Hello, readers of Lydia’s blog!

Lydia has very kindly asked me to guest post on her site, and this month, I’m going to be talking about my experiences broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations, first on student radio while I was at university and now on community radio.
I have always been interested in radio as a form of media. When I was a child, I used to use a kid’s battery-powered cassette player, complete with a small mic, to record my own radio show about my local area (a show that featured my younger sister as a contributor numerous times and often consisted of me going to my own news reports — BBC News should have hired me there and then for that journalistic determination! 😉 ).

I was also familiar with different radio stations growing up and would often listen to the radio when I went to bed (and still do!). When I was 15 (I think), I did try and get involved with an initiative for young people with the community radio station that at the time existed near where I live, but I think I was slightly too young to participate and whatever the reason, it didn’t come off.

C/O: Kate Jones.

When I moved to Exeter to do my English degree at the university there, the campus radio station, Xpression FM, was something that I was interested in. At the start of the second year of my three-year course, I took the plunge and got a membership that made me part of the station. The society regularly runs training for those wishing to learn how to present on air, and near the end of that first term of my second year, not long before Christmas, I started the “course”. A few months later, just before the Easter break, I took the test that the station requires you to pass in order to be allowed to present your own show, and I succeeded. The test involved me having to do things, in a mock show set-up, such as playing a station ident over the intro to a song, putting a CD out through the presenter desk, playing a vinyl record out over the system and putting a caller on air.

Once I had passed my presenter test and the Easter holidays had passed, I got started presenting for real quickly, managing to get a two-hour daytime slot which I presented live on a weekday each week. I remember that the first time I went live with my own show and it was coming close to the time to start, I thought: “What am I doing?!”. Thankfully, student and community radio stations are great places to cut your teeth in the world of radio. You have to be realistic in knowing that you’re very likely not going on air as the next Nick Grimshaw and that unless you or the station are known to a significant amount of people, the chances are that your listener-count will be very low. In your early broadcasting life, this is a good thing, because it is highly likely that you will make mistakes with all the different things presenting a show might involve — playing the right track at the right time, playing idents, putting callers on air, etc. A low-listenership was reassuring for me — at Xpression, we had a program on the live studio desk that offered an estimation of sorts of the amount of people tuned in to the station at any one time, and when I saw that my debut show-listeners were numbering somewhere around 10, I was a lot less nervous!
I presented in different weekday, daytime slots while I was at university. My student radio shows took the form of lifestyle and music shows that featured topics relevant to students — often to students at Exeter. I always tried to have a guest on my regular show to keep the conversation flowing. I also presented some one-off shows — one night, I did an 80s music show and another time, one Saturday when my younger sister was visiting, we did a show together. My friend and I also once did a one-off show based around the theme of sass — featuring things like sassy music and quotes!

I’ve talked about this in my interview with Lydia available on this blog, but after I had left university, one of the things I really missed was having a radio show — I missed being able to play the songs I wanted to on air and broadcast what I wanted. I liked the feeling of people being able to hear me broadcast live! I considered getting involved with a hospital radio station near me, but given that I don’t yet have a full driving licence, it wouldn’t have been the easiest place to get to. Thankfully, my Mum saw an email designated for my sister that was looking for college students to get involved with a community radio station in Gloucestershire, Corinium Radio.

The station, which broadcasts online 24/7 and is run by a network of volunteers, offers programming of various genres for listeners to enjoy. I investigated further as I was sure the station would be happy to take new volunteers of all ages, and I think the website confirmed this. I emailed the station and the station manager replied, suggesting we met to chat about the station. I actually ended up having the meeting with my Mum present (at 21!), because she had driven me over to the town where I was going to be meeting the station manager and it was a freezing-cold evening! Thankfully, the station manager was happy to have me on board, and we quickly discussed my intention to have a show on the station. I had a few training sessions with the presenting desk before going live with my show for the first time in January (because I had already been trained to use a presenting desk, I think I was able to start my show quicker, though two volunteers still supervise me and without them, I’d be lost!). I present my music and lifestyle show, Podcast Live With Kate, every fourth Friday of the month from 4 to 6pm, though it is repeated at the same time every week and you can catch up on their website. 

Student and community radio are great places for those interested in the radio industry (and indeed, podcasts) to gain experience. Though there are a few basic rules to abide by (e.g. not swearing on air), there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to these sorts of radio-broadcasting. You often have the opportunity to experiment, with different content, genres and styles of presenting and shows, which you wouldn’t get on a commercial station/station with employed staff. As previously mentioned, student and community radio are also great places to make mistakes. I’ve made a plethora of errors over my time broadcasting so far — mucking up songs while they’re being played and saying “see you next week” instead of the correct “see you next month” are just some examples. One notable time, when my sister and I were doing that one-off show, I accidentally left the mic on temporarily when I put on a request, “Axel F” by Crazy Frog, and all my listeners were treated to my sister making the off-air comment of “Turn it up. I wanna hear it”!

Still, errors like this make for funny anecdotes, and it resonates with what one of the volunteers at Corinium Radio says: it’s about having fun.

Overall, broadcasting on volunteer-run radio stations is a great experience. You meet new people and make fantastic memories. It’s also a great opportunity to gain experience for your CV if you’re interested in working in radio or the media industry. All in all, what’s not to like?

Kate Jones is a journalist, radio show host, and Blogger. You can hear her live on the fourth Friday of every month from 4-6pm. Meanwhile, be sure to check out her blog. 

This is a guest post by Rebekah Gillian. To view part one, see it here. See part two here. 

In this blog post, I want to talk about how I prevent sensory overload from occurring by using prevention methods to make the environment around me easier to deal with. Although prevention methods do not always stop sensory overload from happening, they’ve certainly helped in some circumstances.

One way I try and prevent sensory overload is by carrying around a few items in my college bag.
One of these items is a textured tangled toy, a small plastic fidget toy that helps by giving me one sense to focus on, instead of the many that are going on around me. This also has the bonus of reducing my anxiety in public situations, like crowds, which sometimes has a direct effect on my ability to deal with sensory input.

I also carry hand sanitiser around with me everywhere I go. I’m big on hygiene anyway, but this also helps me with texture. If I touch a texture that I cannot stand, hand sanitiser will help me feel clean. I know that the texture is removed once I stop touching it, but with sensory sensitivities, it often doesn’t feel that way.

I also make sure to carry sensory-safe snacks in my college bag at all times. Though I can—and do—buy food at college, at least from the coffee shop on site, there have been times where this has backfired. I once bought something I thought would be safe because I bought the same item from another shop, only to bite into it and realize the pastry was different, and I hated the kind college used. At least having my own supply means I don’t have to go hungry if I don’t like what I’ve bought.
As well as using other items to help prevent sensory overload, there are other things I try and consider to lower my hypersensitivities.

I always look at the menu of a restaurant before I go, for example, and try to stick to chains I know they’ll have wherever I go. This means I’m guaranteed to like something on the menu and won’t be forced into sitting around eating nothing because I can’t bring myself to try something new. I didn’t do this once, a few years ago, and ended up having to leave a day out early because of a stomach ache I received from trying new food.

I also try and get enough sleep, because I know that stops me from feeling so hypersensitsive, too. It’s not the easiest when I’ve had insomnia for as long as I remember, but I try.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Lydia for giving me the opportunity to raise awareness about a part of autism that is so often understood! It’s been a pleasure writing these posts for her. I hope you guys have enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!

Thank you to Rebekah Gillian for guest posting this week; make sure to visit her blog. Once again, these posts are not intended to inform medical choices; that is your responsibility. To find out more, read the disclaimer.

Hello, I’m Rebekah, and I am an Autism Blogger. This is the second of three posts Lydia’s asked me to write. (Read part one here.) In this one, I wanted to talk a little bit about how sensory processing disorder affects me personally.

Like I’ve mentioned before, autistic people can be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive to sensory input. While I suffer with both to some degree, and it can fluctuate depending on the day, I’m definitely more oversensitive to sensory input than under sensitive.

As sensory sensitivities affect all senses, I could sit here for days writing about all the ways it affected me. However, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I’m going to keep this short and only focus on the things that affect me the most.

I’d say my diet is the thing most affected by my sensory processing disorder. You could say that I’m just a fussy eater, but in my opinion, my restrictive diet goes beyond that. If something with overpowering flavours—or more than one flavour in a food—enters my mouth, I can become nauseated, and physically gag on the food.

There’s a stereotype you might’ve heard of, that autistic people will choose food based on colour. While I wouldn’t say my diet consists completely of one colour of foods, most it consists of beige foods. Bland and flavourless, I know I can tolerate these foods without an adverse reaction. It’s restrictive and sticking to such a diet can often make food more of a battle than something to enjoy, but I’ve been living with it my whole life so I’ve kind of gotten used to it now.

Another sensory sensitivity I suffer from a lot is touch. Certain textures can feel like knives on my skin, like velvet. Even mentioning it makes me cringe. On the other hand, my hypersensitivity means other textures feel amazing.
This can make it more difficult when it comes to clothes shopping because I can’t tolerate every kind of material. I usually stick to real denim jeans instead of the ‘jegging’ material, and search for cotton and polyester on my top half, as I know this is virtually all I can tolerate.

The final sensory sensitivity I’m going to mention in this blog post is my struggle dealing with certain sounds. I find it difficult to stand certain sounds—even things that others can tolerate just fine can feel like nails on a chalkboard to me! I also find it difficult to deal with super loud noises, like crowds, because I can’t filter out background noise. It makes listening to my lecturers difficult sometimes, that’s for sure!

Thanks again to Lydia for allowing me to share my sensory sensitivities related to autism with the readers of her blog and thank you to those who have taken the time to read this post. I’ll see you again soon with my third and final instalment of this series.

Note: this is a guest post, the work of Rebekah Gillian. This post is not intended to inform choices made about medical care; that is your responsibility. For more information, read more of the disclaimer. 

Hello. I’m Rebekah, a blogger on the autism spectrum. Recently, Lydia kindly asked me if I’d like to write a mini-series about the sensory side to autism, and of course, I jumped at the chance.

Before we go any further, I’m going to dedicate the first of these three posts to explaining exactly what the sensory side of autism is. There’s no point in talking about my own experiences if you don’t know anything about the topic, after all.
You should know that there’s an actual condition that explains the sensory side of autism—sensory processing disorder. Sometimes, this is diagnosed separately, but often, it’s considered a counterpart of the main diagnosis. When I received my diagnosis, it was part of the diagnostic criteria, so it makes sense, really.

As the name probably suggests, sensory processing disorder affects all five senses: sight, taste, touch, smell and sound.
Autistic people can be hypersensitive or hyposensitive, which means they either feel overwhelmed by the sensory input around them, or underwhelmed. It’s worth noting that these feelings can change daily, so although the sound of background conversations or the feel of certain fabric can irritate someone one day, they may be totally fine with it the next.
This doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I’m sure the thought of being hyposensitive to sound sounds great when you’re sitting in a restaurant with screaming children. How would you feel, however, if the next day, every sound was deafening?
This is why autistic people experience meltdowns or shutdowns, which often occur as the result of being overstimulated or understimulated.

If the sensory input someone’s receiving is too much or too little, the brain can’t cope, and the autistic person needs a way of communicating how much they aren’t coping. However, trying to do this when your brain is shutting down more and more with every second that passes is basically impossible. This is when the ‘naughty’ behaviours associated with autism usually come out, though many fail to realize the true intentions behind it.

If you’re in a moment when you notice the autistic person in your life is struggling to cope with the sensory input in that moment, try and remove them from the situation if you can. If not, ask them what they’re struggling with, and what you can do to help, if they are able to communicate at that time.

It might be difficult for the autistic person to show their appreciation at the time but take it from someone who knows; having someone fighting their corner and trying to help them in their time of need means everything. Trust me.

With that, I just wanted to thank Lydia for giving me this opportunity to share information about autism, something I’m very passionate about. I’d also like to thank everyone giving this post a read; it means a lot to me that you’re giving me the chance.

Note: this post is a guest post, and is the work of Rebekah Gillian; you can see her blog here. Posts on this blog are not written to inform about medical choices; those are your own responsibility. For more information, see my disclaimer.

This is a guest post, written by Charlene McElhinney; you can view her blog by clicking here. 
Most people look forward to Christmas for the dinner, for the family reunion, for the festivities, the drink and the presents. Me? I look forward to spreading gifts across the living room floor and waiting eagerly for my parents in turn to open one at a time, the way they did with us when we were little. I look forward to my Christmas special episode of Coronation Street. I look forward to getting in to my new pyjamas; I don’t look forward to dressing up. I look forward to all of the little things. The insignificant things. The things we often take for granted.
Christmas isn’t the same when you lose a loved one.
I used to hate when people used the term ‘x-mas’ instead of Christmas and now it doesn’t phase me. I used to set an alarm and get up super early so I could make the most of the day and now I don’t bother. I used to think Christmas was the greatest time of the year and now I can’t wait for it to be over but somehow it’s here again before it’s even had a chance to finish. I used to look forward to doing a Christmas cracker with my Gran but now I can’t. It’s not the same with anyone else.
My kind of Christmas is being surrounded by my nearest and dearest, waiting patiently for Coronation Street to start, maybe partially watching Christmas films throughout the day. My kind of Christmas is checking social media to see what all my friends and followers are getting up to. My kind of Christmas is sitting awkwardly at a table with family who are eating scary food and I eat just as I would any other day. My kind of Christmas isn’t anything special but if you were to take it away from me – I would be totally lost.

What’s your kind of Christmas?