Autism and Mental Health
with Thomas Henley
Autism is defined as “a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.”
Research says that right now 1 in every 54 children is diagnosed with Autism, and that number is continually on the rise. On this episode of Calm, Cool and Connected- Dr. Fedrick is joined by Thomas Henley, an Autism and Mental Health Advocate.
Key Takeaways from Liz’s chat with Thomas:
• Hear about Thomas’ background
• Find out how bullying and discrimination had a profound effect on Thomas’ mental health
• Learn how Thomas worked through his mental health challenges
• Hear what Thomas says family and friends can do to help an Autistic child
• Find out how Thomas is working to spread awareness about Autism
• Gain takeaways that Thomas would like everyone to know about Autism
All of this and more, on this episode of Calm, Cool and Connected.
Follow along with Thomas on his YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/c/aspergersgrowth Listen to Thomas’ Podcast, the “Thoughty Auti Podcast”
Get more info on Thomas website - https://thomashenley.co.uk/
Follow Thomas on IG - http://instagram.com/AspergersGrowth
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DISCLAIMER: THE CONSULTATIONS OR INTERACTIONS OFFERED ARE NOT MENTAL HEALTH THERAPY. THE CONSULTATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT STRUCTURED IN A WAY TO PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING/PSYCHOTHERAPY/THERAPY/ DIAGNOSING OF ANY KIND. YOU UNDERSTAND THAT CALM COOL AND CONNECTED IS NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION AS YOUR TREATING MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR, PHYSICIAN, ATTORNEY, LEGAL COUNSEL, EMPLOYER, MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. We offer no guarantees or promise of results from event nor assume liability for any information provided.
Dr. Fedrick: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to calm colon connected. I'm your host, Dr.
Elizabeth. Autism spectrum disorder is a bio neurological developmental disorder that can impact the development of areas such as social interactions, communication skills, and cognitive functioning research indicates that about one in 54 children in the U S have been diagnosed with autism, and that this rate has continuously grown over the last 20 years.
And while it's a relatively prevalent disorder, it's often not openly discussed or talked about and likely because it's not very well understood. So joining us today is Thomas Henley. Who's here to talk with us about his personal experiences with autism, as well as the ways in which he's increasing awareness regarding life with autism.
Hi, Thomas. Welcome.
Hi Elizabeth. So nice to have
Dr. Fedrick: you.
Thomas: Nice, nice, nice to be on. Finally, I apologize for the, the the, the ways, cause I know that we had some issues with the time differences,
Dr. Fedrick: so, well, you're all the way in the UK and we're in the U S so is that what part of the [00:01:00] UK are you.
Thomas: Part of north Yorkshire. So just, just at the top of the UK. Okay.
Dr. Fedrick: All right. So yes, there is definitely a time difference issue there. So tell us, before we jump in a little bit about yourself, tell us about your journey and a little bit about your background.
Thomas: So I was diagnosed with. What was once called Asperger's syndrome and the age of 10.
And at the age of, you know, it was something that my parents had always fought in the back of their mind. I showed a lot of the typical manifestations of it. You know, such as the physical signs, like the stimming and it was all well and good and solid got into secondary school, which is where the difficulty is really started to happen.
People seem to. Progress a lot quicker than me. And it left me in quite a vulnerable state. I saved a lot of bullying and it was very anxiety provoking time in my life. And I developed, you know, quite, quite a few quite severe mental health conditions due to that. Started off my, as you would say, [00:02:00] Korea as a TaeKwonDo athlete where I competed for GB at a couple of events including getting a gold at the, the Commonwealth championships.
And I was. Went to university where I studied by the university of Manchester, where I studied biomedical sciences and research further into P personally, what autism meant to me and try to distinguish how it made me different and how to understand other people.
Dr. Fedrick: Oh, very interesting. And so you sought out that education specifically to be able to understand.
Autism more, more clearly. And the impact that it has from, from that biological standpoint was that.
Thomas: Yeah, it was, it was a lot to do with the biology at the start of it. And you know, it was, it was a very general course that was specifically targeted to human science, but I used a lot of the skills that I got from that course in my own personal writing and personal research into psychology.
Into sociology, into [00:03:00] philosophy. And I wrote a lot about my experiences in order to first understand myself and how to deal with my own mental health, which is different for autistic people.
Dr. Fedrick: Well, and you mentioned that with when, when the bullying started, when the discrimination started, can you help us to understand how that influenced your mental health?
What, what was the impact on your mental health of that?
Thomas: Um, It was. Intense for me. You know, one, one thing that tends to happen is that people's social skills and their emotional development tends to really deviate themselves. You know, narrative vehicle to what is state people. And so there's a big gap in, in understanding of those, those situations at school.
So it leaves autistic people that are really prime targets for bullying and all sorts of discrimination and, and social isolate.
Dr. Fedrick: Which I'm sure that leads to this increase in symptoms of, as you mentioned earlier, anxiety, but also I'm sure depressive [00:04:00] symptoms as well, feeling really isolated and potentially feeling different than.
And what was that like for you? Did you, do you, at that age, did you personally notice these differences that you're describing and what toll did that
Thomas: take? Well, as I mentioned in. My slight introduction. It was it was by no means a, a very mild case. It was, it was quite a severe case of anxiety and depression, which, you know, manifest in different ways, like the typical dissociative type conditions perhaps perhaps sort of certain delusions that sort of kept me kept, kept me saying, you know, not really understanding the differences that I had to other people.
Okay. And we were down from, from long-term studies that chronic pain, whether it be anxiety or actual chronic pain, eventually sort of leads to sub development of a depressive [00:05:00] type disorder. But
Dr. Fedrick: what did you do to start working through this? So what, what were some of the approaches you use to address the mental health concerns?
Thomas: A lot of it was. I love that. A lot of the benefits that I've really received was, was when I started to look into philosophy and actually because psychology and, and science only, only really gets you so far in terms of understanding your, your brain. But I was kind of reaching a bottleneck bottleneck in that because I understood what was going on, but I couldn't accurately.
Targeted. And so the, the, the, the tenants of stoicism and, you know, perhaps for, for a small amount of time, positive nihilism was, was quite productive because it allowed me to refocus my efforts from trying to be happy, trying not to feel bad [00:06:00] and trying to improve. Focus of, I need to try and help people eventually over time trying to go for that, meaning that goal that's that stable throughout my mood fluctuations actually made the most impact on my overall mood in the long-term.
Dr. Fedrick: Was there something that you wish like, so when you referenced secondary school, when this all started, is there something that you wish that your parents or the school would have done or is there something that. Your support system could have done differently that for people listening, who maybe are parents of, or, or educators of this community, they could be more sensitive and helpful to that.
What might that be?
Thomas: I think it's, it's very hard to get. A single thing that, that people can do to, to help. And I think a lot of the time we focus a lot on the professionals and the parents in order to try and fix this sudden in, from, from my opinion, talking to [00:07:00] autistic people and my own experiences and looking into the literature the biological and social implications of mental health for autistic people.
It does say that. That would have the best things to do would be to raise the overall understanding and awareness of, of children from, from a young age and also help the parents, firstly understand what's going on in their, their autistic child's brain. From listening to other autistic people speak about the issues they have.
Dr. Fedrick: Well, and that's the work that you're doing currently. You and I are connected on social media. And I see that you frequently, that is a big portion of the content that you put out is bringing awareness and understanding. Can you share with us more about that, that, you know, what is really your objective behind doing that and social media?
Thomas: Oh that recently in social media, I've took a little bit of a turn because a lot of the content that's put out by over autism advocates tends to [00:08:00] be for autistic people. Whereas I feel I have a lot more of a an overview of, of what I want to see and, you know, the, the truth is we make up maybe 1% of one to 2% of the population of the world.
So it's. You know, it's, it seems important too, to try and include the other 99, 90 8% of people in order to try and really push for changes that we want to see.
Dr. Fedrick: Absolutely. And that's what I really enjoy about your content is you can tell that it is specifically. To bringing awareness for somebody who might not understand it.
And so I think that that's really helpful, especially because there can be maybe some fear about being offensive or asking the wrong questions or being insensitive. And so when you are just openly putting out the information, you're opening up this platform for those questions to be asked.
Thomas: [00:09:00] Yeah, it can be a very comedic minefield these days, especially for any, for any area where there's, there's any sense of discrimination.
So I think it's definitely important to, to put out that message that if someone needs help and someone needs help understanding something, we are here to take you as you are and try and try and let you in you know, what's happening in the world of autism,
Dr. Fedrick: which is so helpful. Autistic individuals would want others to know what are some things like as we're starting to wrap up, what are, what are some takeaways that the community would want others to know?
Thomas: Obviously I can't speak for the community cause I'm a, I'm an individual. I would say that would be to the benefit is that, you know, we have these two models of disability ones. The social model. Once the medical model medical model is a very old bundle that says that if you're autistic, you are disabled.
[00:10:00] And so we need to try and fix your autism to, to get rid of the issue. The social model is quite the opposite and it's more nuanced than it's something that a lot of autistic people and professionals prescribed to. And it's about understanding that autism provides some differences and the disability comes in when.
The differences are not managed. They're not, they're not integrated into the systems that we have in education systems, all of that stuff. And so it's really important to be aware of the, the, the impacts that you as an individual can have the lives of individual autistic.
Dr. Fedrick: And that is, I mean, that's such a great point that it is doesn't have to be treated as a disability.
It's just different than neuro-typical or that what the mainstream is geared towards. And so I love that, that there are so many strengths and so many just valuable areas, [00:11:00] how your brain operates and the difference is what makes it beautiful.
Thomas: And it's it's, it's, it's always, it's always a really funny thing cause I, I never, I always get the same reaction when I tell anybody that I'm autistic and it's because they don't expect someone who's autistic to be able to socializing and communicate and understand emotional social things.
And I think that's really important to highlight that is just a different set of skills that were brought up with the efforts that we put in, determine what kind of person we are. It's going to be hard. So that aspect of stuff, but in the same vein, it's going to be harder for someone else to, to get good at the things that we're good at.
Dr. Fedrick: Absolutely. So well said, well, Thomas, where can our viewers find you out? Where can they find you a website or social media?
Thomas: Well, my website is Thomas Henley dot co.uk for easy to find my Instagram is Aspergers growth. That's where I produced most of my content. [00:12:00] And you also have my, my video platform.
On YouTube, I sped is growth. My podcast, which is going to be starting up very, very soon again, the second season, the 40 OT podcasts. And that's everywhere that you can find it.
Dr. Fedrick: Very cool. Thank you, Thomas. And everyone go give him a follow such good informative content you're putting out. I really appreciate it.
Thomas: you for being here. Thanks for having me on Elizabeth. I really, I really do appreciate.
Dr. Fedrick: Absolutely. And thank you all for tuning into this episode of calm, pooling, connected. Please make sure to find us on Facebook and Instagram and also make sure to rate and subscribe to our podcast so that others can discover our content as well.
Thank you again for joining us in this episode of calm. Cool and connected. .