How do you explain autism?

Here in the UK, summer is well … sort of happening. It’s 23°C outside so no complaints there but courtesy of high-pressure systems in other parts of the world, we have seen our fair share of unsettled conditions. We’ve had flooding in London earlier this week and some strong winds recently which were very reminiscent of my Cape Town years where the howling southeaster regularly showed us who was boss.  

When describing wind, weather forecasters tell us about the direction and speed but there aren’t, for obvious reasons, any words to describe what it looks like. Though we can’t see it, we can certainly see the effects. In extreme conditions, wind can decimate large areas leaving piles of rubble where houses once stood.

Like wind, autism is something that can’t be seen but nevertheless has a huge impact. An issue that regularly comes up in conversation with clients is, “How do I explain this to my friends and family?”  


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The secret to thriving even through the tough times

emotions mindset resilience Jul 07, 2021

In his book simply titled, “But I survived”, Tadeusz Sobolewicz shares the story of his personal ordeal surviving six Nazi concentration camps, a Gestapo prison and a nine-day death march. It is the harrowing tale of a man who fought bravely to stay alive in hellish conditions for the duration of World War 11.  

Thankfully, most of us will never have to face such extreme hardship but Sobolewicz’s story nonetheless has relevance for our lives today. We may not be trying to escape death but difficulties come in all shapes and sizes. And this tragic tale of woe is also one of hope. Hope that whispers, “you can too”.    

Of course, we know that for every Sobolewicz, there are many more who give up. Plenty who try and fail and fail to rise again.

So, what enables one person to overcome whilst another crumples in defeat?

I believe the answer lies in resilience. Resilience is the antidote to succumbing, complaining, blaming and numbing....

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Discover how the 3 C's affect your ability to handle challenges

mindset stress Jun 23, 2021

Some say that adults make about 35 000 choices every day. I don’t know which patient soul took the time to count, but the point is, we make a lot of daily decisions.  

And because we face a constant barrage of options, our brains look for ways to make things simpler. It might take 10 minutes to decide what to eat in a restaurant but if every decision took that long, it would be hard to get anything done!

So, our very efficient brains get really good at finding ways to manage excessive information. We develop habits which remove a lot of conscious thought. If you always exercise first thing in the morning, it becomes something you “just do”. You don’t act based on how you feel or if there’s enough time. It’s simply part of a routine that always happens.  

Repeating activities until we are skilled is another way of reducing the thinking load. Do you remember when you first learned to drive or play a musical instrument? It took all your...

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What do financial investing and emotional health have in common?

emotions wellbeing Jun 16, 2021

No, this has nothing to do with the idea that money makes you happy. I’m no financial guru and I’m not about to share tips on investing in stocks and shares. But one thing I know from the financial masters is that investing succeeds because of compounding.

Albert Einstein described compound interest as “the eighth wonder of the world”. It’s a faster way to grow money because you earn interest on interest. In a nutshell, you invest money which earns interest giving you a bigger sum of money. The following year, you earn interest on that bigger sum and this cycle continues causing exponential growth.

Now the miracle of compounding, as it’s sometimes called, doesn’t just apply to money. It works equally well in other areas including our emotional health.

There are many things we can do to take care of our emotional well-being. Each time, we make one of those “investments”, we lift our baseline mood to a higher level. The next...

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5 Simple Ways to Demystify Emotions

alexithymia autism emotions Jun 09, 2021

Have you ever recognised someone but not been quite sure who they are? That sense of knowing but not knowing at the same time. The person looks familiar but you aren’t sure how or if you know them.

These impressions are like the way we experience our emotions. Especially the softer ones. Strong emotions are easier to detect but there are times when it’s hard to put your finger on what you are actually feeling.

This isn’t surprising when you consider the nature of emotions. Like our thoughts, they are neural messages which are not easily defined or understood. They can linger or be fleeting. They can layer or combine with each other to create different nuances.  

Most of us can read internal physical states, like pain, hunger or thirst without difficulty. We don’t easily confuse these signals unless they are very mild.   

Autistic children, do however, have more difficulty recognising their internal physical states1. This tends to disappear in...

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The salt and pepper approach to managing emotions

emotions stress Jun 02, 2021

Salt and pepper, knives and forks, socks and shoes, hot chocolate, and marshmallows. There are some things which just go together … although the jury is still out on hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Each of these things has a unique function. If you run out of salt, you can’t improve the taste of food with extra pepper. Two knives don’t make for easy eating and an extra pair of socks won’t cut it if you’ve forgotten your shoes.  

Synergy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organisations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When it comes to our emotions, we are similarly equipped with two complimentary systems that work in a synergistic way.

On the one hand, we have neural pathways in a part of the brain known as the limbic system. These neural networks help us to make sense of our world. They underpin our emotional...

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The truth about emotions that most people don’t know

If you’ve lived for a minute, you’ve probably seen the words “keep calm and carry on” written somewhere. That was the slogan put out by the British government to prepare people for World War 2. More recently, it makes for good marketing and you can find it’s cousin on just about anything from socks for woman in labour (“keep calm and push”) to mugs for stressed out teachers (“keep calm and pretend it’s on the lesson plan”).

I know the intention is good but actually, it’s terrible advice! As some wise soul said, “never in the history of calming down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down”.

Staying calm is about keeping things under wraps. But emotions are unpredictable. They make us feel vulnerable. And in a heightened emotional state, we are prone to saying or doing things that we later regret. So, we resort to control. 

Through our childhood years and beyond, we are very likely to hear...

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5 tips for designing a life that works for you

autism lifestyle stress May 19, 2021

Did you know that there are shops which sell products specifically for left-handed people? You can buy all sorts of things … from scissors to knives, peelers, tin openers, garden equipment and a host of other things that might take your fancy.

As the only right-handed person in my family, I get a tiny taste of what “lefties” experience every day. The kettle is always facing the wrong way and don’t get me started on the bread! Thank goodness for the sliced variety – it prevents the inevitable doorstop which results when a “rightie” cuts after a “leftie”.  

“Design”, as Steve Jobs said when introducing the original iPhone, “is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

We all have our own unique design which affects how we operate on a day-to-day basis. We gravitate towards things that match our design and steer away from things that don’t.

If you have a talent for...

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Why does it take so long to get an autism diagnosis as an adult?

adult autism diagnosis May 12, 2021

Jane* is an exceptionally talented person in the creative arts. We met this week in our diagnostic clinic to answer the autism question. “Do I have an autism spectrum condition?”

Jane was identified as “gifted and talented” at school. Jane’s a magician with words. Conversation brims with vivid descriptions and it’s not hard to see why writing is the career of choice.

But at 30 years of age, Jane has little to show for all these talents. University didn’t pan out and there is a somewhat chequered work history.

Jane is angry. Life has been challenging and there are less achievements than were hoped for. Jane wonders why no-one considered the possibility of autism when the struggles were plain at school? Why did the University not step in to help when things started to unravel? Jane feels let down.

Adults often feel relieved when they finally receive their autism diagnosis. It is an explanation for the challenges they have gone through. It...

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To disclose or not disclose. What’s in the decision?

autism diagnosis disclosure May 05, 2021

Have you ever watched one of those high-speed videos which shows the artist painting a picture from beginning to end? For a while, all the splodges and colours make no sense. Then at some point, there’s enough detail and you get it. You can finally see the beautiful animal, sunset or person that flows from the artist’s fingertips.

Our lives are a lot like that. Most people only see a few of the lines and splodges that make up who we are. They don’t have the full picture. And as a result, they only know us in part.   

Disclosure of an autism diagnosis is about letting people see more of the real you. Letting them know who you are instead of concealing your true self.  

But disclosure can feel very daunting and for good reason. People’s experiences are mixed and to make matters worse, there are no cut and dried rules to follow. Because everyone’s circumstances vary, it’s an individual decision for each person to make. But that...

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