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Risk Assessment » Blogging AS an Aspie
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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.
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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!

25 Mar 08 Parents’ Evening

I’m really proud of what I was told tonight by my two college tutors, both academically and socially. Most of all, they backed up what I’d been trying to tell the service provider for many months now.

Firstly, my Physics lecture expressed her disappointment at my latest exam result – a ‘b’. I was only 1 mark off an ‘a’, but 1 mark is too much to miss by! However, she is very happy with my work rate, informing my Mum that I am regularly provided with extra work which I always finish to a very high standard. My punctuality and attendance are excellent, both being 100%. Then my Mum asked about my social interaction, after explaining about my Asperger’s and how it affects me. And the lecturer was very positive, explaining I get on well with everybody, and help people when they ask me for it. I asked the direct question “Do you think that I need support in the class?” I was answered with a “No.” My Mum mentioned to us that she would bring up these comments at my forthcoming review in May.

Next, we went to Chemistry. Again, I was told by my very enthusiastic chemistry lecturer (he’s brilliant, bless him) that I perform to a very high standard in class and should not have any problems in achieving an ‘A’ for AS Chemistry. I was reminded of the deadline for the planning exercise, and advised to submit a draft of it soon, which of course I will. My lecturer then re-advertised his study clinics, which I admit to not having yet attended. The problem is that they fall when I’m usually with the specialist college in Sunderland. However, I did explain that I will be able to come in for the Tuesday session from the start of May, because it falls at good times for trains and I can miss about an hour of Duke of Edinburgh to revise a past module. I might attend the general study clinic over a Wednesday lunch leading into the exams, just to make sure I can do it all! Then, rather shockingly, he asked me about the trip to Nottingham; I was puzzled by this, because I’d explained to him that due to a lack of support I’d be unable to go. But, then, suddenly, an idea lit up!

I looked at my Mum, hinting at her to rapidly move the conversation onto my social skills in class, and support staff. “Matt makes fantastic contributions” he told her. He didn’t think I needed any support, even when I asked him to think carefully about my interactions with my two close mates. He did ask me about last Thursday’s support worker, because she appeared to be making a lot of notes. I explained in brief terms why, and then followed up with a question about if my behaviour or interaction with the person concerned was any different to how he normally sees me; historically, I can’t cope with what had happened. We agreed that I didn’t need any support; more to the point I was told I should be supporting the support worker!

As we left, and enjoyed some really nice food from the bake sale for Operation Wallacea (yeah, research, not a holiday, of course), my Mum told me that she wasn’t going to wait for my review and was instead going to send an email to the managers at the service provider, explaining her point of view based on the first-hand information she now has. I tried explaining my arguments for being allowed to go to Nottingham, but it was futile, she told me that there was no way even if she wanted to, because it leaves early on Monday morning, and I’m not back with the service provider until Sunday evening. I tried explaining about the lecturers saying I didn’t need support, and how I coped with everything over the weekend (I briefly appraised my Mum without going into any detail). But she wanted to take it small steps at a time; I countered that I’ve been saying I haven’t needed support for 5 months. But then she used the killer, the one truth that ties it all together, she knew there was somebody going that I fancy. I didn’t argue, except for to say I respect this person so much I can’t bring myself to even think of trying anything on! It was worth a shot, and I did have ulterior motives; a chance to talk with somebody for a short while away from college and any form of distraction would be brilliant, and I think very beneficial.

Anyway, I was really happy with the way things went; I only wish that I could have had one of my managers from the service provider there with my Mum! I’m really proud of what I have achieved at college this year, both academically and socially!

23 Mar 08 Meeting people online

Disclaimer: I do not condone any vulnerable person meeting anybody they know solely over the internet, unless it is supported by an appropriate adult and in a public place.

Disclaimer aside, I have been fairly stupid in that respect, and not just the once! Firstly, I’d known somebody on MSN for a number of years, I’d never met her, and she was 2 years younger than me, so I can appreciate what everybody said to me about it. But, I thought it would be alright, I knew a friend of hers through a drama group for Aspies. So, I set out to meet her in Newcastle, in one of the most public and easily escaped places I could think of – Central Station. We met, and spent the day together, and it all went well if I’m honest.

This weekend, I’ve been a total idiot on the matter. I know somebody on Facebook, who I got in touch with via the “HOTorNOT” system. I’ve been talking to her for about 9 months, and I like her, she’s really fun and friendly. She doesn’t particularly live anywhere near any of the three places I live, but where she lives is between two of them, and it’s close to a mate’s house.

So, with the “prized prat award” now almost certainly in my hands, I decided to ensure it would be mine. I only went and asked to meet her. And then tried to logically reason out why we should meet. And ended up making her cry, and rather annoyed at me. Not what I wanted. In one fell swoop I’d managed to both ruin 9 months of fun flirty online friendship and rule out any chance of us ever meeting. To make matters worse, I rang her (to apologise) when she had asked me not to ring. So bang went the respect and trust, too!

So, upon reflection, I was a stupid idiot, and shouldn’t have asked her. In the end, I felt rather crap because of it; almost wanting to cry.

My advice, don’t even think about meeting people you don’t live near. For those you do, and get on well with, and have spoken to on the phone, and have been able to verify as much as possible about them: only meet them in a very public place, and accompanied by a responsible appropriate adult!

11 Jan 08 Freedom!

It may have taken a good 13 months to get it initially, and I will admit to only having it for less than 2 weeks before messing it up, but after another 3 month wait, I have finally been given the fantastic news that is my city centre risk assessment is now active.

Looks like I’ll be out in the community doing what normal teenagers do again…

The joys of UK law is such that service providers have to do a lot of work in order to protect themselves from being sued by learner’s parents. After very dedicated members of staff carefully worded and re-worded the risk assessment I was presented with it, signed it, and enjoyed the freedom it gave me for just under two weeks. That was right until I was discovered to be fully intent on breaking one of the conditions of it; goodbye risk assessment, goodbye freedom

However, I’m happy again, because after 3 months, I was informed this evening that I’m allowed to go back into the city centre for a specific purpose, for a specific time. I shan’t mess this one up, a kind person gave me a mantra to follow, “keep your zipper up, your hands in your pockets, and your trap shut!”

04 Jan 08 Xmas holidays

I don’t celebrate xmas for religious reasons. I celebrate the commercial aspect of xmas. All of the student parties, workplace parties, and so on. I give presents to people who are special to me (or at least try to, in the case of a young lady at the local sector college).

But best of all, is the fact that I get to go home from the hall of residence. I spend some time with my Mother, and some time with my Grandmother (who lives at the other end of the country to my Mother). Of course, the extra money I get from the DLA does help matters…

Now this has got me thinking about what I can do during holidays that is different from what I can do when I’m at the hall of residence (under the care of the service provider). The most obvious one, and potentially the riskiest is that I travel independently via plane to see my Grandmother; that’s at least 1 hour in the airport (more when there are delays, which is often), then there’s 1 1/2 hours on the plane itself, and finally 1/2 an hour at the arrival airport to collect my luggage and meet whoever is picking me up. Other things I can do include access Newcastle city centre independently, for an arbitrary period of time, for an arbitrary purpose, whenever I would like to; I done this twice these holidays, once to finish my xmas shopping, and a second time to go and watch a film at the cinema.

I can, of course, meet up with my friends if I so wish. They could be male or female, and of any age. I remember it being only in September when the senior management of the service provider called me in for a meeting to remind me of things such as the sex offenders register and how the police operate, the reason: I had met a female friend, who happened to be 15, in the middle of Newcastle, on a Saturday during the preceding holiday period, with the full knowledgeable consent of my Mother (note: I was 17 at the time).

As for the internet? That’s completely unrestricted. I’m sitting here at my Grandmother’s house using my laptop wirelessly as I compose this post. I can use Facebook, and upload photographs, download music and generally do what normal teenagers do when they are at home. Yes, that does mean I use Windows Live Messenger a lot during the holidays!

Oh well, at the time of writing, it’s only 2 days until I fly back up to Sunderland and voluntarily walk into virtual imprisonment where harsh rule is imposed upon me again. In my “best interests” of course, because the service provider has a “duty of care” to me which they must follow. As my good friend Bekki once said “I prefer prison to here, you get more freedom when you’re there…