Reflecting on diagnosis

For many Autistics, our diagnosis is a key moment in our lives. It often changes the way we see ourselves radically. Beyond the event itself, it’s also something we carry with us afterwards, a mirror that can change over time.

For this edition of Grapevine, we asked a bunch of Autistics what their diagnosis means to them. I present to you their answers.

Max Williams, Editor

“Having an Autism diagnosis allows me to lower my mask and acknowledge my uniqueness, my strengths, and my difficulties. It has helped me feel a sense of belonging in my tribe of fellow Autistics and neurodivergent individuals, and I feel like I have found my people. It has given me a sense of validation and has helped me feel different, not abnormal or less.” – Shadia, 18

“Forty-two was my age at diagnosis. To me my diagnosis enabled me to finally make sense of who I am. It took a while for it to sink in and I missed out on having a role model that I could compare with… so, I felt a mixture of relief and self-doubt because Autism seemed so far from who I felt I was while explaining so much of my social difficulty… as time has gone by and I’m older, wiser and more aware of various research and know many other Autistics, I can ‘see’ my Autism more clearly now! I’m not so bound up with all I fail at either, much more self-accepting and focused upon what I can do, rather than what I can’t. Finding my ‘Tribe’ has been the most wonderful experience of all and I love knowing where I belong… finally, I’m home.” – Wenn, 66

“My opinion is skewed by some pretty negative language to be honest. When I was first diagnosed as being on the Spectrum at age six, I was diagnosed as ‘borderline not intellectually disabled’ – recommending that I be enrolled in a specialist school. Very little other than medication was recommended to my parents as a plan towards achieving a level of “normality” in my formative years. I think this language is incredibly confusing for any parent as to what it means from a practical standpoint and to be fair at this young age it didn’t mean much to me. But the years have given me time to reflect and give it further consideration. A diagnosis of Autism to me just means I have an intense passion and focus for (a) my work and (b) the pastimes and/or hobbies that interest me. Clearly it’s given me limitless determination to prove the assessing psychologist wrong, evidenced by my degrees in commerce and law, and my successful career as a corporate governance professional; which shows that a diagnosis is just a snapshot in time, based on limited information. It doesn’t place limitations on your future, the only limitations that exist are those you accept.” – Will, 31

“My diagnosis was both stressful and relieving. Some days I embrace my diagnosis but sometimes still to this day I don’t. My sister was diagnosed at two, whereas I was diagnosed at twelve, so my idea of Autism was largely influenced by that. It gave me a better understanding of myself, made me more self-aware.” – Katie, 21

“My first thoughts on my diagnosis was; separate room and extra time for tests in my school? Hell yeah! Though when told something makes you different it can affect your mental outlook on things, and after a bit I thought there was something wrong with me. Only when I attended my first I Can camp did I meet people who thought the same or similar as me and there was nothing wrong with them or me and so my last thoughts on my diagnosis and current ones are; I’m pretty damn awesome, and it makes me just that little bit more special and unique.” – Erin, 17

“For me my diagnosis is liberating. So many times I’ve seen things from a very different angle to my friends and family and not understanding the reason why often makes it tempting to think I’m somehow deficient. Knowing that I’m Autistic allows me to embrace and understand this difference and now I’m able to harness this ‘different operating system’ in every aspect of my life, from solving problems in my research, to making jokes no one else can think of.” – James, 31

“I guess when I found out I was on the Spectrum, I didn’t fuss about it. I just took at as something new that I had learnt about, and went about trying to understand myself more through the scope of Autism using the magical powers of Google.” – Carla, 23

“Diagnosis to me meant a way of accessing the reason for my feeling different. It gave me a way of relating to family who had a similar diagnosis and a way of understanding myself better. I was grateful for being diagnosed with Autism because it was an explanation of my difference, and it gave me a term to be proud of saying.” – Lochy, 19

Artwork courtesy of Meg Stewart-Snoad

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