Welcome to Steve’s Aspie Adventures

Whether you are reading this as a parent, carer, friend or are on the spectrum yourself, a warm welcome to the blog and I’d welcome your comments. I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition as a teenager. Throughout my life this has brought unique challenges, deep lows but also very happy times. I hope with this blog I can share some of my experiences, challenges and successes with you. My hope is that it can help along the way at breaking down some of the fears, misconceptions, stereotypes that come hand in hand with Autism by giving an insight into what it’s like as an individual living with the condition.

At times when I’m affected most by my condition life can grind to a halt, but that has given me a drive to experience all I can when I’m feeling well. Travel brings a new perspective on life and the experiences it brings have made my good days even better and given hope in my bad days. For me it’s a metaphorical middle finger to a life-long condition. In my other blog (Roaming Steve) I share some stories of my travel and adventures.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog. Feel free to share this with your friends if you've found it helpful. I'd love to hear your thoughts, any topics you'd like to read about and own experiences so please comment or message me.

Please note, that in all my blog entries I can only relay my personal experiences and perspective. It is important to remember that every single person on the spectrum is an individual with a different story to mine. I have no medical expertise or training and am writing to share my personal experiences only.

Friday, 25 July 2014

8 Summer Survival Tips

Summer is a time of year I love. The sun, the beach, getting outdoors, BBQs, all great fun, but for many this is one of the most challenging times of the year. For us aspies change is a big deal, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature and she's decided it's time to heat the Northern Hemisphere up again for another few months...

Schools close down, my regular support networks go into 'summer mode' - regular meetings stop and sensory issues take on a whole new dimension.

Growing up I found school so traumatic that the prospect of 6 weeks off excited me no end, but I'm sure my parents dreaded this! Even though I enjoy summer I still get affected by the disruption.

In this post I'd like to share the top 8 things I've found that have helped me make the most of the summer months. I hope you enjoy reading this and if this is an area you or your child struggles with then I do hope it is helpful or gives some ideas you might be able to try.

1.  Make a plan

BBQ invites, pool party, summer club, family visits, friends out of town, is quiz night still happening? What's going on?!

How do I co-ordinate the ad-hoc randomness that is summer? I plan. I plan everything. Neat, orderly and visual is how I roll, so for me making sense of summer involves a plan too.

I have both a wall planner to plot my weekly schedule and a page a day diary to track what I intend to do. It's colour coded and very visual. I can instantly see what is and more importantly what isn't happening. Now I work full time it is far easier to keep routines going but over my school days having a visual chart made it easier to see what was happening. 1 week at home, 1 week at Granddad's, 1 week back home etc. It may sound overkill to plan in such detail, but a simple change in my regular routine can cause me huge confusion if I'm not careful. If I'm used to attending club on a Wednesday evening but it's not on during August, then I default to being confused every Wednesday in August. It's far easier to plan advance what I'll do during that time so I don't go into a spin over it later.

2.  Have a sleep routine

I don't sleep well EVER. Summer is worse. I barely sleep AT ALL! OK, so this may be an exaggeration but tiredness features very large in summer for me. My sensory issues mean I struggle with the heat, the light and the sound. If it's too hot, I won't sleep, if it's too bright I won't sleep, if it's too loud... you get the picture.

So here in the UK heat is a relative thing. I'm too hot today and it's 20C (68F) - I've just had a message from a friend in the USA, it's 40C (106F) there. I should quit my complaining and move to Greenland! It does however mean that I have a very low tolerance to heat when it comes to sleeping, the bedroom must be cool!

This far north the issue of light also causes problems. It gets dark at about 10:30pm and light again at 4am. I have a thick blanket I drape over the blinds to keep the light out, otherwise I'm wide awake very early! Of course this unhelpfully keeps the room nice and toasty.

Noise might not seem a particularly summer issue but here's the problem. In the winter my window is shut and everyone is inside, nice and quiet. In the summer the opposite is true. Saturday night I had the pleasure of listening to a neighbours party roll on until 4am, it wasn't a crazy party, but enough to stop me settling.

I live in a crowded British town, so until I win the lottery and move to an isolated cottage in Svalbard I have to prepare for sleep in advance. Making sure to keep the room cool, earplugs at hand, no caffeine after noon and if all else fails a cup of warm milk and a nice book.

3.  Know your limits

It's so easy to take on too much in the summer. I find it hard to sit indoors when the sun is out. Britain is famous for it's rain, it's true it rains any when and everywhere. If it's sunny it could last an hour or a week, but there's no guarantee. So many times the sun comes out, you plan a beach trip for tomorrow, by then it's cold and rainy. I have a tendency to end up doing too much and forgetting the importance of resting and having days off. I make a point of planning 'Do Nothing' days in my diary to make sure I get to recharge.

4. Keep hydrated

I think everyone gets a bit moody when they're a bit dehydrated, but it's especially important for me as getting a bit moody makes me less likely to spot and deal with meltdowns. Meltdowns can cause my body temperature to soar and have seriously dehydrated myself this way in the past. I have water at hand everywhere I go and make sure I keep drinking regularly even if I don't recognise I need it.

5. Sun screen, sun screen and more sun screen

The lobster look isn't great and we all know the dangers of sunburn. The problem is applying the lotion. I don't like the feel of it and I don't especially like being touched so getting someone to rub it in is a pain. What's more of a pain though is dealing with the sleep problems when I've turned into a 6foot blister on legs. I think the sensory issue of yucky lotion is better than skin cancer. I tell myself each year that I'll learn this issue; I say as I type away with sunburn yet again.

6. Earplugs

Earplugs? Yes earplugs are on my summer survival list. People get loud in summer, windows get opened, music gets played. I want quiet. Easiest solution is to put in earplugs. If I'm out I'll substitute these for headphones. They don't have to be connected to anything, they can simply muffle the noise enough for me to enjoy the beach or park or wherever I am. I think my parents might have liked this approach when I was a child too. Seeing someone with headphones on is a great visual clue that I shouldn't keep talking at them. It might have saved my parents the constant interruptions from me while excitedly showing them my collection of woodlice or broken pottery or whatever I was whittering on about as a child!

7. Get outdoors

Alone or with friends and family, I love to get outdoors. I like to get out all year round but summer offers some great new options. I had lunch today sat by outside and then spend the afternoon reading a book. Very peaceful and relaxing. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. I find that the exercise and fresh air helps me sleep and lifts my mood. Geocaching is a personal favourite. Fun for adults and children alike. A modern global treasure hunt. In essence it is using multimillion dollar satellites to help you locate hidden Tupperware boxes filled with rubbish toys. Give it a try!

8. Stay in touch
Finally for me it's important to stay in touch. Friends and family who may be away and disruption to routine can leave me feeling isolated. The wonders of the internet allow for easy communication with people around the world. If I recognise I'm getting a bit lonely it's very easy to send a message or text and keep in contact with people who are important to me.

I hope you've found this list of interest. I'd love to hear what you enjoy most about summer and how you overcome the challenges you may find with this time of year. Feel free to let me know via the comments or Facebook. Enjoy your summer!