As part of our ongoing Jubilee celebrations we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the people we have worked with and helped over the last 25 years at Autism Concern. Our aim is to provide an insight into the lives of those affected by autism spectrum disorders.
We are so proud of the support we are able to provide to these people and their families. These are their stories.
Name: Rob Ambidge
Mature Student at University studying BA Photography (former retail employee and residential home cleaner)
Hobbies and interests:
This can sometimes be a difficult question to answer, as I often go through phases of interests. Ranging from a few days, to several years. Currently though, the main recreational joys include extracurricular photography, learning new skills based around photography, listening to music, watching things on Amazon Prime (been working my way through The X-Files from season 1), and since starting at university last year, I have been developing my selflessness into a useful skill with volunteering as a Course Rep and getting further involved in the Students Union.
When were you diagnosed and what led to your diagnosis?
I was only diagnosed at the ripe old age of 25. This was only after a 4 year battle (with both myself and medical professionals) of fighting a worsening of anxiety and depression. It seems to have started to become a problem when I started to realise how hard I was finding it to keep up with making new friends at work after people kept leaving to either go to university, or found themselves new jobs. The realisation of being “left behind” playing on my mind started to eat away at me, and rather than just being occasional bouts of mild depression and infrequent social withdrawal, they both started to become daily barriers. I first got diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder (aka Social Phobia) at 21, which progressed to adding mild depression (and medication) a few months later. After not being happy with the diagnosis (talking to people on web forums and reading more about Social Phobia began uncovering holes in the diagnosis), and an ever increasing lowering of my mood, a brief moment (several weeks) under the supervision of the crisis team and then a couple of years of unsuccessful “therapy”, it was a recommendation to visit a particular GP (one I had yet to try) that finally listened to me properly and suggested the possibility of Aspergers. It was then this GP that got me on track to see a specialist who, after a few months of “testing,” gave me my diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. It was long winded, and only really down to my own persistence that I got to that stage.
What problems have you faced in the past due to being on the autism spectrum?
Before diagnosis, I never really had any problems. Signs were there, but with the lack of negative behaviour, they were just seen as “quirks”. I was a massive science fan and was always trying to acquire more books and more knowledge as a child. My Christmas lists were organised nicely, with requests of educational gifts, complete with catalog page numbers and prices (just in case Santa had to choose according to budget). My friendship group is most likely one of the greatest reasons why only the positive aspects of Aspergers showed through. They didn’t care if I was “weird”. To them, that’s what made me who they loved to be around. Shortly before diagnosis and onwards, I obviously don’t have that structure of school or my school friends any more, and that’s when the problems came through. Since “forgetting how to ride my bike” (unlike riding a bicycle, it would appear social skills and coping mechanisms can be forgotten), I’ve found it harder and harder to cope in large crowds (shopping on a Saturday is like a nightmare gone worse), my misophonia (hatred of sounds) seems to have gotten worse, I feel completely drained of energy the day after a social occasion (like being hungover, but doesn’t require alcohol), trying to get certain “allowances” at work can be difficult (requesting to be able to focus on one task I’m good at, rather than chopping and changing and doing some jobs that may be highly challenging due to my difficulties (though that could vary day-to-day how difficult something might be)) and due to the way that I almost have to “translate” some things people say, and with how humour is important to my coping, I sometimes get in trouble for inappropriately laughing or making jokes at insensitive times because my brain makes abstract links between what is said (rather than implied) etc. Though, luckily, I can control the outbursts a lot better around people I don’t know, and the people that do know me, know that it’s not intended to be hurtful and is actually there to help me cope and cheer others up, too.
How Autism Concern have helped you or where did you hear of AC?
I am yet to require any help from Autism Concern so far, partly out of coping so well when I’m “on my feet” and partly out of not actually knowing about them until I started Uni and one of the Societies ran a fundraiser for Autism Concern. But I do hope to build a healthy two way relationship with the charity in the years to come now that I have settled in at university.
Moving towards the future what are your goals and aspirations?
Breaking away from my retail origins, I would like to work towards making a name for myself as a photographer. Though, I am still finding my true strengths and weaknesses within the art (and science) of photography, it is definitely an area I would love to see myself in. If I don’t make it as a creative, then I would definitely love to work in a position where I can teach or assist others in reaching their full potential. Especially if they were to come from a discouraging background (mental health, disabilities etc where they think they can’t achieve the same way as statistically average people [my way of saying “normal”]). Who knows? I might even be able to combine the two as a therapeutic practice?! If I get to go to Japan for a paid assignment, I’ll drop everything and ask when I’m leaving!
What made you decide to sign up to the abseil?
I’d like to say that I signed up to abseil for purely selfless reasons, but in reality, I haven’t done it since I was a Cub Scout, many many years ago and really wanted to abseil again! Admittedly, it wasn’t from that height, but why wouldn’t I enjoy it? I will admit though, that the fact it is a fund raising opportunity for a charity that works in a field so close to my heart was a massive boost from “I’d love to do that” but not actually go through with it for anxiety/confidence/belief reasons to “HELL YEAH!! SIGN ME UP!!”. It was also partly my Societies former President and founder, Stephanie Nixon, who introduced me to AC, the fundraiser, and providing me the opportunity to spread my wings (though, I’m hoping I won’t need wings on the day).