What I’m re­ally think­ing The adult with autism

The Guardian Weekly - - Mind&relationships - Tell us what y you’re re­ally t think­ing at mind@ thegua the­guardian.com

Last year I took some tests at my lo­cal adult autism cen­tre and it emerged that I tick all the boxes for Asperger’s. I am in my 40s, and I am not alone. There has been a huge surge in adults, es­pe­cially women, tested in the last five years.

Why was it not no­ticed sooner? I was a very odd child: I rarely played with or talked to other chil­dren in my early years, out of choice, and spent most of my teens os­tracised as I didn’t un­der­stand oth­ers’ so­cial rules. But it was the 1970s, I was a girl, and autism was never men­tioned; in­deed, the di­ag­nos­tic cri­te­ria un­til re­cently were based on pre­sen­ta­tion in boys. Do I wish I’d been iden­ti­fied sooner? Yes and no: I’d have liked some help, but not to have been lim­ited by the la­bel.

I haven’t done badly in life. I have a de­gree and a good job, a part­ner, a house and a small but val­ued so­cial cir­cle. Now I have to come to terms with hav­ing what other peo­ple call a “dis­abil­ity”, a “men­tal dis­or­der”, a “syn­drome”, and which some peo­ple would like to see “cured.” I don’t want a cure: I value the unique in­sights, tal­ents and at­ten­tion to de­tail that Asperger’s has given me.

The pub­lic at large still be­lieve autism is found mainly in lit­tle boys. I can’t “come out” at work for fear of be­ing thought of as ei­ther stupid or Rain Man. It’s much harder than com­ing out as gay, which I did in my 20s. Thank good­ness for the on­line com­mu­nity, my lo­cal autism the­atre group and Autscape, a con­fer­ence I re­cently at­tended run by and for autis­tic peo­ple. There I cou could proudly say I’m iden­ti­fied as neuro-di­verse.neur Autism rights have a long way to go, and I’d like to think I can, in a small w way, be a pioneer for neuro

diver di­ver­sity.

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