I Received My Autism Diagnosis When I Was 20 Years Old
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