Life on the Spectrum: A World Autism Awareness Week Special

Whilst I usually keep my posts on this blog themed around creative topics, I’ve decided to do something different this time. World Autism Awareness Week started last Saturday, but I’ve known about it for a good few months. So, I decided it would be time to open up about my High Functioning Autism.

I can guarantee a good half of my friends have no clue that I’m autistic, especially since it’s not something I talk about on a day-to-day basis with those I know. With that said, it’s definitely something that needs to be talked about, so here it goes. Here are the pros and cons of my autism.

Pro – It gives me my creative spark

I honestly think the biggest reason I have as much passion as I do for designing, and in turn have as many skills in being a designer, is because of my autism. Whilst most other boys when I was in school were are into things like sports, games and construction, I was far more engrossed in crafts and technology. I also knew from a very early age that I wanted to do something artistic when I grew up.

And why do I think my autism is the reason for this? Well, all of the autistic friend I have, both high and low functioning, are equally passionate about creative topics. Some are more into music, some are more into fashion, and some are more into storytelling. But all of them are creative, and I wouldn’t give up my creative spark for the world, especially if it also meant giving up these friends.

Con – It cripples my socialising skills

Easily the biggest problem my autism causes me is that it makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to socialise with people. For one thing, I am easily overcome with shyness when talking to someone, especially for the first time, and especially if they’re talking to someone else. Often, just saying “hello” to someone takes a lot of self-encouragement.

For another, I have an awful lot of difficulty making eye-contact with people. I have to really force myself to look someone in the eye, and even then, it only lasts for a split second. The only way I can describe the feeling of looking into people’s eyes is like looking into a pair of black holes, since the darkness of the pupils just never seems to end.

Pro – It makes me truly dedicated to things

Whilst I may not be into the same things as most other men, when I get passionate about something, I really get passionate about it. This includes my love for design, which can be evident in the 43 books I read for my Modernism/Postmodernism dissertation (excluding journals, websites, and the documentary film I watched).

Furthermore, if I’m given some kind of job to do, I try my hardest to not only do the job, but to do it either better, or do a lot more of it. I will spend every spare second examining every detail to see if there’s some way I can make an improvement, rarely ever telling myself that “It’ll do”. This, again, is a common trait for autistic folk, that when they have a goal they want to achieve, especially if it’s linked to something they feel strongly for, they go to the ends of the earth to achieve it.

Con – My parents had the hardest time raising me

Nowadays, I’m a quiet but friendly, calm and approachable person, which is a million miles away from the kind of child I was. Because I would easily be traumatised by change (more details regarding that to come), if anything I didn’t expect to happen happened, I would often begin screaming and try anything in my power to stop it happening, even if that meant me becoming physical.

Also, because I didn’t clearly understand the world around me, I would often do things which I never realised weren’t right, such as break something or take something from someone without their permission.

I’m none of these things today, but the only reason is because my parents, especially my mother, loved me regardless. Through their love, they raised me to be a better man, and I am forever thankful for that.

Pro – It makes me understand things others struggle with

Autistic people are neither smarter, not dimmer, than the average man. The difference is that our intelligence is focused on particular areas of our minds.

For example, being autistic, I’m especially good at systems and organisation. Not only do I plan my schedule and projects more effectively than many others do, but it means I only took half the time others did to comprehend both web-coding, and algebra.

It also allows me to have a more advanced mind for visualising things, since autistic folk like me tend to think in pictures. We can both visualise things which haven’t been created yet, and we can remember the look of something with more advanced details regular people. I can actually remember how everything looked from my earliest memory, when I was young enough to sleep in a cot.

Con – It made things you might consider ‘simple’ difficult

Whilst my autism does make me understand things others struggle to comprehend, it also has the adverse effect of making me struggle with things other people are used to, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a system involved. For example, regardless of my blog, I often struggle with reading and writing, particularly fictional material. Not only does fictional work vary more in tenses, sentence lengths and topics, but it’s also a lot less ‘matter of fact’ and uses more indirect, emotional methods of describing things (I.e. Metaphors).

Also, if there’s a change to the routine an autistic person is used to, this can often become increasingly stressful for the autistic person, since they end up becoming lost with no clear sign of where to go or what to do next. It’s like being diverted away from a road you’re used to driving on onto one you’ve never seen before. The destination might be the same, but it’s still confusing and stressful.

Let’s Talk About MMR

Yes, over 2 decades ago when the whole controversy about MMR vaccines and autism were a hot topic in the news, I was one of those children supposedly made autistic because of the vaccine (we even have before and after photographs).

Before anyone mentions them, I know the stats supposedly show no direct correlation between the two. With that said, think of it this way: some people have peanut-allergies, but we don’t go telling them that peanuts can’t cause allergic reactions since the rest of us can eat them without any side effects.

Furthermore, many of the things linked to MMR have been discovered to be potential causes of autism. Many scientists believe that autism can be a form of mercury poisoning (multiple-dose vaccines are preserved in Thiomersal, an organomercury compound), a long-term effect of contracting Rubella (what the ‘R’ in ‘MMR’ stands for), or even caused by early childhood trauma (I think having 3 diseases at once as a baby is a pretty traumatic experience).

I’m not claiming anything regarding the MMR-autism controversy. After all, I’m no scientist. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t be so conclusive that MMR doesn’t cause autism, especially since we’re still so unsure as to what does. We’re still in very early days regarding this research, so let’s keep our minds open and let the future tell us whether or not the scientists of today were right.

My Summary

I’ve met autistic people who see it as a gift, giving them skills the average human being could only dream of having. I’ve also met autistic people who see it as a hindrance, making it hard for them to fit in with society and be mocked because of it. What do I think of my autism…? Meh…

Truth be told, I don’t really think of it as a blessing, and I don’t think of it as a curse; I just think of it as the way I am. If you asked me to describe myself with a single word, I’d probably choose ‘autistic’, since I think it says just about everything you’d want to know about me in one breath.

I do think, however, that it’s something people should at least be aware of. Autism, for better or worse, is a condition that will stick with me until the day I die, and the more that people understand it, the easier life can be for all of us. You might not think that you need to know about it, but knowing how many of my own friends never knew I was autistic, it wouldn’t surprise me if you knew many more people on the spectrum without realising it. It’s not impossible for someone with High Functioning Autism, or Aspergers Syndrome, to be undiagnosed, so keep your wits about you if you spot the signs.

So, what do you all think of autism? Do you think it’s a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between? I’m interested in your opinions of it, so comment below with your thoughts regarding autism.

Top 10 Iconic Adobe Creative Cloud Apps

It shouldn’t be surprising to any of my friends that the highest standard in creative software packages is Adobe Creative Cloud. However, one thing I did find surprising was that when I searched for a list of the top 10 most iconic Creative Cloud Apps, I got no results.

So I thought, “what the hey”, and decided to write one myself.

I’m basing my list more on how well known they are outside of the design community than I am on how useful they actually are for the wide variety of creative products out there. With that said, their functionality will also play a big role in my decision-making, both individually and as part of the overall usage as part of the Adobe CC package.

No.10 – Muse

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Personally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of WYSIWYG website builders, mainly because I think they’re not everything they crack themselves up to be. With that said, the key reason I think this way is because most people are either frightened of code, or simply don’t know how to do it!

That’s why Muse is such a good software for anyone who wants to build a website without any knowledge of HTML or CSS. Unlike a software I’ll mention later in this list, this is the go-to app for anyone looking to get started on designing websites, putting their look before their practicality.

No.9 – Lightroom

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I’ve personally tried using Lightroom a handful of times, and I have to be honest, I can’t work it out for love or money. However, this is a software designed for photographers, as opposed to graphic designers, and most of the friends I have in the photography business wouldn’t know how to cope without this app.

From what I’ve seen, it’s a great tool for cropping and colourising multiple photos, as well as organising groups of similar photos into catalogues.

It might not be the most well-known of softwares, but if you’ve ever looked at a photo collection, don’t be surprised if Lightroom was a key tool used in choosing and refining those pictures you love.

No.8 – Audition

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This is the only one of Adobe CC’s softwares to be designed exclusively for sound-design, making this the primary software for musicians and sound-effects artists.

I’d love to brag about what wonderful things Audition can do, but seeing as the most I’ve ever done on it is an attempt to remove the background music from one song, I’m certainly not the person to ask.

Just be rest-assured that if you’re into the art of sound, Audition is a good software too pick.

No.7 – After Effects

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After Effects is the best place to go for special-effects when using the Adobe CC package, especially those which involve using 2 pieces of footage in one shot. Therefore, just about any hologram, motion-graphic, or chroma-key (i.e. blue/green screen) effect you see in a movie or TV show today would have been achieved using After Effects.

Some advanced examples of how After Effects can be used include the ‘helmet’ shots in the Iron Man films, and the fan-made opening titles to The Walking Dead. But some more subtle uses of After Effects include the Idents and used by news-corporations, such as the BBC and Sky News.

Really, all you need to do to see what great work can come from After Effects is turn the TV on.

No.6 – InDesign

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a design company these days that doesn’t use InDesign. Much like Microsoft Word, this software is designed for text-editing and publishing. Despite the fact that Word is cheeper and more functional for the everyman, InDesign is easily the industry standard in publishing design.

Not only does InDesign it easier to control the leading, tracking, indents, paragraph spaces, etc. which make typography work, but it’s also easier to create drop-caps, create page spreads, and seamlessly combine multiple documents into a whole book.

It can also be good for website design, but if you ask me, there’s still one software more iconic and capable for designing websites to wait for…

No.5 – Illustrator

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Contrary to what you might think from the software’s name, Illustrator is in fact a highly adaptable software for any creative working in the digital arts. In many respects, Illustrator is a superior software to the number one on this list, since it allows someone to design using vectors (solid shapes) as opposed to bitmaps (pixels). This allows for shapes to be more adaptable, curvatures to be smoother, and outlines to look crisper.

From t-shirts to typefaces, from leaflets to logos, and from maps to mascots, there’s an awful lot one can design simply using Illustrator.

It might take some time for someone to get used to bezier arms and the pen tool. Yet personally, this is my favourite of the Adobe CC Package, and I won’t stop using it anytime soon.

No.4 – Premiere Pro

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One of the problems with After Effects is that it takes a long time to load each one of its frames as you test your footage, making it painful for basic video editing. This is why Premiere pro is there better software to use for editing.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never used this software myself, but from what I can tell, it’s more stripped down than After Effects is, and capable of loading its clips faster. This allows editors to slice away all they like, often creating masterpieces of film.

And if you think this is a software just for the general public, think again. The Sundance Film Festival saw a 130% rise in entries that were cut using Premiere Pro in 2015. Gone Girl, the first ever movie to be edited entirely with Premiere Pro, would not be the same if it weren’t for the Creative Cloud!

No.3 – Dreamweaver

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This software is designed with one thing in mind… development. Whether that be a website, a software, or an app, this is the go-to software for coders.

One part WYSIWYG, one part text-editor, it makes it easier than ever for developers to create sites using this software. Not only can the developer see a near-perfect replica of what they’re creating as they build it, but pre-built templates and segments help the professionals get the divs they want in their sites, and then use their knowledge of code to tweak their sites to be just the way they want them!

For every website created with WordPress, just about every other website would have been created with Dreamweaver. And once you get the hang of it, you can certainly tell why.

No.2 Flash (soon to be re-named ‘Animate’)

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Web-designers typically hate this software, because it’s tendency for slow loading times-and overly complicated UI’s meant hundreds of websites created in the early naughties were butchered.

On the other hand, this is the ideal software for animators and game-designers, especially those who like to keep their work 2D. Not only are the transitions crisp and smooth due to easing, but by adding some ActionScript, it can become entertainingly interactive.

Even if Flash games have fallen out of popularity with the rise of Apple devices, it’s popularity in cartoons like The Tom and Jerry Show show that Flash still has a bright, animated future.

Now, I would usually write a list of honourable mentions for this segment. However, since the majority of apps left in the Adobe CC package are used in the background, it seems rather pointless to make a huge fuss about them. So, let’s just skip to my number one pick…

No.1 – Photoshop

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Sure, InDesign and Illustrator might be the better softwares for graphic designers like myself. But seriously, how can anybody deny the sheer influence that Photoshop has had on both the creative and technological industries?!

Designed especially for photo-manipulation, such as the artwork by Erik Johansson, photoshop isn’t just the software most of us digital-creatives are introduced to. It’s a trademark which has become a verb in its own right, which if you ask me, stapes this as the most iconic the Adobe Creative Suite softwares!

(Sorry, I couldn’t help but include this video too!)

But, perhaps you have a different idea of which one of the Adobe CC Apps is the most iconic. If you think this list needs a different order, feel free to comment below and let me know!