Guy Martin on diagnosis that explains ‘why I am the way I am’

Guy Martin makes electric motor from paper clips and magnet

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Although retiring from motorcycle racing in 2017, Guy has featured in numerous television series on various engineering topics. His latest venture is currently airing on Channel 4. Called Guy’s Garage, the show see’s the star transform road vehicles into custom racers, going head-to-head with fellow car enthusiasts around Europe on some of the most unusual racing tracks. The star has built a successful presenting career across the years, despite having Asperger’s – a form of autism that causes some to find social interaction difficult, which Guy found out he had a few years back.

At the time of his diagnosis, Guy spoke out calling it a “load of tripe,” but later also recognised that having Asperger’s had helped him within his career.

Talking to the Sunday Times, Guy explained why he first sought medical advice. He said: “My girlfriend at the time persuaded me to see someone.

“I was turning her crackers, so she forced me — well, not forced me, but she said, ‘Will we go and see this psychologist?’

“Anyway, I sat there for a day, and it turned out it was a form of autism: Asperger’s.”

Autism Speaks, a charity supporting those with autism, explains that Asperger’s generally involve the following:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Restricted interests
  • Desire for sameness
  • Distinctive strengths.

Individuals with Asperger’s have remarkable strengths, as well as facing some challenges.

These challenges can include:

  • Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
  • Difficulty with the give and take of conversation
  • Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
  • Uncoordinated movements, or clumsiness
  • Anxiety and depression.

However, as Guy explains himself, those with Asperger’s have a brilliant ability to focus and persist on something, as well as the ability to recognise patterns as they have a great attention to detail.

Guy continued to say: “The way I look at it is that maybe having that is why I am the way I am. Maybe that is all down to the autistic side. I don’t know.

“If there are any benefits to having it, it’s that you just get your head down and get on with things. I apply that to the way I work.

“If you’ve got an awkward job at work, you just get your head down until it’s sorted.”

“It’s probably what helps me with endurance racing on my mountain bike.

“I’m not quick but I’m good at getting my head down.”

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Often, individuals show signs of Apserger’s when they are children, especially when they start school.

Although every individual with Apserger’s is different, some behavioural signs that a child may be on the autistic spectrum (as well as those above) includes:

  • Conversations that almost always revolve around themselves or a certain topic, rather than others
  • Not understanding emotions well or having less facial expression than others
  • Speech that sounds unusual, such as flat, high-pitched, quiet, loud, or robotic
  • An intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects
  • Becoming upset at any small changes in routines
  • Difficulty managing emotions, sometimes leading to verbal or behavioural outbursts, self-injurious behaviours or tantrums
  • Not understanding other peoples’ feelings or perspectives.

If you or someone you know thinks that they may have Asperger’s the next step is to talk to a medical professional and even gain a formal diagnosis.

Testing and assessing a child usually involves a team of medical and psychological professionals. During the assessment the parents will be asked questions about the child’s development, current skill set and any problems they have come across.

Experts will also interact with the child to learn how they interact with others and rule out any other potential medical concerns.

Sometimes Apserger’s can be confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) due to the similarities in symptoms and signs. However, an assessment of an individual’s social and communication skills in particular will help to provide a correct diagnosis.

Individuals who feel like they need help managing their Asperger’s can attend a number of therapy classes. This includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), speech-language therapy and special education classes.

There are no “cures” for autism and the NHS warns that some treatments may even harm individuals. Special diets that claim to help autism such as ketogenic or casein-free diets, as well as taking some medication to help with memory have no concrete evidence to show that they help autism.

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