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Beaurocracy » Blogging AS an Aspie
Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.

24 Nov 08 Taking the piss

I make no apologies for the title of this post. The service provider really is going too far now, and has got me jumping through quite a number of hoops just to be able to meet my friend!

Regular subscribers will remember the saga back in April & May of this year, when I was directly ordered to not meet my then 15-year-old friend in town for the purpose of helping her revise. Needless to say, the service provider hasn’t particularly changed its stance much, and is following its usual ethos of ‘check everything to the nth degree, and then go back and check it all again’ before even considering anything. It’s hardly any wonder why I believe progress to be so slow…

Back in August, my friend had her sweet 16th. Ok, maybe not-so-sweet, but you get the idea! With me helping her revise for her GCSE exams, she was in Year 11 at school. Which meant that she must have been born between 01/09/1991 and 31/08/1992. To further back this up, she’s been constantly talking about her sixth-form subjects!

So, 3 days after that day, I was in my manager’s office, asking him to risk assess me to meet my friend. My manager is a genuine bloke, and although he feels he cannot advocate for me with this issue, he does pass on my requests to the senior management team, and returns their replies promptly. And what response did I get? It certainly wasn’t an “off you go, stick within the city centre risk assesment” type response I was hoping for.

I got a “could you ask your friend to show us some photographic ID with her date of birth on it please” response. My immediate thought was to tell my manager where I might well plan to stick her photographic ID if I get it! However, I then had to simply ask how I was supposed to obtain said ID without meeting her to borrow it from her, bearing in mind that she still couldn’t be allowed with the halls. I was told to ask her to post it! Charming…

Well, I came up with a novel idea this month, having not managed to be able to get my friend to be able to photocopy something suitable and post it to me. She has kindly photographed her bus pass using her phone, and pictured messaged it to me. I’ve then saved the picture, copied it to my computer and put it on a USB pen drive. Then I went to see my manager, and I put it onto his computer, and he will take it to senior management.

I miss my friend, and she keeps telling me she still has a hand-made thank-you card from when I helped her revise. I was meant to get it when I saw her for her birthday party, but I never ended up going to that. Her birthday fell right in the middle of the first aid duty I was doing all weekend, and I ended up so busy and distracted that it was the next day when I eventually remembered to call her and wish a happy birthday!

Anyway, I’m now just waiting for senior management to get back to me with the latest set of hoops to jump through!

12 Aug 08 Remembering what’s important

In the last four weeks, I feel like my life has been turned upside down. I don’t know why it turned upside down, it just did. And what confuses me the most is that I was effectively on holiday when everything happened at once.

I was as far removed from ‘the loop’ as professionals could reasonably keep me. It wasn’t just me; my Mum also was not sure what was going on. In some cases, even my Overseeing Manager at the service provider was not informed of things that affected my care.

I’ll briefly explain a timescale. From 15th July to 25th July I was still at the service provider, although (for all intents and purposes) was on holiday from the college. I returned to my Mum’s house on 25th July, and stayed until the morning of the 27th when I travelled independently to my Gran’s house in Southampton. I returned home on the train on Monday 11th August, and have been at my Mum’s since.

The first I knew something had been going on was when my manager called me into his office on Monday 21st July, and was explaining that “to keep me out of trouble and to protect me” he was suspending all of my community risk assessments until I left the Sunderland area on Friday. But I wasn’t suspicious, his reasons seemed acceptable to me at the time, and I had no reason to suspect that anything else was taking place. I should have noticed later in the week when another manager queried me on an aspect of it, but I dismissed it as a usual lack of communication. It should have been blindingly obvious on the Friday when my manager explained that one of my Psychiatrists wanted to speak to my Mum at home.

As it was, I simply took it as routine, and went about my journey home. I wasn’t expecting the phone call from my Mum on Saturday asking me to be home for 4.30pm because the Psychiatrist needed to “urgently see me at home”. I duly returned, and settled down for the meeting. At this point both my Mum and I discover that “there has been some meetings this week about Matt’s plans for the holidays and potential risks”, not that we get to know the content of them.

And then he said something which made me react aggressively, “[the service provider] has had to make a ‘public interest disclosure’ to [a local] social services child protection team about Matt’s interaction with and behaviours toward [my 15 year old female friend]“. I could not believe what I had heard. Not half because the service provider has no primary evidence of my interaction with my friend. I will admit to getting very aggressive, and in part that was due to a trust breakdown between me and the service provider. At present, I’m not letting on how I feel to them, but I’m there next week, and I intend to confront them with it.

I then went away for two weeks, having been reassured that both my Mum and I would be kept informed of the goings-on as they happened. So how did it happen that my Manager was ringing me at 2.35pm on my train journey home, asking why I hadn’t attended a 1.30pm appointment at my house? Simple, nobody had checked my diary, nobody had copied my Mum or my Manager into the relevant letter, and nobody had rang me to tell me about it. The particular department in question had cheek to “be annoyed that nobody was at home when they called”, considering they hadn’t checked that the relevant people (me!) had been notified!

After a discussion that night, both my Mum and I agreed on something, that it appeared a lot had been going on with regard to my care, but for some unbeknown-to-us reason we were no longer felt to be ‘in the loop’.

11 May 08 Crisis management

Well, as I did say, I was at my mate’s 18th birthday party last night. It started out really well, with us meeting together in Newcastle and then going for some drinks, which were generously bought by the rich and now legal birthday boy. Afterwards, we took a walk to the bus stop where we had a 20 minute wait, so I ended up impressing my new-found acquaintances with my photography skills.

After arriving at his house, which is a very nice place, the drinks kept on flowing as we helped finish putting out the food and blowing up balloons (along with all the teenage innuendo that goes with it). The food was absolutely brilliant, home cooked by my mate’s Mum, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – having decided that I’d best eat a fair bit before drinking much more. Again, my camera was out, snapping away at different things here and there, all the time impressing those who saw the shots.

Its fair too assumes that by the time most of his family had left, all of us teenagers were fairly drunk. We started enjoying ourselves a bit more; I can remember dancing with a lovely young lady to High School Musical. With the lager now finished, we drank a bottle of wine between us before opening the bottle of vodka to have as shots. A useful thing to remember is that vodka burns, and gets to your bloodstream quite quickly. Now, I can recall a set of drinking games cards was being looked at as we had our second shot, and third, but then as we toasted to friendship, the young lady became extremely upset; the situation changed rapidly from a drunken party into a crisis management because she was in floods of tears about something. Present at this were myself, who’d only just met her 8 hours earlier, my mate who knew her well, and her boyfriend.

As you’d expect her boyfriend tried to comfort her, but physical comfort can only go so far, my mate tried to talk her through what he knew of the situation, but it didn’t appear to be helping. Thankfully, my mate trusted me at this point that I knew what to do, so I hinted for him and her boyfriend to effectively shut up and go away. At this point, I have adrenaline kicking in and therefore I become fairy sober in the space of about 15 minutes. The first thing I done was to comfort and reassure, without saying anything I simply put my arm around her and let her cry silently for a few moments. I then distanced myself emotionally from this all by telling her I don’t know the situation or the people to who it refers, I also told her that I was going to listen to her explain it to me and how she feels.

We didn’t get very far before my mate asked me to go upstairs and use his room because he thought it would be best to give her complete space from people she knows. This idea worked well, because she simply lay down on the bed and continued to talk to me as I lay next to her and hugged her. I cannot remember what physical contact went on between us; I only know that we were definitely hugging. I was glad she felt she could talk to me about it, being so distant from it all, but this led to issues of trust, I totally appreciated that she couldn’t trust me because she’d only just met me, and I respected that. At this point, I made five failures that took a crisis to a disaster, and although I stand by my decisions come what may, I accept full responsibility for the consequences that came.

She asked if she could have a cigarette outside, and this was ok (I had been given her cigarettes and lighter to look after), so we went outside and I gave her one, as we continued to talk some more. Then, she asked for another one, and I refused, saying that she’d want it in the morning. She then threatened to stay outside in an unfamiliar place to us both, or to leave, the risks for either were immense, and I therefore felt I had no choice but to do everything possible to safeguard myself and her – this meant giving her the second cigarette. Whilst doing this, we continued to talk, and she was beginning to feel better.

For some random reason she asked me for a foot massage, and this was ok, as it helped her stay relaxed. This triggered her to talk about her boyfriend and how much she wanted him to wake up next to her in the morning. I foolishly promised her that I would ask my mate to ask him if he would; this counts as two failures, one for the actual promise, and another for considering the request as reasonable because I had no information about what was going on inside the house. We then went back inside the house, and after showing her back upstairs, I went down to relay the promise.

When I got back upstairs, the situation had changed dramatically, and she was no longer relaxed but quite agitated and didn’t want to talk to me. She wanted to run downstairs, but I knew that this was not in her best interests, so I placed myself between her and the door. She then threatened to shout “rape”, or otherwise, but I held firm, and attempted to persuade her to sit down and talk rationally about this at the same time as trying to reassure her that I had her best interests at heart. I finally conceded that I was no longer helping her, and that I needed backup, so I rang my mate to come upstairs and take over me. What had happened was that she had became scared of me, and what might happen, I think the drink was wearing off and she was realising that she was in a room in somebody else’s house with an older lad she’d only just met. Quite rightly, this scared her, and made her feel very anxious.

I switched roles, and went downstairs to sit with her boyfriend to watch Dr. Who. It took my mate 40 minutes to repair the damage caused by me making her feel scared, and to get her back relaxed and how she was before we came back in from the cigarettes. It took another hour before we asked her to come in and listen to my apology. However, after we woke up this morning, we spoke more, and both agreed to put the incident behind us, and to move on. The positive thing is that she is now able to think about what was making her upset and how she can make herself feel better about it. She’s also more confident, because she is able to relax, and she’s going to attempt to give up smoking for her health.

A good party overall. At first, excellent handling of a crisis incident, but then I got a few things wrong which led to a disaster. However, benefits of hindsight are wonderful, and I took immediate steps to resolve the situation, which worked. I can see my faults, yes, but I can also see the positive aspects of it all.

28 Apr 08 Absolutely ridiculous

Further to my predictions about meeting my friend to help her revise, I was still completely stunned at the response the service provider had for me. Like I said, I wasn’t going to tell them before I met her, because they would say no. I am, however, an honest person, and therefore I decided to tell my manager what I’d done. He was disappointed that I hadn’t told him what I was doing beforehand. Furthermore, this was to be the subject of an MDT meeting, and he felt unable to advocate for me.

Being a fair and reasonable bloke, he ensured that I would be given the opportunity to attend this meeting and voice my own opinions and arguments. Naturally, when senior staff get together, my opinion is considered irrelevant, although it is normally listened to. This time, I was called into the meeting to be told that they had made some decisions. Before I’d even sat down, I was already extremely angry with my manager, the deputy principal, the college manager and the psychologist.

They told me that they could not support me meeting my friend in town because she was only 15. I interrupted, saying that I’d known her for 3 years, we get on well, she is comfortable with everything, and that I am aware of what I’m doing. I tried asking if she could come to the hall of residence, and I could see her in a communal area with staff present. Or not, as the management pointed out the obvious child protection implications of having a 15 year old female unknown to the service in the presence of a male support worker in their building.

So, to deter me from meeting her in town, they then went on to point out the legal implications. What if she accused me of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or even rape? Because, as they pointed out, raping a 15 year old would make me a paedophile. That, and being on the sex offenders register would mean I couldn’t follow my career ambition of being a doctor (doesn’t this sound so familiar?). Then they went on to ask if her mother knew she had met me, and how old I was.

I was infuriated, because I do not wish to have sexual relations with my friend. I want to help her through her exams, and spend time with her. As far as I am concerned, I’m doing what most teenage friends are doing right now – helping each other revise for upcoming exams and spending time with each other.

Basically, the only reason they have as to why I can’t be allowed to meet her is that she is a 15 year old female. That, to me, is not a reason in itself.
And do you think it will stop me – no!

10 Apr 08 Equal Opportunities

I used to wonder quite often why I always appeared to be short of money. At present, my bank balance is higher in negative figures than it has been in positive for quite some time. And I’ll admit, some of this is due to my £40.00 per lesson driving habit!

The rest of my lack of fortune is due to one thing and one thing alone: being in the pre-application period for universities. That means I’m a year 12 equivalent student, aiming to enter university for higher education in 2009. You may wonder how that can cost money, its not like I have to buy any books or course materials, or even travel to an interview.

It’s really easy to see mounting costs – Open Days for me are in June/July 2008, and that means I need to travel to them (via train; £200.00 approx) and stay overnight (hotels; £300.00 approx.) because they are far away from where I live. I know I’m making it easier for myself by basing myself at my Gran’s house, which is closer to the 7 universities that I’m considering; I don’t wish to imagine the extra cost if I were based in Sunderland instead! Of course, I have yet to add on the costs of food (breakfast, lunch, evening meal, snacks – for 7 days away from either Halls or my Gran’s; £150.00 approx.), and transport around the university campus & local city (bus or taxi; £50.00 approx.). Then add another £50.00 emergency fund in case anything goes wrong, or I’ve under-budgeted. Total cost to visit 7 universities, spending 7 days / 6 nights away = £750.00, not bad.

Let us not forget test fees. Test fees specific to applying to study medicine at university; specifically the UKCAT at £60.00 and the BMAT at £31.00, charming. I’m sure I remember seeing a lot about how not being well off financially should not be a barrier to studying medicine, or indeed any degree, but my impression is that needing £91.00 just to do the exams needed to apply is that you need to have some finances built up.

I don’t look forward to my application year, having to go to interviews, buy a good quality suit, and attend visit days, and so on.