To celebrate International Asperger’s Day, I want to tell you a little bit about my journey living with Asperger’s. My name is Alex Manners, I am 25 and I have Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of autism.
Being diagnosed with Asperger’s
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 10 years old. At the time I was a little confused as I did not know what Asperger’s was. After being told of my diagnosis, my dad took me outside and told me that I should not be worried about having Asperger’s. He explained to me that lots of our family had Asperger’s traits and that it gave me ‘special powers’. So, from that day on, I have always viewed it as something positive. I’m not saying that my journey has all been positive, as there have been many challenges along the way. Asperger’s is a lifelong condition so I recognise that challenges will continue to crop up throughout my life. However, the positive elements of my Asperger’s, that I like to call my ‘Asperger’s Superpowers’, are the things I like to focus on.
Going to school
School was one of the most traumatic parts of my life. Just to get me into my primary school every morning was a huge struggle for my mum. Sometimes I would stand by the school fence and contemplate whether to jump over and run home. I never did, but I wanted to on so many occasions. At my primary school, I used to suffer from extreme anxiety and I was also bullied not only by people in my year group, but it also felt like some of the teachers were bullying me as well. In my opinion, some teachers had pre-conceived ideas about Asperger’s and autism and it felt like they did not want to be flexible i.e. put a rule in place for me but not everyone else. Things improved as I was lucky enough to go to a small independent secondary school that had more specialised support in place for people like myself. However, I still really disliked school and the most ‘stressful triggers’ were the constant changes, school uniform and homework.
What Asperger’s is like for me
People with Asperger’s can often be over or under-sensitive to many sensory stimuli. For example, I can’t stand the feel of cotton labels in the back of my shirts or seams at the end of my socks. I also find certain noises like ticking radiators and clocks unbearable. When I was younger I used to have a lot of ‘meltdowns’. A series of six or seven things would happen over the school day or week. Then when I would come home, one last little thing would cause me to have a meltdown. It would be like the last little piece of string inside me had snapped. I still have meltdowns today but I can now recognise when one is about to happen. Mess is one of the triggers that can lead me to have a meltdown. That is why my bedroom is like a library. All of the socks face the same way round in my drawers and all of my clothes in my wardrobe are in colour-coded order.
Routine and order are big things for me. I used to always have to know exactly what I was doing or where I was going. However, since the lockdowns, I have learnt to be more relaxed and not worry so much if some of my plans have not been finalised. Football has always been a huge part of my life and has helped me a lot over the years. It has essentially given me another focus in life. I am so obsessed with football that I have been to watch a match at all 92 English Football League grounds and have around 150/200 football shirts. Because of my love of football, a few years ago I started my own ‘Autism & Football’ campaign.
My life now
I now have my own business presenting talks all about “My Life Living with Asperger’s” to many different companies, banks, law firms, universities, schools and charities. My aim is to inspire and educate as many people as I can. I have achieved many things, such as presenting my own children’s radio show for two years, I filmed all of the Solihull Moors FC home games for two years for BT Sport and appearing on series 10 & 11 of ‘The Undateables’ on Channel 4. One of my proudest achievements is that I have written and published my very own book called “That’s Not Right! My Life Living with Asperger’s”.
Why I look upon my Asperger’s as something positive
I feel extremely fortunate to be able to present my talks in front of so many people. I am never nervous and look upon this as one of my ‘Asperger’s Superpowers’. Since leaving school my ambition has been to be a TV presenter. I would not have met nearly as many people in the TV world or had as many interviews on the radio and TV if I did not have Asperger’s. Also, I would not have presented my own radio show or written and published a book. So, I believe that my Asperger’s has given me a head start and will be the catalyst that enables me to achieve my dreams and ambitions.
I am extremely lucky to have such a large and supportive family. I am also very lucky to have parents who are positive and really understand my Asperger’s. Whenever I am stressed or being negative my dad always tells me that there are positives in every situation and to go and find them. Without this support network, I am certain that I would have been in lots more stressful situations and had a lot more struggles growing up.
My advice to anyone is that if you want to achieve something in life don’t let your circumstances define you. If you have the drive, determination and persistence then I believe you can achieve anything.
If I did not have Asperger’s, then I would not be Alex Manners!
Here are a few links to find out more about me and my Asperger’s:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/thealexmanners
–Written by Alex Manners