  This makes it a lot easier for me and my attendances there are far more regular than skittles but there is still one major problem for me.  And that is I still feel like I am killing time for the sake of killing time, sometimes that is most gratifying, there are times when I actually need it, but I don’t feel this way that often, and I like to pick and choose the times I do it.  Most of the time I spend worrying about the things I would much rather be doing.  Practical things, useful things. 

How do I chill out?

            Maybe I am a born loner, maybe I am hiding from past difficult experiences, maybe I find social experiences so stressful that I like to limit them as much as possible, but I really find being at home the most relaxing and invigorating experience of all.  When I come home from University, work or anywhere I love to be back in my own home around my own environment.  I will elaborate on individual social experiences such as University etc. in future blogs but at times when I am out in public I feel so inadequate it hurts like hell.  When I get home, I really do shut the world out.  And I really need to get away to help me survive.  The fact that my home is so isolated, really aids that effect too.

            Chilling out to me is cleaning and tidying, with Talksport on the radio or playing my music.  Getting my flat tidied.  Getting all of those jobs that are building up out of the way which really lift my spirits, that to me is relaxing.  A very quiet and boring life by most people’s standards but in my case very necessary.  People are my Kryptonite and sometimes I can be so easily distressed not only by the things that people say but sometimes the things they don’t say, the times they don’t make things clear or reassure me when I need it.  People are so damned complicated to me.  I am conscious of the fact that this experience is so typical of what we’d expect from a person with autism, but it is really difficult to find a different way to say it.  Whether I need people in my life but need to find a better way to make this happen, or whether people and I just don’t mix, I have no idea.  I suppose only time will tell.  I do feel however that some of my experiences may stem from the fact that we are still living in pioneering times and many people with autism (like me) are still fumbling our way in the dark.  How much (as human beings) is socialising good for me and when does it become a hindrance?