This is what an Autism Diagnosis looks like. This is two years of reports, assesments, reviews, and all sorts of medical tests, over the space of two years, to confirm what had been long suspected; I was Autistic.
In 2007 I was formally dignosed with Autism. Now, 10 years on, reading the reports is a sobering story, of just how far I have travelled in those 10 years since.
I have spent my Sunday afternoon (after cleaning the house, for the purposes of my parents and sister reading this!) reading through all these reports. How I struggled with so many things. How I couldn’t write properly. How I had no social skills at all, unable to have a normal conversation with anyone, about any subject. Its like the reports are talking about a different person, and I guess to some extent, they are. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago. Then again, I don’t think anyone stays the same forever.
I grew to accept my diagnosis. At first, I railed against it, and refused to believe it. I went through phases of refusing to take my ADHD medication, claiming “I can control it” (I really couldn’t), and “but I’m the same as everyone else!” (I really wasn’t). It was a tough time for everyone, including my long suffering parents, who had no idea what the future held for me, or indeed them.
With time, and research on my condition, I started to realise that, Autism isn’t something that makes me broken, or in some way inferior to someone else, it’s just who I am, and it’s a part of me, and always will be a part of me. Instead of fighting it, and fighting the traits I displayed, I looked at how to use them to my advantage. For example, I would be extremely pedantic over quite minor details. Instead of looking at this as a negative, I found out that in jobs such as quality checking, and testing, this was actually a highly valued attribute, not a liability!
My way of thinking gradually changed, from constantly looking at things I can’t do as well as others, or being unable to do many things other people find second-nature (to this day, I have never been able to ask a stranger the time. I just can’t do it.), I looked at ways I can adapt. Getting to the same destination, but using a different road, if you will.
In the 10 years since my diagnosis, a lot of things have changed. I’ve gotten 10 years older. I’ve learnt how relationships and friendships work. I’ve learnt how to become comfortable with conversing with people, and finding solutions to otherwise problematic areas in my life.
Autistic people don’t like change. Our routines are very important to us. A lot of things have changed for me in the past 2 years. I started my new job in November 2015. In December 2015, my mum and dad moved to Singapore, to open a new chapter in their life. This was a big challenge for all of us, but especially me. For the first time in my life, my parents weren’t going to be physically in my life for long periods of time. That meant adapting to a lot of new things, and becoming a lot more independent.
5 years ago, when I was still at school, I wouldn’t even be able to get a train by myself. I would need to be accompanied by an adult because it was just too overwhelming, and too difficult for me to manage.
In September 2016, I flew from Dublin to Singapore (via Abu Dhabi), all 3 Airports I’d never been in before. And I did it alone. It was a huge milestone for me, and a huge marker of the siesmic progress I have made over the past 10 years.
I’m still Autistic. That will never change. I have learnt to cope with the intricacies and challenges the condition brings. I still have bad days. People don’t really notice them, as I tend to hide away and not tell anyone about them, but they still happen. I still have setbacks and regressions, but not as often as I used to. I’m still learning, every month, every week, every day, about my condition, and what it means for how I see the world.
The enduring memory of all my experiences is that I want to be able to help others like me. I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to communicate my experiences in a coherent way. By doing this, I hope I can help others with my condition, to progress the way I have. I also want to be able to help families, help to give parents an insight into how their kid see’s the world, and to help them understand all the little quirks and eccentricies of the condition.