Celebrating autism


It’s about time that we started to acknowledge some of the wonderful characteristics that so many autistic children and adults give to the world. Some may be pretty obvious, others less so – but all are worthy of consideration. And of course, many or all of these qualities can be found in any population – but I do think that making the effort to counterbalance some traditional thoughts on how autism presents can be a necessary component in breaking down misconceptions and reducing unfair stereotypes. Finally,
some of the following are suggestions or hypotheses rather than ‘fact’ – you can make up your own mind in terms of how far you buy into them . . .

Sense of humour

Whoever decided, long ago, that autistic people lack a sense of humour was clearly about as incorrect as a human being can be when understanding a population. For example, Sarah Hendrickx is not only a prolific autistic writer but has dabbled in being a standup comic! And you only need to start following a handful of autistic folk on Twitter to realize that their humour is evident all over the internet. I adore the humour I come across – usually on a daily basis – with my range of autistic friends and acquaintances. It’s uplifting and powerful. Much of the humour is self-deprecating, and perhaps this might go some way towards dispelling another myth – that autistic people are egotistical.

Lack of ego

Contrary to what some people believe, many autistic individuals are almost totally lacking in ego. Many of the autistic adults I know are the first to put others’ needs before their own, and in fact lack any kind of understanding as to how and why anyone could or would be egotistical. The concept of self-importance appears to me to be lacking in many autistic individuals; conversely, many autistic adults will put others’ happiness and needs well before their own in importance and value. This can cause problems, but must surely be recognized, and valued as an extraordinary individual characteristic.


Some might label this quality as being ‘too direct’, ‘blunt’, ‘literal’. I call it being honest. Quite simply, if you really want to know the truth about something, ask your autistic friend. It’s far more likely that you’ll get an honest answer than anything embellished, or hidden under a cloak of social nicety. If you really want to know the answer to whether it’s noticeable that you’ve put on weight, you know who to ask . . .

Lack of adherence to nonsensical rules

This is another one that can get autistic people into trouble – and yet to me it’s admirable in the extreme! The ability, in the name of honesty and truthfulness, to ignore social hierarchy or unwritten convention that makes no logical (autistic) sense should surely be celebrated. While perhaps socially unconventional, the child who kindly corrects her teacher who has got something wrong in her lesson, or the office worker who contacts his chief executive to point out a spelling mistake in her email, are demonstrating the level of equality that so many autistic people have. They so often simply see people as genuinely equal, and refuse to acknowledge socially constructed hierarchies of importance.

Degree of passion

Again, this is so often seen as a negative – ‘obsessive behaviour’. And yet the passionate interests of many autistic people should surely be celebrated. Definitions of challenging behaviour refer to levels of intensity, duration and frequency – all which can be found in some people’s engagement with their subject of interest – but this cannot always be seen as a negative. Having a passionate interest in something can be amazing for the individual – and it has a massive contribution to make to the wider society. After all, advances in academic disciplines, among others, may well stem from autistic passion . . .

World-changing ideas

It’s worth contemplating just how many breakthrough moments in history may have had their origins in autistic thinking. The way in which the autistic brain works, the ‘different’ way of processing information, the ability to think ‘outside the box’ – it’s certainly possible (even probable) that these cognitive capabilities can lead to dramatic changes in all sorts of areas that subsequently impact on the world. Information technology is perhaps one of the most obvious recent examples in which one might consider autistic thinking as having a powerful influence, but throughout history it would be fascinating to consider positive autistic influences in a range of areas, including academia, science, electronics, mechanics and the arts.

What you see is what you get

I don’t necessarily mean this literally (see the next paragraph), but in terms of honesty and the lack of a hidden agenda I do think many autistic adults are very straightforward and don’t play the sorts of ‘social games’ that can sometimes be found within the PNT population.

What you see is not what you get

Not that I really need to mention it again, but of course, taking into account all the masking and internalizing I’ve already written about, it’s highly advisable not to make any assumptions about an autistic person based on outward appearances. Always remember, autism is in the brain – and unless you can magically see into someone’s brain and experience their experiences, you don’t automatically know what’s going on in there.

Lack of interest in being ‘top dog’

So many autistic adults want to do the best they can in particular areas, be it an interest, a job or a relationship – but the point is that this drive to want to do the best they can is just that. It’s not a search for recognition, awards or prizes – it’s simply the desire to do the best they can for their own peace of mind and satisfaction. Very often those same individuals are the ones who strive to remain ‘invisible’. They don’t want recognition or acknowledgement, as that level of exposure can be anxiety-inducing in the extreme; they may be happiest contributing magnificently to society in their own quiet, unobtrusive manner.


Plenty of autistic people are incredibly trustworthy. Literally, say the word and it’s ‘job done’. They can make the most amazing employees, friends, partners, buddies . . . if they say it’s going to be done, you can rely on the fact that it will. No excuses, no missed deadlines, no half measures. Similarly, there may be no false emotions in a relationship (of any kind), no lies (white ones or otherwise), and a level of honesty that can be refreshing indeed.

Level of logic

Autistic people make a whole lot of sense – when one understands the world from their perspective. I am less convinced that the PNT actually makes as much logical sense. Having an autistic person explain her thinking from an individual perspective can be an extraordinary experience – illuminating, fascinating, eye-opening.


I find that many autistic adults are remarkably non-judgemental and accepting of difference in all kinds of ways. It’s very rare to find an autistic person who is discriminatory in terms of gender, sexuality, physicality, appearance, disability, fashion, style, age – in fact, in any imaginable way. I suspect that such differences simply do not appear on the autistic radar, such is the illogicality of discrimination.

Problem solving

If there is a problem, sometimes an excellent way of getting it solved is to ask an autistic person for her view. So often, she will see the problem in a different way from others and, therefore, be able to supply a solution that others have been unable to identify. Sometimes those solutions may be unorthodox – but they may well work!

Highly evolved principles

Another aspect that can get autistic people into trouble – and yet this ability not to ‘go with the flow’ if the autistic person has standards and principles that are against the grain can be of exceptional value. The autistic person who raises issues that others don’t can play a hugely beneficial role in society. Some see being autistic as a blessing, some see it as a curse. Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings on the subject. But my life has been made extraordinarily rich as a direct result of the autistic people within it, for which I will be for ever grateful.

9781847094452This is an extract from Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Adults by Dr Luke Beardon

The rise of eating disorders in young men and boys

Although eating disorders have traditionally been seen as female conditions, an increasing number of men are affected too. The precise figures for men (as for women) are unreliable, because of the stigma around these issues. It is likely that numbers are considerably higher than estimated – many individuals with disordered eating never seek medical help or are not deemed ‘ill enough’ for treatment, while others are treated privately. The official NHS statistics only record the numbers of patients treated in NHS hospitals or inpatient clinics, and as such underestimate the prevalence of disordered eating. The general consensus of organizations such as the UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Department of Health is that approximately 11 per cent of those with eating disorders are male, although B-EAT (the UK’s leading eating disorders charity) suggests that up to 25 per cent of those affected could be male.

‘. . . many individuals with disordered eating never seek medical help or are not deemed ‘ill enough’ for treatment’

There is still a stigma for men in admitting to a condition that is perceived to be effeminate or unmanly. In addition, doctors, teachers and parents may fail to identify warning signs in boys that they would immediately recognize in girls: concern over body weight and shape, distress around eating or secretive behaviours around food. Partly due to this lack of awareness by the health professions, boys and men are even more ashamed of coming forward than women and girls. Male eating disorders are most likely to begin between the ages of 14 and 25 years, but just like women, men of any age can develop them. And while society is starting to acknowledge the pressures on older women to stay thin we rarely think about older men.

‘Male eating disorders are most likely to begin between the ages of 14 and 25 years, but just like women, men of any age can develop them.’

Comparatively little research has been carried out on male eating disorders. However, it is clear that many of the risk factors that apply to women apply to men too, in particular the use of dieting or bingeing as a coping mechanism, or an expression of underlying emotional stress. Men face a heightened risk if they have previously been overweight, or if obesity or eating disorders run in their family. Like women, men with anorexia tend to conform to a particular personality type: anxious, obsessive, persevering and perfectionist. They tend to be eager to please, and sensitive to rejection and humiliation.

‘Comparatively little research has been carried out on male eating disorders.’

Men are also more susceptible if they participate in sports that demands a particular body build, whether large or small. Runners and jockeys seem to show a higher prevalence of anorexia and bulimia, while footballers and weightlifters focus on increasing their size. Wrestlers who try to shed pounds quickly before a match in order to compete in a lower weight category can be vulnerable. Bodybuilders are at risk if they deplete body fat and fluid reserves to achieve high muscle definition, as are male models who fast or starve to hone the very ‘cut’ look seen on the covers of men’s magazines.

‘Runners and jockeys seem to show a higher prevalence of anorexia and bulimia, while footballers and weightlifters focus on increasing their size.’

Research suggests that eating disorders disproportionately affect some segments of the LGBT population, specifically gay and bisexual men. Gay men are thought to represent only a few per cent of the total male population, but among men who have eating disorders somewhere between 20 and 40 per cent identify as gay. In one study, gay males were seven times more likely to report bingeing and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.

‘Research suggests that eating disorders disproportionately affect some segments of the LGBT population . . .’

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, ‘Eating disorders among LGBT populations should be understood within the broader cultural context of oppression.’ While one cannot generalize as to why the gay and bisexual male community is at particular risk, a number of factors appear to be relevant. The most significant is the experience of being young and gay, with intense anxiety about coming out, fear of rejection by friends and family, social isolation and discrimination within the workplace. Even in the twenty-first century, gay men still encounter prejudice and even violence: a significant proportion of male anorexics report bullying over their sexuality at school.

Body image ideals within the gay community may also contribute: it is suggested that attractiveness and appearance pressures in terms of slimness and the ‘perfect body’, similar to the pressures on women within the heterosexual community, may cause more body image disturbance and dissatisfaction among gay men.

Whatever a man’s sexuality, male eating disorders are damaging and dangerous. Disorders last on average 8 years in men, a third longer than in women. Treatment options for male eating disorders are improving, but they are still limited, with most clinics and hospital units set up for female individuals. The focus on women’s health issues, menstruation and female body image is highly alienating for young men battling the same condition, and can reinforce the message that they have a girls’ problem. In fact, men face significant health risks from restricting, bingeing and purging.

‘Treatment options for male eating disorders are improving, but they are still limited . . .’

If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, you may wish to seek advice and support from Beat or Men Get Eating Disorders Too

a-z-of-eating-disordersThis is an extract from The A-Z of Eating Disorders by Emma Woolf out this September

10 Minutes with Matt Piccaver

We recently sat down with Dr Matt Piccaver, author of Sheldon Press’s October Release Everything your gp doesn’t have time to tell you about… arthritis, and asked him a few questions about him and his new book.

Hi Matt! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Dr Matt Piccaver, I’m a GP based in East Anglia. I spend most of my days in clinic, but when not there write for a number of local and national publications, and occasionally appear on TV and radio. 

What is the big idea you want to share in your book?

I wanted to share a little more information about arthritis. There are around 9 million or so people with the condition in the UK, and millions globally. There are hundreds of different types, and I see someone with arthritis several times a day in clinic. I spend a lot of time sharing the same messages and information, so thought I’d write a book to help people gain a greater understanding of the condition.

Who is this book for?

This book is for everyone who aches, creaks and crunches, or makes that strange sighing noise when they sit down. You know the one. It’s for those of us who think we might have arthritis, and those who know they do. 

Why did you write this book?

I decided to write this book really to give people a little more information on the disease. We can get all knowledge anytime we like, but it’s often difficult to know what we can trust. I’ve written based on my experience as a doctor, but also used the latest scientific understanding on the condition. As a GP we don’t get long to see you. Ten minutes to listen, diagnose and treat is not very long, and hopefully this book will go someway to helping people understand more about arthritis.

What one thing do you think everyone needs to know about arthritis?

 The one thing people need to know? There’s always something that can be done to help.


What’s next from you?

What’s next from me? Well, I was going to have a coffee. I’ve got a few book ideas I’m working on at the moment, as well as the day job and family that keep me very busy.


You can preorder via Amazon

Don’t forget to follow Sheldon Press on Twitter and Like us on Facebook, to be kept up to date with what’s going on.


The Sheldon Press October Release!

On the 19th October 2017 Sheldon Press is delighted to be publishing a debut book from GP and writer/broadcaster Matt Piccaver.

It is well known that GP’s don’t have that long per standard appointment with each patient, and that their training and experience means they often have more to say. The NHS is the UK currently allows ten minutes for a consultation with a GP – which is not really enough time to go in-depth about some more complex conditions, or even enough time to take off a coat and hat!

Matt is an experienced GP who thinks that writing a book, published by Sheldon Press and easily available in both print and digital editions, is a great way to continue that conversation. In everything your GP doesn’t have time to tell you about… arthritis, Matt attempts to delve deeper into arthritis and the way it can affect patients. Sheldon Press is delighted to have a great new author on board, and we can’t wait to see the impact of this book.

As @enkababu on Twitter, Matt is a keen tweeter and very much looking forward to hearing from readers.


You can preorder via Amazon

Don’t forget to follow Sheldon Press on Twitter and Like us on Facebook, to be kept up to date with what’s going on.

Do you want to learn how to Sleep Better?

Sleep scientist Professor Graham Law, author of our June Release Sleep Better: The science and the Myths, will be giving a talk at Waterstones in York on the 13th of September at 3pm.


Professor Law will explore the myths that surround sleep: some myths that are informative and helpful, others that are incorrect, and some that are positively damaging and counterproductive.

Tickets are just £3, are available in store or by calling 01904 620784.

Sleep Better is available from Amazon in both print and digital formats, as well as other online and offline bookstores.

July Release: Mood Swings – The Mindful Way

Sheldon Press is committed to providing helpful, authoritative, trustworthy and accessible books by real experts, that help real people engage with real problems. Our June 2017 release considered the science and myths around sleep, in Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe’s Sleep Better.

In July 2017 Sheldon Press is delighted to publish Mood Swings – the Mindful Way: Managing anger, anxiety and low mood. Caroline Mitchell proposes mindfulness as a way to work through some of the difficult symptoms and expressions of mood swings.


Do you have frequent, intense mood swings? Do they seem to happen for no real reason? Mood swings are normal reactions to life events, but, if your emotions are dominating your life, it might be time to take action. Mood Swings provides effective exercises and advice to help manage those dips in mood that leave you sad, mad or anxious.

You don’t have to let anger, anxiety and depression get the upper hand!

Instead, boost your mood with this inspiring, practical book.

You can get Mood Swings – The Mindful Way from BOOKSetc for just £6.68(rather than our RRP of £7.99!), or at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

June release: Sleep Better by Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe


Is it true that you fall asleep more quickly if you wear warm socks? Can you lose weight while you snooze? Do you really need a solid eight hours sleep?

Some people say that it takes 10,000 hours’ practice to become an expert at something. By that logic, we should all be expert sleepers by the age of three. So why is it, with all this expertise, so many people have difficulty with their sleep?

From increased weight-gain to a loss of productivity, sleep deprivation can have a profound impact on our lives, health and well-being, with sufferers trialling some of the many myths that surround sleep in search of curing ‘solutions’.

Written by a leading sleep scientist and a psychologist, Sleep Better explores 40 myths about our nightly journey to the land of Nod.

Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe draw on years of research and laboratory work to present the facts. Unlock the secrets of sleep, from babyhood to later life, with this wise and expert book. 

‘A clearly written, informative book. Highly recommended.’ Lilley Harvey, founder and principal teacher, Peacock Tree Yoga

‘Excellent – top tips for better sleep.’ Professor Mary Morrell, President of the British Sleep Society

Sleep Better is out today

Caring for someone with dementia? Don’t forget to look after yourself

Whether you are the main carer or you have a careworker coming in, it’s unrealistic to expect to cope with all the emotional and physical demands of caring for the person alone. As the dementia progresses, the person’s needs will increase and you may find the situation emotionally more challenging.

Taking care of your own health can often take a back seat. As you focus your energy on making sure your parent is safe and well, your stress levels may increase. And you won’t be alone. According to Alzheimer’s Society, nine in ten carers for people with dementia experience stress or anxiety several times a week.

Don’t neglect your own physical and mental well-being. Having some time to yourself, even if it’s just once or twice a week, will make a huge difference to your mental state. If you are no longer mentally and physically healthy, you won’t be able to care for your parent.

Regular exercise can make a huge difference to your physical well-being and mental health. The mental health charity Mind recommends regular exercise for reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and the chemicals released during exercise are known to generate a feeling of well-being. A brisk walk or a run offers you a chance to switch off. Or it might be an opportunity to clear your head or solve problems. I found that running really helped with my mental well-being and went on to run a marathon and raise funds for Alzheimer’s Society. I felt I was doing some good and taking back control. Without exercise, I honestly don’t think I would have coped with taking care of Mum.

 Long-term benefits

Experts also believe that regular cardiovascular exercise, like running, cycling, swimming or anything that gets you moderately out of breath, will help to reduce your own risk of developing dementia. According to Alzheimer’s Society, of all the lifestyle changes that have been studied, taking regular physical exercise appears to be one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting dementia. Several prospective studies have looked at middle-aged people and the effects of physical exercise on their thinking in memory and later life. Combining the results of 11 studies shows that regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 30 per cent. For Alzheimer’s disease specifically, the risk was reduced by 45 per cent. Regular exercise, three to four times per week, will boost your mood and make you healthier. You’ll also sleep better.

Ginny’s story

The tiredness and constant anxiety I felt when looking after my mum were significant, but running has always helped me on many levels. It obviously helps keep me fit and slim but it has always been my way to cope with stress and depression. It was a great outlet when I was caring for my mother.

Keep talking

On an emotional level, it’s important to find someone to talk to when you need to unload. Find a friend or relative who understands what you are going through. And if no one understands, then talk to Alzheimer’s Society or Age UK’s helpline team.

Caring for a parent or loved one with dementia takes great strength and courage. You will need to make decisions on his behalf, and you may be grieving for the person he used to be. It’s hugely important to deal with any emotional issues you may be facing. If you feel overwhelmed or depressed, don’t bottle things up. Talk to your GP and ask to be referred for counselling if you feel it would help.

Encourage your parent to talk about how he is feeling too. While you may be experiencing feelings of grief, he may also be mourning the loss of his independence. It’s easy to focus on providing care, but give the person a chance to talk to you. He may also need counselling. Talk to his GP if you suspect this is the case.

9781847093998This is an extract from Dementia Care: A guide by Christina Macdonald

Would you be in trouble without your snooze button?

Heading back to work tomorrow? Already setting your alarm to go off at regular intervals before you wake up? Then this extract from our June release, Sleep Better by Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe is for you!

The snooze button is a curiously problematic invention. The first snooze alarm clocks appeared in the 1950s. Lew Wallace, an American lawyer and author of the adventure tale Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ (1880), is reported to have invented the snooze button, and presumably he thought it would be a great idea. However, it really goes against everything we know about sleep. As that statement may seem overly dramatic, it calls for an explanation.

Ask yourself: ‘Why do I need my snooze button?’ If you must wake at a certain time, then why not set your alarm for that time? It is because the snooze button gives you a different option. This option plays on two points: your love of a few minutes’ more shuteye and your needing to get up and not be late. It is common for people to think that if they don’t have a repeating alarm, then they will not get up.

The snooze button confuses the mind and body. You have been woken by an alarm, at which point the hormones in your body are being released to bring you to the point of being fully awake physically and mentally. This state of heightened alertness is important in an evolutionary sense in that historically we lived in a world where survival was paramount. When you tap the snooze mode, however, the body acts as if it is being allowed to return to a full sleep. You rest your head back on your pillow, curl up into your favourite sleep position. With this, your body resets all its hormones and prepares for sleep.

So what is the problem with this? The length of a standard sleep cycle is variable; it is different for different people and varies with age. Therefore it is difficult to be specific, but it is likely that a standard 10-minute snooze is too short for your body to feel rested again and ready to wake without that feeling of grogginess known as sleep inertia. This is while the mind makes the transition from sleeping to the fully awake mode. The amount of inertia experienced by people varies quite considerably, and probably leads to people regarding themselves as a ‘morning person’ (which is described as having low sleep inertia) or ‘not a morning person’. Indeed, some recent research from the USA found that some people are so groggy that they have what is called sleep drunkenness, a serious deficit of ability when you feel unable to deal with what the day throws at you.

Sleep scientists have become increasingly interested in looking at how these differences in people may affect their health. Whether you are a morning or an evening person is known as your chronotype, and this is relevant to the snooze button. Morning larks have very little sleep inertia and are the most likely to spring out of bed. Night owls will enjoy the snooze button because they do not want to leap out of bed but to stay a while longer. In the 1970s, sleep scientists coined the term ‘drockling’ to describe this, the gentle drifting in and out of sleep in the early morning. This is exactly what happens when you use your snooze button. You are drockling; the word’s ugliness describes fairly well what happens.

The more you drockle, the more confused your body feels: should it prepare for the day or prepare for a night’s rest? What you should do is set your alarm for when you need to get up. This may need to include some time to swing your legs over the side of the bed and become fully awake. You should do this every day. Eventually your body should get used to this routine. If you use a snooze button regularly, then you have trained yourself to rely on it, instead of getting up at the first alarm.

Top tips

1 Do you use a snooze button on a regular basis and feel you need those snoozes to prepare you for the shock of getting out of bed? Why not try without? My wife used to love her snooze button to get up for work, at what felt like an unnaturally early wake-up time for her. She invested in a light alarm clock, which has a light that gradually brightens up for 30 minutes before the alarm goes off. The light signals allow the body to wake up gradually with the light, so you are often awake or almost awake before the alarm goes off. All right, it does still have a snooze button, but she now doesn’t go back to sleep once the alarm goes off, yet can still enjoy some time in bed thinking about the day without the risk of falling asleep and being late for work!

2 If you feel really bad in the morning getting up with the alarm, you may not be getting enough total sleep. Try bringing your bedtime forward gradually until you reach a point at which you are able to feel awake when your alarm goes off.

9781847094575This is an extract from Sleep Better: The science and the myths by Professor Graham Law and Dr Shane Pascoe out this June.

Keep it simple: 13 affirmative, decision-making prompts for people with hoarding behaviours

To mark National Hoarding Awareness Week we’re sharing some simple yet affirmative prompts and quotations to help the decision-making process and the choices to be made with regards to possessions.

Whether you feel ready to start unloading some of your hoard, or are trying to help someone else, these decluttering tips and techniques from Hoarding Disorders UK’s Jo Cooke could help you. But remember, take things at your own pace, and do stop and celebrate each small achievement

Keep it simple

  • Remember the 3 Cs – chuck, cherish, charity.
  • Use the principle ‘One in, one out’.
  • Everything in its place, and a place for everything.
  • Would I replace it if it went?
  • Would I miss it?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • Does it enhance my life in any way?
  • How many do I have?
  • Is it broken?
  • Is it out of date?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if I let it go?
  • Anything that evokes negative thoughts can be disposed of. Why
    be reminded of bad times?
  • ‘If in doubt – chuck it out.’

9781847094537Understanding Hoarding by Jo Cooke is out today.