Curious incidents in Sweden

I was born in Sweden on an island called Gotland and I moved to Ireland when I was five years old. I went back to Sweden for a few weeks almost every summer to visit relatives and my grandparents. While I was there, there were some incidents regarding my autistic behaviour. All the incidents didn’t happen in the same summer.

There were two incidents that almost happened but luckily they didn’t happen.

When I was in my granduncle’s house in Stockholm we had a meal together and I almost broke two of his lovely crystal glasses. After I said cheers I clunked two glasses very hard but luckily they didn’t break.

Once when my granduncle picked us up at the central station in the middle of Stockholm I was getting into his car, I swung the back car door open and I was very close to hitting an expensive Mercedes car. Mum had to catch the door before it hit that car.

A very big incident happened one night when I slept in my grandmothers guest room. Mum went out somewhere and my grandmother slept in the same room as myself and my sister. I was very nervous because mum wasn’t there so I said grandma grandma and I banged the wall with my feet most of the night.

Once when I went on my grandmothers computer on my own playing games and watching YouTube videos I accidently deleted some stuff that was important to my grandmother and step granddad as I couldn’t understand how to work a computer properly when I was younger. I had to be supervised next time I went on the computer.

In order to help myself improve my autistic behaviour on my holidays in Sweden I made up rules for visiting Sweden. I made a list of things that I wasn’t supposed to do such as Don’t swim where there is deep water on the beach, Don’t open any car doors in Stockholm and Don’t delete stuff when going on grandma’s computer. I also made up a star chart for when I broke those rules. There were one or more stars for each rule depending on how serious it was.

Once on the flight to Sweden I held my ears all the way as I didn’t like the plane engine noise and the ear popping sensation. Mum had to feed me a bag of crisps as I couldn’t take my fingers out of my ears.

I also enjoyed my holidays in Sweden even though those curious incidents happened. These four photos are to show that I enjoyed the summer there.

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A walk in Clogher woods

One day I have decided to take a walk in the woods in Clogher near Monasteraden village to look at the stone fort and St Attracta’s holy well.

On the way up to the stone fort I took some photographs of the textures and moss on the barks of the trees.

The stone fort is 2500 years old. The diameter is 26m and the walls are 4.3m thick. The two underground passages are called sou-terrains which were used for refuge and storage in the early iron age.

The large entrance is 1.8m wide.

This collage goes all around the stone fort. I decided to go up the steps to photograph each side around the edges.

It was very dark in the passageways so I put on my flash mode on my camera to see what is inside.

St Attracta’s holy well was where people used to get their drinking water. The lake was used to go fishing for the brown trout.

Gaining independence with autism

Now I’m doing independence training all the time because I would like to become more independent and have the ability to do stuff on my own. I am learning the important parts of independence such as road crossing, shopping, planting, cooking and doing house jobs.

Every day I plan my own day routine. I can make coffee and tea in the mornings for breakfast. After breakfast I go outside to check the mail. During the COVID 19 pandemic I wear gloves to handle the mail and I wash my hands afterwards. I decide when I want to do things each day such as playing with my cats, gaming, photography, watching movies and colouring in. I plan to take a shower on Wednesday and Sunday every week. I help out a lot with house jobs such as the washing up and gardening.

I decide what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can cook somethings without supervision because I’m very careful with knives and the stove. I usually cook very nice meals. I don’t panic when the smoke alarm goes off and I just turn it off. I’m hoping to have an kitchen extractor fan sometime so I don’t have to deal with the smoke alarm every day. Our smoke alarm is very sensitive and it goes off all though I’m not burning anything.

A few months ago when my stepdad’s old home stereo was malfunctioning I decided to look for a new home stereo for him online. I looked at different stereos until I found the right one. It took me a couple of weeks to find the right stereo as I had to think about the components and check if they have very good sound quality. I did all that work for my stepdad to help myself with my independence training.

When we decided to get a Chinese takeaway for dinner a couple of times I wrote a list of the food that everyone wanted and I phoned the Chinese restaurant called Yu Garden in Ballaghaderreen to make the order for collection. I did that so I would be able to phone restaurants to make orders in the future.

To help myself understand the value of money I always plan a monthly budget to see how much I spend each month. I write in all the stuff that I pay for such as food, insurance, transport, Spotify and online orders.

I have recently learnt how to tie my own shoelaces by looking up a video on YouTube about tying shoelaces in an easy way. I tie my shoelaces by making two loops and crossing them over to make a knot. I find the standard way of tying shoes very complicated. For many years someone else had to tie my shoes for me.

For years I found road crossing difficult as I kept getting distracted. I’m practicing on getting better at road crossing by concentrating on what I’m doing and looking both ways for cars before I cross the road.

I still have a long way to go to become more independent but I’m working towards that.

Lockdown survival

Everyone should keep themselves occupied during lockdown. I kept myself occupied during lockdown by doing lots of adult colouring in. I used gel pens and coloured pencils called Prismacolor in adult colouring books. Here are all the coloured pages that I have completed during this time. I listened to music on our home stereo system while I was working on these pages.

A very colourful horse done in gel pens
A fox done in gel pens
A squirrel done in gel pens
A hedgehog done in prismacolor coloured pencils
A blue chest done in gel pens

I have also decided to try out Watercolour pencils made by a brand called Castle Arts. I coloured in each section of these flowers with these pencils and then I added a little bit of water on a paintbrush to get the lovely watercolour effect.

I have an electric pencil sharpener that sharpens all my pencils in a few seconds. I found it amazing when it was my very first time trying it out. This pencil sharpener sharpens pencils to a very fine point. It is much better than a manual pencil sharpener. I couldn’t have one of these sharpeners when I was younger because of the noise of them.

Work on my social skills

Difficulty with social interaction is a symptom of autism. I’m learning how to work on my social skills in many ways.

When I was younger I found my own way to help being around people and chatting to them. I made up paper figures of people from primary school by drawing them on a piece of paper and I cut them all out I made a paper bus by cutting pieces of paper into thirds to make up a bus for school trips. I drew lunchboxes beside the people with their names on them. I made the whole plan into a bus game. In the game there were days with school trips and all the children went on the bus. The children decided on whom to sit with on the bus. I put all my paper figures on the paper bus. I decided what each child was doing on the bus on the way to the destination of the school trip eg. a pet farm.

I have learnt to acknowledge personal space so that I don’t get too close to people when taking to them.

I used to feel awkward in a conversation with a group of friends and I ended up being the quiet person in the group. That happened when I went to my neighbours house one evening. I felt awkward in the group conversation and I kept reaching for my phone every five minutes. I decided to leave the group conversation when it became too difficult for me and I sat in another room with my phone. When I went to social events in the Ballaghaderreen community garden I realised that I should take part in group conversations instead of reaching for my phone. I chatted to my friends and I hardly went on my phone at all.

I can’t really socialise when I’m in headphones in a car, train or bus. The main reason for wearing headphones and listening to music is because of the engine noise. I attend adult services with the Brothers of Charity and I would like to chat to my friends more in the car. I know that the work car we have is very noisy but I have to chat to my friends anyway. Last year I went to an Advocacy conference in Waterford. The whole trip was by train. I have learnt that I can listen to music in headphones now and again on long trips instead of all the way as I have to socialise with my friends or family too on the trip.

Today we went on an outing to Killala and Easkey beaches. I listened to music in my headphones a lot on the car trip. When we got to a very nice road with mountains and views of Sligo I took off my headphones to look at the view and chat about it. When I felt uncomfortable I got upset and cried a bit over not wearing noise cancelling headphones in the car. When I calmed down I felt better and I did very well without the headphones for the rest of the way on that nice road. That was because I haven’t gone on outings in a long time due to COVID 19.

When I went to a radio course in Claremorris with my adult services I have learnt to start a conversation with the people doing the course with me on the tea and coffee breaks.

I can now go into shops on my own to shop for food and other items. I can also go into the post office on my own to post parcels. Now I have to wear a face mask in those places and work on my social distancing from people.

Learning to share my stuff

Sharing was a big difficulty with my autism. When I had to share my stuff I felt anxious, stressed out and upset. Sometimes I cried over having to share my stuff as well. I found it very difficult to share things such as my phone, my laptop, my Nintendo DS, toys, my bedroom and school supplies in my pencil case.

When I was little I didn’t like sharing my noisy toys with other kids. I loved those toys that I pressed buttons on and they made noises. When I saw other kids playing with my noisy toys I got upset and then my Dad told them to play with something else. Later on I had to learn to share my toys by starting to know that I will get them back after other kids played with them.

The main reason that I didn’t like sharing my stuff is that I was worried because I didn’t know when I would get my stuff back. Another reason I didn’t like sharing was because I was overprotective of my own stuff and that someone might take them for a very long time.

During my primary school years I didn’t like sharing my school supplies such as my sharpener, pencils, rubber, ruler and colours when my classmates needed to borrow them. I have learnt from my teachers that it is nice to share.

On some car trips I have learnt to share my games console called a Nintendo DS with my sister when her Nintendo DS ran out of charge.

When I was older I didn’t like sharing my phone and laptop with other people. When someone asked to borrow my phone or laptop I got anxious because I thought that they might look through all my stuff on those two electronic devices.

I remember an incident that involved having to share an item when we were travelling from Rosslare to Pembroke by ferry. It was around five years ago in the summer when we went on a holiday to England. My Mum’s and sister’s phones were out of battery. They needed to borrow my phone to look up directions or something else important. I wouldn’t let them use my phone. I got very upset and I cried a lot over it. It’s silly crying a lot over something like that because it’s only a phone and it doesn’t really matter. I have also learnt on the ferry that there is nothing wrong with someone else using my phone to look up important stuff when their phone is dead as long as I know them.

I have gotten much better at sharing now. I can lend my stuff to someone without getting upset and anxious about it. I let my stepdad use my hair dryer sometimes when he needs to blow dry a piece of art. I know that he is going to give it back to me when he is finished with it. I find it okay if someone uses my phone just to make a call in case their phone is dead or out of credit when I know them.

One day I let my stepsister be in my bedroom when she had to do something important on her laptop. I did very well at sharing my bedroom that time. A few years ago when someone was in my room doing something I got very upset because I thought that my room was invaded.

Distraction from the car engine

This is my third blog about one part of my autism. Every time I went on car rides I wanted to distract myself from the engine noise in some way. I see things differently to most people. Different types of music connects to people in different ways e.g When people hear circus music they may laugh and when people hear Bach they may cry. For me music has always made connections to roads as I wanted to have a distraction from the car engine noise.

When we had a car called a Volvo my stepdad used to play lots of music as it had a very good stereo. I first noticed music making a connection to a road when we were driving to a friends house. A track called Shadowman by the band Afro Celt Sound System came on the stereo as we turned the corner. The road was very bumpy so the bumps went in time to the beat of the music. Some trees and bushes seemed to go with the music as well.

After I have first noticed music making a connection to a road other pieces of music started to connect to different roads before I told my stepdad. Once I told my stepdad he found it very interesting and he wanted to know more about it.

When we had to get rid of the Volvo to get a van instead it had no CD player. I started listening to road connecting music from my phone. I used the in ear headphones that came with my very first phone. The sound quality wasn’t the best but I found that okay. I got some help from my stepdad to download some music to my phone that makes connections to roads.

Music making connections to roads has lasted me a few years as I could still hear the engine noise outside my headphones. I got very excited on days I have heard that we were going on a road that we don’t go on very often. The music always connected very well to those roads. When I became very obsessed with road connecting music I decided that I wanted to get over that obsession. It always had to be the correct piece of music to the correct road and It had to last all the way through that road. I felt that I couldn’t go in the van without music. I took lots of trials in the van without listening to music to see if that worked.

When I first discovered noise cancelling technology I had a thought that it will be beneficial in helping myself get over my obsession with connecting music. I decided that I didn’t want to pay the very high price for the two headphones brands Bose and Sony. I went for the cheaper options to get a decent set of those type of headphones.

Everything that I did really helped me to get over of the obsession with connecting music. Now when I go on car rides I just listen to a random piece of music at any time without it making any connections to roads.

Less Impact

I do a lot of things that create less impact on our beautiful world. During this COVID 19 pandemic there are less planes in the sky and less cars on the road. The air around us is cleaner than before the pandemic.

In the past I had to replace items such as handbags, headphones and shoes too often and that has a huge impact on the environment. Those items were low quality and they didn’t last very long. When I got fed up with having to replace those items often I looked at those items in higher quality so that they can last a very long time.

A brand called Fossil make very good quality handbags. I decided to buy a lovely Canvas bag with flowers on it from fossil that was second hand on Ebay. It is big enough to store a lot of things in it. It is much better for the environment to purchase items second hand instead of purchasing them new.

My very good quality handbag

Another item that I purchased second hand was a pair of very good quality boots called Doc Martens. They support my feet very well when I walk in them. They came from a charity shop.

A brand called Riekers make very good quality boots as well. I purchased these boots in a shoe shop in Athlone. They also support my feet very well. Now they will last me long and I don’t have to replace them too often.

A brand called Taotronics make very good quality over ear headphones. I decided to purchase these headphones for the environmental reason as well as for my sensitive hearing which I mentioned in my last blog. I got them off Amazon and I also got a hard case which protects them from damage.

I purchased a very good hairdryer off Amazon by a brand called Tresemme. It dries my hair very fast. I don’t use it in the summer because it dries out my hair and It is much better for my hair to dry naturally. I’m also not using any electricity for blow drying my hair either. It can be used to dry pieces of Art as well. I only blow dry my hair in the winter time.

Instead of using bottled shampoo I use shampoo bars to lather my hair. I’m using less packaging and they last longer than a bottle of shampoo. I don’t have to keep throwing any bottles away. I get my very good shampoo bars from a company called Lush. I also shorten my showers so I use less water.

The clothing industry has a huge impact on the planet so I only go shopping for clothes if I really need to. I try to buy them second hand as much as possible.

When I travel anywhere I try to use public transport as much as possible instead riding in a car. I can’t use public transport now due to the Coronavirus. I fly less often because planes emit many harmful carbon emissions in the sky. When I decide to go out with my friends I go carpool if possible so there are less cars on the road.

I have a game console called a Nintendo Switch. I buy and download all my games from the Nintendo eshop instead of buying game cartridges. By using this method of storing all the games I like I’m not using any packaging.

I eat some healthy vegetables from my garden as much as possible so I cut out the packaging and transport.

Learning to cope in noisy situations

This is another blog about another part of my autism. I will get back into writing about my photography again in my next blog. When I was younger a lot of noises used to make me feel very anxious as I have a high sensitivity to noise. I can hear things louder than other people could. I don’t like noises such as fans, car engines, mixers, buzzing sounds, loud machinery, beeping sounds and hand dryers. I have gotten a lot better now at managing with these types of noises.

When I went to playschool in Ballaghaderreen we visited a fire station for a tour and I had to leave the group before all the noise started.

I went to Brusna National School in Ballaghaderreen and I had to turn on the CD player as I would get frightened if any noise went on without warning.

A few incidents occurred regarding noise in secondary school mostly in first year. I attended St Joseph’s in Charlestown.

Once I was travelling in my principal’s car and when she got out she left the A/C running on low just to clear the windows. When I waited in there with my friend and SNA I got distressed by the noise of the A/C and I asked for it to be turned off. My SNA turned it off for me.

When I was in the Science Lab I got agitated by the caretakers lawn mower outside the school and I lost a lot of my concentration. I had to be taken out of the class to calm down and wait until it was over.

Once when the fire alarm went off in the school I crouched down and held my ears to try and block the noise.

When I was little I couldn’t go into a public toilet due to the fear of the hand dryer. We couldn’t have a hoover for years as I would be very scared of it. When Mum had to run the blender she told me first, I went into the laundry room and covered my ears.

I didn’t like the extractor fan when we were cooking at home either. I had to be reminded that the fan was going to go on and I ran out of the kitchen.

I have made very good progress now. I can tolerate a hoover in the house, I can go into a public toilet without fear of the hand dryer and I don’t have to be told anymore when the blender is going to go on.

The car engine noise still annoys me a bit so I got a pair of Noise Cancelling Headphones. They have very good sound quality. There is plenty of Bass and a nicely detailed stereo sound in them. I can enjoy listening to my music without turning up the volume too much. Noise cancelling headphones work by a microphone that picks up the ambient sound and they generate a sound wave that is the exact negative of the ambient sound. The two sound waves cancel each other out and create some silence. I feel more comfortable in the car with my headphones on.

I took a lot of trips in the car without them as well to stop myself from becoming too dependent on noise cancellation. It’s only a five minute trip to town from home so I prepare myself before I go in the car so that I can cope with the engine noise for that length of time. When it’s a longer trip I enjoy my music and movies with the noise cancellation on.

Since I have improved a lot at coping with noise I am able to do a lot of jobs at home that involve noise such as hoovering, drilling and using an electric mixer for baking. I can dry my hair with my hair dryer without being too bothered by the noise.

I still get a bit frightened by very loud noises such as a chainsaw which is about 110 decibels. When the A/C in the car has to be on the highest speed to clear the windows I get a bit upset as It’s too loud for me. I always know that It’s not going to be on for very long. I don’t really notice the car A/C noise on speeds one and two.

My Limited Diet

This blog is a bit off topic. I usually write about my photography. It will very interesting to read about how I have gotten over one part of my autism. This will help other people with autism to try new foods. When I was little I used to have a very limited diet. I would only eat Pizza, Chips, Ham and Cheese Toasted Sandwiches, Waffles, Rice cakes, Biscuits and Potatoes. I refused to eat other foods than the types I have just listed.

I had the ham and cheese toasted sandwiches everyday for lunch for nine years. I always had two sandwiches in one day so I have worked out the number of sandwiches that I have eaten on a calculator. The number of sandwiches is 6570. For a while I had to have them cut into 16 small triangles instead of four or they couldn’t be eaten. The crusts had to be cut off and the cheese couldn’t be oozing out.

I also had to have my pizza and waffles cut in almost the same way for a while. I had my pizza cut into small squares instead of slices. I had healthy waffles with grated carrots, hemp seeds and flax seeds and the waffle hearts were cut into thirds. The small pieces thing went on until my parents had suggested for me to try all those foods in bigger pieces.

When we went to our friends houses to eat lunch with them we had to take the sandwich toaster with us because I couldn’t eat any of their lunches. Our friends knew what I was like so they didn’t mind at all.

When I reached the ages 10, 11 and 12 I started to try new foods. When I started trying new foods I planned the dates on the kitchen calendar eg. Josie tries broccoli on the 13th of May. This method worked until I started attending a child services outreach programme in Boyle with the Brothers Of Charity one evening every week after school. While I was there I was taught a lot more about trying new foods by my outreach worker.

For dinner during the outreach evening after school my friends and I took turns choosing what we wanted to eat for dinner once a week. First I chose ham and cheese toasted sandwiches and chips for dinner then I was taught that It is nice to eat the same thing as everyone else instead of having a special food every time. When one of my friends chose a food for the next weeks dinner that I have never tried eg. spaghetti bolognese I was given homework by my outreach worker to try that food before my next evening of the outreach programme.

I was also taught at home that it was nice to eat the same thing as my family instead of eating a special food. I tried foods such as rice, salads, curries and stir fries. I still had to get out of eating my toasted sandwiches all the time. Each time I went into a restaurant with my brothers of charity group my outreach worker found me always picking those sandwiches and she told me to try something else.

Now that my diet has gotten a lot better I can eat almost everything. We don’t have to take the sandwich toaster with us anymore to our friends houses. I always eat the dinners that are served to me.

Although I ate different kinds of dinners I still ate my sandwiches everyday for lunch. During the COVID 19 Lockdown I got more out of eating the same lunch everyday. We didn’t have the ingredients for my sandwiches as we were self isolating. I just forgot about them and ate different lunches such as salads and soups for three months. I was doing very well. Although it is very easy to get back into eating the same lunch everyday I will stop it from happening again.