Photo of James Sinclair (an autistic man) in the spectrum graphic, alongside a quote

Meet James Sinclair, our co-presenter for Spectrum Live, autistic advocate and founder of the popular autism awareness blog Autistic and Unapologetic. James shares his tips for ‘getting out and about’ and chats to us about what he’s looking forward to most about Spectrum Live… 

When were you diagnosed as autistic? 

I was identified as being autistic around the age of three but, like so many others, I had to wait four years to receive a formal diagnosis...

What is being an autistic person like for you? 

Being autistic means a lot of second guessing and a lot of extra planning. I am excellent at identifying when my autistic traits have made me act in a certain way, but this only comes upon reflection, as I am seemingly immune to any faux pas at the time they occur.

I tend to overthink experiences that have happened. This means that when everyone has moved on and is living in the present, I am still hooked on a slip up from an earlier event, which can range from a discussion that made me uncomfortable to a venue that was simply too loud. This obsession with an error from my past means that I don’t pay attention to the here and now, causing me to make yet another action which I consider an error, and so the whole cycle continues.

In the past this catch 22 has made me reluctant to go out (as even with all the planning in the world, something always goes wrong) but recently I have challenged myself to not let these anxieties beat me - something which I am so far achieving with the help of lots of self-imposed recovery time after any/every public outing.

What are some of the barriers you have experienced when getting out and about in public? 

A lot of people think that a sensory issue can only occur due to an excess of stimuli, however, this isn’t always true. When I am out and about I am more than capable of pushing back the noise from a busy crowd but, inevitably, one voice, cough or laugh breaks through, invading my thoughts and ruining my day. The barrier this presents is that the person who has cut through my attention can’t be blamed for just being themselves so, subsequently, I have to leave and find somewhere less busy to go which, more often that not, is back at home.

What are some of your tips to help other autistic people to get out and about? 

While thinking about going out can often make my stomach feel like it is tied into a knot that even Houdini couldn’t escape, it’s often nothing that a good meal can’t fix. This is because, like any main organ, the brain requires fuel to process all the information that is thrown at it. So, when an autistic person enters an unknown environment, it can make a huge difference for their brain to be prepared to work overtime to ensure that an overload doesn’t turn into a meltdown.

On that note though, being well aware of what you are going to see, hear, and even smell when out can give your brain the head start it needs to avoid any excess information overload. For this reason, myself and many others on the autistic spectrum can benefit greatly from a test lap on any upcoming event - something which, thanks to the miracle that is Google maps is easier than ever before (especially with the new feature that even lets you enter buildings!).

Why did you create your blog?

For as long as I can remember I have been autistic, but I never really knew what that meant. I would often (wrongly) tell people it meant my brain wasn’t working, but as I got older, I began to realise how incorrect this understanding was. Researching autism, every resource I found was so overwhelmingly negative that it didn’t match my outlook or experiences. Autistic & Unapologetic was created for people who, like me, want to learn more about autism - minus the pessimism that you usually find when rummaging around online.

What are you looking forward to the most about Spectrum Live? 

Autistic people and their families can often feel quite isolated due to lack of understanding or fear of lack of understanding. Spectrum Live is a brilliant opportunity for people around the community to get together and discuss the subjects which matter to us without leaving the home.

Of course, I’m looking forward to meeting those who are on the front line of autism representation, autism understanding and autism acceptance, but I’m really looking forward to hearing and interacting with those watching the recording.

Join us on our Facebook page on Wednesday, 24 April for Spectrum Live, our interactive live stream event that you can access for free, from the comfort of your own home. 

“Getting out and about” can be difficult for some autistic people. We’ll be talking to autistic people, their families and professionals working in the field of autism and sharing real life stories, top tips and hosting a question and answer session.