Stories of Men

Story of Ben who lives with face blindness and autism.

Making it Through the Education System with face blindness and autism

The TA said to me ‘Ben, don't bite other people. If you need to bite something then bite yourself.’ And, in that sense, they were effectively telling me that self harming was better than having a meltdown. That stuck with me and that affected me [for] years afterwards where I would still sometimes bite myself if I was angry with myself and I was inflicting the pain from them onto myself.” What is particularly distressing is that all of this occurred with the teachers knowing that Ben had autism. But, despite being aware of his condition, they were completely unequipped to manage it.

Making it Through the Education System with face blindness and autism

This week’s episode of Our Voices focuses on Ben, a 17-year-old student who has face blindness and autism. Ben is currently preparing for his A-levels and is excited about the prospect of going to university.

He is fortunate to have a big sister, Ruth, who has been giving him advice on how best to prepare for the next potential phase of his life. 

A supportive presence

Talking about his sister, Ben says: “She’s been a great supporter of me. And, for years, she was just someone who would support me and who would help me and a person I could talk to easily.”

Unable to recognise faces

Entering university is a great milestone in any young person’s life, but Ben is likely to have particular challenges. This is partially down to the fact that he has prosopagnosia, a condition more commonly known as face-blindness meaning he is unable to recognise faces.

 “I have to recognise people through their voice or their hairstyle or by understanding the context where people will be at a certain time.”

Dealing with autism

He also has autism. “The best way for me to describe it is it means I think differently, and my brain is wired completely differently to anyone else. It’s a different way of living, a different way of seeing the world. And the reason why it’s a disability is because the world is not built for autistic people. It’s built for non autistic people.”

The challenges of face blindness and autism

Having both face blindness and autism has been a serious challenge for Ben. In some ways, however, it has given him advantages over other students. For example, he describes having a very good memory. 

This was something which served him well when he passed his history exam with flying colours without even having to revise. Describing the benefits of how his mind works, Ben says “My brain works almost entirely on logic. I can see things pieced together fairly easily and think through things and analyse things very well as long as they are logical.”

Experiencing autistic meltdowns

Despite these advantages, at one stage, Ben’s parents feared that their son would not even be able to complete primary school. This was due to the challenging behaviour that would stem from the “autistic meltdowns” that Ben would experience.

These are intense physical and emotional responses people with autism can have which temporarily cause them to lose control when faced with overwhelming situations. “Those meltdowns would sometimes just be me lying on the floor and making a lot of noise. But a lot of time they involve lashing out and hurting people. 

And the thing I want to make very clear is that, when I had a meltdown, it would not be me having behavioural issues or anything, it was me not knowing how to express my emotions, and I’d end up expressing them through physical means rather than verbally.”

Inappropriate responses

Teachers often did not understand this, however, they did not have enough knowledge and experience in dealing with autism. They regarded Ben’s challenging behaviour as a form of active disobedience requiring punishment. 

As a result, teachers would lock Ben inside a small classroom when he was having a meltdown, sometimes for as long as half an hour. He would be completely alone. “They thought that that calmed me down but actually all it did was make me more stressed, more anxious.”

On one particular occasion, Ben bit a teacher while having a meltdown and the teacher gave him some unsettling advice. “The TA said to me ‘Ben, don’t bite other people. If you need to bite something then bite yourself.’ And, in that sense, they were effectively telling me that self harming was better than having a meltdown. That stuck with me and that affected me [for] years afterwards where I would still sometimes bite myself if I was angry with myself and I was inflicting the pain from them onto myself.” What is particularly distressing is that all of this occurred with the teachers knowing that Ben had autism. But, despite being aware of his condition, they were completely unequipped to manage it.

A change in the environment

Ben joined a special educational school during his teenage year.s. This school was a perfect place for Ben to manage his face blindness and autism. During this time, rather than being punished for having meltdowns, Ben was encouraged to try to understand the factors which would cause them in the first place. Ben also received targeted help with academic areas that he was struggling with. One of these was reading comprehension. 

“You wouldn’t think this, but reading comprehension is really difficult for autistic people because the questions are worded so that it’s very hard to understand them. For example, a question saying, ‘in this text, what is the author thinking?’ I don’t know… is the author thinking what they’re gonna have for lunch? I actually did say that a few times.”

They coached Ben to look out for “non-autistic friendly questions”. They supported him in developing strategies to deal with them They also helped him to understand and process his emotions more effectively. 

“ If I ever had a meltdown, they would not only help me calm down, but then afterwards they would talk over with me what went wrong, and then what could be better next time. They did nothing to punish me or anything.” Unsurprisingly, this approach turned out to be much more beneficial than the response at Ben’s previous school.

Entering the world of politics despite having autism

In 2019, Ben entered the world of politics and joined the Liberal Democrats as a member. While talking to a friend, who was also a member of the party, it became apparent that none of the major UK parties had a policy on special needs education.

Ben’s experiences of making it through the education system with face blindness and autism led him to dedicating himself to writing his own Young Liberal’s policy, which was accepted by the party.

A powerful speech

As a consequence, Ben got the invitation to speak at the party’s annual conference. He describes his feelings while onstage.

“I have high anxiety and I was physically shaking, physically shivering, and I was letting all my emotions out to a roomful of probably about 60, 70, maybe 80 people.”

But Ben didn’t allow nerves to stop him and he ended up giving a speech that was so impactful that he got a standing ovation and won the award for best speech.

Improving the experiences of the future

Talking about the potential Ben sees for the future, he draws on his experience as a student with face blindness and autism and, now, as a political actor: 

“we can now lobby, we can effectively call for change… We can also raise awareness about special needs education and call on our elected representatives to acknowledge the SEN crisis and make a difference. Hopefully people won’t have to go through what I’ve been through in the future.”

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.