autism · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Dealing with the Ignorance of Autism

I am not ashamed of my autism. Autism is a part of me and I don’t want it cured. Yes, most days it makes life much more difficult than it should be. It intensifies sounds and sights, it makes me socially awkward, it sometimes makes me feel like an outcast. It makes things confusing; I misread things or process things poorly.  It causes extreme meltdowns where I become non-verbal, child-like and engage in self-injurious behaviours. However, it also gives me a unique perception of the world. It gives me motivation to pursue interests. It develops my love of music and learning the piano. It makes me empathetic, aware of others and surroundings and an outlook on life that no neurotypical person would have.

Unfortunately, Autism awareness in this world is poor. When I first got diagnosed with Autism in October 2017, mostly people were accepting. There were a few who said ‘well, you don’t look autistic’ but they were simply uneducated. Most people treated me no different but began to see why I had seemed so different my whole life. I thought Autism acceptance and awareness was good…until things began to go wrong.

When you need support for Autism there is very little knowledge. My friends know more about Autism and autistic meltdowns and behaviours more than professionals do…and that is truly frightening. When a paramedic misreads stimming behaviour as trying ‘to be violent to others’ and as a ‘mental health case’…or a ER nurse puts your ‘mannerisms’ down to ‘unusual behaviour’ and spends the next 15 minutes trying to understand from your friend what autism and stimming is, it is honestly disheartening. These are people that will come across many autistic people in their day to day lives. Paramedics, nurses, doctors, first aid staff and university staff….all who should know at least what Autism is but absolutely have no idea…from my experiences.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support.

The term “stimming” is short for self-stimulatory behaviour and is sometimes also called “stereotypic” behaviour. In a person with autism, stimming usually refers to specific behaviours that include hand- flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases.  People with autism stim to help themselves to manage anxiety, fear, anger, excitement, anticipation, and other strong emotions. They also stim to help themselves handle overwhelming sensory input (too much noise, light, heat, etc.). There are also times when people stim out of habit, just as neurotypical people bite their nails, twirl their hair, or tap their feet out of habit. At times, stimming can be a useful accommodation, making it possible for the autistic person to manage challenging situations. When it becomes a distraction, creates social problems, or causes physical harm to self or others, though, it can get in the way of daily life.

PLEASE be Autism aware and educate yourself on ‘normal’ autism behaviours. People in authority should not have to put autistic people in danger because they lack understanding or knowledge…it only takes a small amount of time to listen and learn. 

stop_ignorance

 

 

 

 

autism · eating disorder · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What’s It Like to Live with Autism?

Living with Autism can be a struggle sometimes, but theres not much that sets us apart from everyone else.

We are all different. Some differences are easy to see – height, gender, hair style, eye colour and so on. Some differences can’t be seen – our favourite foods, fears or special skills. Interestingly, the way we see the world is also different.

All brains work differently. The brain is the body’s computer and works differently for all of us. It controls how we learn which is why we are all good at different things. It also controls how we feel which is why we all feel different emotions. It also controls how we communicate. Sometimes the brain is connected in a way that it affects senses, and how we perceive and read situations and interactions. This is known as Autism.

Many people have autism, so its likely you know someone who is autistic and for this reason its useful to know a little bit about autism. The special wiring inside an autistic brain can sometimes make us good at tasks you find difficult such as maths, drawing or music. It can also do the opposite and activities ‘normal’ people find easy are incredibly difficult to us, such as making friends. The senses constantly send information to the brain about our surroundings and other people, however when the brain and senses don’t communicate well, the brain can become overwhelmed and confused, affecting how we see the world.

We all develop behaviours to help us feel calm and comfortable. ‘Normal’ people may look away, fidget, bite your nails and so on. Equally, autistic people develop behaviours that help us cope with intense moments. These actions may seem unusual but its our way of feeling calm. It’s known as stimming. When it happens, it means we’re having a hard time. The kind thing to do is not to give us a harder time by getting cross, ignoring us or mocking us.

People with autism are not ill or broken, we simply have a unique view of the world, and with a little support from our friends we might just be able to share that feeling with you!

Autism can make amazing things happen!

Amazing Things Happen – Autism Video

autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Today I got some diagnoses..

So, my specific learning difficulties assessment report came back today. The report is long and confusing but after analysing, I feel somewhat more reassured.

The report states that I scored well below average in many areas apart from literacy and reading and particularly struggled with memory and concentration.

I got 3 diagnoses.

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Disorder.

I have also been referred to an adult Autism assessment as this is informally diagnosed and is highly likely. Autism covers all symptoms listed in the above disorders as well as anxiety and low mood.

I feel relieved to finally know what difficulties i’ve got and how to tackle them, as well as getting some extra help at uni. I’m just a little unsure on how I feel overall about this at the moment, even though deep down I kind of knew.

Information on these disorders will be provided below so you guys can understand and educate others 🙂

I’m the same person I was before these diagnoses and always will be.

team-diagnosis321

Autism/ASD

High-functioning autism (now called Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a term applied to people with autism who are deemed to be cognitively “higher functioning” (with an IQ of 70 or greater) than other people with more severe forms of autism. People with Autism have difficulties in social communication and interaction, may engage in repetitive behaviours and routines, have highly focused interests, and have sensory sensitivity. People with autism also see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. Autism is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured.

Some symptoms include:

  • trouble detecting social cues and body language
  • difficulty with maintaining conversations and knowing when it is their turn to speak
  • Appearing to lack empathy for other people and their feelings. Some people can appear to be introverted and almost aloof
  • Dislikes changes in routines
  • Employs a formal style of speaking using complex words or phrases despite not fully understanding their meaning
  •  unable to recognise subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech
  • difficulty when playing games which require the use of imagination
  •  limited range of interests which he or she may be very knowledgeable about
  •  poor handwriting and late development in motor skills such as catching a ball or using a knife and fork
  • heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures

Dyspraxia 

Developmental coordination disorder, also known as developmental dyspraxia or simply dyspraxia,is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. It affects 5 to 6 percent of school-aged children. This disorder progresses to adulthood, therefore making it a lifelong condition. Developmental coordination disorder is associated with problems with memory, especially working memory. This typically results in difficulty remembering instructions, difficulty organising one’s time and remembering deadlines, increased propensity to lose things or problems carrying out tasks which require remembering several steps in sequence (such as cooking).

ADD/ADHD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterised by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour which is not appropriate for a person’s age. These symptoms begin by age six to twelve, are present for more than six months, and cause problems in at least two settings (such as school, home, or recreational activities).

Symptoms include:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty maintaining focus on one task
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organising and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Seem to not be listening when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions
  • Have trouble understanding minute details

Dyscalculia 

Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be significantly below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities or by intellectual impairments.

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Specific Learning Difficulties Assessment

Today I had a 4 hour SpLD assessment (specific learning difficulties).

The term ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’ (SpLD) is a term that refers to a difference or difficulty with particular aspects of learning. The most common SpLDs are dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. An individual may have one of these independently or they can co-exist as part of a wider profile.

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) exist on a continuum from mild to moderate through to severe. There are common patterns of behaviour and ability, but there will be a range of different patterns of effects for each individual.

Everyone has a cognitive profile.  A simple way to define these cognitive skills is to describe them as the underlying brain skills that make it possible for us to think, remember and learn. These are the skills that allows us to process the huge influx of information we receive each and every day at work, at school and in life.  We all have relative strengths and weaknesses in our cognitive profiles but overall most of our skills will fall in the normal range.

Where a person has difficulty with the majority of these skills which is reflected in his/her learning and day-to-day living skills he/she is deemed to have a severe learning disability.

However, when an individual has difficulties or weaknesses in just one or two areas in contrast to average or good cognitive skills this is called a Specific Learning Difficulty.

SPDS

During the assessment, I had to carry out a range of physical and mental tasks. Examples of these include spelling, reading comprehension, matching pictures, creating 2D shapes from 3D pictures, answering questionnaires about early childhood, etc. These can be draining but are short tasks and move on quite quickly. I was allowed to stand up and move around when I wanted also which was good to break it up a little bit.

A full report will be sent to me in 10 days but the main issues flagged were attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a person to perform less well than expected in daily activities for his or her age, and appear to move clumsily.

Dyscalculia is usually perceived as a specific learning difficulty for mathematics, or, more appropriately, arithmetic.

For more information see:

https://www.dyscalculia.me.uk/

https://aadduk.org/

http://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Spotting the First Signs of an Eating Disorder

This week the UK’s eating disorder charity BEAT has released a poster that educates the first signs of an eating disorder. There are a range of eating disorders and these do display different symptoms, however there are some general signs that could signal a problem.

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The TOP 3 Early Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • Food obsessions

    – Has their attitude towards food changed? Have they started measuring foods, counting calories, or cutting out foods they used to enjoy? Do they love cooking for others but don’t eat the meals themselves? They may also begin showing secretive behaviour when it comes to food or meal times. Be aware that it may look like they’re eating but they could be being secretive (such as throwing food away when you’re not looking or taking it to their room and then not eating it).

  • Distorted body image 

    – Has the person lost weight but still say they’re too fat and that they look terrible? In the first stages of an ED the person will make these commons frequently. Later, when suspicions are raised, they will start to become more quiet and withdrawn. Realise that ED thoughts occur for some time before the person loses a significant amount of weight – step in before this physical symptom.

  • The emotional roller coaster 
  • -Are they experiencing changes in their mood? Are they becoming more irritable, over sensitive, a perfectionist, compulsive, depressed, more anxious or wanting to be alone?

Other warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Constant adherence to increasingly strict diets, regardless of weight
  • Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Secretly bingeing on large amounts of food
  • Hoarding large amounts of food
  • Increase in consumption of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills
  • Exercising compulsively, often several hours per day
  • Using prescription stimulant medications and/or illicit stimulant drugs to suppress appetite
  • Withdrawal from friends and family, particularly following questions about her disease or visible physical/medical side effects
  • Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present
  • Preoccupation with weight, body size and shape, or specific aspects of one’s appearance
  • Obsessing over calorie intake and calories burned via exercise, even as one may be losing significant amounts of weight

Physical symptoms of anorexia may include:

  • Underweight, even emaciated appearance with protruding bones or a sunken appearance to the face
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Baby fine hair covering face and other areas of the body (lanugo)

Emotional and behavioural signs of anorexia nervosa may include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive exercise
  • Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing

Symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Abnormal bowel functioning
  • Damaged teeth and gums
  • Sores in the throat and mouth
  • Scarring on the back of the hand/fingers used to induce purging
  • Swollen salivary glands (creating “chipmunk cheeks”)
  • Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Irritation and inflammation of the esophagus (heartburn)

Behavioural symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Constant dieting
  • Hiding food or food wrappers
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative use
  • Excessive exercise
  • Frequent bathroom trips after eating
journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

The stigma of Mental Health Problems and Antidepressants

Antidepressants.

The one thing in the world that nobody wants to talk about, or admit that they are on. The one thing that everyone thinks does more harm than good. The one thing that people say shouldn’t be used.

The majority of the population believe that antidepressants cause more harm than good in treating mental health problems. Many people think taking them is a sign of weakness or inability to just get better yourself. Many people misunderstand that antidepressants can take up to 2 months to work as they start to adjust chemical imbalances in the brain. Many people misunderstood that antidepressants make it worse before it gets better.

I’m so tired of people judging situations they have no understanding of. I’m so tired of people passing negative views on antidepressants because of things they have read or heard. Something that works for one won’t work for another. Every person is an individual.

Since I was 11 years old, I have battled an array of mental health problems. For 6 years I dealt with these problems with no medication whatsoever. These were the hardest 6 years of my life. Self harm and self hatred was constant. The desire to die was all I ever thought about. Then, at 17 I went on citalopram (an SSRI) and for 18 months increased and decreased this dosage until I decided to come off the drug. When I came off, I realised how much they had actually been helping me. Then, for a year I struggled again with no medication and the simple use of herbal remedies, the outdoors and exercise. Kalms did not work. St John’s Wort made me suicidal. Rescue Remedy worked for 10 minutes and then the illness would be searing back. Nytol had no effect whatsoever. Herbal remedies are designed to treat mild forms of depression and anxiety alone. Not a mixture of mental illnesses or eating disorders or personality disorders or major depressive disorder.

Do NOT tell me to try herbal remedies. 

Before I decided to take antidepressants I tried every coping strategy under the sun until I could no longer cope.

I have recently been put on prozac and although its currently making me worse I believe I need to give it time to kick in. I can’t give up and give in on myself. It’s been nearly 9 years of fighting mental illness and I still have not found a solution. I will try all options. You would too.

Nobody would bat an eyelid at taking medication for back pain or giving insulin to a diabetic, something you cannot see or quantify, so why is there so much stigma around medication for mental health? Nobody would question giving an asthma pump to an asthmatic or give medication to a patient with a heart condition. All antidepressants do is balance out the hormones in your brain, which when they are low can cause people to become depressed, much like the contraceptive pill to stop you from becoming pregnant.

Antidepressants have been proven to not be addictive; they are just a tool to help people when they are suffering and need a bit of help with their low mood.

Stop being shocked when people tell you they are taking antidepressants, and don’t assume that they are weak and vulnerable. Some of the strongest people I have met are taking medication for their mental health, and that is what helps them to keep going. Antidepressants don’t change people, and they don’t stop them from being themselves.

PROZAC

mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

I’ve been nominated for a National Diversity Award

I’ve been recently nominated for a national diversity award in the Positive Role Model category for Disability.

The National Diversity Awards – a prestigious black tie event, which celebrates the excellent achievements of grass- root communities that tackle the issues in today’s society, giving them recognition for their dedication and hard work.

Charities, role models and community heroes will be honoured at the ceremony showcasing their outstanding devotion to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion; thus embracing the excellence of all our citizens irrespective of race, faith, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability and culture.

In order to be shortlisted for the awards, the judges will look at nominations that the person as received.

I will really appreciate it if you can head over to my profile and vote for me. It would mean the world to be shortlisted and possibly win this award so I can gain more recognition to help a wider audience.

To vote head over to:

https://nominate.nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/Nominate/Endorse/30610?name=savannah%20lloyd

Thank you.

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