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Vera's image

Vera Canhoto

Founder & CEO
at Splinx

View all of Vera's articles

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Alex Manners – The challenges and superpowers of having Asperger Syndrome

When Alex was ten years old, he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Asperger syndrome is described as a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests that vary in intensity for each individual. However, it's also so much more than this – Asperger syndrome also comes with many superpowers.

Alex has been advocating and raising awareness for Asperger for several years. He has also recently written a book where he shares his journey through life with Aspergers's aiming to create awareness for the difficulties of living with Asperger's in a society that is still not ready to support the difference entirely. We had the pleasure of interviewing Alex for our Splinx blog. Here's his full interview.

1. Alex, you come across as a very energetic and passionate person. Can you please tell us a bit about your professional life and all the projects you are currently involved in?

I have a "lust for life" and want to spend it "pursuing my passions". Therefore, I will never give up until my ambition to become a TV Presenter has been achieved and why I will never stop raising awareness for Asperger's. I travel all over the UK presenting talks about "My Life Living with Asperger's" to places such as banks, insurance companies, councils, universities and schools. Earlier this year I carried out some training with a group of cyber- crime police officers to enable them to make their interviewing process more accessible and played the lead character in a radio drama centred around Autism. You may also recognise me from a TV Show on Channel 4 that I have appeared on twice called "The Undateables"! At the moment, I am presenting a lot of my talks via online webinars and have presented to people from all over the globe. I have also been recording a "Covid-19 Blog" on my YouTube channel called "thealexmanners".

2. You were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when you were 10 years old. Many families are afraid that if their children receive a diagnosis or "tag" this will have a negative impact on their children's lives. What is your personal experience and opinion on this?

When I was first told about having Asperger's I was a little confused as I did not know what it was. Straightaway my dad told me that it was a positive thing that gave me special powers, for example being able to think differently. I believed him and have always viewed my Asperger's as something I feel lucky to have. Whilst there has been many challenges I have had to face over the years because of my Asperger's there are also many positives. I call these my "Asperger's Superpowers!" If you believe in your children and allow them to focus on the things they enjoy then I believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to. At the end of the day if I did not have Asperger's then I would not be Alex Manners!

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If you believe in your children and allow them to focus on the things they enjoy then I believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to."

If you believe in your children and allow them to focus on the things they enjoy then I believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to."

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3. What were the main challenges and barriers you faced growing up?

Many of the teachers at my primary school had a pre-conceived idea of Asperger's and Autism and I felt that they did not want to treat me any differently to the rest of my year group. School felt like a prison to me and just to get me in everyday was a real struggle for my mum. I was lucky enough to attend a small independent secondary school that had some support in place for people like myself. However, school was still a real struggle with changes to the timetable, homework and the school uniform being some of my biggest challenges. Outside of school I have always struggled wearing socks with seams, shirts with labels in the back and listening to the sounds of ticking clocks and radiators. Meltdowns are common with people who have Asperger's and over the years I have had hundreds of them. I still have meltdowns now but because I am older, I am able to recognise when one is about to happen.

4. From your point of view, what needs to change to achieve a more inclusive society?

I believe that every school, university, business, company and organisation should receive some form of Autism awareness training. It's not about having a vast amount of knowledge about the subject but having empathy and an understanding that everyone with Autism is different, thus allowing them to be treated according to their individual needs. If they need to wear shirts without collars, sit away from a window or take a 5 minute break then allow them to do this. Be flexible! People with Asperger's have many fantastic skills that can be beneficial to a business. I believe that every company should be actively trying to employ us for these skills instead of assessing us only by how we perform in an interview.

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People with Asperger's have many fantastic skills that can be beneficial to a business. I believe that every company should be actively trying to employ us for these skills instead of assessing us only by how we perform in an interview."

People with Asperger's have many fantastic skills that can be beneficial to a business."

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5. You have recently written your first book, "That's Not Right! My Life Living with Asperger's". Can you tell us what it is about and what do you hope to achieve with it?

My book is all about my life growing up with Asperger's from when I was first diagnosed, through my time at school to the present day where I am now pursuing my passions. The main objectives for the book are to educate people about Asperger's and inspire them to never let their circumstances hold them back in life. I also wanted to give people an honest account of what it is like to live and go to school with Asperger's. Even now I find it hard to read some of the stories from my book but if these were not present then it would not be a true and accurate account. I want it to be a book that people all over the world can read in the knowledge that others are going through the same or similar challenges that they or their family members are.

6. How is your book helping/inspiring your readers? Can you share with us some of their feedback and stories?

I have sold many copies of my book so far via Amazon online and at some of the events that I attend where I am presenting talks. These are some of the reviews that I received on Amazon;

"Highly recommended. A refreshingly brilliant, honest and open read. It is so fantastic to see someone with ASD speaking out to try to increase people's understanding when so many are afraid to, or don't know how to. Incredibly well written and one of those books I struggled to put down."

"An excellent (immediately engaging, quick and easy) read, written from the heart and with strong views.Alex knows himself well and what the world needs to know / do to make his life, and others with an ASC, easier. Some clear challenges are laid down to those in educational leadership All teachers should read this."

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Vera Canhoto

Founder & CEO
at Splinx

View all of Vera's articles

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