Warning – mental overload imminent

What do you get when you add a big group of people, lots of ideas and instructions in rapid succession and limited autism understanding?

Answer: Public humiliation. Joke of the day. You can stop laughing now.

One of the first things I remember about secondary school is trying to play football. I was surrounded by shouting kids who may or may not have been on my team, a ball that showed no mercy to any body parts it hit and an angry teacher yelling at me for ‘getting caught in possession’.

This is just one example of an information overload. For different people, it may be a different situation. But whatever kind of situation you struggle with most, chances are it leads to that overpowering sense of turmoil that no words, actions or even tears can fully express.

It’s been a while since a situation like that reduced me tears*, and even longer since I’ve had to play football, mercifully. But even at the wise old age (not!) of 22**, I still cannot process long, detailed explanations/instructions. A person will give me just that, I will try to summarise what I think they are trying to communicate, then what do they do? Paraphrase! Not even a yes or no to confirm whether or not I got it the first time. And my brain has to start all over again.

Because I struggle to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, I get confused when people bombard me with lots of detail. I need someone to give me a summary of the basics. Preferably with the scope for me to ask for more detail if I want to. And if I’ve been given a big thing to think about, I need time to think. How has it affected me? What do I need to do next? If I get that time, it could delay others concerned. If not, careful decisions on my part cannot be guaranteed.

Which makes some group tasks challenging. If I could, I would press pause and magically find someone who can help me keep up with what is going on. Who has said what? There is information coming from so many different angles (literally and figuratively). I tend to find myself left out of group discussions unless I really concentrate hard on what is going on and where I could pitch in.

I think the most frustrating thing about needing help understanding things is struggling to explain what I don’t understand or how someone can help me. A bit like being ill but forgetting all words that describe your symptoms as soon as the doctor asks. Perhaps if you are having trouble with information overload at school, uni or work, don’t get worked up trying to explain what went wrong just now. Take five minutes of calm thinking time and try explaining to those involved how you learn best. Tell them that your condition makes it challenging. Be patient with yourself.

And just remember…don’t get caught in possession. Whatever that means.


NB – Months ago I was asked by the National Autistic Society to write a blog post about processing information. I completed the post and sent it off but was then told to send it to them on Word and delete it from my blog because they wanted new material to go on their blog rather than information copied off mine. Now that they are about to publish it, apparently it is ok for me to put it back on my blog. Yay! – 1.4.2016


*Bear in mind I wrote this before my most important third year assessments started piling up. Yes, they were group projects.

**I was 22 when I first wrote this. I’m now 23.

Entering third year and a possible Facebook page

Here’s a little “expectation-versus-reality” scenario. Imagine your first year at uni – whether past, present or future. Everything is new and scary but so full of possibilities. Perhaps for the first time, you are seriously learning about what you really want to do, and you have three years ahead of you in which to become as well educated as those third years you see in Open Day talks.

Then comes second year – possibly the university equivalent of middle child syndrome. You’re not all fresh and naïve anymore, but hey, you’ve still got time.

Now onto third year. Suddenly you are grappling with the realisation that you have less than a year to achieve your education-based goals before your life is devoid of structure and meaning. It seems that third years today are not as prestigious as the third years of two years ago.

I think I discovered this when I took part in the Journalism News Day last Wednesday during the reading week. Journalism staff and students alike got together to form a mock news desk, and I found myself working with a couple of first years. We were sent out to do a vox pop i.e. pester some unfortunate passers by for their opinions on a certain subject. What was that subject? The tampon tax and the self-explanatory free bleed protest outside Parliament. I’m sorry, but you did ask.

It was through doing this that I realised both how much I’ve learned (about the course and uni overall) and how dumb I still feel. Interviewing strangers about periods isn’t my strong point, as shown by how the girls I was with had to help me with the talking. We got a good handful of quotes, however, and after submitting them, I spent the rest of the day writing an article on the same subject for the News Day’s publication here: https://leicestershirepress.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/sanitary-protection-petitions-and-the-period-protest/

As you can see, finishing uni can be trying. I’m trying to figure out a career, write part of a novel for my dissertation and also get over a sad friendship breakup with a certain ex-housemate. But despite what it sounds like, I’m still happy with my course, and have big dreams for the future.

Which brings me onto my next point. I’m aware that many aspiring professionals in their field of expertise create their own Facebook page to publicise whatever they do. Over this year, I have been wondering whether or not I should get my own page to promote my blog and any other writing I do, in order to increase my chances of a career as an author. I know this is supposed to be good publicity, but I’m a bit sceptical.

For one thing, I feel embarrassed about tooting my own horn too much. For another, how effective would it be anyway? Chances are, the only people who would “like” it, would be existing Facebook friends who are genuinely interested. Although I suppose this would be a relief for those who inwardly groan every time my blog pops up in their News Feed. Also, if I continued to share my writing on my Facebook account as well, then people who are interested would just be getting it twice.

Before anyone advises me, I’m not expecting cries of “Do it, Grace!” so that I can say “No, I couldn’t possibly…oh alright then!” I suppose what I’m asking you all is: do you think this would be a good idea?