How Harpenden Asperger’s sufferer used Jedi mind tricks to cope with his condition

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 January 2017

James enjoys music and art as a means of expressing himself.

James enjoys music and art as a means of expressing himself.

Archant

An Asperger’s sufferer, who is keen to raise awareness and funds for an autism charity, has revealed how thinking like a Jedi Knight has helped him live with his condition.

James was diagnosed with Asperger's at arounf the age of five and has spoken out about living with his conditionJames was diagnosed with Asperger's at arounf the age of five and has spoken out about living with his condition

James Kenyon, 25, of Harpenden, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at around the age of five, is set to take part in the Scafell Pike Challenge to raise money for the National Autistic Society (NAS).

The challenge involves climbing up the Scafell Pike mountain located in Cumbria, almost 1,000m high.

He hopes the fundraising initiative will help raise money and awareness for people like him “who have a very specific way of viewing things”.

Autism, including Asperger’s, is a life-long developmental disability which affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. People like James who have Asperger Syndrome can struggle understanding others and can see the world as overwhelming, causing considerable anxiety.

James has developed an interest in art as it helps him to express himself.James has developed an interest in art as it helps him to express himself.

He has used hit sci-fi saga Star Wars as a coping mechanism to help him deal with his emotions: “Nowadays I do try to be more mindful, like a Jedi Knight, because even though its science-fiction, it does tell you a lot about thoughts and feelings and how you don’t let certain feelings get in the way of what you’re doing.

James said that he did not “recall being diagnosed at all” and had found ways to overcome his condition.

He continued: “I mean, as far as I could tell I was quite normal when I was a toddler and then one day out of the blue, for some strange reason, my brain just kept getting kind of really packed with all these different kinds of imaginative stuff.”

James went on to lose his ability to speak which can be common in people with Asperger’s but his mother Judith did not give up.

She said: “We used to have a big bit of lining paper, because James had lost his language, and he used to just write and draw and that was his way of communicating.

“His language came back because we just kept pouring it in and pouring it in and we never stopped.

“But when he was little there wasn’t much awareness around and so I was quite isolated as a mum.”

James attended a number of different schools when he was younger but found it difficult to concentrate and was a target for bullies, which resulted in him being home-schooled.

He went on: “I found it difficult, just mainly because I found it hard to enjoy the food they served and also, I was bullied at least a few times.

“And then, for some strange reason, all this pointless anxiety came along and I think I do know why that was now.”

James has since found techniques which help him remain calm and cope with his condition, which includes using art as a way to express his “more articulate side”.

“I keep trying to remember kinds of teaching that I’ve picked up, which kind of makes me have the feeling to keep moving on; I just let all these unwanted thoughts be pushed out with a single exhale.”

James has since used art to express himself and has been painting gardening tools because he “felt like doing something different”.

His mum hopes to set up a small business where James can sell the tools which he has painted at craft fairs.

James will embark on the Scafell challenge with his mum and dad, Guy, on August 13, where he hopes to raise about £800 for the charity.

Judith added that James’s condition had taught her “not to give up”.

She said: “I think in some ways it [the situation] doesn’t define you, but it actually gives you enormous value to your life. Even though it’s a struggle at times, it really does give you enormous value.”

Kate Donohue, head of supporter fundraising at the NAS, commented: “We’re so grateful to James and his parents for taking on the mighty Scafell Pike Challenge for us.

“More than one in one hundred people in the UK are on the autism spectrum and, at the NAS, we know that better public understanding of autism is the key to making a world where autistic people and their families can live the lives that they choose.”

Ms Donohue added: “By taking part in such an impressive and high profile fundraising event, James and his family are helping to increase understanding, and their donations will allow the charity to provide more vital support to autistic people and families. We wish the inspirational Kenyon family lots of luck.”

For more information or to donate, visit James’ Just Giving page.

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