If you haven’t read my previous blog post about my diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder, I recommend that you read that first, as quite a lot of it comes into my diagnosis of ASD. If you don’t want to read all of that, I’ll outline the bits that are relevant in this post.
I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in October 2013, one year after my ADD diagnosis, and was 15 years old and 3 months. The kind that I have is only mild though and is much like Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism. I’m not completely aware of the difference between the two, but if I’m talking casually about my diagnosis, I’ll say Asperger’s, however my Mum varies between the two (my official diagnosis is just Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I mentioned in my post about my ADD diagnosis that I had written a list of “symptoms” when I was 13, and that’s when it was apparent that the school thought that I possibly had ADHD, Asperger’s, and Dyspraxia. Teachers were made aware that I could possibly have these learning disabilities but only one really picked up on it. Fast forward to when I was 14 and I had just started my GCSEs, was about to be diagnosed with ADD, and was also doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award (I had to quit because of joint problems and not being any help to my group because I couldn’t read maps, compasses, or cook). My Science teacher was one of the volunteers to help out on DofE and she told me that she had previously worked with kids with Asperger’s, which made me feel so much better. She actually understood when we had a practice of the orienteering that I was over sensitive to particular lights in the little cabin we were staying by and had breakfast at, and she also understood that I could only be around people for a certain amount of time before I’d become agitated and upset. But she was the only teacher who understood all of this and was nice to me about the possibilities of things “wrong” with me, all of the others didn’t really seem to notice that I was about to be diagnosed with ADD and possibly on the spectrum.
I got my diagnosis of Inattentive Attention Deficit Disorder a few weeks later and I was a bit confused because they hadn’t really mentioned much about Dyspraxia or Autism – but throughout that year it became apparent that the paediatrician did think I have ASD and a year after that, the Dyspraxia a possible misjudgment for Dyscalculia. None of the teachers really helped me with my diagnosis of ADD, and I became quite depressed towards the end of my first year of GCSEs (but eventually got some help with that). They had to constantly be reminded of my diagnosis and it was eventually written down on the Special Educational Needs register that I had “ADD and ASD (not officially diagnosed)” because it was so obvious that I had it.
When I was about 15, I was seen by a Speech and Language Therapist. I apologise at this point because as I’m writing this I can’t exactly remember the order of when things happen because I’ve sort of blocked out the majority of 2013 from my memory. The Therapist saw me at school with my Mum and got me to look at loads of flashcards and books, got me to read things out and work out sums, and asked me lots of questions about my interests (to see if I had obsessions which is common for people with ASD), which all took about an hour plus I kept getting distracted with noises coming from outside the meeting room. She worked out that I’d need a prompter for exams and extra time (I never got the extra time, but I got a prompter which was annoying. See the ADD diagnosis for more info on that. I might write a whole separate post on exams altogether soon though), and she decided that she’s going to refer me to a professional Speech and Language Specalist (so I have no idea what she was if she was a professional or specialist) who then watched me in a Health and Social Care lesson once. I knew it was meant to be anonymous and that she could have been in there for anything, but my Head of Year came in with her and pointed at me, so they weren’t very good at being undercover. My teacher didn’t even realise that the Specialist was in there for me until the Specialist actually pulled her out the classroom to tell her (the teacher I had for that lesson was appalling. She never gave me any work to do no matter how many times I asked. I ended up just barely passing that class). Anyway, I was on a big table with some of my friends who I wasn’t particularly close to but we still talked a lot, and I was trying to get on as normal as possible and act just like everyone else with the knowledge that this woman was observing me. It didn’t work though because then on the day that I was diagnosed with ASD I saw her at the Child Development Centre. I was there for about 2 hours – my Mum and Head of Year spoke to my paediatrician whilst I spoke to the Specialist and made up stories from objects like string and paperclips. She knew that I felt a little silly because these were games for 5 year olds and I was 15 at this point. I didn’t really talk much to her and was very quiet until I got used to her which wasn’t until the end and she was asking me questions from a questionnaire. It was that point where I stopped smiling at the floor if I wanted to laugh or smile and actually gave her eye contact and smiled – something that I’ve worked very hard on since. After that the paediatrician and Specialist (as well as the Therapist) all agreed that they thought I had ASD and thus a diagnosis was made.
One year on from this and I’ve been working very hard to overcome little things like ordering food in restaurants, maintaining eye contact, learning correct social cues – I think I’ve done pretty well. There are still somethings that I need to work on like answering the front door, answering phones, my temper, and giving directions when random people in the street ask me for them. I think it’s when I don’t know who I could be talking to that I get nervous and aspects of ASD come out, but if I know that the person works in a safe environment like a school or restaurant, I can talk to them because I know that they work there and I know what to except.
If you think that you might have ASD, talk to your school/work so they can give you the right support, and talk to your GP so that they can refer you to the right help that you need. When you talk to both your school/work and GP, explain exactly how your symptoms make you feel and how they affect your life. It might take a while, you might get pushed from one place to another (I was. First I went to teachers, then the GP, then teachers, then GP), and it will be stressful, but it will be worth it to get the right help that you need. Good luck.