ARCHIVED An Autism Diagnosis – The bigger picture I’d been searching for

ARCHIVED: Please note, whilst every effort has been made to update blog posts, this blog post has been archived and may present outdated and incorrect information and terminology. 

“She seemed fine as a baby; in fact she was really good. She rarely cried, rarely needed me, and would just sit for hours happily playing by herself”, my mum proudly boasted to the young female Doctor during my three-hour autism assessment. My mum had clearly come ready for attack, from either her own emotionally stunted daughter, or the vicious doctors who would try to blame her bad parenting. Considering she went in expecting not to be able to recollect anything from my childhood, she managed to remember an exceptional amount; five A4 pages worth.
“Did you have any friends when you started school?” the mild-mannered doctor asked me from her page of interview questions.
“Yea, I always seemed to have friends, I just didn’t like playing games with them.” Was my vague and to the point reply. To which my mum piped up “You didn’t really. Most of them were the children of my friends and you sort of just followed them around.”
Thanks mum, the illusion of my semi-normal childhood was being shattered. There then ensued a never-ending list of all my weird quirks and behaviours, from selective-mutism, obsessive hand washing, limited diets, a fear of all things moist, hatred for the colour red, gagging at certain textures, toileting issues, severe anxiety, to all my obsessional interests with music, books and people, remembering conversations word for word and not always understanding people’s emotions.  Meanwhile I sat flicking my thumbs as I always do, drawing a mental map of the outline of the room. I counted the plugs as I went along, they didn’t look like normal plugs so I drew them extra carefully so I could recall them later if I needed to.
After three hours the assessment came to its end. My mum and I got up ready to leave, fully prepared for a break or even to go home whilst the doctor looked through the evidence on what we thought would be a tough borderline case.
“Usually I need some time to go through the evidence or talk it through with my supervisor, but I think the evidence is pretty conclusive. I am pretty certain you have Aspergers”. The Doctor then went on to congratulate me for making it in life this far, which rather ashamedly I took as a compliment and secretly hoped she’d provide me with my own special medal, or at least some sort of bravery award.

I was 23 when I received my diagnosis. I wasn’t even aware I could have Aspergers until a year previous, when it came to the attention of my exceptionally observant Art Therapist that I didn’t seem to process my emotions how other people do, they seemed somewhat stunted. Rather embarrassingly I had just completed a three-year Psychology Degree, and had even studied autism in my finals, yet never had it occurred to me that all the issues I had had in my life could be down to that. I assumed I was too social and functional to have autism, but in fact I had just learnt to imitate and hide my impairments really well. I asked my mum how she had never noticed given the list of weird behaviours I had presented since childhood. She said she had never placed them altogether, that they had always thought it was ‘just me’, they hadn’t seen anything wrong with it. Aspergers was the bigger picture I had been searching for.

I chose to write this blog as a way to collect all my thoughts, both from personal experience and from current research and theories. My dream is to go on and study autism, particularly females with autism, so maybe in the future people with Aspergers won’t have to wait so long to find answers.

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