Since diagnosis at 39, Zaffy has been fascinated to learn more about autism. This learning has put Z’s own life experience into context. Many of Zaffy’s struggles in life now make sense. Zaffy says that diagnosis was a really positive experience and has led to a deeper sense of understanding of self and the world.
Zaffy has always used art as a way of getting the world inside Z’s head onto paper. Zaffy’ s cartoons are a way of communicating the challenges of being an autistic person in a world designed for and run by ‘neurotypical’ people.
This cartoon shows Zaffy doing what Zaffy does best, Dorking!!! Zaffy loves to spend hours and hours immersed in books, web pages and research papers which provide information about Zaffy’s passions. Autistic people have the laudable ability to focus on a singular thought process or activity for a LONG time. Some people may need support to consider moving their attention, temporarily, onto other aspects of life.
This cartoon shows the imaginary interior of Zaffy’s head. Zafy’s brain has to work super hard during conversation. Every word that someone says to Zaffy comes through as a picture. Zaffy has to translate that picture into meaningful communication and find it a context that makes sense. This cartoon shows zaffy tearing through a huge library looking for references for information coming in. Zaffy then has to process a suitable response which involves translating pictures back into words and voicing those words. Conversation is hard work and can tire autistic people out. Some people struggle to manage the complex processing involved.
When Zaffy gets talking about a passion (Volkswagens, autism, homeopathy, nutrition etc…) Zaffy can forget that conversation is meant to be a two way situation! Other people on the autism spectrum can forget this too and may need to be reminded, politely. It is good to remember that you have to be interested to be interesting. This cartoon shows Zaffy talking and Lucy dropping off to sleep! Lucy sometimes interrupts to ask whether Zaffy is lost in the topic. Autistic people may need support to remember that the other person may not be interested in what they are passionate about.
Zaffy’s brain is autistic and works differently to people’s brains who are ‘neuro-typical’. Zaffy compares this to the way Apple Mac computers work on a different operating system to Windows PCs. Zaffy uses this analogy to illustrate that the autistic brain is not faulty at all, it simply works in a different way. Autistic brains achieve the same if not better results if supported in ways that respect and understand its operating system. This cartoon shows Zaffy at school being taught the Windows operating system even though Zaffy has a Mac.
This cartoon was inspired by Zaffy watching Lucy and her autistic friend, Robyn, communicating with each other. They did lots of flapping! Robyn likes to flap. It helps her to express emotion. Robyn has different flaps to express happiness, anxiety, excitement, sadness etc. Lucy flapped with Robyn. By doing this, Lucy told Robyn that her emotions and her way of expressing them was absolutely great! Some people feel embarrassed or upset by the way autistic people express how they are feeling. This includes rocking, flapping, meltdowns, repetitive behaviors, monologues or silence. It can be helpful to understand that people on the autism spectrum have their own way of telling others how they are.
This picture shows the way that autistic people’s brains work with single focus. Zaffy explains that when a person’s brain is focused on an interest (which could be any number of things ranging from the need to pee, trains, a mathematical problem or a pain) it is not helpful to expect and demand that they shift that very intense focus onto something else. Instead, they need to be gently supported to incorporate a new concept or idea into the interest.
Zaffy sometimes struggles in conversation. It is hard work to make sense of the pictures that Zaffys head turns all words into. Although not everybody on the autism spectrum thinks in pictures, we are mostly all literal thinkers. As we grow more mature, we can often translate your words into their real meaning. However, when you tell us you’ve been ‘tearing your hair out’ we will always feel a little shocked until we remember that this is a metaphor!
To hear Zaffy relate this story to YOUR learning needs, book Z to talk at your conference, group or to provide a tailor made 1:1 consultation.