Tuesday 3 January 2017

Getting things done: How to increase your productivity

Welcome back to my blog! I hope to start regularly posting again. For a long time I have not posted, mostly due to getting really busy; well really though I have not been making time to blog. So here goes to a long list of many useful and insightful blogs that I hope create an opportunity for people to digest information and also to create a dialogue, after all I get alot out of writing posts by being able to consolidate and exploring ideas through the writing process, as well as gaining different perspectives by people getting in contact with me and leaving comments and questions.

So let me get into what I would like to talk about. I have been planning to post an article for several weeks now (since about mid November). Coming to the end of the year, I thought it would be very relevant to talk about self improvement and the like, because it is a great opportunity  to review the year that has gone, and start planning for the year ahead.

Recently I have really started to self-analyse myself. What I found is that alot of the time I am not as productive as I would like to be. I put that down lack of executive functioning skills. I found that my main difficulties were:
  • scheduling and time management
  • moving from task to task
  • prioritising
  • keeping on task
  • poor working memory
  • monitoring my mental and physical state
  • staying organised

So getting back to why I think living more simply is the way to make life easier. Easier in the way of making goals more achievable, and life less stressful

I think people are in such a rush these days their lives are set on autopilot. They go from one thing to the next, or even worse try to do multiple things at once, but never seem to get enough done.

This is why it is important to first take time to think about what really matters to you. When looking at my health I like to conceptualise three separate, but interrelated areas. These areas are 1) physical 2) Mental/emotional/spiritual 3) Social. You may have some to add as well. My planning process involves writing a year plan first.

Find a quiet space where you can dedicate atleast 20 minutes to this exercise. Ask yourself this, if it was your last year on Earth what would YOU like to achieve. Do you feel good by helping other people? What are your passions and strengths? Do you like to travel or do you want meet new people?

Once you complete this you can set monthly goals and within that you can stategise what you can do each week. The trick is to break down tasks that seem insurmountable at first. If you break it down into daily, weekly and monthly goals you see that you need to focus on each step of the mountain you are climbing one by one. This way instead of becoming overwhelmed, your goals become attainable with hard work and dedication.

When creating a schedule there are things to keep in mind. You get the most done when a slot of time is allocated where you work exclusively on one project, free of distractions. I personally like the pomodoro technique. You allocate each goal or project a timeslot of 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

I find that while I work I will think of new or other things I need to do. That’s where lists come in. I personally use Google Keep because I tend to loose pieces of paper. Also google keep automatically syncs to the cloud and works with android ios and as an add on application on the chrome web browser which allows windows and mac users to use it.

This first part of this blog gives you the basics of starting to organise and take control of your life. Please let me know what you think of it and any of your own suggestions of what should be in part 2. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog.

Thursday 9 April 2015

New Resources in Orange

Happy Autism Month!! I have been very busy this month with work and organising funds and ordering several books to be donated to the Orange (NSW, AUS)branch of Central West Libraries. I was very fortunate to be interviewed by the local paper and appear in the Saturday 4th April edition of the Central Western Daily. The article is below

A total of 9 books were donated including books by that were written by Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood and my friends Jeanette Purkis and Garry Burge. Because Orange Library is part of the Central West Libraries group the book can be transferred to any of the other libraries in the consortium which include: Blayney, Canowindra, Cowra, Forbes, Manildra, Molong, and Orange (for information on opening hours and contact details see http://cwl.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/OPAC/LOCENQ?TYP=BR&NRECS=999 . All the books are listed in the catalogue on the website also.

Some of the books that were donated:

Come and have a look at all the new Autism books at the Orange City Library
Posted by Orange Autism Spectrum Social & Support Group on Sunday, 5 April 2015

Saturday 14 February 2015

Gaining Strength in Networking

If you are regular reader you will notice that I am writing posts a lot less frequently. I have been very pre-occupied with my job at CareWest and I have been using my weekends to chill and refresh. As so much is going on also in my advocacy work as well, I am going to attempt to do a post once a fortnight.

This bring me to what I am doing as I write this blog. I am sitting in my car (in the air-conditioning as it is 33ºC [91ºF] outside)
Australian Native trees, what is outside my car window as I write this blog
I have just finished my meeting with Sue, who initiated an Autism Support Group in Lithgow about 12 months ago. She told me of the struggles and successes that she has had with her grandchild whom is on the spectrum and this prompted her to help others that have struggle with similar issues.

She is a very strong willed lady and I am very happy to have her come on board to be part of our network. Sue is also a passionate knitter and with her spare time she likes to create quilts and sensory products that assist with the the running costs of the support group. I also discussed with her my plan to create an informal network between the facilitators of the Support/Social groups in Central West, Blue Mountains and Wagga Wagga, to share the vast and varied knowledge and resources that all the groups have. In the near future a regular newsletter will be distributed by e-mail. I also want to create a directory with these groups and anyone else who would be interested in their local group (sorry only in Australia at this stage) being added please contact me via the contact form on the top right hand corner of the page.

Another person with whom I have come across recently is Jeanette Purkis. Jeanette is an inspiring lady who is on the spectrum, who humbly dedicates many tireless hours to work benefiting us all on the spectrum (and indeed making the world a better place for everyone). I started talking to Jeanette a couple of months ago because I was told that she would be a great contact, through a mutual facebokk friend. She is doing and has done too many things to list them all here. However some of the things she has done/is doing are listed below:
As you can imagine she is very busy, however I have multiple projects in the pipeline that Jeanette, along with others, will do in the future

As I have more to speak about (almost limitless actually, I just need to plan more time to actually sit down and read it all). I plan to write another blog in a week or two so stay tuned & please contact me if you have any questions on the blog in general or anything in particular I am doing. Thanks for reading.

Thursday 6 November 2014

New ASD Employment Services Being Offered by ASPECT

Recently (and long overdue) ASPECT, the biggest service provider for autism, has now teamed up with Vicky Little's organisation AS capable to now provide employment services for teenagers and young adults on the spectrum under the banner of ASPECT Capable. I spoke to Vicky Little yesterday to find more information about the direction of this section of ASPECT.

Currently Vicky is in the final stages of a project to publish "In Perspective Online Magazine" which "aims to demonstrate and share the unique talents, insights and brilliance of all individuals with ASD". The project involved getting adults with Autism to get together and submit articles and graphics/photos to form an interesting article that anyone can enjoy reading. This has helped everyone involved improving on talents such as photography, writing and organisational skills. Best of all the money made from the program will be distributed to the contributors.

Vicky is very passionate about raising awareness of the strengths and talents of people on the autism and is determined to make a difference to not only people on the spectrum but also the whole community as once they are reaching their full potential they are increasing their valuable contribution to their community, a win-win for everyone. She said more is in the pipeline for the future, and the first project is just the beginning.

As well as projects she also runs:
 The mentoring, which I believe which will be the most relevant to most of the readers of this blog, is a strengths based approach that focuses on developing skills for employment for adults on the spectrum. It cam be provided face to face in Sydney or over Skype. The first consultation is free with subsequent 1 hour sessions charged at a rate of $60/hour. For more information about the services offered see the links above or you can e-mail Vicky at vlittle@autismspectrum.org.au.  

Monday 22 September 2014

Newspaper article with my colleagues and I at my new job at CareWest

CareWest’s Ability Links Service to help those with disability and carers


THOSE with a disability and their carers have already started benefiting from CareWest’s Ability Links Service.
The Orange district has a team of four Linkers, with an additional two in Bathurst and one each in Cowra, Parkes and Mudgee.
Team leader Kim Gray said the Ability Links program in Orange could work individually with people with a disability and their carers to improve their access to services and events, building and strengthening community connections.
She said businesses could also approach the service for advice on how to make themselves more disability-friendly.
“We are there to lead them - whatever their goals or wishes are, we can support them to achieve those,” she said.
“There may be people without a diagnosis who are not sure where to go.”
Linker Prue McCarthy, who has cerebral palsy, will bring her personal experience to the task.
“I look back now and a service like this would have been helpful to me growing up,” she said.
Fellow Linker Ben Wilshire said he liked the program’s soft-touch approach.
“You’re not filling out forms, it’s just a nice chat and getting to know the individual,” he said.
Suzi Welch, who became a Linker after working in disability care in the past, said she wanted to help people get out in the world and live satisfying lives.
The program is open to anyone between the ages of nine and 64.
To access Ability Links through CareWest, call 1300 227 393.
Indigenous people accessing Ability Links should contact the Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council from October 1 on 6361 0561 or 6361 4742.

Article  originally from http://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/2531437/service-provides-a-vital-link-for-those-with-a-disability/

Thursday 17 July 2014

An amazing opportunity through persistent hard work

Since my last post last post I have undergone yet again a few changes in my job situation. Well ahead (about 2 months) before my contract was to end at the retail store I applied to several jobs including to the local  pizza restaurant. Three weeks before my contract ended (early June) I was offered 30+ hours a week there which was alot more than what I was currently working and the contract was soon to run out anyway so I decided to leave the retail store and just work at the pizza restaurant.

At the pizza restaurant I found that the management and other staff were very positive and helpful which assisted me to feel comfortable in my position there very swiftly. Although it isn't what I wanted to do long term I enjoyed it as a gap job between finishing at the retail job and getting a new job.

Fortunately the one day off I had between finishing work at the pizza restaurant and starting my current job I had the opportunity to travel to Dubbo and see Tony Attwood talk. The most interesting point I took away from the conference is that because people with ASD have difficulty expressing themselves, especially their emotions, that using art (collages, painting, music are all good forms) can be a great way to work through and communicate their feelings. Tony also mentioned that he is working on a 10 session group therapy for people on the spectrum to deal with depression. This is so important as a large percentage of people with ASD also have depression and anxiety. Once you reduce the depression, anxiety usually lowers as a result as I believe the two are often closely related.

So now on to what I am now doing as a job. Last blog post I mentioned that I was applying for a position as an a Ability Links Linker. I am proud to announce that I now work full-time for Carewest as a Linker in the Central West Ability Links  Team. This is a radically different new service that the NSW government is funding until 2018. Families in every part of NSW will have access to a linker. Linkers work with people with a disability, their families and carers to help them plan for their future, build on their strengths and skills, and develop networks in their own communities so they can do what they want with their lives. Linkers also work with local communities to help them become more welcoming and inclusive of people with a disability. The service has been created with an aim to help people with a disability become less socially isolated by assisting them integrate into mainstream society. It also focuses on peoples strengths and sees that, with a bit of hard work and the right attitude it is possible to include people with a disability more in society and knows there is many benefits of organisations being more accommodating of everyone in society.

This job is not just a job for me, it is the start of a great and rewarding career that will have many challenges, but at the same time be rewarding and I am very proud to have received the chance to serve my community and provide well-overdue assistance to those who require it.

Thank-you for reading my blog and feel free to leave comments, questions and suggestions.

Monday 26 May 2014

Exciting new progress & Dealing With Change

The last few months have been very busy for me. I have recently learned that my contract will not be renewed at a local retail store. When I first got told that my contract would not be renewed I was unsure of why they wouldn't renew it and that all my good work there had not been recognised. After much thought and being at a loss as to why they would make me casual again (before I got the contract I had been there for about 4 years casually) I realised that other staff members were made casual too. The decision was structural, they gradually changed peoples positions from part-time to casual in order to allow rostering to be more flexible. Once I had realised that it was not a personal decision against me I was able to think about getting a new job and consider change. I realised that to succeed in what I wanted to do I needed to move out of my comfort zone of my job at K-Mart because if I don't make changes, everything will stay the same. I may be comfortable but not as content as I could be that I am making a real difference to what means the most to me.

I talked to Garry Burge (for those who don't know he is my mentor who first encouraged me to start advocating for myself and others on the spectrum) who suggested that I look at working in the community sector because I already do a lot of volunteering in related areas such as running the Adult Aspie Social Group in Orange, training to be a Lifeline Crisis Supporter, attending courses such as Mental Health First Aid and other advocacy work. I have since applied for a job working as an Information and Intake Officer at a large organisation that is a provider of community services. I am also in the process of applying for another position as a Ability Links Linker. This position will involve connecting with the community and referring people who make contact to services and businesses based on what their aspirations and needs are. I believe the positions that I am seeking will mean that I am making a real difference in the community and will broaden my skill base allowing me to make progress in myself and in the positive effects I have in the community.

Along with the activities I have been undertaking for a change in employment and training to be a Lifeline Crisis Supporter, I have been busy establishing a new Adult Asperger's Social Group in Bathurst. Along with contacting various people in Bathurst including psychologists, the University and various other people who may be interested I was also in the local paper (the article can be found here www.westernadvocate.com.au/story/2279162/social-group-to-help-those-with-apergers/). 
The first meeting of the group was last Saturday. It was a great opportunity to meet some Aspies in Bathurst and was interesting to hear their successes and aspirations for the future. We engaged well and I believe that although there were only 5 people who attended the group, that through more advertising and as time passes this number will grow in time. 

As the network here is growing, Garry and I discussed the possibility of having the social groups associate with an organisation that we could unify with and therefore share resources and have a bigger voice for issues. Garry and I often talk to Stefanie from Asperger Services Australia http://www.asperger.asn.au/ (ASA) and find that this organisation aligns closely with our values and goals. I have discussed the possibility of associating the group in Orange with ASA and Stefanie will get back to me after discussing it at the next meeting of the Board. In the future I also hope to apply for funding in the future for various purposes including running courses for people on the spectrum and providing other support for members of the group.

As you can see, I have been keeping very active in many activities. I believe that through my continued persistence and hard work things can only be improved and become better. I hope to start writing blogs on a more consistent basis so please check the blog in about a weeks time for the next post! And if you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below.

Friday 18 April 2014

Society's Expectations

As with anything, there is a process that I go through when writing my blogs. There is the research, which often involves gaining others perspectives/opinions through social media and other channels, researching in books, reputable websites etc. I also think about my own perspective, all while taking notes down on paper to remind me of what ideas I am going to go through in my blog. 

The original topic for the blog was society's expectations. After exploring this topic extensively I have realised that self-esteem goes hand in hand with escaping from society's expectations/norms. The problem is that the term "normal" is often wrongly interpreted to mean adequate and correct. The thing is what may be normal to the majority (which is often not questioned and just out of habit) may not be suitable to be expected of everyone especially minority groups such as those on the spectrum.

Being an individual is important as it shapes a person's identity. The role of individualism has to do a lot with diversification, independent thought, and freedom of emotion. It allows you the freedom of knowing that you are traveling under a path of your own determination dictated by your own system of wants and needs, and nobody can tell you that you are wrong because, after all, you are unique.

On the flip side, if you spend your life trying to fit a mould you will end up losing your identity. People who work hard to conform, often suppress their own thoughts and desires in order to fit in, and eventually they simply forget these thoughts and desires. If everything an individual thinks is countered by their internal questions of  "Will that make me look stupid?" or "Is that what everyone else thinks?" the person will often get into a pattern of second-guessing themselves. This results in the thoughts that are eventually expressed that is of their own have gone through a series of re-examinations and end up not being the true thoughts of the person at all.

There are positive steps you can take to improve your self-esteem to become confident in yourself.   The first step towards better self-esteem is to focus on your abilities. Create two lists, one headed "Qualities in personality" and the other "Qualities in abilities." After you have wrote down some characteristics for both ask family and friends for more qualities you could add to the list. You could use this list to regularly record times when you exhibit these qualities. When you are doubting yourself/have low self-esteem you can look at this document and be re-assured of the admirable attributes you have and even use this list to help determine how to solve issues that you face.

You do not have to improve your self-esteem alone in fact it is beneficial to have people who have earned your trust in the process. Finding a like-minded peer group who have similar interests and/or characteristics such as a Aspie Social Group ran by fellow Aspies, a group that is based on a mutual interest like an art class or computer club can be a great way of boosting your self esteem as your qualities are recognised and appreciated more than other social situations. Spending time in nature and with animals can help by removing unnecessary sensory stimuli that can be overwhelming. Spending time with animals will improve your mood considerable as they are happy to see you and are nonjudgmental.  

Tony Attwood suggests "Sometimes people on the spectrum can be overly self-reflective and dwell excessively and pessimistically on their inner thoughts and feelings" and that "there may be a need to be guidance from a psychologist or counselor" to help "acquire realistic and positive self-reflection".

As your self-esteem improves, you will be able to do more and more things reflecting your own needs and wants as opposed to what others think. You should never be afraid to be yourself as trying to conform will only mean that you will deprive yourself of what you are capable of and deserve.

If you have any comments/questions on this article or there is anything that you would like me to cover in a future blog post please leave a comment.

 An article by Autism Advocate Jeanette Purkis on a similar topic (self-image, mental illness and body weight): http://jeanettepurkis.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/a-weighty-issue-self-image-mental-illness-and-body-weight/

Special thanks to: Marie Lauzon

References and resources
Been There. Done That. Try This! An Aspie's Guide to Life on Earth
Image attributed to http://hrringleader.com

Friday 11 April 2014

Aspie's and sexuality

I believe that the subject of sexuality and Asperger’s needs to be discussed more and in an open way. The purpose of this post is to help people understand the topic a little more and discuss some things that can be done to improve outcomes in regards to relationship understanding for Aspies.

I would like to firstly point out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as it is a good framework to consider when looking at improving quality of life. As seen in the drawing below, arguably sex is one of the most important motivators with sexual intimacy and friendship being on the third most important level. Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met.

The difficulties that Aspies face vary from individual to individual, however there are a lot of commonalities. Research into the sexual understanding of Aspies is in its infancy however studies (and my personal experiences and of other Aspies) suggest that Aspies are as interested sex (and intimate relationships) as anyone else, but many struggle with the myriad of complex skills required to successfully negotiate intimate relationships. In my research into the subject I have also noticed that although some Aspies (like myself) don’t have major sensory issues, others do which can make intimacy a challenge. AS will also affect communication, both verbal and nonverbal, social interaction and empathic thought. It can also cause obsessive interests, need for structure and routine, motor clumsiness

People with Asperger syndrome can sometimes appear to have an ‘inappropriate’, ‘immature’ or ‘delayed’ understanding of sexual codes of conduct. This can sometimes result in sexually inappropriate behaviour. For example, a 20-year-old with Asperger syndrome may display behaviours which befit a teenager.

Even individuals who are high achieving and academically or vocationally successful can have trouble negotiating the ‘hidden rules’ of courtship. 

As Dr Tony Attwood says in the new book published by JKP “Been There, Done That, Try This!” “Their (Aspies) sources of information on sexuality may not be peers or personal experiences, but more likely the media, literature and possibly pornography.” This is why specific education needs to be provided to Aspies as more in-depth education will fill in the gaps that cause by lack of intuition. Specific sexual education is also important to help avoid such issues as Aspies getting into trouble with the law by acting inappropriately (such as accessing illegal pornography or stalking potential partners) and becoming victims of sexual assault because they got taken advantage of and in some cases this is caused (through no fault of their own) by not knowing what the intentions of their partner are.

http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/book/9781843101895After searching for a suitable educational programmes that relate to AS and sexuality I found one include many relevant topics and to be in a group structure which will also help participants to improve on their social skills. The program can be found in full in the book “Asperger’s Syndrome and Sexuality From Adolescence Through Adulthood” By Isabelle Henault. As far as I know this educational programme is the only programme to be developed and tested and is specifically to meet the needs of people with AS.  The course includes 12 workshops, each with its own topic. Although previously unpublished, the programme has been empirically validated and tested in practice with four groups. The results from these trials are also found in the book.

Through more exposure of this issue I believe that more organisations will realise that there is a need for specific education programs for Aspies and will look into the issue of sexuality more and develop and refine programs to suit this need for education. Also Aspies will realise there are resources out there to help them recognise their deficits and how to work around them.

If you have any comments/questions on this article or there is anything that you would like me to cover in a future blog post (as I want to write an article more in depth in the future regarding AS and sexuality) please leave a comment.

For anyone interested in reading about the perspective of a male Aspie (written in first person) using internet dating successfully please see Garry Burge's post here.