Initial Problems

My initial assessment for autism took place this week, here’s how it went…

Before

I’ve never been too nervous around medical appointments. Indeed, I prefer a trip to the dentist to a visit to the barbers. You’ve got your mouth wide open at the dentist so there’s no scope for small talk. Give me that over the inane chat in a barber shop any day of the week. No, I don’t want to tell you what I’m doing at the weekend or where I’m going on holiday. And I don’t think you really give a toss! Just cut my hair quickly and I’ll leave.

Sorry I digress; I was saying that I don’t get too worried about medical appointments. When I got my confirmation through for my initial autism assessment I was almost entirely calm about it. For a start, it was progress. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to wait too long for my appointment (I’ve heard some horror stories about people waiting years).

To further help matters, I had a week in Spain booked for the 7 days prior to the appointment. I’m not one to ‘turn to drink’, but a week of generous amounts of alcohol, sunny weather and lots of fun with the family is a pretty good way to partially take your mind off things. I still had my usual holiday ‘moments’ and that’s a topic that deserves a post to itself, but all in all it was ideal timing ahead of the appointment.

 

On the day

I didn’t enter full on ‘panic mode’ until the actual day of the meeting. Suddenly it was happening and I had no idea what ‘it’ was.  The invite letter was pretty vague – ‘Initial’? Does that mean there are going to be a few of these appointments? Is it just a fact finding meeting? Do I need to take anything along? Will I get any results on the day or later?

Without wishing to sound overly dramatic, this was about my entire future and past. I was on the path to finding out that I (potentially) had been living with a condition for my whole life.

My wife accompanied me to the meeting, which was a great help in stopping me from getting too anxious.  The venue was a Victorian townhouse that reminded me of a dentists. There was a basic reception area and various practitioners’ rooms around the building.

art assess communication conceptual

Upon arrival, I had to complete a long assessment form whilst sitting in reception. It was pretty similar to various online tests I’d completed and sent to them previously. I guess they were just checking for consistency – although being consistent can be tricky when your answers can depend on your mood.

After this, we went through to a room that was similar to many counselling rooms I’ve sat in over the years. My assessor was a woman who looked about half my age – admittedly this is more a reflection on how old I feel, rather than how young she looked! What followed was an hour of questions relating to my emotions, childhood, senses, my thoughts and so on. It was essentially an elaboration of the online tests I’d done. But the 121 setting gave more scope for qualitative answers and probing follow up questions. My wife chipped in a few times as I struggled to think of good answers to some questions. The woman was good at her job and let me talk as much as I did or didn’t want.

It was pretty exhausting mentally, but at the end I was left with the feeling that I hadn’t fully got my ‘case’ across. I hadn’t fully explained my thoughts and feelings. On a few occasions I wanted to just ask her to look at this blog for further information! But I guess she knows more about these things than me so was just getting the information needed.

The conclusion was that she needed to have a meeting with other practitioners to go over my answers plus the various tests I’d done. In a few weeks I’d receive a letter outlining the best help they could offer – be that 121 sessions or group workshops aimed at giving me support.  In terms of diagnosis, that depended on whether there was a clinical value in diagnosing me. So again, I really don’t know what’s going to happen

She said I had plenty of autistic traits, but obviously couldn’t commit to saying anything further.  We left and went to Aldi to buy a cheesecake.

 

Now

It’s now 2 days later, and I’ve gradually got more anxious and worried about the whole thing. For a start, I hate waiting. I know, it could be worse, but I’ve had some progress now and I want to keep that momentum going. Secondly, I also hate uncertainty, what will the letter contain. How can they help me? Will I get diagnosed? Will they tell me that actually I’m not autistic at all?! In which case I’d need to change the name of the blog to ‘My Adult Adventure’, which sounds like something entirely different!

photo of head bust print artwork

I’ve previously written about my reasons for pursuing a diagnosis , now I’m a step closer to finding out more about myself. And I guess that’s a positive. I just need to focus more on the positives, which isn’t easy when your brain isn’t programmed that way.

Question Time

I’m on holiday this week, so here’s a throwaway post explaining why you see a lot of ‘question marks’ on the blog…

When I was about 9, I got a book for Christmas entitled “The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle”.  I’d never heard of The Three Investigators, but the combination of the word investigator and the lure of a ‘terror castle’ piqued my interest.

It turned out the book was superb and I was excited to discover that there were around 40 Three Investigators books.hb_1

The only problem was that the Three Investigators were (and still are) pretty unknown in the UK and the books were not readily available in high street shops.  Undeterred, I dragged my parents to various second-hand book shops in an often futile quest for another one of the canon. After many months, I eventually put together the full series, albeit with some pretty ragged and dirty copies. But what do you expect for 20p a book!?

The Three Investigators were a teenage detective agency based in a coastal town near Los Angeles. The Three Investigators were unlike many of their children’s crime fiction contemporaries, such as the Famous Five, the Hardy Boys etc.  For a start, they actually did detective work! They looked for clues, solved puzzles and interviewed suspects. The stories were often very text heavy and analytical. They’d track down stolen money, find kidnapped people, debunk paranormal activity and sometimes even catch a murderer. Chases and fights occurred sparingly, and the ‘baddie’ was often tricky to guess.

They also didn’t look the part. They were led by the ridiculously named Jupiter Jones, who was an overweight unpopular kid with dead parents who lived in a junkyard with his aunt and uncle.  One of the other investigators was a thin, bespeckled, ginger kid with a limp. They were outsiders. Not the ‘usual suspects’ when it came to kids detective fiction.

In summary it was exactly what the nine-year old me wanted to read.

One of the regular occurrences in the books was that they’d give potential clients their business card. Aside from the usual business card info, the card included three question marks.  The client would also ask what the question marks stood for. The answer was a pretty banal, “mysteries unsolved, riddles unanswered, puzzles of any kind.” But in truth it served as a kind of brand awareness exercise. A way of creating something that people will remember, or even talk about.

And that’s a very convoluted way of explaining that there are 3 reasons why the little icon at the top of this page is a question mark.

It’s firstly and most tritely an homage to my favourite books when I was a child. More importantly, it also serves as an apt symbol for the blog and my current situation.

I’m continually asking myself questions at the minute. When I can a diagnosis and what will it involve? What specifically have I got? What will the future look like? What can I do to improve my health and wellbeing? There are huge elements of life at the minute that are a question mark, and that only serves to increase my stress levels and anxiety.

questions answers signage

Thirdly, it symbolises the questions that anyone reading this may have. How are you autistic? What makes you different? How would I know that you’re autistic?

Hopefully, like The Three Investigators, the further I go into this blog the more answers we get and the less question marks. I’m also hoping to find some buried treasure and thwart some dangerous bank robbers!

 

NB – The Three Investigators books are now a lot easier to get hold of, largely thanks to Amazon and ebay. You can even get them in ebook form.  Like many characters from their era, they have been reimagined as cooler kids in continuation books. There are also a couple of really shite movies that you really don’t want to watch.  But if you’ve got kids, or have an interest in kids detective fiction then I highly recommend the original series.

They were also friends with Alfred Hitchcock, but that’s for another day.

World Cup fever

This post is about the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but I could write a similar post on any major football tournament of the last 25 years…

The first game of the 2010 World Cup took place on a Friday afternoon and was between South Africa and Mexico. The host nation took the lead with a fantastic strike by Tsahbalala early in the second half.  The Mexicans equalized about 20 minutes later through Marquez. I watched the game in O’Neills on Broad St, Birmingham.

I’d worked through my lunch hour so I could finish work early and run to the nearest bar to catch the start of the game.  After the match, I immediately went home, so I was back in time for the second game of the tournament. A pretty drab 0-0 between France and Uruguay.

The next day, I sat at home to watch South Korea ease past a quite frankly awful Greece 2-0 (Lee, Park) and Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0 (Heinze). I then popped to the pub for a pint with a non-football fan friend of mine, before returning home to see England draw 1-1 with the USA. A game infamous for Rob Green’s goalkeeping howler that allowed a tame shot from Clint Dempsey to go in. And yes, I do remember that Gerrard scored for England following a Heskey flick on after 4 minutes!

Sunday started with a terrible game between Algeria and Slovenia in which a goalkeeping error saw …..well you get the gist.

I could go on, but I really hope you don’t want me to. I hope you’ve got the idea– I love international football tournaments and have a pretty photographic memory when it comes to recalling them. I haven’t looked up a single thing in this post.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the MOST obsessed football fan ever. I daresay there are a couple of people reading this who could also reel off the above information. But the above tale only offers a peak into how obsessed I get every 2 years…

For a start, unless the tournament is in a favourable time zone (Thank you Brazil!), some of the games take place during the working day. If the year is an even number, then it’s fair to assume that I’ll be having two weeks off work in June.  If there are days when I have to work and it coincides with a game, then I’ll do anything possible – condense hours, extended lunch breaks, work through lunch.

stadium flag holding cheering

Naturally, there are occasions when it’s impossible to see a game. I’m not quite blinded enough to miss an important work or life occasion in order to watch Denmark v South Korea! I think on average I miss three games per tournament for various reasons. But this always makes me anxious. I hate it, these tournaments only come around every two years. I don’t want to miss a thing.

What’s worst is if circumstances change and I miss a game. I can just about cope with life getting in the way. But if it’s a case of a late train, traffic jam or overrunning meeting making me miss a game, my anxiety goes through the roof.

Major football tournaments are probably the best example of how obsessive I can get. The NFL, Gillingham FC and a few other sports also get the obsession treatment.  The upcoming cricket World Cup is something else I’m rather excited about. There are a few TV shows over the years that I’ve become obsessed by, and I’ve always had a very high level of knowledge about all things Sherlock Holmes. I even forced myself to watch the diabolical Will Ferrell film recently. Don’t laugh at me (I certainly wasn’t laughing), I’m a completest!

On the flip side, try talking to me about something I’m not interested in and you’re usually fitting a losing battle. My attention span is woeful and my mind wanders off, usually to a negative place, very easily.

So what does all this say about me?

  • I don’t like change
  • I have to plan
  • I get obsessed by some things
  • This can make me irrational and lose perspective
  • I have a fantastic memory for facts and figures when they interest me
  • I have a poor attention span.

The most important thing this says about me is that I’m probably autistic.

 

UPDATE:  Last Friday I returned home to discover a letter on the doorstep. After 4 months of waiting I’ve finally got an appointment for my initial Autism assessment.  It’s in just 2 weeks’ time, given some of the stories about waiting times I’ve read online this is great news, 

I’ve no idea what it will involve, how many subsequent assessments there will be or what the outcome will be. So whilst I’m pleased that I’m being seen very soon, it is pretty scary and a trip into the unknown.

Further news to follow in two weeks…