Me & My Autism – Episode 3 – Conversations

When I do interviews for my radio show, especially face to face, it’s always important for me to make the guests feel at ease and make them feel at home. A hot drink as well always helps a lot, the perfect cuppa to warm up. I’ve been luckily enough to meet some amazing people over the last year and a half and conversations come quite natural the more times you do the interviews. It is certainly a huge improvement since the first time I ever got to interview someone.

I was 15 back in 2005. It was my final year at The Priory School in Spalding and there was a unique course opportunity for many youngsters in the Spalding area. The radio station there at the time called Tulip Radio was offering youngsters a media training course, which covers different aspects in a radio station, including interviews and even producing your own show at the very end of the course. The station was owned by a duo called Jan and Chris. I luckily wasn’t along on this venture, as I was joined by my very good friend, Jamie Dyer.

I remember doing the interviews with these local people, think they were from the council, being very nervous I must admit. I kind of selected a few possible questions of a list and asked away. Maybe it was the fact that I had eyes all around me, maybe it was I stuttered my speech when it came to the real thing. This is totally out of my comfort zone altogether.

Being in my comfort zone in the primary school playground, on my own, even if I was trying my hardest to fit into a group that seemed almost impossible. Possible, the most popular I’ve been in Primary School, was when Pokemon cards went crazy and I had a Charizard, one of those cards with high levels and people wanted to make a trade, some of their cards for my one. I naturally, said no to every deal and couldn’t understand for the life of me think to myself, why are they coming to me? Is it because of the card? Or are they actually liking me? Who knew Pokemon cards were going to be a phenomenon.

You can understand why finding friends was proving impossible. Even saying certain words became a chore. I always struggled in my youth with words beginning with Ch. So saying ‘Charlie’s chocolates in the chocolate factory’ was a challenge in itself. I could still remember using some tongue exercises to help improve speech and hopefully, if anyone did understand me in English or maybe even Italian, as we did have those lessons back in the day.

As a quiet person as i am from my youth and teenage years, opening up my personality and exploring my real self took a lot longer than most, even finding the courage as well, to make new friends. Secondary school was more comfortable and being with like minded people as well felt good inside. Having various trips out and to France on a few occasions were some of my absolute highlights. It was like, I never had these joyable experiences before and I wanted to make the very most of it.

Those kinds of experiences went away when I was at college and beyond that, feeling like my normal, quiet self again, lacking confidence and even, loneliness as well at times. Yes, having my own time now and again is sometimes what I need, however, it can be so part of your routine that, it is very hard to get yourself out of that rut and continue to sink further down. I certainly needed to perk up but which idea would be best?

One good thing that did improve the confidence and conversation, was full time employment. Being in a space where you can talk to someone and be at ease, that’s something I have become more comfortable with each passing year. Always trying to notice the risks between banter and ‘ouch, that’s a bit much mate’ as I would like to call it. Also, giving people guidance as well on the job, usually you might be the leader who knows the route and you will give your partner some assistance on where to go etc…. I am highly organised in my job.

A bit like doing these radio interviews. Researching hard, writing questions and make notes on my green book. Now, when the interview takes place, I use those notes/questions to help me conduct the interview and think of follow up questions in advance in necessary. It’s a real buzz when it’s recording, every interview is unique and different, no time limit, no pressure, be yourself and it will flow by.

After the interview finished, we discussed about speaking in front of thousands of people and how speaking to someone one to one is more comfortable than being a group. I totally agree with that and I had many instances where I was so silent in a group because I either, couldn’t find a word in edge ways or I didn’t even have a clue on what the conversation was about. Definitely my biggest weakness, without a shadow of a doubt. I just find it much easier to have a one-to-one conversation with someone, much easier to open up to them and have a laugh with them along the way.

Being in groups is certainly one of those things I constantly stride on to improve. I have been very lucky to be involved with some groups over the past year, by taking part or volunteering. Last Thursday, going to a mental health group in the morning and an Autistic one in the evening, both different but both highly rewarding. Love the fact that people with mental health and with autism can come together in their respective groups in a friendly environment with like minded people. And seeing those benefits makes me feel happy inside. Sometimes, being in a group with like minded people, is exactly want they need, improves confidence, self-esteem and you can also meet some new friends along the way.

There is always that feeling of satisfaction inside when an interview goes well and leaves you feeling proud inside. Confidence comes along way with conversation and meeting new people along the way, it’s a good and bold test of your character and just being yourself. As I look at the recent recommendation comment from the interview, I say to myself, ‘God, I love making people happy.’ The best medicine in what we call life.

If you have been affected by what you have read or help with autism in general, go to the Lincolnshire Autistic Society via contacts on: http://www.lincolnshireautisticsociety.org.uk/contact/

Or go via Mencap website for people learning disabilities on: https://www.mencap.org.uk/contact-us-mencap

For those with Autism and want to meet like minded people in a friendly environment, come to Autistic Led on Thursday evenings – 4.30 – 6.30pm @ Tonic Health, 6 Broadgate House, Westlode Street, Spalding, PE11 2AF

For those with mental health and want to meet like minded people, come to ‘Community Intro’ on Thursday mornings – 10am – noon @ The Source, Riversdale Church, Southgate, Sleaford, NG34 7RY

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