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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!

24 Jun 08 Marine disruptive pattern material

I was visiting a medical school today, and though that I might blog about the social aspects of the open day, and how I coped with them. Note that this post is paraphrased from a confidential journal I’m doing to help me keep track of things.

The title of this is called “Marine Disruptive Pattern Material”, because it is the first thing I noticed. Not the first thing of the day, but the first thing I noticed when I sat down to lunch. As you might expect, the foyer was rather busy, and there were no free tables; I noticed a young-ish lady sitting on her own, so I politely asked if I could sit next to her, and she said I could. My observation skills picked out that she was wearing a blue DPM style bra and not that I was looking, it was slightly sticking out over her blue strappy top.

We got talking, of course – who can shut me up? – and we spoke about school, A levels, exams, the open day itself and general things like how old we were, where we were from and so on. Funnily enough, I never conversed on any topics that could be considered inappropriate. The only thing I regret was not getting R’s phone number or surname (for FaceStalking)!

However, I did have a “get a grip” moment with myself, when I seemed to lose my flirty personality. I was sitting at another empty table later in the day waiting for the next tour of the campus, and a good-looking young lady came and sat next to me. She was wearing tight-fitting jeans and a white top. I didn’t even open my mouth to say a word. Something must be up with me…

For the rest of the time, I was just talking to the student guides, finding out about the place. I felt comfortable enough to mention my Asperger’s to one of the 2nd year lasses, and she was quite supportive and stuff, looked out for me for the rest of the day, which was nice of her!

Socially, no problems. But then, I always knew I can cope with things, it’s just being able to prove to the service provider that I can do so, without having to go behind their back and breaking their risk assessments…

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.

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!

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!”