Day 24 - Another round of thank yous!

Yesterday was another short day at 71km but it got me up to a total of 2,438km on the bike since I left the hotel in Newhaven on 29 June. When you add on the other 125km for getting across the channel that is a grand total of 2,563km travelled since the 29 June. It feels like quite a long time ago now! 

I hope you have learned a little bit about autism and the National Autistic Society while I have been spamming you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram asking you to read the blog. I also hope you have enjoyed the pictures and videos from the trip.

Thank you again to everyone who has made a donation to NAS since you found out about my bright idea to pick what may turn out to be the warmest summer on record to ride round the l'Hexagone of France. Thank you also for all the messages and encouragement on the way round. 

Thank you to Sabine, Kenny, John and Leslie for the welcome, and the finish line yesterday. The pipes were a bit of a surprise!

Thank you to my Mum and Dad for the help and support on the way round France. I hope you managed to enjoy your holiday too.

Best wishes,

Neil

Day 23 - Going to the Doctor or Dentist

Apologies, once again, I crashed out last night before I got a chance to write this blog. Day twenty three was the longest of the whole thing. The morning involved climbing to the highest point of the ride round France (which wasn’t really that high at 744m). and the second half was descent or flat. I stopped for lunch and felt pretty good at that point. After lunch it felt like cycling in an oven, a number of the pharmacy thermometers were showing 41 degrees. At one point I resorted to stopping in Aldi, buying 2kg of ice and a pillow case. The ice was put in the pillow case and the combined package was put down the back of my cycling jersey! That felt good, it kept me going the last ten miles, it stopped me from overheating and it kept me healthy!

Given the communication challenges some people on the autism challenge face it can be a challenge to remain healthy for some. People on the autism spectrum may not be able to communicate effectively with Doctors or Dentists to explain their symptoms. Other challenges with attending the Doctor or Dentist include the sensory issues someone on the autism spectrum may have to deal with, these may be related to noise, light or touch. Depending on whether the person is over sensitive or under sensitive then these could pose different challenges. Laurie wasn’t happy in the GP surgery one day and gave the doctor a sharp kick in the shins and ran out. One of the doctors who knew Laurie was able to calm her down and get her back in to the surgery. Finally, going to the Doctor or Dentist could result in change, this is something we know that people on the autism spectrum often do not deal with well. Together these issues can make attending the Doctor or the Dentist difficult for someone on the autism spectrum.

The main way of dealing with these challenges is to prepare the person for what they can expect when they go to see the Doctor or the Dentist. There is more information on this on the www.autism.org.ukwebpage.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Neil

Day 22 - National Autistic Society

Day twenty two feels almost like a rest day. Dad was riding with me again today and we got to tonight’s accommodation just after lunch time. This was the first and only full day in Switzerland. Unbeknownst to me until I put the hotels address in to the GPS, the hotel in Geneva was actually just across the border in France. We were in and out of Switzerland on the rest day though, once to get the brakes on my bike fixed and again for lunch with my Mum’s Uncle Bob. Tomorrow I will leave Switzerland and head back in to France, and depending on where the Garmin takes me along the way I may go in to Germany for a few kilometres too.

 

Twenty two days on the bike (two days to go) has proven to be a little more challenging than I thought it would be – more in the head than physically. My Mum and Dad have taken their holiday at the same time as me, and I probably would not have made it this far  without their company and support. Thanks to them for that. 

 

The National Autistic Society provides a number of services, some of which I have referenced in other blog entries. These include providing support to those with autism, to help them live their lives without being isolated or being dependent on family. They provide these services to people on the autism spectrum in their own homes and in NAS’s residential facilities.

 

For many years after Laurie was diagnosed as being Aspergers she was supported by different organisations. However, I think she was happiest in Springburn. The staff in Springburn became a second family to Laurie and she was very fond of them and they of her.

 

The staff at NAS supported Laurie to develop and do the things she wanted to do. During her years in Springburn Laurie lived a full and happy life. The various staff supported her musically, they sang with Laurie, they helped Laurie practice the flute and the piano, and they went along to the Choir with Laurie. They made sure Laurie was ready to go along to the rugby games – including making sure Laurie and Parksy the bear were prepared for whatever the weather might be like at Scotstoun. They cooked with Laurie and made all sorts of interesting things. They got Laurie in a way I probably never did. The staff at Springburn are another group to whom I will always be grateful.

 

NAS provide valuable services to a number of people who on the autism spectrum across the UK. I do not know how the donations you have made will be used but I am sure they will benefit those who use the services NAS provides. As with most of the subjects I have raised on the blog more information is available at www.autism.org.uk.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Neil

Day 21 - Taking things literally

Day twenty one proved to have more climbing than any other day so far. The last three days on the bike have had around the same as the other eighteen put together. The temperature is also going up. The next two days are forecast to hit 38 degrees.

 

I am nearly there though, tomorrow is 50km less than today and nearly half of what comes the day after at 70km. One thing I have learned over the last couple of days is that if you use three different route planning tools they will probably spit out three different answers for the amount of height gain on any given route. It will normally turn out to be the case that the Garmin planner will over estimate, and Google will underestimate when you check what the height gain was at the end of the day. You cannot take any of them literally.

 

People who are on the autism spectrum can be very literal in how they understand language, and in how they think about things. I mentioned this before in a previous blog but thought it was worth returning to given what happened at lunchtime today. We had two bottles of Orangina (see picture above) one said Monday and the other Wednesday. It is Tuesday today. Dad jokingly pointed Laurie wouldn’t have been able to have an Orangina today. You may have seen the packets of socks you can get with different days of the week on them. Laurie was taking ages to get dressed one morning many years ago. Mum went to check on what the hold up was. Without thinking Mum had put socks out which said Saturday. Laurie couldn’t put them on because it was not Saturday!

 

We had lunch today at the side of Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva) and the day has come to an end at the side of Lake Neufchatel. Another story about Laurie taking things literally happened beside another Lake, Lake Windermere. We were all walking along and Laurie was walking at ‘warp speed Laurie’ ie twenty paces behind everyone no matter what pace everyone else was doing! Mum turned to check what Laurie was up to and saw something in her hand. Mum asked what it was, Laurie said “it is a please take one”. Pardon was the response. Laurie showed us what she had and it was a rock with a note stuck to it saying ‘Please take one’. We looked back down where we had walked and the wind had caught a pile of leaflets that people had until moments before been invited to take one of. We made a run for the car at that point!

 

The point of this blog is to say be understanding about how people with autism may interpret what they read and hear. They may not interpret things in the same way as other people.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Neil

Day 20 - Surprises

Day twenty was only marginally less hilly than day nineteen, but most of the climbing was piled in to one monster (for me) climb, it probably wouldn’t even have been Cat 3 in the le Tour! Unfortunately there was no corresponding descend to enjoy on the other side. In retrospect this was possible a good thing, as the brake pads are beginning to wear out. A small tumble when crossing some tram lines in Geneva wasn’t the best way to end the day but bike and rider appear to have survived relatively intact.

 

I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was, but we were in Geneva a long time ago on holiday. We were staying with family and went swimming at the beach in Lac Leman. Laurie went off for a wander and a nosey about. A little while later someone came and spoke to Mum and said that Laurie had been knocked over. That Laurie had explained in French where we were, that we were here on holiday, and that was how the person had found us. Mum responded no, that can’t be Laurie as Laurie doesn’t speak French (or at least that was what she had been told). In the end Mum went with the person to check. Sure enough, it was Laurie, and when Mum arrived she was nattering away in French to the ambulance crew. She could speak French fine, she was just bloody minded and chose not to at school. 

 

Much more recently someone else thought they had seen Laurie in Tesco but decided it couldn’t be her as she was speaking Italian. She was wrong, Laurie and Ailsa from Morin Path were chatting in Italian while they were doing their shopping.

 

What am I trying to get at tonight? Perhaps when considering how autism and other factors impact upon a person’s abilities we should consider what the person can rather than what they can’t – and we definitely should not make a assumptions about what they cannot do.

 

Thanks for reading, day off tomorrow but there will be another blog on Tuesday.

 

Best wishes,

 

Neil

Day 17 - Imagination

Today the donations to the National Autistic Society ticked over the £2500 mark. This is more than double the original target I set when setting up the Just Giving page - and far more than I imagined would be made when I had the idea to do this ride. I won’t amend the target again, but please do not be put off making a donation if you haven’t already done so. Thank you to everyone for their generosity. I am sure NAS will put it to good use.

 

In terms of Not the Tour, the trend today and tomorrow is very much to head northward. Tomorrow is the last “flat” day before two more lumpy days in to Geneva and another rest day. Mont Ventoux which may be visited on another trip was on the horizon for much of yesterday and today – but nearer to the cycle paths and roads were the apple trees, vines, herbs and lavender for which this region is famous. I have been in different parts of France before, but never have I travelled around so much in a single trip. It has been possible to see the way the buildings and the countryside change as you move around the country. The mountains on the now on the horizon are a bit intimidating – even if I will be missing out the really big ones. Yes I am a wimp. At one point on the way down the east side of France, the night before the ride to Bordeaux it was hard to imagine even getting this far – so hopefully it won’t be that hard getting to Geneva.

 

Speaking of imagination, what is it exactly? In short it is the ability to think up different scenarios or stories, different settings or situations, or even cycle routes. There is a myth that being on the autism spectrum means an impaired or absent imagination. This is not the case, those on the autism spectrum have just the same scope to imagine as neurotypical individuals. In fact their imagination might result in even more vivid stories, and settings than someone who is not on the autism spectrum – because of the way they perceive the world around them. However, where those on the autism spectrum may struggle is with social imagination, the ability to empathise with those around them and imagine how they may react in a certain situation. 

 

Because a child on the autism spectrum is not playing in what might be considered a ‘typical’ manner does not mean that they lack imagination. Instead of building a car or a building with Lego bricks for example they may develop some sort of pattern using the different colours and sizes of the bricks. While it may not be apparent to you or I what is going on, they might be solving some sort of mathematical problem that you and I had not considered. If you follow through with them and try to understand their train of thought who knows where it might take you – there will probably be a few gems in these kinds of situations because someone on the autism spectrum may imagine things in a different way to someone who is not autistic.

 

Thank you again for the generosity you have shown in making donations, and thank you for reading.

 

Best wishes,

 

Neil

Day 15 - Unwritten rules

Today Dad joined me for the sixth and final day of block three. I made it to the Mediterranean seventeen days after crossing the channel, fifteen of which were spent on the bike. We passed Le Tour de France today, or at least they went in the opposite direction about 200km to the north. Le Tour and every other bike races has a number of rules, some of which are written in the rule book, and others are unwritten.

 

The unwritten rules are many and varied, they also include all of the shades of grey from black to white (often depending on your perspective) – they have also evolved over the history of bike racing. They include not taking advantage if the race leader has a mechanical and the ‘racing’ has not already started, not attacking during the feed zone, and not attacking while riders are taking a comfort break. To the uninitiated these unwritten rules could prove daunting. How do you know if the ‘race is on?’ Why should you not try and win the race when someone has stopped to take a pee? When Team Sky came in to the peloton they broke some of these rules without even thinking, eventually they learned which ones could be broken and which ones they had to play by. In one race they attacked through the feed station, so the next day the peloton sped up when one of their riders stopped for a comfort break. Lesson learned.

 

Neurotypical people may appear to respond intuitively to social situations. However, the social norms and conventions people conform to have evolved over time, and are learned by us over time. In contrast, people who are on the autism spectrum may struggle with these norms and conventions. For someone who is autistic being involved in some social situations may be like looking at a bike race, trying to understand what is going and not being aware about the unwritten rules that are being applied to the situation.

 

People on the autism spectrum may not be aware of what amount of personal space is appropriate in a given situation, or how to start a conversation. They may also appear to be very blunt in comparison to someone who is not on the autism spectrum, for example they may be very honest in expressing their views about your clothes that day, or in Laurie’s case whether certain people in the choir were hitting all the correct notes at practice.

 

Once again there is help and advice for dealing with the challenges of social interactions on the National Autistic Society webpage.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Neil 

Day 9 - Alcohol

Block 2 of five is now complete. I have made it to Bordeaux, 852km (or 529 miles for those who don’t do kilometres), 36 hours of cycling over nine days with an additional day off along the way. As a bit of context for those of you who might think I do a lot cycling before I set off last week I had done 3100km this year – between 29 June and 26 July I will do roughly 2500km.

 

Today’s 129km ride included 1200m of height gain – which on a loaded up bike is not fun. Thankfully I dumped the kit in the car half way through when I was joined by Dad – unfortunately I had already done most of the climbing by then!

 

The next bit of the ride will take me from the Atlantic, to the Mediterranean along the sides of the Canal du Garonne and the Canal du Midi, collectively known as the Canal des deux Mers (a Great Canal Journey on a bike). But before that I rest!

 

Yesterday’s blog talked about the relationship between Autism and food. This time I am going to focus on alcohol. It is quite common for people to have gone through life without receiving a diagnosis, but feeling like they don’t quite fit in. Many people adapt to cope in their own way. This might be through creating routines for example. However, others may use alcohol.

 

On the NAS website there is an article where a person with autism talks about using alcohol to cope. Matt says that he used alcohol to address the primary symptom of anxiety. He also says that he was socially awkward and that social interactions were easier if he had had a drink. For Matt alcohol lessened the impact of autism. It diluted the sensory symptoms associated with autism.

 

The negative impacts of alcohol however, such as liver disease, in Matt’s case mean that it is not a sustainable solution. However, many substance abuse facilities will not accept someone for treatment until they are ‘dry’. For a person with autism, and particularly a non-diagnosed person this might be a challenge. The alcohol is a crutch they are using to cope in a non-autistic world. It may be the case that to help people with autism who also require support for alcoholism changes need to be made to the way treatment is provided.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Neil 

Day 5 - Rest

Today was a shorter day which was much required. I am now five days and 420km (260 miles) in to my loop from the Channel, down to the Mediterranean and then back up to the Black Forrest via Switzerland. Nineteen days on the bike, with another four rest days to go. The first of those rest days is tomorrow.

The National Autistic Society provides a number of services to support autistic people and their families. In Scotland these services include supported living services, providing information and advice, employment support, education support, mentoring, Daldorch House School, working with businesses so they can better support people with autism, a help line and campaigning for the rights of autistic people. 

For more information on the services provided by NAS please have a look here: https://www.autism.org.uk/services/scotland.aspx 

Finally, as noted above, I will be taking a short rest from the bike tomorrow. NAS offers respite services for adults in Glasgow, Gravesend, and South Wales. NAS also provides a short break service for children and young people which is available in different locations across the country.

For more information about short break services please look here: https://www.autism.org.uk/services/home/short-breaks.aspx

There will be no blog tomorrow but there will be something after my next day on the bike.

Thanks,

Neil

Day 2 - Routine

The weather was more pleasant today, but I thought I was doing 80km, not 100km… The last hour was torture! I will be adding having a look at the route for the next day to the daily routine!

Speaking of routine people with autism can find the world a difficult place. They can use a daily routine to make sense of life. They might like to use the same route to and from different places. Special events like Christmas that others look forward to can cause challenges for this living with autism as their routine might be change. For example, if they do their shopping on a Monday but all the shops are closed because it is Christmas.

I am beginning to develop my own routines to get through this ride. If I camping then the first thing to do is take down the tent. Then a quick wash, so that I am not sweaty for at least a few minutes! After that it is on the bike. I will ride till I find somewhere for breakfast stop. After that, depending on when I start I will ride for a couple of hours and stop for lunch. After that, then hopefully I am nearly at my destination. If I am camping, then the tent gets put up before a shower and dinner. I don’t put the tent up in the hotel though. What would be the point of that. Finally you may already be getting fed up with the Social Media posts that are part of the routine when riding round France apparently!

If you want to read a bit more about autism and routines as well as obsessions and repetitive behaviours please have a look here: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/behaviour/obsessions-repetitive-routines.aspx

Thanks for reading, best wishes,

Neil

Thank you!

I am still in Glasgow, I haven’t gone anywhere yet, let alone turned a pedal, so to have received over £500 of donations for the National Autistic Society is great.

As you might be able to tell this bit of the page is different to other parts. I will normally be updating it on the move, hence the moving header rather than a photo!

Day 1 - Communication

Bonjour!

Today is the first day on the bike! I think it might have been my warmest day on a bike. If it wasn’t for the heat it would have been a relatively 59km (it was only supposed to be 55km but I got lost in Dieppe…) ride. Tomorrow takes me to Paris.

I will be communicating using Twitter and Instagram, please look up @notthetour on both. If you are bored at work in the next few weeks you will also be able to dot spot as I move (slowly) round France. Given the lack of speed you will need to be fairly bored!

Thank you again for all the donations – to say I am grateful for the donations and support would be understating it! However, as well as raising money I wanted to try and impart some knowledge about autism with this in mind and given the awkward use of communicating above – communication will be the subject of the rest of this update.

People with autism tend to take things literally. Irony might not work so well, and woe betide the swimming teacher who says “swim to the bottom of the pool and wait for me.” They may quickly realise they meant to say “swim to the other end of the pool and wait for me.”

When Laurie was younger my parents gave her a mobile phone, it rang she didn’t answer it. They had a cunning plan though. They recorded their voices as the ring tone. Mum’s ringtone said “Laurie answer the phone.” Laurie answered the phone. For some reason when Dad called Laurie wouldn’t answer. It was only when I was home one day when Laurie wasn’t answering the phone. I went through to see why not. Dad’s ringtone said “Laurie pick up the phone”. She had done what has been told, but no communication took place.

Thanks for reading, until the next time!

Neil

Day 3 - Not Chartres, not a brewery?

Nothing went up on the blog last night as I conked out at 9pm. I think it might have been the extra anti histamine I took after getting bit/stung on my lip. I will keep it even briefer than normal today as I need to get the bike packed and get going.

You will see that although I am in Chartres, I have added no photos of Chartres Cathedral (every photo/video I am putting up during the ride I have taken). I saw it as I cycled to the hotel. To be honest though the hotel is in a suburb called Luce. It could be on the edge of any medium sized French town. After getting to the hotel/camp site it appears that I do not want to go anywhere that involves more than ten minutes walk. I am sure you will understand. So there you go I am in Chartres, but it could be any Ibis in any town in France.

This being in Chartres Luce reminded me of a story from a visit to the original Kronenbourg brewery in Strasbourg. The tour guide showed us the history of beer making and Kronenbourg particularly. This went from the founding through to today. The killer point being that the beer was no longer made in the brewery we were being shown round. The beer was made in a huge brewery miles away. Laurie switched off when she discovered the beer wasn’t made there anymore. I am not sure what the issue was, but I don’t know if she would respond in the same way to me saying I was staying in Chartres, but it actually being Luce.

Thanks for reading,

Neil

Day 4 - Asperger Syndrome

Day four, and I have written in to the Loire valley. One more day, till a day of the bike. Each day brings a spectrum of feelings, some good some bad. Today was a good one, and hopefully tomorrow will be a good one before a rest day.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All people who are autistic share certain difficulties but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Asperger syndrome is a particular kind of autism. People with the syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. Some people with Asperger find the world overwhelming and this can cause them anxiety. They might feel overloaded with the sights, smells and sounds going on around them. People with Asperger syndrome are generally as clever or more clever than most of us.

Maybe I should have asked someone who is Asperger to design this route! More rest days and less days on the bike would have been kinder to a specific bit of my body right now. I will let you decide which!

Thanks,

Neil

Day 6 - ☺️😊😑😜🤨🤪😋

If you saw the photos I put up earlier today you will see there are more faces in them than has been the case most days. There was even video of yours truly riding his bike. Facial expressions normally help smooth social interactions. You or I might be able to tell if someone is happy or sad, stressed or excited by the look on their face. Or in my case today, pretty damn warm!

People who are autistic may have difficulty reading facial expressions. There are posts on NAS’s forum by those who have been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum who talk about their difficulties identifying facial expressions. Now imagine going in to work tomorrow morning and imagine not being able to read your colleagues expressions, and imagine how much more difficult it might make the first interaction. Now imagine that is your experience of every interaction.

The other difficulty that some people with autism also have is not knowing what facial expression to use when. Imagine how you might feel telling a story about a particularly painful experience and the person smiles in response rather than providing a look of empathy. Now imagine how bad that person might feel if they think they have used an inappropriate facial expression.

Thanks for reading,

Neil

Day 7 - To be Limoged…

Another warm one today. But I was up early to get the bulk of todays riding in before the highest temperatures of the day. The last ten miles were at their warmest. I am staying in a Gîte in the middle of nowhere tonight. The nearest big town that you might have heard of is an hour drive away. It is called Limoges.

In the First World War French Generals who were relieved of command on the Western Front were sent to Limoges under virtual house arrest. They were essentially excommunicado for the period they were there. This was to stop them from sniping at Marshal Foche in the Parisian cafes.

As I said in one of my previous blogs people with autism experience the world differently to other people. If they perceive someone as over powering them or crowding them out they may try to avoid interacting with that person. This may be the case even when the person has been nothing other than kind and good natured. They may just be too much to deal with. We used to say Laurie had sacked someone if we observed this happening. I guess another way of putting it might be that someone had been figuratively ‘Limoged’.

I have two more days left of this block before I get to Bordeaux for another rest day. I have to say I am looking forward to coming out of my self imposed Limoges and having some company for a few days after that!

Thank for reading,

Neil

Day 8 - Food

Another day down, 16 to go. Most of the discomfort of today was after I stopped riding and tried to get, and stay cool. This afternoon was a bit of a struggle. As is normally the case for me, I felt better after some food.

Like everyone else those with autism benefit from eating a balanced diet. However, for a multi due of reasons this can prove difficult. It may be the case that a habit has formed that a person’s diet is drawn from a relatively small number of foods. This may not pose such a problem if all the food groups that are required for a healthy diet are included within the limited range. However, if they are not then this may mean an intervention of some form is required.

Another area where food can be difficulty for someone with autism is the taste. As noted in a previous blog, people with autism experience the world differently to people who do not have autism. People who are over sensitive may eat bland foods so that what they taste is not over powering. In contrast, those who do not taste food so strongly may prefer to eat things with a punchier flavour so they can really taste what they are eating.

Thanks for reading,

Neil

Day 10 - Facts

Day nine was the last day where the general trend was south. It was also the last day for a while where was most of the miles were being done on the road. Today I started heading east towards Montpellier, and the Mediterranean Sea. My Dad joined me today, and, we will be riding towards Carcassonne over the next few days. We left Bordeaux on the Voie Verte, one of a network of cycle paths that have been converted from old railways. They are great if you do not like riding on the road, or want a break from the road. Then we cut across country to the Canal des Deux Mers (actually it is two canals, the Canal du Midi, and the Canal du Garonne). Unlike the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals at home it will take more than a day to ride the length of these two, in fact it will take the best part of a week to get all the way across, but at least there won’t be any cars!

I quoted a few stats about the trip in the last blog. The rest of this blog covers off some other facts. The 2019 Tour de France (the real one) marks the 100th year where the famous Maillot Jaune or yellow jersey has been used to identify the race later. In contrast it is only 50 years since Leo Kanner first described classic autism syndrome. He did not make any statements about the number of people with the condition.

Over 20 years later Victor Lotter published the first results of an epidemiological study of children with the behaviour pattern identified by Kanner in the former county of Middlesex. He identified that 4.5 in every 10,000 children displayed the bahviours identified by Kanner.

Today around 1% of the UK population may be autistic, this is roughly 700,000 people – 2.8m people in the UK may have a relative on the autism spectrum. Between 44-52% of people who are autistic may have a learning difficulty. In contrast around a third of people with a learning difficulty may also be autistic.

Some other facts about autism include:

• Autism is a life long condition, you do not ‘grow out of it’.

• Autism affects both boys and girls. However, five times as many males as females are diagnosed with autism.

• Some autistic people do not speak, they are non-verbal and communicate through other means.

• Autism is not a mental health problem. It is a developmental disability.

• It is not true that everyone is on the autism spectrum. What is true is that everyone might recognise some autistic traits within themselves.

Thanks for reading,

Neil

Day 11 - Transition/Work

One more day of my loop down to the bottom of France and back up to the Black Forest and I will be half way round. That milestone will be reached just to the west of Toulouse. Much of the first day was as has already been said on cycle paths. The next eight were on the D roads of France. D roads cover a broad range of sins from single lane right up to dual carriage way – most of my ones were of the single track variety. Yesterday and much of the rest of the week will be on different cycle paths. The different transitions cause different challenges – especially if you have got used to one way of doing things. On the cycle paths there might be people walking, or running with headphones. They might not hear you coming. On the road, well there is the traffic. Although the drivers in France treat cyclists far better than they do in Britain. The only close pass here has been by a car with British plates. Of all the transitions on this journey I suspect the most difficult will be going back to work in August!

Transitions can also cause challenges for those with autism. In this context I am talking about moving from one stage in live to another, such as the moves from school to college and college to work. In the work place people with autism have the same protections as other disabilities under the Equality Act and Northern Ireland Disability Act. When working with someone who is on the autism spectrum it is worth remembering that for them to deliver their best work it may be helpful to manage them in a different way. For example, providing written instructions, breaking down large tasks in to smaller component. Being willing to provide feedback if someone is focussing on something that is of particular interest to them but perhaps does not facilitate the deliver of a goal. This may all sound like things people will do in their daily work anyway, however, you might need to do it a bit more if you are working with someone on the autism spectrum.

Finally, it is work remembering that autism is a spectrum disorder. Given this there will be a broad range of rolls that could be undertaken by those with the condition – and as well as this everyone is different. We should think carefully about how we interact with everyone and try to get the best out of these interactions. Just like on the bike, whether it is the cycle path or the road, you want to get from point A to point B in the most efficiently and enjoyable way possible!

Thanks for reading,

Neil

Day 12 - Rugby/Glasgow Warriors

A few days ago around Bordeaux I was cycling through what was very much wine country. At the moment I am riding through what is very much French rugby country. I am currently sitting in the café of the Toulouse rugby team called Café Ernest. Stade Toulousain play in the Stade Ernest Wallon for those of you who do not know. While I have been in Bordeaux a couple of times since the reason for this post today is because Laurie, my Mum, my Dad and I came here in 2008, and we watched Glasgow Warriors destroy Toulouse. I don’t think any of us quite believed it but we were all very pleased with the result.

The place names on this leg will all be familiar to people who watch European rugby, Toulouse, Agen, Bordeaux Begles, Béziers, Montpellier and Narbonne. Before I discovered I quite like riding my bike I used to play rugby (Sharkie, if you are reading this take note, I used to play rugby ;-)). Rugby was my first sporting love and it has given me a lot of great friends, memories and experiences for which I will always be grateful. As well as playing, Laurie, Mum, Dad and I have been going to Glasgow Warriors games for a long time.

Before Glasgow grew in to the team they are today, they used play at Hughenden. I am not sure whether Laurie was interested in the rugby back in those days, but she was interested in getting Jelly Babies from Gerry Haggerty the long time team doctor for the Warriors. Eventually Laurie started taking Jelly Babies herself and giving them to Gerry for the players, but only if they won. If they didn’t win then no Jelly Babies and Laurie possibly had her ‘Queen Victoria’ po face on too – she reserved this for when was unimpressed with something.

Since Hughenden you can probably count the number of games we have missed on the fingers of two hands. Over the years the Warriors have been very helpful and supportive of Laurie. When the Warriors moved to Firhill all the fans were on one side of the pitch but the dug out was on the other side. Mum and Dad weren’t sure whether Laurie would go to the games if she was away from Gerry, and in amongst the crowd. The Warriors understood the problem and found a solution. We were able to stand behind the dug out, just like at Hughenden, on the opposite side of the pitch to most of the fans. Laurie was able to see Gerry. This is an example where the Warriors did something for someone on the autism spectrum. They helped to manage a change that could have been difficult and might have resulted in Laurie not going to the games.

When the Warriors moved to Scotstoun we moved with them. Again, the guys at the Warriors were great. We were able to stand so that Laurie was not in the crowd. Different people at the club looked after Laurie and provided help over the years. Gerry, Dougie, Karen, Dave, James, Nicola, Brian and Sam all went out of their way to look out for Laurie. She also had her favourites amongst the players, Parksy, James Eddie, and Tim Swinson. Apparently Niko is cheeky but I think we all know that!

I possibly didn’t see Laurie as much as I should have done over the years. Most of the occasions I saw Laurie was at Warriors games. I always expected to have more a role years in to the future and expected to take her, Mum and Dad to games when they got too old to pick Laurie up themselves. This won’t happen now, however, just as I was always appreciate what rugby has given my, I will also always appreciate what rugby and Glasgow Warriors in particular did for her. I don’t know, but I suspect other than when there was music on that Laurie enjoyed she probably wasn’t happier than when Glasgow were doing well!

Thanks for reading,

Neil