Sunday, 18 December 2011

I have finally settled into my new home and ready once again to start where I left off a long time ago.

After having moved to the other side of my hometown, Bradford and away from all that was familiar to me, friends, surroundings, school, I was in a completely alien environment.

Where I had lived was a large council housing estate called Holmewood and it was close to fields and woods so my friends and I had plenty of places to play and we would very often go down to the valley to jump over the stream that ran down the centre of it, or down to the woods playing soldiers and other such games. These for me were good times and I greatly enjoyed my childhood there with my family, my friends and school. At school I learnt quickly and easily and I was always in the top band for every subject.

The move however changed all this. No longer were my friends a five minute walk away, school a ten minute walk away, close to the fields and woods that I so loved playing in. Now my friends and school seemed to be a lifetime away and the only fields in a park. I had gone from living on the edge of the countryside to a scene from Coronation Street with row upon row of Victorian terraced housing clumped closely together so that the workforce necessary to run the mills weren’t very far away from them and they became a prisoner in their own locality effectively.

The move had been out of necessity and need not choice. My mum did her best but my dad liked to drink and although he had decent jobs from time to time, quite often he lost them through turning up late or drunk and being absent. This lead to us having the gas and electric disconnected and we ended up living on the edge of poverty. Although I never felt that I went without they were times through shame and embarrassment that I felt unable to bring any of my friends home.

The opportunity for a new start came in the form of a caretakers position at a funeral directors with free accommodation included. It was too good an opportunity for my parents to miss so off we went to the other side of Bradford and away from all that was familiar to me, that meant so much to me, places that held so many memories for me. I was leaving behind all my friends that meant so much to me, my support network. My school where I was doing so well, everything that meant so much to me to start a new life in a new area with people and surroundings that meant nothing to me, nobody to turn to in times of need, school so far away.

This was indeed a time of great change for me, of immense upheaval both physically and more so mentally. How did I cope? How did it change me? That’s for next time.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hi everybody J

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog but so much has been happening. On 21st November I had my house repossessed and I’ve moved into a local, rented property. My new house is very nice and I’m happy here. However moving has been very stressful and brought its own problems. I had lived at my old house for 13 ½ years since April 1998 and crucially for me 10 years before I got my diagnosis of Asperger’s. During this time my house fell into a bad state of disrepair as any problems that did occur I didn’t know what to do and ignored them. A lot of problems I didn’t even realise were problems and all of this built up over time and reached a point where I just couldn’t afford the repairs nor cope with what happened when the problems got bad so I just shut them out of my mind and carried on as best as I could. My old house was very damp and cold and it was made worse by not having any heating in the house for 2 years because I had got behind with my gas bills. All of this meant that things just got too much for me and after taking advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau and Bradford Council it was decided that my best option would be to have my house repossessed and for me to have a fresh start. All of this meant that while having my house repossessed didn’t really bother me, I had massively underestimated how stressful moving would be, especially as I only had a day to move because of waiting for my new house to be redecorated. I was worried about how my cat Polly would be, but she seems very happy and finally after 3 or so very hectic weeks I feel that things are getting sorted and beginning to settle down. I’m feeling happy and looking forward to the future and can now start to get back into my studies and my blog. Hope you all understand why I haven’t been blogging for a while, but now things are settling down I can put my mind back into it J

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hi everybody.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have had to move very quickly over the weekend and will be back with a new blog once I've settled into my new home. I didn't want anyone to think i'd stopped my blog. Just need a bit of time to get everything sorted and contact the many people and companies who need to be informed in the 21st century!


Andy :)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Class is indeed strange because on the surface we only have three classes, yet as we dig deeper and deeper below the class divide, we find yet more and more classes, many of which are invented by people wanting to be appear better than their neighbour and their colleague at work, and that is where the class divid is heading now, towards a very subjective class divide, whereas in the past it was far more objective.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

One of the questions I’ve asked myself is why do I have Aspergers? Why me? What could have caused me to have Aspergers? Is it hereditary? In my genes, something I had no way of avoiding and whatever happened to me whilst I was developing in the womb, nothing could have prevented me having Aspergers? Or was it something more? Something that whilst I was developing in the womb caused my mum to be under so much stress and pressure that I developed Aspergers?

For me this is a very interesting theory and one that many professionals and academics have debated long and hard over. Is Aspergers or for that matter any mental health condition a product of nature or nurture? My own personal belief is that it is a combination of the two, and whilst the condition is in the genes, how far that condition develops depends on many different environmental factors, that come together at the right time for the condition to develop and manifest itself.

Now I will stress again at this point that it is my own personal belief that Aspergers and other forms of autism are caused by nature first and then other environmental issues come into play which can determine the severity of the condition when the child is born. I do know that the nature vs nurture debate is something of a ‘hot potato’ within certain parts of the academic community and do not want to go any further into this because it can go on forever and never be resolved.

But what of myself? If as I have already said I believe that Aspergers is hereditary and in the genes, but that is only half the story for me and other environmental factors must have also played a part. I don’t know too much about my mums past and she died a long time ago so I cannot ask her, but I do know some facts and can surmise on the effect this may have had on her.

I was born in September 1967 and she was 42 when she had me. My biological father left my mum as soon as he found out she was pregnant and she had recently moved from London to Bradford. So how can all of this have had an impact on my development in the womb and increased my chances of developing Aspergers?

The move itself from London to Bradford must have been very traumatic. My mum had to leave all her friends and family behind and move to a new city, very alien to her, very different to what she knew and crucially without the support network of people she had back in London. This must have been a very stressful time for my mum, especially as back in 1967 not everybody had a telephone and my mum didn’t, there was no mobile phones, no internet and no email. The world was a very different place to the one we live in now with instant communication available to the majority of the populous wherever they are in one form or another.

Finding yourself pregnant and a single parent at the age of 42 will have caused even more stresses and strains. Back then for someone to get pregnant at such an age was the exception not the norm, and this brought many complications with it that women of today don’t face. The medical profession has made enormous strides in the care of people since 1967, and especially in the care of pregnant women and this has pushed back the boundaries as to when it is deemed safe for a woman to get pregnant, and now we see more woman opting for a career and establishing themselves in a company before they choose to start a family.

Having a partner leave you is another very emotional and stressful time when you may want to ask them so many questions because of the natural desire for so many answers to an often complex and subjective situation. When you get either limited or no answers it merely increases the frustration inside of not having answers and not knowing why your partner has left you. This can add to feelings of worthlessness, lack of confidence and low self-esteem that you may already be feeling.

And what of society at the time? Whilst it may have been the swinging 60s and the ‘summer of love’, not all sections of society shared the same morals and values, and many older generations felt that society was in a moral decline and on a downhill slope to societal degeneration. At my mums age it is highly possible that she will have been frowned upon and even shunned by many people around her for being pregnant again at such an age. Not having a support network around her will have only added to the feelings of alienation she may very well have experienced.

Whilst much of this is only speculation and conjecture on my part, it does help me enormously to come to terms with why I am the way I am and be able to draw a line under it. I am apportioning no blame on anyone, because everyone of us is different and we all react in different ways to the situations we find ourselves in and find ourselves full of feelings and emotions that we may not understand and be able to deal with effectively. The emotions and feelings my mum went through I can only imagine, but they must have had an effect on my development in the womb, and increased the effect that Aspergers would have on me in years to come.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Further thoughts on disability benefit claimants

Further thoughts on disability benefit claimants, scroungers or societies helpless?

After watching the Panorama programme last night on benefit cheats I have given it further thought. The programme itself did very well in highlighting the high levels of fraud that are prevalent within the current system, and it was particularly worrying to see a policeman involved in defrauding the taxpayer too. The programme did mention that the vast majority of claimants are honest, although this to me did seem to be an afterthought to appease people such as myself.

Whilst the previous blog I wrote on this subject may have shown a very extreme picture of what could happen, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the population have neither the time or inclination to dig deeper below the media headlines to find out the real facts and rely on programmes such as Panorama and newspapers to tell them what is happening.

The problem here is that newspapers and other media are businesses and as such need to sell newspapers or have people watch their programmes. To do this, stories may be sensationalised and not given a balanced view.

This is what I feel happened last night. Only one view was given and there was no view given from a genuine benefit claimant who would feel equally abhorrent at benefit cheats, nor was any mention given to the other people who cheat the system in other ways. The total fraud figure given was £22 billion of which £4 billion was down to benefit fraud. No mention was made of what the other £18 billion was comprised of.

This unbalanced view hugely influences the public view of benefit claimants and leads to labelling and people can feel as if they are being tried by television and a verdict is made before they are given a chance to explain themselves and give their side of why they are on benefits.

Another problem that I feel can arise is the one of theory of assumption. This is a theory of mine that has come about because of the fast pace of life that we all experience. As I have stated before many people do not have the time to dig below the surface of headlines or people, so make an assumption based on limited knowledge and apply it to everyone they come across who has a similar background, because it is easier and quicker to do this, rather than get to know the person.

The theory of assumption has come about from my own and others experiences. People assume that because I am at university I can cope with all aspects of life, but nothing could be further from the truth, and when I try to explain to people the problems I have, they look at me in disbelief as if I am lying and cheating the system, which I am not on neither count.

Labelling and assuming people seem to becoming more prevalent in today’s society, and I can only see it becoming worse as society gets faster and more intense.

Here is a link to the Panorama programme ‘Britain on the Fiddle’. The link goes to BBC iPlayer and is available for seven days:

Here are some links to the Department of work and Pensions detailing the extent of benefit fraud:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Disabilty benefit claimants, scroungers or societies helpless?

As well as informing people of how my Aspergers has impacted and continues to impact upon my life, I want to use this to comment upon issues that either affect me directly or interest me. I am currently studying sociology at Huddersfield University and sociology has opened my mind to the world around me and how I look and think about society. All opinions and views on my blog are entirely my own and are nothing to do with any person or institution whatsoever.

I am writing this blog on Thursday 3rd November at 5.35pm about a Panorama programme on at 8.30pm about benefit claimants defrauding the system and living a life of luxury. The reason for me writing it now before the programme is that I don’t want to end up ranting and raving, and would like to try and give a balanced view on a very emotive subject. This link will allow you to read about the programme on the BBC website:

The programme is concerned about people receiving disability benefits whilst living a life of luxury and even working. Now I am all for rooting out anybody who defrauds the country of valuable finances, but my concern with this programme and other media stories is how people on benefits are being portrayed at the moment. As I see it, the current government has very cleverly turned around the public’s opinion of who is causing the country the most problems financially from the bankers and banks whose reckless handling of money caused the current problems and are still living a life of luxury funded indirectly by the taxpayer, to people at the bottom of society on benefits who are now, it seems bringing the country to its knees, defrauding the benefits system and not doing anything of any benefit for the country.

What is worrying for someone life myself who is receiving disability benefits and trying to turn my life around, is that I will get tarred with the same brush. People will look at me and assume that I am also a feckless scrounger of society and by returning to education I am merely trying to avoid working, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Within my voluntary activities involving various autistic groups, I come into contact with people on the spectrum, carers and parents for whom benefits are a lifeline, not to a life of luxury, but to a basic standard of living which gives them the ability to try and exist at the same standard as most people do. Without these benefits many people would live a sub-standard life and would struggle to maintain a decent lifestyle relative to others.

Are people with physical and mental health difficulties to be expected to perform on the same level as atypical people? Is it a case of stop moaning and get on with life, because we are all in the same boat? Or by receiving benefits are people actually able to contribute more to society and the economy, but this is lost in the media frenzy that is currently sweeping the country, needing a scapegoat to blame for the financial black hole we have, that is due to a minority gambling with the majority’s money, using systems beyond the comprehension of most of society whatever the level of education, to fund their own lifestyle of luxury without any moral thought or reflection on the possible damage they could do.

It would be possible to look at conservative ideologies, but I feel that I have said enough already. It is clear that the current benefits system is not fit for purpose and changes need to be made, but it must also be wrong to blame a part of society  for a financial meltdown that was not of their causing, and to continually highlight a minority that are spoiling it for the majority who are trying their best to survive day to day. Or is this merely a society we are creating where the most vulnerable in society are made to be scapegoats because they are an easy target and by pushing them further down they will eventually give in, shut up and live a poor Victorian existence, day to day, hand to mouth hoping for the best but knowing that the best will never come.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Well where do you start!! For me it’s with my childhood and some background information on what Asperger’s is to me. Asperger’s is an autistic spectrum condition and is at the very top of the spectrum. Having Asperger’s means you have difficulty with social communication such as body language and facial expressions, and this can lead to difficulties forming and maintaining relationships and understanding others in a social situation. Understanding the unwritten rules of society can also be a major problem, and this can lead to childlike behaviour, tantrum’s and even anger, when the person with Asperger’s doesn’t understand what they have done wrong and why it is considered wrong. For them the world is open to interpretation on a large scale, without the inbuilt mechanisms that so many people have. It is only learnt through rote learning and making many, many mistakes, that the unwritten rules of society are learned, and then you have to learn that for each individual and each situation they may be slight, subtle differences! This can lead to mental overload as you try and process all this information, far, far quicker than you are capable of and this leads to withdrawing from situations because you are fearful of how you feel and the feeling of inadequacy and of feeling lonely in a room full of people.

But what of my first experience of Asperger’s? Well as a child it is very difficult to separate an atypical child from an Asperger’s child, because they both display the same kind of behaviour and understanding of the world as each other. It is not till adolescence starts or later that the behavioural and intellectual differences begin to become apparent and the atypical child seems to develop into an adult, whereas the Asperger’s child stays just that, a child.

My first memory of Asperger’s is a reflective one as at that time I didn’t know I had the condition. I had completed my first year of upper school and I would have been around fourteen years old. My parents obtained a job, with free accommodation, but across the other side of the city. This was a massive upheaval for me, far more than I realised at the time. I was moved away from my familiar surroundings, my friends, my school and my memories, to another place, which was so different, where I didn’t know the surroundings, didn’t know the people, a place that had no memories for me.

I decided to stay on at my current school on the other side of Bradford, but this didn’t work out for me as I found the journey difficult to make, and it was a wrench everyday being with friends who I had developed close relationships with and then having to go home to a foreign place and feeling left out when they told me of the fun and excitement they had, had the night before, that I had missed out on, and the feeling of no longer being a part of their lives, but just another stranger to tell stories to of teenage dreams, teenage play, teenage fun.
I did make new friends in my new surroundings, but they were never the same as the friends I had made before. These friends were different, not interested in school or learning, only interested in wandering the streets, playing football and hanging in the local café. But for me it was a new and exciting culture, so very different to what I was used to. My parents had no control over me, and I was swept up in my new found freedom of being able to do what I want when I wanted. I would stay in bed most of the day only coming out at evening to meet up with my new friends to do the same thing day after day after day.

The big question was where would it lead me? Would I regret my decision to leave the education system later in life? Would I ever see my old friends again?

If you would like to read more about Aspergers and Autism here are links to the National Autistic Society:

For Aspergers Syndrome:

For Autism:

Understanding behaviour:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

My first blog!!

Hi everyone. I would just like to introduce myself and give you some background information about myself and my reasons for starting this blog.

My name is Andrew Smith and I live in a small village called Queensbury in Bradford. I am male and I have just gone 44 years old. In October 2008 I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a condition that is one the Autistic Spectrum and is at the high end of the spectrum.

Many individuals with Aspergers live and lead normal lives and outwardly appear atypical and the same as any other person, yet how they see and perceive the world around them can be so different to others, and this can make an immense difference to their quality of life and life chances.

But how do you realise that you have Aspergers? How do you know there’s something different with the world you live in compared to the atypical world? At what point is it that you don’t feel a part of society and that society feels excluded to you and it’s as if you’re looking into society from the outside?

And how do you interact with a society that you don’t fully understand, feel as if something’s wrong yet can’t quite put your finger on it, because you don’t realise that although everybody is different, you are more different than most?

And what of the things that everybody takes for granted such as education, employment, relationships, socialising and homemaking? How are you affected in your ability to do these things when you have a condition such as Aspergers?

But what of the good things in life? Life is all about balance and everybody has good times. Looking at the world in a different and unique way can have its advantages. Nobody can look at the world the same as you, and if you can explain that way, then if can be a gift if you can use it. Having a mind that can picture life in such depth and detail and learning to use that gift can be immensely satisfying.

And when you get the chance to show the world just what you can achieve, how much you can learn, how far you can go, and then all the bad times seem worth it. But do you know the good times from the bad times, and can bad times turn good with reflection?

One of the most important aspects of this blog for me is how to do it. It may seem an easy question, but for myself for it to have real meaning, a purpose and to inform, educate, get people thinking, to get them asking questions about the world around them and how they and others view it, I have decided to do this in a chronological, structured way, with a sociological/psychological bent towards it. Whilst this may not appeal to everyone, every story has to start somewhere and for me it’s reflecting back on my first experience of Asperger’s.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it, and if you do have any questions please feel free to either put them on here, or email me directly.

Thank you for reading my blog.