Coming to terms with an autism diagnosis
In her first blog in a new occasional series writing for Brandon, Lauren Cook describes her experience of being diagnosed with autism as a teenager and the challenges she has overcome to build an independent life.
- About Lauren
- Getting diagnosed with autism
- Accepting the diagnosis
- What autistic people can offer
- Supported employment at Brandon
My name is Lauren. I am 23 years old and work at a dental practice in Chipping Sodbury. I was diagnosed with autism in 2015. For me personally, my autism mainly affects me socially, so I struggle talking to new people and can find it hard to maintain eye contact as sometimes it makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I also struggle in groups of people as I find it overwhelming when there are multiple people in a room, particularly if I do not know them well. This means I will often stay silent in group situations as it makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed – staying silent is how I cope.
My autism also affects my memory. I am very forgetful, which means I often forget basic things such as drinking water. This can be very frustrating at times as it means that I can forget important things, which is not ideal in a work environment for example. I also struggle with being independent. I feel anxious when I have to do things alone, such as using public transport, because I have no one to distract me from my own thoughts when I am alone so I can become very overwhelmed as a result.
Getting my diagnosis
In a world that is set up and caters for only one type of individual, it is a very difficult thing to accept when you are suddenly told that you are not that ‘ideal’ type of individual and that you do not fit into the standardised mould that you should.
Since being diagnosed with autism, I quickly realised that I was going to have to try and adapt myself if I wanted to be a functioning member of society, rather than society adapting to my needs and my different way of thinking.
When I was first diagnosed with autism, I didn’t want to believe that it was true. I had always known that there was something different about me and that I struggled with things that came naturally to other people, but actually having the label of autism was a source of shame and embarrassment for me because it made me feel as though there was something very wrong with me.
Feeling like an outcast
I think a lot of my shame and embarrassment came from the societal stigma that surrounds being autistic. I felt that people viewed me as less capable than everyone else because of my autism. The lack of understanding and awareness of autism also made it more difficult for me to accept my diagnosis. I felt as though no one really understood things from my perspective or understood the daily struggles that I deal with as an autistic person. This left me feeling like an outcast. All I wanted was to be ‘normal’ and so this led to me trying to suppress and hide my autism as much as possible.
Accepting my diagnosis
It has taken time but I have now accepted my diagnosis and I realise that being different from the majority of people is not a bad thing. In fact, difference is something that should be embraced.
Society tells us that being different is a bad thing that must be ‘fixed’ because it is an inconvenience to those around us, but autism is not something that can be fixed, nor is it something that needs to be fixed.
I have a lot to offer
Autistic people have a lot to offer and our different perspective on the world is something that others can learn from. I believe that by educating neurotypical people on autism and the daily obstacles that autistic people face, will hopefully enable more support for autistic people and will enable more autistic people to accept and embrace who they are and not feel ashamed of their differences.
Autistic people want to be accepted just as much as everyone else in this world. All we need is the right environment, with understanding and supportive people, to enable us to thrive.
Employment support at Brandon
Brandon does not support Lauren, but we are proud to offer supported employment opportunities to autistic adults and people with learning disabilities.
Find out more about our not-for-profit businesses in the social enterprise section of our website.