07309 563 563 alex@waymakers.co.uk
Little Victories

Little Victories

Being self-employed is a great option for many people on the spectrum; it offers flexibility, work that is tailored to your skillset, and the freedom to do a job that you actually like. You can set your own targets, and take on as much or as little work as you feel comfortable doing. Sound’s perfect, right? Well yes, but there are drawbacks, as with everything else.

you don’t have a boss to tell you what to do, but the buck stops with you

One of the best things about being in charge is that you don’t have a boss to tell you what to do, however it does mean that the buck stops at you – and you’re responsible for not only managing yourself, but also for managing any unexpected issues that might arise. This can be where things begin to get tricky!

In short, I am working my dream job

After several attempts in my late teens and early 20s, I eventually settled into being self-employed full time. I make and restore musical instruments.  It’s a lifestyle that suits me, my work is engaging, slow-paced and it sits slap bang in the middle of my two main special interests: music and engineering. 

In short, I am working my dream job. You’d think that I’d be able to easily stay on top of my work, and deliver successful projects to happy clients, right? Not so fast. Gone are the bosses, but in their place there are now clients, with the same expectations, the same deadlines, and still handing out my wages.

executive function is a huge challenge for me

Most of the time, this is fine. I can take on less work if I have to, and more if I’m feeling up for it. However, executive function is a huge challenge for me – especially in times of stress, like when my workshop roof developed a major leak this past winter. Things can quickly spiral out of control. Shutdown results from the added pressure causing delays to client-work, resulting in pressure from clients, so on and so forth. The list of jobs that are unfinished build up, I am unable to start anything, and I freeze.

This has been a main focus of my sessions with Alex, and we talked about things I can do to relax, and unwind.  I love to cook, but it’s not practical to just rustle something up when you’re at work; most of us don’t have extensive cooking facilities and ingredients to hand in the workplace, we aren’t necessarily hungry at the time of feeling shutdown, and crucially – there’s only so much you can eat in one day!

autism relaxation

However it got me thinking – could I find what appealed to me about cooking in another, more practical, activity?

My initial thoughts were that whatever it was, it had to be:

1. Quick – something requiring heaps of time would be counterproductive.

2. Something that can be started and finished in one session – not leaving you with a half-finished task to occupy valuable brain space.

3. Be practical in context – something that can be done on-demand, in the location I’m in. 

4. Be enjoyable for me. I want to have fun here

5. Require my full attention – it’s no good if I’m still churning over other stuff in my head while doing it, it needs to take me away from that.

woodturning autism and Neurodiversity

I settled on woodturning – I already have a lathe at the shop, and I can make a small bowl in around an hour, start to finish. 

It’s incredibly satisfying to see the object I’m making emerge from a rough chunk of wood, and have something so tangible to show for it. Whilst quietly meditative, it does also require total focus – stop paying attention for a millisecond and the chisel will catch, at the very least making a loud bang, at worst lobbing the workpiece across the room. 

Obviously you might not have a wood lathe in the office – but what is practical for one may not be for another. Whilst canoeing is not an option for me, for example, if someone works near a canal or a river, it may very well be within reach for them. 

Once I’ve finished making a bowl, I can put it on the side, take a photo of it and it’s done. I can put it on display, or give it away, and my brain has had an entire hour-long holiday from the overwhelming thoughts- I’ve been able to step back, and got a bonus dopamine hit into the bargain. 

I’ve sat, frozen, for hours on end

In the past I’ve sat, frozen, for hours on end – my deadlines looming closer and closer, and I have not been able to lift a finger. It may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve come to discover that taking an active-change break for 1 hour may salvage the remaining hours in the day – hours that would have otherwise gone to waste. It’s early days yet, and it does still require me to observe and acknowledge that I have become frozen, but I’m really positive about the effect it has had on my working day, and am excited to explore the concept further – hobbies have always been something done at home in the evenings and weekends, a luxury – earned only once the ‘real’ work has been done. 

Maybe if we re-frame hobbies and active breaks as a means to break up an otherwise herculean task of a day, we can continue to discover new ways to fulfil our potential in the workplace and beyond. 



This article was written by a current coaching client of WayMakers whom we are proud to have as a guest contributor to our site.

Life at uni – you might just be surprised!

Life at uni – you might just be surprised!

Moving away from home to start university can be a daunting prospect for anyone. How refreshing to find that it has not been the monumental challenge I expected it to be. 

It has now been over two months since I started university and I am pleased to say I am absolutely loving it! My first term is nearly complete and already I have made some lovely friends and am making good progress with my course.

Most helpful of all is that I am living in a

‘designated quiet block’

Living on campus

I am very lucky to be living on campus in the university accommodation and this has worked out brilliantly. My lectures and seminars are a ten-minute walk away, so I can come home in between classes to rest and enjoy some quiet. I am also only a five-minute walk from the university shop, which is very helpful if I need to buy anything and don’t have enough social energy to walk into the city.

Most helpful of all is that I am living in a ‘designated quiet block’. This means that everyone who lives in my building has requested a quiet accommodation which doesn’t involve alcohol or partying. This has been amazing as it means I can work and sleep undisturbed, and my flat mates are all very similar to me in their appreciation of a calm living space.

It could be a good idea to:

1. ask about quiet accomodation when you visit a university on an Open Day if you feel this might suit you.

2. understand more about the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), which is a grant to help with any extra costs.

3. Read around. I found Disability at University: guidance and a glossary of terms really useful.

The idea of living in a flat with five other strangers was initially extremely anxiety-provoking

Living with five strangers

The idea of living in a flat with five other strangers was initially extremely anxiety-provoking. Although the university had supported me by giving me a room with an en-suite. I would still have to share a kitchen and living space with people I had never met before.  Surprisingly, my flat is the most enjoyable part of being at university so far: my flatmates are some of the kindest and most considerate people I have ever known and it’s reassuring that we all experience very similar stresses. For example, we all have quite low social batteries and so spend a lot of time in our rooms rather than out, and everyone is very tidy and respectful of each other’s space and belongings.

It has also been wonderful getting to know people from different cultural backgrounds and countries and bonding over interests and hobbies. All these things have been an enormous help in transitioning from my family home to university halls.

The biggest challenge so far for me has been managing energy levels

Establishing new routines

Some things that helped me adjust to the change in lifestyle included decorating my room with familiar pictures and books early on in the moving in process and establishing my new routines to include my academic work as well as free time, time for meals and walks to stay healthy. Also, keeping in touch with the accessibility team throughout, who offer a social group every week for students with similar struggles was comforting as it established a go-to support network for whenever things got overwhelming.

Planning breaks and rest

The biggest challenge so far for me has been managing energy levels throughout the week. Learning which days I need to plan a break and a rest is important for me because I am managing many different scenarios throughout the week. Constantly meeting new people can be exciting but also exhausting, walking into a city centre can present intense sensory overwhelm, and engaging in society activities and demanding academic work can feel like a lot to balance.

Having a quiet bedroom to go back to as well as regular visits back to North Devon means I have breaks to manage it all without feeling like I’m missing out on anything.

the best thing is being able to study my interests in intense detail.

Overall, the best thing is being able to study my interests in intense detail. It is a privilege learning from some of the best academics in my subject, diving deep into my interests, and being surrounded by fellow students who share a deep appreciation for our course.

I cannot wait for next term and would encourage anyone who is thinking of going on to university to start exploring your options and available support – you might just be surprised!

Some key tips and takeaways that might be helpful:

  • take a break, take a step back and scan your body. 
  • notice your social battery – do you need some time out?
  • think about types of social interactions e.g. size of groups, duration etc.
  • anticipate the upcoming day and build in some downtime to recharge.
  • think and ask about accomodation e.g would a quiet block suit? This student’s blog post might reassure you: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/blackwell/news/2020/autism-at-university–being-an-autistic-student.html 
  • take time to do something you enjoy, perhaps your special interest.
  • from my last blog, don’t forget to recognise your strengths!
  • most importantly, give yourself a little time, grace and self-compassion.

I hope this was helpful.


This article was written by a past coaching client of WayMakers whom we are proud to have as a guest contributor to our site.