I’m not sure how I came across Odd Girl Out; it has been a book on my reading  wishlist for a while now. It was probably the bright cover, or the tagline; anyone, as I was given book vouchers for my birthday, I decided to buy it. And I was not disappointed.

About the book:

Odd Girl Out is a biographical account of Laura’s life; it examines with flashes back and forth, having received her Autism diagnosis. It begins with looking at paperwork related to her diagnosis, with her husband, on holiday. We then see Laura as a child, struggling somewhat. (I find how she writes this account very effective!) She is also a young mother, a journalist, a wife; there are also moments after the diagnosis, such as wondering how her life could have been very different.

Thoughts as someone #ActuallyAutistic:

Finally, at last someone ‘gets it’!

I have read around the subject of Autism, especially since I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in January 2015. Even by that point, I had had enough of medical jargon, the assumptions, and various individuals forming ideas of who I was as a person. (Not always someone who was valued a lot; they were the sort who freaked on finding out the diagnosis, then being horrible.)

But this book is a reflection, really, of what I felt. Since then, I have wondered what my life would have been like if diagnosed early; some teacher were not necessarily the best help with or without it. I also think that I’d have been told less of what I can’t do; I was told that I can’t cook well, that I cannot do PE well enough to be considered ‘good’.
As an Autistic individual, I was happy to find this book. I am bored with the instruction manuals about how to be more neuro-typical, the books by parents writing about how hard it is to have an autistic child is. Laura has an interesting writers voice-one we need-and I hope to hear more from her.

What could have been better: 

I found the first chapter revealing, really.

At times I think the book can be a little be ‘fact heavy’-which is ironic, as I kind of live my life by facts. (To illustrate further; I can recite all Presidents since Herbert Hoover, what their party was, and if they were a Vice President.) However, this is a way to illustrate a point-which comes across as being very much a hallmark. Though I couldn’t always quite get my head round it, I wouldn’t have changed it at all.


To buy the book on Amazon, click here. Follow Laura on Twitter here.  And read my interview with her here. 

Laura James has written the ultimate book about Autism ; Odd Girl Out should be on your ‘must read’ list.

It’s about an Autistic woman, Laura, in a neuro-typical world; she looks back at earlier parts of her life, and how she reacts and gets on with her diagnosis later on in life. As an autistic female, this book felt very ‘human’ to me; it spoke to me, almost as if Laura was inside my head. Forget the diagnosis, and medical terms; here is someone who ‘gets it’, and is probably undergoing what you feel.

I was lucky enough to speak to Laura about Odd Girl Out via email; she is also a journalist, which was another thing that interested me.

First of all, how did you come to write your book, Odd Girl Out? 

When I got my autism diagnosis, one of my first thoughts was ‘will I write about this?’. About three months later I wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph and the response was so huge, writing further on the subject in the form of a book seemed like a natural next step.

Why did you think writing about your diagnosis, which came later in life, should be the centre of the book? 

I used it to underpin the book, so it’s where I start, but I also dart back in time and look at my childhood, my teenage years, young motherhood etc. It felt like a good jumping off point as it was so fresh in my mind and writing was allowing me to process all the emotion around being diagnosed.

How has the reaction been to the book?

The reaction has been amazing. It’s not often that I’m surprised, but I have been surprised by the sheer number of people interested in my story. I got thousands of messages in the month around publication and most days I still get a message or two on social media from someone who has come across the book.

What do you think about early intervention to diagnose people on spectrum?

I think everyone deserves to know who they are and to have the very best opportunities in life. If that can be done by spotting autism early, then I am all for it. What happens afterwards, however, is important, as is that ongoing support, nurturing and caring is put in place. I don’t like interventions that major on teaching children how to behave in a neurotypical way, as they can only do damage in the long term. Support that encourages children to be their best and most authentic selves is what we should be striving for.

What did you think on finally being diagnosed? 

Overwhelmingly, I felt relief and vindication. My autism diagnosis came a few months after my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was diagnosed and suddenly everything in my life made sense. I wasn’t a hypochondriac or unlucky – there were concrete reasons as to why my body behaved the way it did. The autism diagnosis was so vindicating as it allowed me to know why I find some things much harder than others do.

“The reaction has been amazing. It’s not often that I’m surprised, but I have been surprised by the sheer number of people interested in my story.”
-Laura James on the reaction to Odd Girl Out.

How did you start out as a journalist?

I was working for a publishing company and an amazing editor called Gill allowed me to interview Jilly Cooper, who was my absolutely favourite writer and one of my intense interests.

In terms of being autistic, how do you think people on spectrum could be an asset to journalism? 

For me, the ability to hyperfocus is a huge asset at deadline time, as is the way I can get to grips with complex information very quickly. Having intense interests helps a lot too. Finally, I can look at all sides of an argument in a non-emotional way and I think that really makes for balance.

For people who are on spectrum, who aspire to get into journalism, what would be your advice? 

If it’s someone who likes to be around people, then maybe contacting their local paper and asking if they can do some work experience or intern for a bit. I am not necessarily a huge fan of journalism degrees as I think you learn much more in the working environment. Most of the really great journalists I know have done an NCTJ course or apprenticeship and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I was lucky that I learned on the job and my husband, who at the time of our meeting was a magazine editor but who spent many years working in news, taught me everything over a number of years.

“Overwhelmingly, I felt relief and vindication. My autism diagnosis came a few months after my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was diagnosed and suddenly everything in my life made sense.”
-Laura James on what she felt after her Autism diagnosis.

Random: If you were on Desert Island discs, what would be the book you’d take to the Island with you, and why? 

Oh gosh, only one? That feels terribly hard. I think if I had to pick, I would probably choose Rivals by Jilly Cooper. It’s real comfort reading to me and the characters feel like people I have known for years. They are beautifully drawn and feel very real, plus it’s funny, has lots of stuff on W.B. Yeats (my favourite poet) and the book is quite long so would take me a while to get through.


Thank you to Laura for answering my questions; you can follow her on Twitter.  If you’d like to read an extract of Odd Girl Out, read it here. And you can buy the book on Amazon. 

Disclaimer: the items in this post were gifted to me at my own request, for the purpose of review. What follows is my honest opinion. Pricing also varies in these guides, as a way to to match varying budgets. 
“What do you get someone with Aspergers?” is.. well, a hard question to answer. As a spectrum condition, everyone who has Aspergers is different, and their traits are different in some respects. Therefore, I have collaborated with various brands for today’s post; this is a Christmas gift guide, with the products tested for sensory issues, flavour, practicality, and function.
Notebook. 

Pocket notebooks is an awesome brand , and I am lucky enough to have worked with them before. (They gifted me the above notebooks.) The Reporter’s Notebook (with ‘WRITE’ across the front), I currently find the most useful, as a Journalism student. (Buy it here.) The orange notebook, however, is my favourite, as the cover is smooth-not to set off my hypersensitivity issues-and is compact enough for my bag, as it’s so small. (Want it? There’s so many colours! See it here.) 
A novelty pen. 

The Pen Company is one of my new favourite brands-because a company dedicated largely to pens is always going to get my vote of confidence. #aspiringjourno I think that a pen is a really useful tool-and as an Autistic female, it helps me communicate more, and express myself more. The Pen Company sell this pen, which you can have personalised. Oh, and this ink is cute, too!
Backpack.

I’m not the fashionable type. But I have a lot of stuff to carry to my lectures. In comes Yourdesign!  This Fashion Backpack is light in design, and again can be personalised. It also is very roomy. Oh, and you blend in as well! (See it here.) Want to see what I keep in my bag? See this post. Want a fuller review? See it here. 
Jewellery. 

Anna is a jewellery maker, and, quite frankly, her designs are beautiful. Her website offers a wide variety of options; the personalised silver necklace is a particular favourite of mine. Delicate, as well as personal to me, it does not kickstart my hypersensitivity issues. (For example, with some necklaces, the chains feel lie they clip my neck, or it can itch-enough for my skin to become inflamed.) This necklace is wonderful in that respect. You can see it here. 
Hot Water Bottle. 

Hot Water Bottle Shop gifted me this wonderful heatable bottle, and, so far, it has been wonderful. This you just pop into the microwave for ninety seconds-you don’t even have to put water in it-and then, it stays warm for ages! This is used as a stress relief mechanism, as well as for sleeping problems. The lavender smell of this bottle, and the heat, has been really effective for me. To buy from their pain and ache relief products, click here. To buy from their stress relief and sleeping problems collection, click here. 

I’ll be continuing this series of gift guides-along with stocking fillers-later on. There’ll be more brands to choose from! Happy Christmas,

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.

Dan Jones C/O Dan Jones

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.

The Book. C/O: Dan Jones.

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.

C/O: Dan Jones.

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.
Thank you to Dan for agreeing to this interview; to buy his book, click here. And to find out more about his work, click here. 

Note: before anyone reads this, please note that I am not using the word ‘touching’ in a sexual way. 
I don’t like touching.
Don’t get me wrong, I do hugs when the situation calls for it-like when a relative is sad, saying goodbye at some family social function, if I’m sad, etc.
Yet, I don’t like touching when it’s not needed; this is largely just my preference-and a characteristic of having Aspergers-but also because I don’t always know the social implications, people have called me weird before, etc. But I should have control of this, right?
If someone accidentally touches me, say on a train when it’s crowded, I’m aware that it’s not their fault; after all, we’re all in the train, packed back to back, with very little room to move. I may not like it, but I’m not angry at the person for doing so. I’m not going to ask them to stop touching me, clearly. (Unless, of course, they were deliberately pushing me-that’s very different.) I’m not going to be angry at someone who grabs me, to stop themselves falling. I’m not going to be angry at someone who shakes me hand, because social conventions demand it. I’m not going to be angry at someone who brushes past me.
But..
Pleased not touch me deliberately without me saying that it’s okay. That’s going to make me either cross or sad-because it makes me feel so uncomfortable.
Various people have been offended at this; when I ask them to stop touching me-usually after they continually do so-they sometimes get cross at “stop touching me!” I do wonder if I’m right in writing/feeling this, to be honest-because I wonder if it’s me being nasty, or me just having Aspergers, and therefore apparently seeing the worse in people.
In terms of hypersensitivity, it makes me feel bad; you can read a related post here. But I can feel the hair, the flaky skin, the sweat. I don’t like that… I don’t wish to share in that. The best comparison I can think of is that I only wear some fabrics-other garments, say, with lots of sequins, put my skin on edge.
My authority in this should not be demeaned because I have Aspergers.
Untitled design

To read a similar post, click here.