My Journey with Autism from a Teenager to an Adult
This blog post is written by a young woman named Aspling who shares her journey of life on the autism spectrum.
Let’s be honest here, when you think of autism you generally think about children, with adults being an afterthought. And in terms of support this is the same. There’s so much support for children, but for adults there’s next to nothing. I received my diagnosis early in 2017 at the age of 25. And for me, my diagnosis came as a relief. I’d spent my teenage years feeling lost, like an outcast, always on the edge, never included, like a misfit. In myself I knew I was different. But I couldn’t identify how or why. I knew I acted different and I couldn’t explain my behaviours (which I now identify as my autistic traits).
The idea of camouflaging
Like myself, many adults are receiving a late diagnosis, one reason for this is the idea of camouflaging; something that has been brought to light over the past years. Researchers have identified that many people with autism ‘camouflage’. This means masking behaviours to better fit in with culture and society. It is said to be a distinct trait of women and girls on the spectrum. This however, has also been identified in boys and men.
Moving on… I don’t remember much from my early childhood, it’s a bit of a blur. I was a fussy eater and to this day I still am. I won’t eat salad, fruit, certain types of meat, fish… the list goes on. Next came the obsessions and collections, specifically My Little Pony and nailbrushes in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. These were kept in baskets under the bathroom sink. I also had sensory difficulties, which resulted in my Barbie dolls having no feet, as I’d spend hours chewing them off. I even chewed the toe of my sister’s dolls.
As an adult I’ve switched to munching on ice cubes, which may seem strange. But it gives me sensory pleasure. I was a rigid child, in the sense that I needed routine, and any changes sent me through the roof. I’d meltdown over the smallest things. But as a child my parents just thought I was having a tantrum like many toddlers.
For me growing up was difficult, looking back I would say I masked a lot of the time, mostly because I didn’t quite fit in and I longed to.
I had friends in high school. And I could hold a conversation. However I was very literal and couldn’t pick up on social cues, and eye contact was a big no no for me. As a teenager I knew I was different, I was the weird girl in my friend group. And I felt lost, like I didn’t know who I was. I had anxiety issues, I was bullied at school and I was behind academically. I struggled in high school on multiple fronts. And because I didn’t have a label or a piece of paper I had no support.
Over the years, I struggled maintaining friends, managing my work load and handling my anxiety as the pressure mounted. I found myself unable to cope. I had days where my emotions got the better of me and I’d spend the morning crying; refusing to attend school. There was one subject in particular that I dreaded. I was failing, even though trying my best, and I had zero support from anyone.
My parents’ perspective
My parents didn’t think anything of my odd behaviour, and at the time I don’t think they had a full understanding of Autism. Around the time of my diagnosis my mum was working for a local special educational needs service so her understanding of autism grew. And aspects of her work she could see reflected in me. I have a close bond with my mum. She’s helped me so much over the years and her professional understanding of autism has really helped me grow as an adult.
Eventually I pushed for a diagnosis, which as an adult is much harder. Traits aren’t as apparent, and people think ‘well you’ve coped this far’. My diagnosis was a relief as I had a reason for all my difficulties and deficits. Once you have that magical piece of paper the world sees you differently. However, it’s finding support which is the issue. I’m hoping in the future this will change to accommodate adults as well as children.
Visit Aspling’s blog here.