Autism is described as a ‘Spectrum Disorder which means that it has a wide range of severity and a broad mix of related symptoms. People with severe autism struggle a lot, all the time. People with milder autism, like me, tend to find that autism is more of a difference than a disability. Certainly there are some things even people with mild autism like me find difficult. I find it hard to cope with loud, busy places with lots of people – parties, shopping centres, rush hour on the Underground. Always I would prefer a library or a museum to any of these things and when I have to go to places like that I get severely stressed for hours and sometimes days. I cope by carrying earplugs at all times and limiting the time I need to spend in places like that.
I also recognise that I have significant difficulties in conversation and communication. It’s like an ‘uphill struggle’ to understand simple chit chat and and I find I fail to understand simple things in every conversation I ever have which is difficult because then the choice is either to hide my lack of understanding and guess what to say (which risks getting things wrong to the point of rudness since I am trying to reply to something I don’t understand,) or to admit my failure and explain why I’m struggling which makes me feel ashamed and kind of broken. This makes communication really tiring and fraut with mistakes. Yesterday morning, for example, I went to see a doctor for a sinus/throat infection and, after stepping over a yellow ‘wet floor’ sign I got into a misunderstanding with the receptionist. I tried to sort things out without admitting to my autism but I just made things worse and ended up getting upset which I guess she probably felt uncomfortable about. So, a little while later, after I’d calmed down I quietly explained the situation to her and apologised. She was genuinely lovely about it which I really appreaciated, especially since the communication problem was my fault. Even writing this blog, which mostly I love to do, can be tricky at times because I don’t always know what to say to comments or how to reply, or even if to reply, but at least in this format I get time to think and I can always ask my fabulous son for help.
All of that said, there are a lot of things to do with autism are things which can cause difficulties but can also be strengths. For instance, I absolutely need to have things planned ahead. I only feel comfortable when I’ve got a plan and I know where I am on that plan. It makes things feel less overwhelming and keeps me what they call grounded. I like that description, ‘grounded’, because when I don’t have a plan and anything can happen, I feel like I might fly away in the wind and I don’t like that feeling. So the word ‘grounded’ is very apt.
But being a good planner is also a strength because it means I can be regular and consistent about things, I can get down to working on something more easily and I can be reliable and do what others expect of me at the right time.
Anyway I’ve decided this week to make a plan for this ‘Adventures in Art’ blog.
My plan is to write an entry here every weekday loosely following a particular art adventure topic each week – perhaps something I’m working on or something I want to learn, or something I’ve seen which I think is brilliant and I want to do some research on. Then, on Saturaday’s I plan to write an entry on my other blog (which I’ve only recently started). The new blog is a review site for Science Fiction and Fantasy called “The Non Stop Nerd” where I’ll write a weekly review of a book, comic, game, film or collectable. This leaves Sunday free for church and rest.
So, this week, I’m going to look quite broadly at drawing animals.
(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)