Noise Cancelling Liberation

(CN: Discussion of sensory overload)

Hi all,

Last weekend I took a very big step in my independence skills and went with a group to the People’s Vote march in London, UK. This is something that I really wanted to do but knew that it would likely be difficult for me. Before I go any further, this post is not going to be about Brexit nor any of the politics associated with it. Instead, I will talk about an experiment I did at the protest in relation to being autistic – trying out my new noise cancelling headphones as an accommodation.

Noise-cancelling headphones are a commonly touted accommodation for autistic people to help cope with the world around them. This can help minimise overstimulation. They block out ambient background noise which is usually what contributes to a sensory overload. In the case of the march this included the music and voices beaming from the speakers, the crowd chanting as well as the sounds of the transport I took to and from the event. This is an expensive accommodation as proper noise cancelling headphones cost hundreds of pounds brand new. However, I managed to get a pair (AKG N60, one of the recommended and cheaper brands) for a significant discount.

I went to the march. It was nearly two hours before we began marching due to the sheer amount of people attending hence there was a lot of waiting and a lot of noise. I also met some new people as well. With the event getting noisy and the risk of exhaustion, overload and more becoming a possibility, I put my headphones on and flicked the switch to trigger the noise cancelling effect. In short…It liberated me.

I was able to participate like everybody else as the sounds were at a consistent volume that I could handle easily. I could hear people talking around me at a louder volume than the background noise whereas without the headphones everything would sound the same. I was able to participate in conversations which even included discussion about why I was wearing the headphones in the first place.

Furthermore, I didn’t get overwhelmed at all and had the realisation that this will solve many of my problems traveling especially by myself. I’ve had occasions where I traveled by myself and have gotten exhausted during the trip which leads to me becoming more vulnerable and prone to a meltdown. In the past, I have had to had relatives pick me up and drop me off back home because everything just got too much for me.

I didn’t feel disabled at all during that day. While autism and its comorbidities are disabilities (and this is something that I accept), there are ways to deal with them so that they can be managed to allow for as much participation in society as possible. The wish of being “normal” and/or accepted by wider society is very strong among neurodivergent people of all support needs and beliefs. I include the neurodiversity crowd in this as it is easy to internalise ableism due to the dominant narratives and is difficult to unpack.

I think it helped that I had a supportive environment as well. I was able to make a good first impression to other people and thus allowed my confidence to show. This is the power of what accommodations and acceptance by others can do. It allows participation of disabled people in society just like non-disabled people. In the case of me and noise cancelling headphones the accommodation was relatively simple to implement (aside from the cost). This is not me “overcoming” being autistic but rather adapting my life around being autistic and accepting myself.

Maybe in the future I will be able to handle more loud events. I have had thoughts about where to go but am unsure when I will be able to try those environments with the noise cancelling headphones. Either way, I feel that so many new opportunities have opened up to me that weren’t open before and that makes me so happy. Although I’d prefer most events I’d attend to be accessible, the attitudes of many neurotypicals means we are some way off this becoming a standard. Until then, noise-cancelling headphones have liberated me and many others too.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,
Subtle

(@subtlykawaii)

Featured image source: I found the image and cropped it but realised it was from Braitbart after I had uploaded it and went to get the link. I’m not sourcing them sorry. I’ll aim not to do this again.

The Significance of Hindsight

Hi all,

Today’s post is going to be a little different as I am going to start with an anecdote. I found something of mine from my time in primary school and I would like to talk about something that the item helped me realise.

The item in question is a handmade book that I had produced when I was in primary school. It was made with the assistance of my learning support assistant (referred to here on out as “LSA”) at the time. Inside the book is a social story that was designed to teach me the social rules of lining up. This is something that I struggled to understand a lot at the time. I could write a couple of paragraphs but instead I’ve transcribed the book for you all to read below as it speaks for itself.

Lining up

When I am at school we have to line up quite a lot.

I line up for lunch. I line up for assembly.

I line up for break time. I line up for lots of things.

When we line up I like to be at the front of the line but my friends also like to be at the front of the line.

I hate being at the back of the line but sometimes I have to be the last one to line up.

I must not push to the front of the line because this is not nice for my friends.

I must also remember not to push my friends when lining up because this can hurt them.

The end

Note: The title of the book is misspelled as “lineining up”

The last two sentences consists of the social advice I needed to learn at the time. Following the creation of the book, here were far less problems with me and lining up and nowadays I have no issues. However, that is not the main thing that I want to talk about today. Please bare with me on this.

I’ve had an LSA to support me throughout my whole time in mainstream school so I’ve never known myself to not have one assigned to me. That doesn’t mean I had the same person. I went through multiple different ones throughout my time all of varying experience and age.

I do remember them helping me with my work. I also remember them helping me in various situations too from taking me out of class when I was overwhelmed to being a sounding board for various social situations. I also tended to go on about my interests at the time.

My classmates noticed the LSAs’ prominence in my education too. I remember one particular comment from somebody saying “[the LSA] can be a bit too much” in reference to how they perceived their interactions with me. A lot of nondisabled kids do not understand the importance of integrating disabled people into life. Part of this I think is because are disability-positive attitudes like accessibility and the social model are not taught to kids from a young age.

Likewise, a lot of disabled children are not in mainstream education for a multitude of reasons. Thus students are not around them so do not learn how to include them and outdated attitudes and beliefs about disabilities persist. I can paraphrase another reference to me by another student when talking about my support assaying “Oh [Subtle] has someone to help [them] as [they’ve] got problems.” Considering “problems” in this context likely has negative implications even if unintentional, this isn’t surprising.

But there was something I realised recently that changed everything.

If I wasn’t assigned male at birth and thus fitted the stereotypes of autism, it is very likely I would not have been diagnosed young. Subsequently I may not have got the early intervention that I needed and things would be different now.

What if I was assigned female at birth? What if I had a darker skin tone? What if I had no interest in technology at all?

All come with their own connotations about what autism is and many more of them are negative compared to being a white cishet male whom is interested in technology. These are the questions white autistic cis men need to be asking themselves and realising how their life chances could be significantly different. Meeting other autistic people whom weren’t so fortunate/privileged from other backgrounds helped me realise this too.

Hence when I read about other autistic people not getting the support they need it is really upsetting. I can’t relate to being diagnosed autistic late but I can relate to a similar matter from a gender/sexual orientation perspective. This is because I wasn’t aware of a major element of my identity for a long time. It had the potential to become a serious mental health issue if it wasn’t addressed (which often happens to autistic and queer people sadly).

This is why autistic people of all support needs require the right support early on. The book I discussed at the start of this post embodies this. Due to realising what I could have been deprived of I am left with very mixed thoughts about my past and that of others around me. I worry that I may sound preachy when I type this especially as I come from a position of privilege (though I am reluctant to call it that, I instinctively see it more as luck). I don’t know how else to describe these thoughts other than… I feel for other autistics. A lot. It hurts a lot. Especially when it’s through no fault of their own.

However, there is one other thought I have that is certain. So long as support systems and acceptance of autistic people increase, more of them will have the right level of support and early intervention as they need and (more importantly) deserve. Hopefully, they will have the memorabilia to show it too.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,
Subtle

(@subtlykawaii)

Featured image source