Tuesday 4 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance: Day 4


And this post is the one where I finally catch up! My fingers can have a rest soon!

Day 4:

Talk about your family and support.  Who in your life has helped you?  Have medical and mental health providers served your needs?  Do you feel like your family is supportive of you being autistic?

I don't have much day-to-day support from my family as my parents and grandparents all live about 200 miles from me (London/Essex border and Leicestershire respectively). This is my choice, because I moved to Exeter in 2006 for university and apart from about 15 months after graduation when I moved back home, I've lived here ever since. We do have some financial support from them as my physical health means that I've been found unfit for work by the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions - the UK body that deals with welfare etc; not an organisation I'm a fan of in the slightest, but I won't go into that here) and my husband's business is still in its very early stages, so we're not even close to being well-off.

Most of the day-to-day support I get is from Gideon, and to be honest that's primarily because of my physical issues - fatigue is a massive problem for me and it's a real nuisance. If I didn't have that to deal with I'd need much less support because I'm generally pretty "high-functioning". With regards to the autism side of things, we do find that he sometimes has to explain to me something someone's said that I don't understand, or explain behaviour, or haul me out of a situation that's triggered a meltdown. He's also very good at talking me out of spiralling and catastrophising (we do that for each other - he has some mental health issues). Explaining things from an NT perspective is something he finds himself having to do as well from time to time.

I've not really ever had anything to do with mental health services, even perhaps when I should have done as a teenager. I saw a counsellor for a while when I was in Lower Sixth (school basically told me: see the counsellor or you're looking at being admitted to an adolescent mental-health unit) but it didn't work because I couldn't connect with the counsellor and it was designed more for NTs, whereas I'm Aspie (although we didn't know that at the time).

I got assessed and diagnosed with Asperger's by the adult autism and ADHD service for my area. They're brilliant and I'd definitely recommend them to people in my geographical area looking to be assessed. Once a month they have a "networking meeting" for the autistic service users, which I generally go to; there's a topic of the month, which is presented and we discuss (they don't talk at us; it's much more interactive and equal than that), sometimes with a guest speaker from outside the service, and then the second half is socialising or continuing discussing the topic of the month. It caters for people across the spectrum, so there are varying levels of need and support across the group members. Some people talk a lot, others not so much, others prefer to sit and listen. They have a Facebook group (it's not one anyone can join, it's just for those of us who use the service), which is a great way of keeping in touch with each other between sessions, posting useful information, asking questions, etc. I also know that if I have any issues relating to being autistic, I can email them and they'll do their best to help. If they can't, they can generally signpost us to people and services that can help. I'd say that so far they've met my needs and they're continuing to do so!

As for my family, Mum is generally fairly supportive, although she's very NT so she doesn't always "get" me. We don't really talk about me being autistic. She does her best! My dad, I'm not sure. He's blatantly Aspie, although he'd never get assessed or anything. He very much does his own thing and occasionally our paths cross, such as when Gideon and I go up for Christmas. Saying he's *un*supportive makes it sound like he's actively antagonistic about it, which he isn't; he's just very Aspie himself and doesn't really think about anything outside his interests. It's not something we really talk about (but then, we don't really talk about much). I've mentioned to Grandad that I'm autistic but I don't think he really knows anything about it; as far as he's concerned I'm his granddaughter and he loves me and I love him and he helps when he can on a practical level, but we've not got any deeper than that.

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