The original article is available on UKC Here.
by Ailsa Graham 26/Feb/2015
Ailsa Graham is 20 years old and from Nottingham. Two years ago she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. In this article Ailsa talks about her autism and how climbing has helped her overcome certain aspects of the condition.
So what exactly does climbing have to do with aspergers? Well for me rather a lot, but before I get too far into this I’d like to say a few things: firstly, everyone with Asperger’s is different (you know, like the way all climbs are different, except speed climbs… I’ll shut up now); secondly, I have been officially diagnosed and I class myself as a person on the autistic spectrum and I’m not male (women can have autism too, I know this is obvious but women on the spectrum don’t get enough representation in the media!) So all that aside, what has climbing to do with Asperger’s?
Ailsa bouldering outdoors – UKC Articles, 25 Feb 2015 – © Ashley Naysmith
Climbing and the people of the sport taught me more about life and how to interact with it than anything else I’ve ever encountered. It helped to bring me from a constantly unhappy, distrusting little girl to the woman I am today. I don’t think I would have achieved half of what I have if it weren’t for climbing and climbers. The key in terms of controlling and in turn embracing my aspergers was the fact I was accepted into a community of people who genuinely cared and had the same interests as I did. I found friends, learned to have real conversations, remembered how to laugh and smile and was gently educated in the social skills I was lacking. I no longer always wanted to be alone, I looked forward to seeing my friends and making new ones, things I never thought I would want to do.
But while climbing helped me greatly in overcoming the problems posed by my Asperger’s, the condition didn’t seem to do my climbing many favours. Asperger’s, for me, has meant I don’t often realise things that others may find obvious, and has caused a few problems. I ended up injuring seven of my fingers in one go. I have been asked many many times why I let it get to seven! The simple answer, until they all hurt I didn’t think there was anything wrong with not being able to open and close my hand because my fingers were in agony. Nothing wrong with that, right? And because I didn’t want to be made to stop climbing I just didn’t tell anyone how much things hurt, one must not complain after all, I was being totally reasonable.
Climbing has got me through some really tough patches and without it I don’t know where I would be. Now I have a greater understanding of the effect that the different symptoms have on one another I am more able to control my feelings and emotions. Climbing is a safe place for me and Asperger’s will always be part of me. I would also recommend climbing for others with Asperger’s and autism, it’s not for everyone, but I won’t be the only person on the spectrum to find it a place I can feel safe and happy. Climbing is a world of acceptance. For us AS folk it’s exactly the kind of world we need.