As some of you may know, one of my pencils is Abbie, from Abbiechic.com; earlier this year, we met, up, and explored Brighton. (See my post here.) She very kindly sent me a book by her husband, Dan. He has autism, yet writes about it, creates youtube videos, and more. So: I wished to find out a little bit more about his work.
Firstly, in terms of youtube and your writing, could you tell us a bit about what you do?
I describe myself as an autistic hypnotic YouTuber and author. I create eCourses teaching how to do hypnotherapy and psychotherapy and occasionally teach live courses and hold talks. I mainly write non-fiction. I have written about autism spectrum disorder (my autobiography ‘Look Into My Eyes’ reached number 30 in all Biographies on Amazon.co.uk even getting ahead of Khloe Kardashian and I’m not naked on my front cover! My wife, Abbie also wrote a chapter of this book about what it is like to be married to someone with autism), hypnotherapy, meditation and parenting. I have also written a novel and some books of therapeutic stories to help children relax and sleep based on an approach I developed years ago when I used to work in children’s homes with children with challenging behaviour and who often had very difficult backgrounds leaving negative associations with bedrooms and sleeping, so they struggled to sleep.
When were you first aware that you were maybe on spectrum?
As a child and teen I had never heard of autism. After my Dad died in 2014 I went through many of his belongings and found that he thought something was ‘wrong’ with me when I was about 4 or 5 years old and wanted me seen by a Doctor. My Mum and Dad were separated and my Dad’s concerns didn’t get listened to so I never got any support. I knew when I was a primary aged child that I thought differently, I knew some of my struggles and was more aware of these as I passed through my teenage years and into my twenties.
It was in my early twenties that I first heard about autism. I was working in homes for adults with mental health issues like Schizophrenia, Psychosis and Bi-Polar. The homes had some residents with autism despite this not being a mental health issue. There was no training about what autism was, whereas our training was extensive around mental health issues.
When I was about 22 I started working in children’s homes. Many of the children were diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s and fairly quickly other staff used to joke about how I was like the children, I used to laugh it off but in my head I was aware that they were right, I had similarities to the autistic children. In that job I also started getting a lot more training about autism and Asperger’s and the more I was learning the more I would say “I’m like that, I’m like that…”
I purchased a couple of books on autism and Asperger’s to read, my wife, Abbie, read some of them and commented that the books were describing me. I never wanted to say I thought I was on the spectrum because I worked in an environment where you always see people self-diagnosing and saying they have things because they have a few traits and then they become the label and define themselves as the label, often focusing on the negatives and developing a defeatist attitude to life. I didn’t want to do this and didn’t want to be treated as a label when I am an individual not a label.
By about 24 years old I was fairly sure I was autistic but didn’t think of getting a diagnosis, I didn’t feel it would be any benefit, my belief has always been that you treat people as individuals, you shouldn’t only offer help someone needs because they have a label and not help the person without the label, everyone should be offered help if they need it.
It wasn’t until long after this where I faced multiple examples of workplace discrimination and reached a point where I became suicidal and thought the only way to tackle the discrimination was to have occupational health support, but the only way to get the support was to have a diagnosis I decided that was the time to see whether I was on the spectrum or not and I ended up being diagnosed with autism.
Do you think that being on spectrum has enhanced your life at all? If so, how?
It is difficult to know what difference specifically being autistic has had, if I wasn’t autistic there are traits I wouldn’t have, but I may well have other traits which would enhance my life, I do believe people with autism have many strengths which can be utilised and that people should focus on helping those with autism to develop their strengths and develop skills and ways of managing challenges. I don’t know if being autistic enhances my life. It gives me skills that can help others like my ability to notice patterns and not get drawn into content of what people say so I do better therapy. It helps me handle larger emergencies because I don’t have the same emotional connection to the situations, I’ve had guns pulled on me, I’ve been in very violent situations etc., and these situations don’t particularly bother me because I have already mentally rehearsed what I need to do in these situations. What I struggle with is situations with dozens of different outcomes so I can’t mentally rehearse them adequately. I struggle far more with walking into a shop and talking to a shop assistant than I do having someone threaten to kill me.
What has been the most offensive/stereotypical thing someone has said to you, upon learning of your diagnosis, in spite of all of what you have achieved?
The two things that probably annoy me most are people saying “we’re all on the spectrum somewhere” or “we’re all a little bit autistic”. I have to point out that you are either autistic or not. If you are not autistic then you are not on the spectrum. The other one is people being dismissive as if people with autism are just putting it on or have a label to justify being rude or difficult and that it is a made up condition.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
I’m always working on many things at once. I have been working on an interesting project, I have made some video courses for The Church of Jediism which will go live at the end of November. I am also working on a book with a neuroscientist Dr David Lewis as part of a project I’m involved in called The Mind Changers. We are writing a self-help book together about the idea that there are no problems only solutions. I am also in the process of organising autism talks and hypnotherapy masterclass workshops for next year. I am also writing a third book of therapeutic children’s stories and in the planning stages of a fantasy novel I want to get written next year.
I have many other project ideas I’m yet to start. Every year I set new years resolutions, sometimes they are clear, like saying over this year I want to do x, other times they are more vague, like every month achieve at least one thing. I never expect to complete everything, I like to set more than I think I can do, I don’t get annoyed if I haven’t done everything, but I don’t want to make things too easy for myself and I like to try to do some things I’ve never seen others do.
For people who wish to follow in your footsteps, what would be your advice?
A couple of years ago I was made redundant and trying to make a living online was a challenge. It took me a lot of time for very little financial return, but because my situation meant I put about 80 hours per week into building an online business I have now reached a point where I still work hard, but I can also take time off whenever I want and have many weeks where I do very little work but still have income coming in.
To do this takes a clear plan and hard work and it involves being humble enough to go with what generates income and, at least initially, focusing your efforts in that direction. My YouTube channel has grown by 7,500 subscribers in the last year and 600,000 video views, but to achieve that I have posted every week on the same day at the same time and interacted with viewers. I have also watched my analytics and created more of the types of videos which get significantly higher views and less of the videos which get very few views.
I did the same with eCourses. I use Udemy.com for my eCourses. Initially I made the courses I wanted to teach, then I saw which courses would get more students and started making more similar or related courses to those and less courses about subjects which weren’t particularly popular. An advantage of doing this is that when I make new courses because they are similar or related to my current courses I can let my current students know about the new course and get hundreds of students on my new course straightaway.
It can be slow to set all this up and to establish yourself, but once you have, income can come in each month even if you take time off. Money earned is no longer connected to hours worked, you start to generate residual income. This has always been my dream and why I like YouTube, eCourses, audio downloads and books, as all of these are things where you put in lots of hard work once and they make you income ever year from then on.
For books I use CreateSpace.com (for paperbacks) and Lulu.com (for eBooks and paperbacks) and KDP.Amazon.com (for Kindle eBooks) to self-publish my books. It means I have to pay for cover designs and for proofreading and copy-editing and I have to do all of my own PR, but I also get greater royalties per sale than being traditionally published and I keep my rights to my work. These services are easy to use and are free. Anyone interested in writing who wants to write books/eBooks I would recommend self-publishing, it is very easy to do, but as with everything I’ve mentioned you want to create an audience and position yourself as an authority on your topic, even if it is fiction, you want people to want to know what you are writing and want to read what you write before you release your book so that you have people who want to read it. You also want to treat how your book will show on Amazon etc., like a website, so you want to do search engine optimisation. When someone searches on Amazon, Amazon tries to use the terms to bring up the product they think the person is after, just like Google brings up the websites they think the searcher is after.
Random: What is your favourite pizza topping?
I don’t feel I have a favourite, but I always have the same. I always have something with chicken and chilli’s and deep pan. There is normally a pizza on a menu which matches this whether it is Domino’s or Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s. I find things bland and don’t appreciate food for its taste at all, I find eating a chore, so I like strong clear flavours which is why I like the chilli. For me it is more about the textures than the flavours.