Tuesday 4 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance prompts: Day 1


So, I'm a little late to this as I was away over the weekend and don't have a smartphone (through choice) so I'm going to try to make up for it now and catch up.

Day 1: 
Make yourself known.  Tell the world your name and age.  Talk about your diagnosis.  Are you self or professionally diagnosed?  Do you think self-diagnosis is valid?  When did you realize/find out you were autistic?  Post a photo of yourself if you’d like.

My name is Katherine and I'm currently 32 years old. I was originally self-diagnosed when I was about 24 after an autistic friend told me they thought I was probably Aspie and then, after I looked into it, realised they were right. So I sought a diagnosis and eventually, in November 2012 at the age of 28, got a formal diagnosis of Asperger's. It was a long, barrier-ridden journey and I'll do a more detailed post about that soon, but I eventually got there. The team who assessed and diagnosed me were and are wonderful and it was an overwhelming relief to have things confirmed. Not having a formal diagnosis can make things difficult in some ways - again, something I'll be posting about in more detail another time - so having that validation, that hard evidence, is a huge plus.

I'm not saying self-diagnosis isn't valid, because generally I think it is. Some things are really hard to get formal assessments and diagnoses for, and if you're not in the education system and under 19, here in the UK it's incredibly difficult to get assessed. I wasn't picked up during school for a variety of reasons and again, that's something I'll do a specific post about. However, self-diagnosis isn't generally recognised by any official body, though some decent ones may be willing to recognise it if you explain why you've self-diagnosed with a particular condition.

I first suspected I might be autistic when I was about 6 or 7. There was something on TV about autism (early 90s; no, I've no idea what it was - I'm not even sure if it was specificaally a programme about it or something on the news) and it showed a boy having a meltdown and a few other things. He was "classic autism" (ie. Leo Kanner definition) but there was something about the way he was behaving and reacting to things that made me think, "Am I autistic?" because it reminded me so much of how I could be. But he was very much high-support (I'm not that keen on functioning labels because it can fluctuate, but he was what a lot of people would call "low-functioning") so I thought that maybe I couldn't be autistic because I was academically bright, in a mainstream school and had never been assessed for anything like that. At that point understanding of Asperger's was limited, so because I wasn't particularly into or good at maths, science or computers - and I was a girl, and this was at a time before they realised girls could be Aspie - that supported the notion that I couldn't be autistic. So I dismissed it and didn't really think about it for many years.

It wasn't until the aforementioned friend - who I'd not met in person at this point; we knew each other solely through a chronic-illness forum we were both on as we've both got fibromyalgia and ME/CFS - PMed me and said that from the way I phrased and structured things in my posts, they were wondering was I an Aspie. It made me think back to that TV programme, and then I started looking into Asperger's. And then 


This was me. Every single descriptor fit me PERFECTLY. I could practically see the cartoon light-bulb ping and shine brightly above my head! The more I read, the more I identified. All my difficulties, all my quirks. Everything.I realised that I was Autistic.

And I wouldn't change it for the world.

The photo below is of me and my husband at the Eden Project in Cornwall last summer:

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