Today is autism pride. I bet most people on my social media platforms didn’t realise I was autistic. I certainly didn’t! (An interesting “pandemic bonus” last year – haha!)
A key reason for people going undiagnosed is that most of what the public knows about autism is based on outdated stereotypes from films. (I wish I *could* card count in casinos but, sorry to disappoint you – no.)
Another huge factor is that a lot of the original research into autism was based on boys…and it wasn’t particularly ethical, rigorous or inclusive science either.
This means that people are only just waking up to how autism presents in women – and this is why women like me get diagnosed late…if they’re even lucky enough to get diagnosed at all.
When I told a close friend of mine of my diagnosis, she messaged me to say “I’m so sorry”.
After I stopped laughing, I texted her back and said “Don’t be. I’m not dying! This is amazing news. It explains EVERYTHING.”
What did it explain? It made sense of the “spiky skills profile” I’ve had all my life.
I can learn any language at the drop of a hat but I need to be helped to plan a work project.
I can become an expert in any topic I choose but I cannot perform basic mathematical operations.
I’m hilarious…but I don’t realise when people are laughing at me.
As Jennifer Cook O’Toole says in her fabulous book about autistic women “Autism in Heels”, autistic women struggle in the gap between some really great areas of intelligence, and some areas of challenge.
People are stumped by how you can be so bright…yet seemingly so inept in other ways.
If wider society knew more about autism, it would make it easier for people to have conversations about needs and preferences. It would make it easier for more autistic people to contribute to the workplace. (I am one of the lucky ones – I have found work with people who appreciate and need me for who I am.)
So if you don’t know much about autism – especially autism in women – take time to learn that each autistic person is different. And the grain of truth about autism in the stereotypes? Let’s call it more of a nanoparticle.
As for me, I am still settling into my diagnosis and understanding the fun and games that my brain serves up on the regular.
But just as I wouldn’t change the fact that I have brown hair or that I have freckles, if someone offered to change my brain for one that’s less scatty or less rigid…I just wouldn’t.
Autism is an essential part of what makes me uniquely me.
Thank you for taking the time to read. Autism pride!