Straight From the Source

Straight from the Source: Raven Pressor, Living With ASD and Anxiety

Anxiety can be challenging for anyone to experience – it can keep you from doing the things you love, meeting new people, or often from pursuing new goals. Now imagine these typical hardships being paired with sensory challenges. Self-advocate, Raven Pressor, shares her first-hand perspective of experiencing anxiety alongside ASD and shares some advice on how to support individuals like herself dealing with this common comorbidity.

Raven, thanks so much for speaking about this personal topic. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Raven and I’m 36 years old. I live with my parents, and my hobbies include video games, crochet, knitting, reading, and spending time with my cat and two geckos. I have ASD and anxiety, and was not diagnosed with ASD until I was about 24 years old.

How would you describe the feeling of clinical anxiety to someone who has never experienced it?
For me, it first feels like I’m a little shaky and edgy. It can escalate into a queasy stomach, racing heart, tight throat that makes it feel hard to breathe, lightheadness or dizziness, and a weird tingly feeling in my face and hands. These symptoms occur during a full-blown panic attack. There are also emotional symptoms too, like an intense desire to return home if I’m out (a fight or flight response) and generally afterwards, some amount of shame at the loss of control.
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Monthly Milestones | August 2018

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Straight From the Source – Amy Kleinman

While reading the article “How to Meet Autistic People Halfway” from the New York Times, I was impressed by how accurate its portrayal of the social issues autistic people have was, as I have faced many of them myself. I have found it hard to make friends, and though I’m happy with my small circle of friends now, it is harder for others to accept that I only have a few really good friends. My mother reminded me recently that I used to take a book out on the playground and read. It bothered her more than it bothered me. I was teased, and my theory at the time was I’m better off alone, then I won’t get upset.

One of the things that really struck me about the article is that they discuss eye contact, and how hard it is for many autistic people.

“Take eye contact. Some autistic people say they find sustained eye contact uncomfortable or even painful. Others report that it’s hard to concentrate on what someone is saying while simultaneously looking at them. In other words, not looking someone in the eye may indicate that an autistic person is trying very hard to participate in the conversation at hand. Unfortunately, this attempt to engage often gets interpreted as a lack of interest.”

This is something I’ve really struggled with, and have worked hard on. It still is difficult for me at times, especially when I’m upset or angry. I’m lucky that most times when I have issues regarding eye contact, I manage to explain it, and am dealing with people who understand me.
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Monthly Milestones | July 2018

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Straight from the Source: Autism at Work – Meet the Panelists

One highlight of our conference each year is our Straight from the Source series, a grouping of panels featuring individuals with autism and those closest to them. This year, we held an Autism at Work panel, a session for adults on the spectrum to share their experiences of joining and being a part of the workforce. During this panel, attendees got to meet Evan Spencer, Amy Kleinman, Angel Russo, and Tim Hughes, self-advocates with a variety of perspectives gained from employment. Evan, Amy, Angel, and Tim were kind enough to sit down with Milestones after their panel to share a little bit about the topics discussed and why they wanted to get involved.

Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today! Would you mind telling us how you first heard of Milestones?

Evan: My mom runs a support group that works closely with Milestones. I came my first year to the conference kind

of nervous, to see what was here for myself. I always thought it would be people my mom’s age who are working for individuals with autism, but then I saw it was also for individuals and that’s what sold me on coming back.

Amy: I’ve known about Milestones for I don’t know how many years. My mother and I had talked about coming to the conference for years; we have gone to Beth Thompson for some

help when we needed it. And finally last year, we were just like ‘you know what, we’re going to get scholarshipped and we’re going to go!’ Then this year, Beth asked me to speak, so we’re here again. And hopefully next year too!

Angel: Haley Dunn who is with Milestones, I knew her for a long time so she asked me to come speak.
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