For the last 3 years I've been spreading awareness on what autism is for me and my family. Dian has been nothing but a gift to us and I will forever be grateful to him for encouraging me to be a better and bigger person in life situations. When I look at people my own age and some even younger, I realise how much maturing they have to do, compared to me. We all grow up at different ages, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with us.
For me, I started growing up instantly after Dian's diagnosis. I wanted to be a protective, loving and trusting sister to Dian, I wanted him to know I'll always be on his side and there for him in times of need. While you may think I missed out on the growing up teenage phase of my life, I didn't I simply experienced it sooner.
I hear and see young people use the words "retard", "autistic" and "handicapped" as if it’s something humorous to call a friend when they make a mistake. But what if someone started using your family’s names to do the exact same thing? "Are you stupid like Michael?" "You're as bad as Sarah" "You're such an idiot like David". If anyone overheard a family member being treated like that, you'd be angry and heartbroken.
When I hear young people abusing the word "autism" to make a joke, it makes me angry. They don’t see the struggles Dian has every day. How helpless I feel when he's having a meltdown. The joy of seeing him finally hit milestones we were told would never happen. But how do I make them see what I experience every day?
You come to a point in your life where you realise you can't change people's perspectives if they don't listen. I can scream and shout at them all day everyday but if they don't listen, they won't change. It's a battle I can't win. But a battle I won't give up on. I will continue to talk about autism. I will continue to share experiences and give people a platform to share theirs. And maybe, just maybe, something I say might change the way they view the word "autism". But until then I won't shut up no matter how many people tell me to.
Thanks for reading.
Amy Tracey is a young woman who is on the Autism Spectrum and is currently attending college in Dublin. Here, she shares her story and experiences she's faced along the way.
1). Tell us about where you go to college and what you do in college?
I am a second-year student in the National College of Ireland and I am in my fourth semester studying Business. The topics in the course range from Law, Maths, Accounting, Marketing, Economics and many other modules.
2). How have other students interacted with you? Has it been positive or negative?
People are usually open to conversation if I start talking to them which is good and positive. Students tend to be with their friends from secondary school but they do have conversations with me and make an effort. There are times when I’m not talking to anyone but I never feel lonely. I like my space and I have a lot of studying to do. There are also people in the class I still have not gotten the chance to talk to yet at all. But everyone has been positive and people are friendly.
3). What has been the hardest part of attending college?
Sometimes getting into groups for assignments can be difficult. Some people have priorities and other things to do which is understandable. However, that can make it hard to set up times to meet to complete assignments and I can get uncomfortable with schedules. I always assume that that people in my new group will meet up at the same time and same place as the people I have worked with on previous assignments but that’s not what happens which is often hard for people on the spectrum, especially for me. I’m also in four or five different group assignments this semester which is very hard to manage.
New subjects I am learning such as IT and organisational behaviour are hard for me to as it’s another change. Change and adapting to new things can be overwhelming for someone on the spectrum such as myself.
4). What has been the best part of attending college?
Being independent, working really hard and getting good grades in assignments. As I’ve always struggled to pass school before I started attending college and was diagnosed with autism, it’s good now that I am passing everything and doing well in certain areas. I think gaining more qualifications is great and it is something that is needed in life as it adds to me getting an actual career in Business.
A big thank you to Amy for sharing with us and if you'd like to follow her adventures on the Autism Spectrum, you can find them here www.twitter.com/amytracey94
I decided to do a blog post based on other people’s thoughts on what autism means to them and what word they would use to describe autism. These people consisted of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, specialists, friends and community members. I got a total of 35 responses including Autism Advocate Anna Kennedy OBE and Actress Kacey Ainsworth (Little Mo from EastEnders).
What autism means to me is that it's made me become my children's advocate. It’s given me the courage to speak up about things that I wouldn't have before their diagnosis and fighting for them to get the best support. I will always do it in a heartbeat.
Autism means seeing the world in a different way to others.
Autism is part of my family. It’s always been there it always will be there and its with me every minute of the day. I don’t view it as a burden I simply view it as part of my everyday life I never ignore it I simply advocate for it - Anna Kennedy OBE
Autism to me means people communicate differently.
To me autism is seeing and understanding the world in a heightened sense of being.
To me, having Autism is an important and integral part of who I am as an individual. It is who I am, and I always like to see and make the most of the positive qualities that having it can have on others as well as myself. I feel that it brings out the best in me and I would not change a thing.
Hard but unique.
What does autism mean to me? Being able to know why I have had random struggles socially growing up and being able to fix certain things by working on them.
Autism means lifelong advocacy, patience, education.
a journey to become more informed.
Autism to me means someone who thinks in a different way but should be treated the same as everyone else.
Autism means viewing the world same through a different lens. We learn that it’s important to understand that people with Autism may be different, but they do see the same world we see, just in a different perspective.
Gifted person that sometimes finds it difficult to communicate their needs or struggles.
I've come to see each of the people who have autism in my life as a blessing, yes it's been hard at times but then whose life isn't hard? We all have ups and downs in our lives every day. But, I for one would never change any of the experiences I've had with my family. I love the wisdom, kindness and laughter I have shared and received over the years from each and every one of these wonderful children and now brilliantly inciteful adults that they have become.
As a mom, autism means to me vulnerability, challenges, and a lot of worrying.
Autism impacts each individual differently through various challenges. With more acceptance (not just awareness), individuals with autism can prosper in life via relationships, jobs and education. Autism is a disability but so many strategies exist to help those diagnosed find their own way and express their own views in life.
Autism means compassion, understanding and acceptance.
A different way of seeing and being in the world. Autism makes us seek to understand each other better. I'd prefer to visit shops when they put on quiet shopping evenings for people with autism. Maybe it's a clue as to how we can evolve as humans.
Those who have autism are actually far more advanced than those of us who are not. They use a larger part of their brain function, and generally have greater recall abilities.
It’s a part of my everyday life. Autism has taught me many important things about life such as perspective on what truly matters & looking at everything from a different view.
Autism means to me: thinking outside of the box – Actress Kacey Ainsworth
Autism is a condition that is often misunderstood by society and to me, it is something that can be learned about, that young people can be allowed to express themselves and be themselves in a safe space.
Autism to me is a constant reminder that there is no normal in this world, which is such a great thing...and I take pride reminding others of that when one is judgmental and asks "what's wrong with him/her?" It's being a voice for the voiceless.
Autism has shown me how incredible the brain can work and we need to all sit back in awe at the wonders of the obstacles people with Autism overcome each day and can grow and flourish with the proper love and support.
It means seeing the world in a different way.
Autism means that every day is unpredictable. My sons progress has been slow and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s not a race. And when my son does achieve a milestone or makes a new gain, it is beyond rewarding. He makes me proud every single day.
Autism means that my everyday life is a bit different and harder than your average neurotypical person. I find socialising and sensory input very overwhelming and I spent a long time feeling like an outsider. But there's always hope and a positive side. From my autism I am a hard-working, caring and unique person and I would never want to take my autism away from me, it's part of who I am.
Autism is learning about people who have a unique way of living and viewing the world. Living with Autism means we must be ready to adapt, improvise because at any moment our daughter may be overwhelmed by something in our environment and needs some reassurance. Autism has taught me how to let my guard down and enjoy the power of spending quality time with another person. Understanding the components, one has with Autism means you developed special patience, love, dedication and cannot picture life without them. Our daughter needs support, it means the world to her when people accept her for who she is.
Having a 23-year-old son with autism has had a huge impact on our life. Sleepless nights and struggling to relax. Our son constantly “moving the goal posts “. Strain on our marriage and huge difficulties for our younger son. Never being able to holiday as a family and the future is a huge worry. Beyond all that, I have a love for my son so strong. My love for my family and my faith in god gives me my strength.
Thank you to everyone who took part.
1). Tell us a little about yourself and your connection to autism.
My name is Amy, I’m 23 and I’m from Dublin. I’m studying my last year in a level 7 in Business at the National College of Ireland and I’m going to apply for a degree in Social Science this year. I do voluntary work for an Organisation called Let’s Get Talking and I set up the company’s social media platforms and work in the reception. I have volunteered for Cystic Fibrosis in Rathmines. I am interested in Job Specialisation for people who are struggling finding and keeping a job. My special interests vary and at times but this is something I have been interested in doing for a while.
I am connected to autism because I have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia. I have a family member also on the Autism Spectrum.
2). How did you feel when you were diagnosed with autism at the age of 20?
I felt as if I should have been diagnosed earlier on in life. I was diagnosed as Dyslexic in school at the age of 7 and I was taken out of mainstream school. I was put into a special needs school for children with dyslexia and my reading and writing wasn’t the worse. When I completed this school, I went back to mainstream school and I couldn’t integrate due to the stress, not being able to socialise, being left out and the heavy work load; I had to do second class maths in fifth class and I would be up all night doing homework only to go into school the next day and have it dismissed as not good enough. I had the school refer me to social classes to try and understand why I wasn’t socialising properly and I had two clinical child psychologists to help with the transition into this new school and they didn’t seem to pick up the obvious answer that they had assumed once back then; I had autism so yes it’s frustrating being assessed that late. One of the main reasons I wasn’t assessed was because of the huge difference in autism features in males and females so I have heard.
3). What have you found most challenging about your autism?
People telling me I don't have autism - Many people who have had a late diagnosis; it answers many questions about yourself that growing up I would have struggled to figure out and really understand. Most of all it was confusing, upsetting and a relief all at the same time. The confusing part of getting diagnosed with autism was not knowing what autism even was, I had never heard of it, so when I went and did my research on the meaning I came across the lower end of the spectrum and I did not see myself in that and I even found Asperger’s syndrome very hard to understand. It was something that overtime I understood and once I understood it then it started to make sense why I was the way I was. At the time, I was struggling to make friends and back then, three years ago, my colleagues had a problem with the way I communicated with them. Customers would say I lacked in communication which I didn’t understand why. I then had my assessment at that time and that was one of the reasons why I had it so that was in a way a relief as I was getting answers. Now I have to learn new skills that I should have been given years ago and those skills would have changed my life right now and made a huge difference.
4). What is the best thing that's happened because of your diagnosis?
Once I had my assessment, I had a more better understanding of why I did things differently, I always knew that I saw things a bit differently to everyone around me so it definitely explains a lot. For example, I was always very sensitive and fussy with sound more than anything else and I still am. It used to be hard not knowing why and it used to be hard trying to explain to people on a night out that I have to suddenly leave at 12 am on the spot because it’s too loud but having Asperger’s explained this. It explained why I chose to not go out a lot and why I had a hard time integrating into new places so just been able to work on that as much as I can has really helped. Academically I was going backwards and nowhere for years and it was only when I got assessed with autism could I avail of the right supports and see where I went wrong in order for me to get to college today, that was definitely one of the best things along with helping other people in my situation.
5). Is there anything you'd like to say to someone else who could be getting a late diagnosis?
Getting an assesment done can be very scary and life changing but it will help you out in the long run and explain certain things about yourself that you struggled to understand for years. You can try and get help with things you are struggling with such as socialising or needing supports in school or college which you can avail of.
A big thank you to Amy for sharing her story - you can contact Amy on Twitter @amytracey94! x