Different Strokes

The thing with working in the pub trade is this:, you will meet some very interesting people, especially if you work in an area that has high tourist trade. It’s one of the things I’ve come to love about being in South Devon.  This week, for example, we had a group of people visiting from Birmingham, which is near where I’m from originally.  A nice bunch down for a few days to attend a family “do”.

They came in for a few nights and I got talking to the blokes in the group. I know… “Steady Bob! That’s social interaction!”  Anyway, we really got on, as we had several shared interests, and this, mixed with the usual locals whose lives I get to watch unfold like some weird, unrehearsed soap opera, and people who live nearby just popping in as they’ve never been before always makes for a very unique and interesting workplace.  It’s always different and most of the time it’s enjoyable. Then you get what I lovingly refer to as the ‘instant asshole’ (just add alcohol). We don’t very often get them in here, but when one local person complained to a friend about the choice of wines available, and added “He’s got mental problems” while glancing at me… wrongly thinking that I couldn’t hear. I got quite upset. I’m pretty high functioning and most people don’t realise I’m Aspie, but this person knows that I’m Aspie and still said this. Who are they to say something like that??

After this I didn’t leave the bar area and got my waitstaff to deal with them. This was OK until one of the group snapped at me as they expected the bottle of wine they’d come and paid for at the bar to be taken to the table. I’m on my own in a busy bar and the wait staff hadn’t had a chance to take it over… the person had paid, held the bottle and placed it on the bar before returning to their table…  Together with several other snide comments from the table, I was pretty cross, because I had done nothing but be pleasant, and do my job to the best of my ability.

I find at this point that it’s generally best for me to focus and to just concentrate on the other customers who are pleasant, including those who regularly eat and drink with us through the quiet times. These are the customers that keep us going with their support, and we love them for it. This helps me to stay calm and avoid any kind of meltdown situation that might occur if I didn’t.

The following day we had a a busy lunch service which went off without any issues, so after making sure all the jobs were done, and the place looked clean, tidy and ready for the afternoon, I went back home for just over an hour’s relaxation with Mrs Bob before the evening session began.  The evening was a nice session as, after a busy early evening, I was left with a few tables in for the Sunday dinner and some good conversations with the guests, before going through my routines to close the pub down for the week. While I was doing this, I thought about the fun and games that had gone on over the weekend, and how I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth.  As I locked the door on my place of work and said goodnight, I was happy it was done, but excited for the week ahead and what that might hold.

Stay Safe X

The Story So Far

Well things are certainly hitting full speed in this household lately.  I’m now very busy with my writing, podcast, work and my social life. Yes surprisingly I have a social life. I have managed to write a good chunk of work for my next anthology over the last few weeks, and I think it’s some of my best work yet.  Even my test subject, Mrs Bob, (who has to read all my shit once I’ve vomited it from my brain on to some virtual paper), has said the same, which is very promising. I’m hoping that, at this rate, I’ll  have my second book ready and out for sale on Amazon, hopefully by the end of this year all being well.  It’s even got a title now, thanks in part to my wife’s genius, and I’m feeling very positive about it.

The big news this year, and the thing that I’m really surprised by most of all, is my “Ramblings of Bob Christian” podcast. I started it after some of the people who followed me on Twitter voted overwhelmingly in support of the crazy idea. This was a big step for me, as I’m not keen on public speaking at all. I never read my work in public, as I’m too socially awkward and suffer with dyslexia as well, but I decided to record a single podcast, just as a show that, if nothing else, I abide by the results of an online poll!

Well, I was blown away by the love and support from people that listened and their feedback. As a result, I’ve kept going with the podcasts and it gives me a chance to read some of my new scribbles, and discuss areas of autism that are close to my heart.  I want to raise  awareness of autism and share how I see life. The hardest part about this sometimes gruelling schedule for me, is fitting all this stuff in and being a bar monkey to boot.

I’ve also started to look at entering some poetry competitions this year. So, all in all, it looks like 2018 is  fast becoming a great year for me and the whole idea that I started off all those years ago seems to be growing suddenly from a tiny seed I first planted in 2005.

It’s fantastic how life can change and turn around for the better with a little bit of self-belief and the support of those loved ones close to you who completely believe in you.

Thank You

Stay Safe X

 

 

Remixing Classics

There has been an exciting, recent development in the Christian household!

While on a roadtrip to the beach with Mrs Bob, I happened to press “play” on the car stereo.  I’d forgotten I had one of Eminem’s albums in there, but as I went to turn it off, as I was sure Mrs Bob wouldn’t want to listen to some angry white rapper spitting lyrics at an astonishing rate of knots, she stopped me.  Surprisingly, she likes Eminem!  According to her, there is a distinct pattern to his flow and style that was apparently transferable to my scribbles. I couldn’t see this myself, but I said that I was happy for her to prove me wrong.  So, I set her a challenge that she could take any one of my scribbles and apply this formula to it.  I’d then consider showcasing her “scribble-remix” to you guys, and see what you think.

Mrs Bob has looked over my work and the challenge has been accepted, so soon I’ll be able to share her remix with you.  Until then, will the real Mrs Bob please stand up?  My wife likes Eminem…… who knew?

Subjective Creative

The one thing I have learnt over the last 13 years or so that I’ve been perfecting and honing my skills as poet, is that, with any form of creative artist’s work, there will always be someone who looks at their painting, writing or song and says to their friends “She’s singing about Cedric! My uncle’s cousin’s cat is called Cedric, so this song must’ve been written about me!”

The whole thing about any creative artist’s work is that art, in whatever form, is subjective.  People can, and will, see what they want to see in it, even if that’s not the way the creator intended it to be perceived. And that’s really the whole point of art. I have been asked a number of times, over the years, about my scribbles and to whom they pertain.  Most of the time, if it’s about someone specific, then I will make it obvious, as I did with ‘Angels’ and ‘Sisterhood’.  These are obviously about my family members.

Recently, though, I’ve started to write with a more angry spoken-word, almost rap style flow, and as such, I’ve been taking my writing to a new level, where I include things like references to pop culture. This was supposed to be a new direction for me, creatively, so I could then take my scribbles and maybe add a beat to them, and possibly try rapping them.

This was my first creative direction change in about five years. I wanted to try to stay fresh and relevant in this ever-changing creative scene that I’m blessed to be a part of. It also opened me up to a whole new problem – when I write, there is a lot of emotion involved; this is how someone like me on the autism spectrum attempts to make sense of what I’m feeling. I don’t always see the big picture while I’m furiously scribbling away.

This can lead to confusion over what, or sometimes who, the piece is about.  It can lead to awkward conversations and sometimes arguments, when that was never the intended outcome. So please, when reading, looking or listening to a creative work, appreciate it for its form, style or whatever you find good about it.  Try not to look too deeply into it. If you are sure it refers to you, ask the artist privately.  But if you’re told that it really isn’t about you, try not to take it personally…

Art is subjective.

Stay Safe X

 

Autistic Partners (podcast)

Contrary to popular belief, many autistic adults have very successful relationships, partners and children. Some of us, like me, do manage marriage, long relationships, children and family life very well indeed, while others may have varying degrees of difficulties in these areas. It can be challenging for NTs who are in a relationship with a person with Autism, though, and I’m going to look at this side of things now..

And it seems like an excellent time to introduce a co-host for this particular subject. I’m very happy that I’ve persuaded my wife, Mrs Bob, to do a guest spot with me here tonight and impart some of the knowledge she’s accumulated about Autistic partners during the years of our relationship.

I’m going to look at a few areas regarding relationships, including partners experiences, diagnosis, counselling and other forms of support, to having children with an autistic partner.

PARTNER’S EXPERIENCES

While everyone’s experiences are going to be different, there are some very common themes: Autism is a mostly invisible disability, meaning that it can be very hard to explain to your NT friends and family why your autistic partner might behave in a certain way.

It may be harder for an autistic person to understand other people’s emotions and/or feelings

It can be very difficult to live with an autistic partner’s sometimes unintended, hurtful behaviour and their apparent emotional distance.

Mrs Bob – It can be difficult for an NT to be in love with a person with Autism, though it does depend on the person. You have to realise that an Autistic partner might display some of the normal indicators that an NT might show to hint that they’re losing interest, but they don’t mean the same thing. It can just mean that your partner is engrossed in something, or that they think that it’s obvious that they love you and so they don’t need to express it.

That can be so hard for an NT, even when you know that’s the case. But here, communication is the key. Learning that you have to say “I’m feeling that you’re a bit distant lately, is everything ok?” Or “Can I have a hug? I’m feeling a bit vulnerable” is the key. It’s not easy to do, especially to start with, and if the partner with Autism can try to understand that, it helps. I’m very lucky that you express your feelings and love very openly and you are starting to understand that it isn’t always obvious that you love me and that I need to hear it more than you think.

Having an autistic partner may mean having to help them with social interaction, particularly around those pesky unwritten social rules. Not understanding these rules can make your partner more vulnerable

Mrs Bob, I think that it’s helpful for the NT partner to mention to friends and relations before they meet their partner with Autism that their partner doesn’t like physical contact, like hugs, before they meet. It’s not always possible to do that, but I’ve found it does help, because hugs from anyone except me or the children do make you feel very uncomfortable. I will do anything I can to make social interactions easier for you, especially first meetings with people I already know. I’ve occasionally mentioned in passing that you have Asperger’s to those who have a lot of knowledge or experience of the condition, because that will help everyone involved when you meet.

Although having a relationship with an autistic person can be just as rewarding as any other relationship, there might be adjustments that you both need to make, such as thinking about the way you communicate with each other.

Mrs Bob – We are lucky that we communicate pretty well about a lot of things (sometimes by talking, other times by text, which can take a lot of the pressure off for you). We also have an imaginary sarcasm sign that we can both hold up if we need to make it clear we are being sarky. You use sarcasm occasionally now, but you are still learning about how to use it.

I am often struck by how you can read something much more definite than I intended into something I’ve said. A general, fictional example is that I might say that “I think I’d prefer peaches to apricots today”, and you might take from that that I hate apricots and would never eat them. But that’s not the case at all. I think that means that the neurotypical in the relationship needs to think a lot harder about how they say things than they would if they were with another NT. That’s not always possible or reasonable to expect, though, especially if the NT is feeling emotional, and rationality goes out the window!

As an NT, you may have the additional responsibility of helping your partner with Autism to manage their money, and finding employment, if they are able to work. You might need to support them by advocating, or helping them to have the confidence to stand up for themselves. These days, there is so much game-playing in social interactions, and things like office politics, which NT people aren’t always aware they’re doing. These are things that people with autism don’t easily understand, if at all. Often, we assume that whatever is being said is the straight up truth, and this can cause real difficulty and confusion for us.

It’s not all bad though! ,A quote i found online from an NT partner of a person with Autism says “We have had our ups and downs, but I love him more than anything and find him totally facinating to be with. We make a great team. I have learned so much from about him truth, loyalty friendship and fun. He’s the most special person in my life”
No that wasn’t from Mrs Bob!

Mrs Bob – But that is so true, though! I love how many interesting facts your head can hold. You have one for just about every eventuality and it’s always fascinating to hear you talk. I love that when you’re comfortable with a subject you can talk endlessly about it. It isn’t all unicorns, tinsel and fluffy bunnies, the same as any other relationship, but we do make a fantastic team. We support, respect and love each other so much that we deal with problems (both small and huge) as a team as much as possible. If we do argue, which isn’t often, we always make up quickly and apologise to each other. I think it’s a healthy environment – more healthy than other relationships I’ve had with NTs. Most importantly, we really love each other and that makes everything easier to deal with.

BEHAVIOUR AND RELATIONSHIP STRATEGY

Your autistic partner may have difficulties interpreting non-verbal communication, such as your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. They may not be able to tell from your behaviour alone that you need support or reassurance. This might be hurtful, because it can come across as indifference. It’s not very romantic to have to spell things out if you want something for a birthday or Valentine’s Day, or if you’re feeling low, ignored and really want your partner to notice, and maybe do something to reassure you. (I’m not talking about offering a hot beverage here either, people!) This is only likely to be achieved if you you try to be explicit with your partner, telling them what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, and what you need from them. They are not likely to pick up hints, even the really unsubtle ones, trust me.

Mrs Bob – Yes, this can be hard in the beginning, but once you realise that if you need something from your partner you just have to say so, and not wait and expect them to know, it gets easier. Hinting and hoping for something to happen is a form of game-playing that just about everyone does and it does hurt if you have given some subtle (or pretty unsubtle!) clues that you’d like something, but they have been seemingly ignored. But that can be the case with some NT men too. It’s quite an adjustment to make, to just say what you’d like, or what you need emotionally, but once you start, it’s easier the more you do it.

Your partner may be anxious about certain things that seem silly to you. Maybe they have routines and patterns they need to follow when doing certain tasks like showering or making a hot drink, even down to following certain seemingly strange routes when travelling. They might have problems with organising and prioritising their time, or be very inflexible about certain things, which can seem strange and cause friction.

Mrs Bob – It can be frustrating to have to stick to routines and have lots of notice about any changes, if you’re a spontaneous type, but some NTs, like me, quite like routines too. It is hard to understand some routines, such as always turning off a road and taking a much longer detour to a destination, jinstead of going straight. But unless you’re late for something, and the detour is going to make you even later, it doesn’t really matter, and you just get used to it.

It can help if you talk to your partner about any problems you are having in your relationship with them, especially I f you’re able to explain your feelings in a calm and reasoned way. You might not be feeling calm and reasonable, but it will help if you are able to pick a time when you’re feeling relatively calm to talk to them about it. Your partner may well prefer to discuss things in writing as it gives them more time to process what you were saying and this could be done using clear language in an email or text. It can be really frustrating to have to manage relationship in this way but it will ultimately help both of you if you were able to discuss it clearly.

That is the best way to do it, but it’s not always possible, or reasonable, for an NT to be calm and rational when discussions start. It can be very frustrating having to always live by countless rules and routines and that can spill over sometimes. But it’s how you both, as a partnership, handle the arguments that will happen, and how you resolve them. We are lucky that is we do argue, we always both apologise and neither of us sulk, or hold grudges. We just say what we have to, clear the air, sometimes loudly (!) and then make up!! It’s a very healthy way to do it, I think.

DIAGNOSIS

Getting a diagnosis can help you understand your partner with Autism better, and see why they may face some difficulties. It can also help your partner to make sense of their life experiences and begin to identify with other autistic people. If your partner isn’t diagnosed but you suspect they autistic can be difficult to know how to talk about it with them. I’ve mentioned the IQ test before on another podcast but the simple online test might be a way to introduce that difficult subject to them. After that, you can discuss it with your GP, and they might make a referral if they agree with you.

Getting a diagnosis can also help them to alleviate some of the stresses and problems your NT partner might have if they can see that you’re not just being awkward, difficult, or in some cases downright weird. It will help them see that there is actually a reason behind your behaviours and if they’re interested, it can help to give them an insight into how the autistic brain works, and be aware of the changes that they might need to make to the relationship or to how you communicate with each other.

HAVING CHILDREN WITH AN AUTISTIC PARTNER

You might be concerned about the cause of your partner’s autism and whether it could be passed on to any children you have. At the moment, research is still being carried out to establish whether Autism is hereditary or not. I had already had children prior to finding out that I was autistic, so that decision was taken away from me, but it may be something that would weigh on other people’s minds. If I had known that I had Autism before I had my two, I would have been very unsure about having children.

If you’re concerned, the best thing to do would be to sit and discuss this with your partner before making plans to start family. There are a few things that could cause issues later, such as dealing with the change to plans and routines with an unpredictable baby and also the possibility of having an autistic child and the challenges that that would raise.

Battle Cry

What part of “No!” don’t you
Seem to fucking understand?
I’m guessing there’s some
Major cerebral mishap going on
In that deluded cranial asylum
You call home to those thoughts.

I wish you could escape from
The padded cell you’ve created
Inside your misguided headspace.
Please start taking your fucking
meds or whatever it takes to help
You finally wake from this fictional

Nightmare “love story” you imagine.
I’m not Jack to your Sally, and I never
Will be. Not now, not in this universe,
Or any of the other multiverses ever.
The only place this has ever existed
Is in your daydreams and fantasies.

I’ve tried going easy on you and I guess
That was my biggest fuck up – being nice.
I’ve tried that, and shit bitch, it ain’t worked.
It’s just resulted in big games, fake names,
More faces than the god of many faces, but
This ain’t no game of thrones; no drama.

Your winter’s finally here. Game’s over, proving
I’m finally where I belong – at the top of my game.
Ruling this land while sitting atop my iron throne,
With my queen at my side, where she belongs.
I’ve given you an amnesty from the dogs of war.
But no more. Fuck this, it’s game over, lights out bitch!

Parents with ASD (podcast)

 

Autism in parents

As I’ve mentioned before, there are around 700 thousand autistic people in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100. Many of those aren’t diagnosed until they are adults, including me. Some may have sought a formal diagnosis, others will have read about autism and decided they probably are autistic, but don’t feel they need a diagnosis. But ultimately, no two autistic people are the same. They have their own personalities, abilities, talents and life experiences, and autism affects people in different ways.

 

How will my parent’s autism affect me?

Having an autistic parent could affect you and your family in many different ways. Here are some situations I’ve heard about:

My Dad doesn’t seem to know if I’m feeling a bit down. Why is that?

Your dad might not notice that you’re upset if he finds it difficult to interpret facial expressions and body language. If your dad knows you’re upset, he might not be sure of the best way to comfort you. You might need to say that you need a hug. An autistic parent might not realise that you need to be told that they love you. They may expect you to already know that they love you, and feel that it’s obvious.

I get a bit confused at times, as I’m not sure when dad’s actually speaking to me.

You may find that your dad doesn’t look you in the eyes when he’s talking to you. Some autistic people can find it very hard to make or hold eye contact. Or he may seem to stare at a fixed spot, and this can end up making you feel awkward and embarrassed. Neither of these things mean that your dad isn’t listening to you or considering what you are saying. It’s just hard for him to know how best to deal with the conversation.

Why doesn’t my dad seem to understand what people mean?

Autistic people can take longer than others to take in what people are saying. They may need time to think about what’s been said, before answering. Your dad might find it helpful if you speak to him in short, clear sentences and allow time for him to process the information before expecting a response.

My dad is obsessed with Batman and talks about it all the time

It’s quite common for autistic people to have an intense interest, which is often called a “narrow field of focus”. Some people will love the same thing all their lives, while others will go through phases of different special interests. If you don’t share your dad’s interest, it may be useful to him if you could tell him clearly when he can and can’t talk to you about his intense interest. You can explain that you have other things you need to do, such as homework. If you’re clear about the boundaries, he will undoubtedly be happy to follow them.

Dad keeps on at me about school all the time and shouts at me if I don’t do things straight away.

Lots of young people feel pressure from their parents about school as parents just want their children to get a good education. They may also expect their children to help out around the house. However, if your dad spends a lot of time talking about how hard you should study or asking you to do chores, it can be stressful for you.

Try explaining to your dad that, whilst you know these things are important, you need to do other things and have some free time. It may take time for him to understand this. You can help by giving examples, keeping what you say short and clear or writing it down so that he can refer back to it.

Autistic people can have a literal understanding of speech, so if you say you will do something “in a minute”, meaning “quite soon”, your dad may well be expecting you to do it in one minute’s time. If you can be clear and exact when answering him will help you both.

My dad’s really cross when I play the music I like.

Like anyone, some autistic people love music, some don’t. Your dad’s taste in music is very likely to be different to yours.

It’s important to think about any sensory sensitivities that your parent might have when you play your music. If your dad gets really cross about it or puts his hands over his ears, even when it’s not very loud, it may be that he has very sensitive hearing. This can be very painful for those people who have it.

Try to compromise, perhaps only playing your music loudly when you know he is out of the house or listen to it through headphones. Or stop listening to Justin fucking Beiber…

Dad gets really stressed about me socialising. What can I do?

It’s possible that your dad doesn’t see the need to socialise, and so finds it strange that you want to have a group of friends. You bringing friends home could make him anxious as he might not find it easy to have strangers in the house. It will be a break from his routine and hard to deal with.

Try talking to your dad about what you get out of friendships such as companionship, a chance to talk, laugh and share common interests. It can also help to:

check with your dad that it’s OK to go out, giving him clear details of where you’re going, who with, and when you’ll be back
prepare your dad for your friends’ visits by telling him when they’re coming, for how long and what room you will be in. Try to stick to what you’ve agreed when your friends are there.
tell your friends beforehand that your dad is autistic – this might help them understand some of the things that they may find a little unusual in your dad’s behaviour and why he might be really strict about you being home when you said you would be.
Dad gets stressed if something unexpected happens
Autistic people have a need for routine, which helps them make sense of the world around them. They can become anxious if there is a break or a change to their usual routine. Your parent may have rules they need to stick to and will find it easier to cope if they have warning of any changes. This can be hard on you, as you may like to be spontaneous.

If you break one of the rules he needs to have in place, wait until your dad is calm before talking to him about why the rule was broken. Explain that some things are out of your control, for example being late home due to a late bus or car breakdown.

If you know that something different to the normal routine is going to happen, tell your dad , say why this change is happening, and when things will go back to normal.

Acknowledging your needs

Growing up with an autistic parent can sometimes be lonely, confusing and scary, especially if your parent sometimes has meltdowns. You may be angry that your friends’ parents are different to yours and feel that this is unfair. You may be the only person in your family who isn’t autistic, leaving you feeling isolated. It may often feel as if your needs are secondary to your autistic parent’s

It’s important that you talk to other people about your experiences. Confide in an adult such as a friend, family member, teacher or pastoral support worker about what is happening at home and ask for their support, or contact childline. Remember to explain that your parent is autistic.

There are a couple of good books too

My Parent has an Autism Spectrum Disorder A Workbook for Children and Teens by Barbara R. Lester

Something Different About Dad by Kirsti Evans and John Swogger