As parents we meet many different autism professionals from Speech and Language Therapists to Educational Psychologists. This week I want to introduce you to Loren Snow who is an autistic public speaker and trainer.
Learning about autism is one of the most valuable things for me to be able to support my children better. Who better to learn about autism from than an autistic adult. I asked Loren to share with us a bit about himself and his work.
Can you tell me about learning you were autistic? When did you realise you were different?
From a young age I’ve always been different. I could tell I wasn’t like other kids, and I could tell they did too. It was the stares, their piercing eyes saying they could tell something wasn’t quite right about me. As I grew up I became very aware of these looks, I learned to tell the difference between
ones that said “You’re weird and that’s amusing” “You’re weird and that’s a bit strange but okay” and other more dangerous ones such as “You’re weird and that bothers me” “You disturb me and I feel greatly bothered by you on some deep level and I don’t exactly know why”. Being about to recognise these things kept me safe, but I myself didn’t know why I was different, only that I was.
When did you get an autism diagnosis?
I got a diagnosis at 24. I’d received an ADHD diagnosis the year before but it didn’t fully fit. Of course when I told friends I had been diagnosed they all said “I know you’re autistic” or “you told us that years ago”. I didn’t and no one told me! Oh how ironic haha
How did you feel after being diagnosed?
Well up to getting diagnosed I flipped back and forth “I am” “I can’t be” “But I do this” “But I don’t do that”. After it helped explain why I acted the way I did. It helped me realise why I got on with those I did, not blame myself for certain behaviours, find strategies for other behaviours that worked. Mostly it helped me be able to recognise, find, and celebrate my true self.
As a child what did you find most challenging and how do you manage it now?
That’s a tough one. Like a lot of autistic children I had meltdowns and shutdowns, didn’t like change, had trouble making friends, all the usual things really. I guess I’d say the lack of control of my environment. That’s a big one as if an autistic person can make the environment around them more friendly to their senses they can feel less anxious, focus better, it can even help with empathy.
You currently work as an autism trainer and speaker, can you tell us a it more about what your job is.
Well I’ve spent the past decade studying mental health, psychology, relationships, identity, and just about anything to do with why we humans think and act the way we do. So thinking, talking about, and explaining things is just part of my life. Now I teach for the NHS, councils, public services, and all sorts. I regularly teach classes to parents and classes to autistic adults. Occasionally I talk at conferences, on radio stations, and do filming for organisations like Public Health England.
I have a website called Autism Academy. On there you can find out little more about my services and I also have almost 100 videos explaining everything to do with autism.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The rewarding aspects are everywhere. I regularly have students where they or their children have complex needs. Getting support and advice around this can take years and a lot of forms, and calls, and struggle. It’s nice to be able to give them the information they need. It’s a shame we get so little time together as I know if we had longer we could do so much more. It makes me sad they feel alone in this and like it’s all so complicated when it wouldn’t feel like that if services and support was more available. So it’s good to be able to help people.
What do you find most challenging in your job?
The reality is there are many complicated things around autism, such as echolalia, alexithymia, and proprioception; there are many misconceptions in the media, such as autistic people lacking empathy; and there are many mis/un-diagnosed autistic adults out there like I used to be. This made me decide that I should explain these things so others wouldn’t have to struggle as I did. I think that’s why for me, what’s hardest about my job, is seeing so many struggle and face such obstacles to getting the support they need. I know the work I do makes such a huge difference and it’s sad we get such little time together. I wish I could teach more people.
What do you enjoy doing in your time off?
I spend a lot of time working on my business. There’s always something to do: making new videos, emailing clients, making resources, and many many other things. My future goals are to explore more of the world, make my first book, and be financially stable (haha such adult dreams). I also like to play computer games, watch anime, and I’m very social so I’m often talking or with friends. I’ve also done some long cycle trips around the UK and to Paris. One these trips I always try to make myself swim in streams and lakes (even though it’s always super cold and kinda horrific). In the future I’ll cycle more of Europe. My interests are around mental health, autism, relationships, cultural differences, power dynamics, sexuality and queer theory.
You have created the Autism Spectrum Academy can you tell us what this is?
AutismSpectrumAcademy.com is my website. It lists my services, information I’ve written on autism, and lots of videos and animations I’ve created. You should check it out 🙂
What is your top advice for a parents of autistic children?
You’re doing your best, things aren’t always easy, and you’re only human. You will make mistakes and do things wrong. You will realise you did harmful things before you knew they were autistic. The only way to be a perfect parent is to be imperfect as that’s what we humans are: beautifully imperfect. You’re a good parent and your child will eventually realise you were trying your best and your actions were always filled with love. So don’t beat yourself up, don’t blame yourself, don’t be too hard on yourself, you are amazing, on the good days and bad.