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. 






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

Mental Health Education: Should It Be Compulsory?

Mental health education is still not part of the UK curriculum despite consistently high rates of child and adolescent mental health issues. 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class. There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.

 In the UK school system, we teach our children how to count, how to write, how to follow rules, how to work in communities. We repeatedly tell them to eat healthily, to exercise more and to look after their teeth. We tell them how to take care of their body physically. We educate them on what’s bad and what’s good about lifestyle and food. What we don’t teach them is how to look after their mental health. We don’t teach them what to do when they’re feeling anxious, or when they’re feeling sad. We don’t educate them on mental health problems or suicide, despite children as young as 5 years old seeking to end their life. We don’t talk about feeling suicidal or the warning signs that our mental health is decreasing. Why?

More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time. Surely this means that mental health education should be considered compulsory both in primary and secondary schools.

There’s a reason why we have charities like Young Minds, an organisation set up to support children and young people experiencing mental health problems, and that reason is that there is a prevalence among children and young people. Keeping quiet about something isn’t going to protect people from experiencing mental illness – in fact, it’s likely to make things much worse.

By educating young people about mental health in schools, we can increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people. In fact,  having some early conversations might enable the next generation to naturally place mental and physical illness on a par.

Please sign the following petition to help get mental health education on the UK curriculum:




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

When Memories Come Back…

In 2014, I was completely submersed in the depths of Anorexia Nervosa. I bought, prepared, cooked and presented all my food. No one but me could do this for me. I had to do it. I sat each night and planned my meals for the entire next day. I see now it was a control thing – and that’s one of the key factors in an eating disorder. A lot of people – probably the majority of people – with eating disorders have perfectionist or obsessive personalities. I have both.

An hour ago, my grandma offered to make me a burger with fried onions. To this day, I still cook my own food. On a rare occasion, I hand the control over to somebody else. I was mulling over this idea of my grandma making me tea; feeling slightly out of control and anxious. Memories of 2014 came rushing back to me.

I remember coming home from college one day and having a complete breakdown on the kitchen floor because my mum had thrown away the salad I had leftover from the night before. She said the salad was going off, and it probably was. But in my state of mind, every leaf and crumb of that salad had been calculated and counted and written into my food journal. It had been planned into my head as my dinner for that Tuesday night, and then all of a sudden that control was ripped right from underneath me. It’s just a salad – I know that now – but back then it was so much to my mind and to my life.

Another time, my stepdad had added milk to mashed potatoes alongside the small blob of butter I’d already counted. I was screaming and crying for a good half hour; refusing to eat it.

It’s a strange thing: control. My whole life was based purely on control. Controlling my food allowed me to feel like I was controlling at least something when the whole world around me was falling apart…

I’m still obsessive. I’m a perfectionist. I like to be in control. Though, its a much different type of control to what it was back then.

This control allows me to let others take over sometimes and tonight I’ll eat that burger and onions knowing that I’m further than I was before.




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

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. They affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

Some people think that there is an automatic link between mental health problems and being a danger to others. This is an idea that is largely reinforced by sensationalised stories in the media. However, the most common mental health problems have no significant link to violent behaviour. The proportion of people living with a mental health problem who commit a violent crime is extremely small. There are lots of reasons someone might commit a violent crime, and factors like drug and alcohol misuse are far more likely to be the cause of violent behaviour than mental health problems.

Warning Signs

There are over 200 classified forms of mental illness so its clearly very important to be aware of the warning signs. Mental Illness has no clear victim. It affects people of all ages, young and old, of all races and cultures and from all walks of life. Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe.  More than 7 million people from the UK have a mental illness in any given year.  Mental illness affects one in four adults and one in five children. Very few people, however actually seek treatment for mental illness. Many aren’t even aware of the different types of mental health problems and struggle to spot the signs.

So what ARE the warning signs of mental illness?

In an adult:

  • Marked personality change
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Drop in functioning – an unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Strange or grandiose ideas (impulsive, boastful, exaggerated, dreams and fantasies)
  • Excessive anxieties
  • Neurotic or repetitive behaviour (rocking, biting, hitting, head banging, pinching)
  • Prolonged depression and apathy
  • Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • jumpy/nervous behaviour, easily startled
  • problems with concentration, memory and speech
  • disconnected from self or surroundings
  • withdrawal and a lack of interaction with others
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behaviour

A person who is thinking or talking about suicide or homicide should seek help immediately.

In a child:

Having only one or two of the problems listed below is not necessarily cause for alarm. They may simply indicate that a practical solution is called for, such as more consistent discipline or a visit with the child’s teachers to see whether there is anything out of the ordinary going on at school. A combination of symptoms, however, is a signal for professional intervention.

  • The child seems overwhelmed and troubled by his or her feelings, unable to cope with them
  • The child cries a lot
  • The child frequently asks or hints for help
  • The child seems constantly preoccupied, worried, anxious, and intense. Some children develop a fear of a variety of things–rain, barking dogs, burglars, their parents’ getting killed when out of sight, and so on–while other children simply wear their anxiety on their faces.
  • The child has fears or phobias that are unreasonable or interfere with normal activities.
  • The child can’t seem to concentrate on school work and other age-appropriate tasks.
  • The child’s school performance declines and doesn’t pick up again.
  • The child loses interest in playing.
  • The child tries to stimulate himself or herself in various ways. Examples of this kind of behaviour include excessive thumb sucking or hair pulling, rocking of the body, head banging to the point of hurting himself, and masturbating often or in public.
  • The child isolates himself or herself from other people.
  • The child regularly talks about death and dying.
  • The child appears to have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. Over and over the child may make such comments as: “I can’t do anything right.” “I’m so stupid.” “I don’t see why anyone would love me.” “I know you [or someone else] hates me.” “Nobody likes me.” “I’m ugly. . . too big. . . too small. . . too fat. . . too skinny. . . too tall. . . too short, etc.”
  • Sleep difficulties don’t appear to be resolving. They include refusing to be separated from one or both parents at bedtime, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, sleeping on the parent’s or parents’ bed, nightmares, and night terrors.

If you spot any of these warning signs in yourself or in another person please speak concerns to a health professional such as a GP or a charity that can help with advice such as childline or samaritans.

For more information on mental illness:





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

Autism and Self-Injurious Behaviours

Self-injury can be one of the most distressing and difficult behaviours that parents, carers, family members and people with autism themselves may face.

Sometimes referred to as self-harm, self-injurious behaviour is any activity in which a person inflicts harm or injury on themselves. About half of people with autism engage self-injurious behaviour at some point in their life. It can take many different forms, including:

  • head banging (on floors, walls or other surfaces)
  • hand or arm biting
  • hair pulling
  • eye gouging
  • face or head slapping
  • skin picking, scratching or pinching
  • forceful head shaking.

People across the spectrum and of all ages may engage in self-injurious behaviours at some point. People who engaged in self-injurious behaviours as children may return to these as adults during times of stress, illness or change.

Usual behavioural intervention approaches are not always appropriate. Seek professional guidance for any self-injurious behaviour which is difficult to manage or resistant to intervention, or for any behaviour which places the person at risk of harm.


The reasons a person engages in self-injurious behaviours can be wide and varied, and will often involve a complex interaction between multiple factors. People with learning disabilities told Self-Injury Support that they self-injure when:

  • they feel they are not listened to
  • they have been told off
  • they have little or no choice about things
  • they have been bullied
  • they are involved in arguments, or hear other people arguing
  • they are feeling unwell
  • they have memories of a bereavement
  • they have memories of abuse.


People with autism may have difficulty communicating to others that something is wrong physically and particular self-injurious behaviours (such as ear slapping or head banging) may be their way of coping with pain or communicating discomfort.


Some self-injurious behaviour may indicate underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.


Repetitive behaviours, obsessions and routines are common in people with autism, and some forms of self-injury may be expressions of this feature.


Some self-injurious behaviour may be persisting remnants of earlier motor behaviours which occur during particular developmental periods (eg hand mouthing which may continue beyond infancy).


Sudden self-injurious behaviour can get a very quick response from other people, and many such behaviours occur in people who have no other functional way of communicating their needs, wants and feelings.

  • Head slapping, or banging the head on a hard surface, may be a way of communicating frustration, getting a preferred object of activity, or reducing demands.
  • Hand biting may help someone cope with anxiety or excitement.
  • Skin picking or eye gouging may be a response to lack of stimulation or boredom.


The person may learn that self-injurious behaviour can be a very powerful way of controlling the environment. A behaviour (eg head slapping) which was initially a response to physical pain or discomfort could eventually become a way of avoiding or ending an undesired situation (eg turning the television off, interrupting an argument taking place nearby).

Reactive strategies

Appropriate responses will vary according to the behaviour, but here are some pointers on what to do when the behaviour is happening. It is important when using any of these strategies that the person is also provided with opportunities to develop skills to communicate their needs more appropriately and to self-regulate stress and anxiety levels.


Intervene early, and respond quickly and consistently to incidents of self-injury. Even if the behaviour serves the function of gaining attention from others, it is never appropriate to ignore severe self-injurious behaviour.


Limit verbal comments, facial expressions and other displays of emotion, as these may inadvertently reinforce the behaviour. Try to speak calmly and clearly, in a neutral and steady tone of voice.


The person may be finding a task too difficult or that they are unable to complete the activity at that time. Come back to the activity again later when the person is feeling calmer.


Remove unpleasant sensory input. Provide relief for physical discomfort (eg pain killers) if a medical professional has advised this after seeing the person.


Tell the person what they need to do instead of the self-injurious behaviour, eg “David, hands down”. Use visual cues such as picture symbols to back up instructions. Redirect to another activity that is incompatible with the self-injury (eg an activity that requires both hands) and provide praise and reinforcement for the first occurrence of appropriate behaviour, eg “David, that’s excellent playing with your train”.


If the person is having difficulty stopping the behaviour, provide light physical guidance, eg gently guide their hand away from their head, using as little force as possible. Immediately try to redirect attention to another activity and be prepared to provide physical guidance again if the person attempts to re-commence self-injurious behaviour. This approach must be used with extreme caution as it may escalate the behaviour or cause the person to target others.


Place a barrier between the person and the object that is causing harm. For head slapping, place a pillow or cushion between the person’s head and their hand. For hand or arm biting, provide an alternative object to bite down on. For head banging on a hard surface, place a cushion or pillow between the surface and the person’s head. You can get removable padding that is placed temporarily on the floors or walls to minimise injury.


Some self-injurious behaviour can place the person at serious risk of harm. In these instances, it may be appropriate to explore the use of physical restraints such as arm restraints, gloves or helmets. These may also reduce the sensory experience and frequency of the behaviour.

However, physical restraints are very restrictive and should always be used under the guidance of a specialist to ensure they are used safely and appropriately, and with a plan to fade out their use over time.

Physical restraints do not address the cause of the behaviour, so they must never be used in isolation without teaching the person new skills which address the function of the behaviour.


In extreme circumstances or emergencies, call 999 for assistance.

Preventative strategies

Here are some ideas about how to prevent self-injurious behaviours.


Visit the GP or dentist and seek a referral to a specialist if needed. Bring along notes about when the behaviour happens (ie what time of day and in which situations), how often it happens, when it first started, and how long it lasts.


Complete a behaviour diary, which records what is occurring before, during and after the behaviour, or a functional analysis questionnaire, to help you to understand the purpose of the behaviour. Make notes on the environment, including who was there, any change in the environment and how the person was feeling.


Establish a clear daily routine to increase predictability and thereby reduce anxiety. Try to build a range of activities into the person’s routine to minimise boredom and restrict opportunities for the person to engage in self-injurious behaviour. Make plans for difficult times of the day. Increase structure and provide additional supervision and support to the person during these periods or activities. People with Pathological Demand Avoidance may need a less directive and more flexible approach than others on the autism spectrum.


Find alternative activities that provide a similar sensory experience and build these into the daily routine. Jumping on a trampoline or swinging on a swing may provide needed stimulation to the vestibular system (that head shaking or slapping may have previously provided). Providing the person with a bum bag of edible or safe objects to chew on that provide different sensory experiences such as gum, carrots, raw pasta or sultanas may reduce the need for hand or arm biting.


Support the person to use other ways of communicating their wants, needs and physical pain or discomfort, eg by using visual supports such as pictures of body parts, symbols for symptoms, or pain scales, pain charts or apps.


Provide frequent encouragement to the person for engaging in appropriate behaviour and for periods in which they did not engage in the self-injurious behaviour. This will help the person learn that other, more appropriate behaviours bring positive outcomes.

Rewards can take the form of verbal praise and attention, preferred activities, toys, tokens or sometimes small amounts of favourite foods or drinks. Ensure that you clearly name the behaviour that you are rewarding, eg “Jane, that’s good waiting!” and ensure that rewards are provided immediately after the behaviour that you wish to encourage eg “You can spend 10 minutes on the computer now”.

It should be noted that some people with autism do not enjoy social attention. In these circumstances, verbal praise can cause distress and actually stop the person engaging in the desired behaviour in the future.


Medication may help to reduce the frequency of self-injurious behaviour for some people. As with physical restraints, medication should be seen as a last resort approach to management and again, should never be used without teaching new skills and consulting a medical specialist.


[Source: National Autistic Society]

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

Do YOU have an eating disorder?

There are various different types of eating disorders and it can be difficult to spot whether a person’s food habits signify those of someone with an eating disorder. This blog post asks questions about your eating habits to determine if you may be struggling with food. It is not a diagnosis. Answering yes to the questions could indicate you have an eating disorder and you should seek advice from a doctor.

  1. Do you spend a significant amount of time worrying about your body, weight or shape?

  2. Would you say that food, or thinking about food, dominates your life?

  3. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?

  4. Do you make yourself sick when you feel uncomfortably full?

  5. Do you believe that you are fat when others say you are too thin?

  6. Do you avoid food or eating? – OR – Have you experienced a lack of interest in food or eating?

    If you suspect that you or someone you know has an eating disorder, it is important to seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. While your GP may not be formally trained in detecting the presence of an eating disorder, he/she is a good ‘first base.’ A GP can refer you on to a practitioner with specialised knowledge in eating disorders.

    find your local eating disorder service here