This blog has been kindly written by a guest blogger, to share their experiences of travelling when autistic.
Travelling by tube and train and meeting friends at destination points in London was something I got into late in life and it’s obvious by the anxieties I experience at such an advanced age in my 30’s.
I see Aspergers coupled with my inexperience in life as the reason why travelling is something that causes me anxiety. I turn into a lost child unsure of what to do. When ever I travel there is always some sort of trigger. Something that makes me either anxious, frightened, or overwhelmed. I’ve even called my mother to ask for help.
When I’m lost and I’m trying to read a map it is always what I call a “traumatic” experience for me. The only thing visible in my mind is the map jumping out at me as I try to work out how to get from Point A to point B. I panic and I want to cry. This tends to happen if time Is approaching to meet a friend and I don’t want to keep them waiting, or if I have a job interview or an appointment and I’m worried I won’t get there in time.
Train stations are a huge trigger point when it comes to hightening my anxiety and overwhelming me. Stations are always busy with people. The arrival and departure boards with rows and rows of yellow numbers and writing jump out at me, confusing me. There is the loud tannoy announcements. The bright lights in the station. Add these to my constant need to observe what’s around me and my brain has a meltdown. My mind is concentrated on a dozen different things going on at one time. So much so that I don’t know which to focus on. The anxiety I have felt as I try to read the arrival board and work out which platform to enter is an exhausting experience.
Directions. A simple direction from a friend over the phone such as ‘turn left, follow the roundabout, continue walking to your right and then take another right turn’ is not only stressful for me, it is stressful for the person on the other end of the phone. As soon as the directions are given I start to panic, my brain goes into overload. I start to breath heavily, I pick up the phone, call my friend and start shouting down the phone asking which roads to turn. This increases the anxiety level for my friend/s who sometimes end up having to walk down to get me.
International travel or travelling to other places in England such as Manchester or Brighton alone is a big no no. My friends would never suggest it to me knowing my anxiety and my mother would advise against it. Travelling the world opens us up. It’s liberating. Unfortunately I’m not yet ready to take that step.
There are always ways to try and cope with any situation we are faced with. It will take me time to learn how to map read without starting to feel overwhelmed. If I am at a train station I try to stay focused on one thing. I look at the arrival/departure board, I listen very carefully to the tannoy announcement, though it isn’t easy. In extreme cases I approach one of the station staff for help, though I do not like doing it. It has for the most part worked for me and the anxiety isn’t as dibilitating, though I still have my moments.
I have now started to understand why I experience so much anxiety the way that I do and why I react the way that I do in certain situations, especially when it comes to travelling. It’s somewhat comforting to understand the trigger points. My brain is very rigid when it comes to time. I always feel anxious when travelling to places I do not live, that’s just a part of the spectrum. I phone my mother or a friend when I feel lost or overwhelmed because I’m reaching out for comfort or reassurance. I am unable to understand basic instructions or directions, not because I’m stupid, but because my brain processes information very differently from a nuerotypical brain.
Most importantly, for me to cope with daily travel I need to remember to try and stay calm.
How Stack Recruitment helped the fantastic Ellie, an autistic adult, find meaningful employment.
Emily here! This blog is all about Ellie and how she gained meaningful employment with a bit of support from us at Stack Recruitment.
The start of Ellie’s job search…
Ellie messaged Stack in October 2019 as she wanted to kickstart her job search again. She was made redundant a year previously and had applied for many roles, but had unfortunately had no luck.
I met Ellie on a chilly day in Reading, where we headed for a coffee to share stories and make a plan of action to help her find meaningful employment. She told me that she found applying for jobs stressful as an autistic adult, especially with the anxiety associated with the interview and feeling like she had to mask her autism to appear ‘neurotypical’. This really impacted her self esteem and meant she couldn’t go any further with her job search.
We spoke about her ideal career, skills and experience and I could automatically see she had a lot of potential but needed a bit of support to bring her confidence back. We decided to create a plan to match her to a fantastic job and get her job search started.
Ellie gets hired!
Fast forward to November and Ellie has landed a job interview! This is amazing as the job is the perfect number of hours and an ideal commute, meaning she can still be close to her family.
We arrange a phone call to help her prepare. This involves ensuring she’s getting the right reasonable adjustments to reduce anxiety and to make sure she’s comfortable.
She absolutely smashes it and gets the job!
“They were extremely sensitive to my needs, they even got the supervisor to show me some machinery in action to ensure that it was ok for me. Thank you so much for your help. And guess what? I can wear my Doc Martens and jeans!”
“Omg!!! I can’t believe it! I feel so happy but choked up, a weird feeling! Thank you so much, I just can’t believe someone would say something so nice about me!”
Visiting Tea People’s newest employee!
I went and visited Ellie in her new role at Tea People in January to see how she was getting on. On arrival, I met Ellie’s employers, Vishaka and Neeraj, who are also the founders of the business.
After sampling some of their award winning tea, I learnt all about Tea People, their commitment to helping those less fortunate and hiring neurodiverse employees.
Tea People are a fine speciality tea company that develop and produce hundreds of fine tea blends. As well as this, they are a social enterprise that helps address the educational development of impoverished areas in India.
Ellie works in the operations side of Tea People where she does everything from receiving orders, sorting through stock, packaging items within a small team and providing excellent customer service.
It was clear to see Ellie was flourishing in her new role! It was great to see her confidence levels had increased since we first met and the smile on her face when she was working.
Changing the attitudes of employers
I had a great time visiting Ellie and meeting the founders of Tea People. Seeing her happy and flourishing in her new role is rewarding, however another huge benefit of what we do is when we see employers realise the benefits of hiring autistic talent.
“Initially we we’re concerned about hiring an autistic individual, however we are so pleased we did as Ellie is an asset to our company”
Neurodiversity can be such a huge benefit to employers, and with the right support they can create an inclusive workforce.
Thanks to Tea People for having me and showing me your wonderful business.
How Stack Recruitment can help you
Here at Stack, we help employers hire autistic talent through our specialised recruitment agency model. All you have to do is to get started! Or,if you’re an autistic adult looking for work, just Register and Submit your CV and we will support you finding a job.
For many of us, we kick off New Year making New Years resolutions that often include diet and exercise in the hope for renewed health.
Regular exercise is fantastic and can help not only keep you in shape, but increase your mental health and keep your internal organs healthy.
However did you know that exercise can also help autistic individuals self-regulate and manage stress?
Coach Dave Geslak has created exercise programs for people on the autism spectrum using structure and visual supports. The Exercise Connection programmes are proven to improve body image, motor coordination, posture, muscular and cardiovascular fitness. This helps boost confidence, relationships and wellbeing.
We’ve come up with 4 tips to help boost your health in the New Year as an autistic adult!
- Recreational sports
Team sports such as football, hockey and netball can have great health benefits and also help you socialise with likeminded individuals. Research has shown that taking part in sport can decrease the frequency of negative, self-stimulating behaviours common among people with autism, such as body rocking or head nodding. Additionally, team sports can discourage aggressive behaviour. Its also common that team sports meet at the same time at the same place and with the same people, which can really help create a positive routine doing something you love. Many universities have sports clubs you can join and if you live in London, you can benefit from Go Mammoths sports clubs.
Yoga is not only good for your physical body, but it also promotes self-regulation, helps you relax and alleviate stress. Yoga can be done at the comfort of your own home and with little equipment, making it easy to stick to when you first wake up or go to bed. For more ideas on how to implement yoga, have a look at Asanas for Autism and Special Needs. Peaceful Pathways yoga studio has collected a number of articles about yoga and special needs.
For many people with autism, the peace and quiet associated with the natural world is a great stress reliever. Its a great way to exercise and enjoy nature without the pressure of intense social communication. The UK is lucky to have such fantastic walks and parks which makes it easy for anyone to experience the great outdoors. Walking Britain’s ‘walks near me’ is a great resource to find walks on your doorstep. However if you don’t want to walk by yourself you can always try Borrow My Doggy to find a furry friend to accompany you!
Swimming is a great exercise and can be done individually or as a team sport. There are so many pools in the UK that are cheap to use, as well as many swimming clubs. As well as this, lidos and outdoor swimming is becoming increasingly popular, helping people to access the great outdoors and doing something great for your health.
This blog has given you 4 ideas to kickstart your health and fitness goals as an autistic adult. Of course, everyone is different and there are lots of different ways to exercise. Its important to try different things out and find what works for you!
For other useful resources visit our blog.