On the whole spectrum of autism, I am considered “high functioning.” You might say that I have Asperger’s, though the term is now falling out of fashion.
At any rate, I am a woman with autism, but I didn’t discover this fact until after I became a mother, and my daughter was already two years old.
At my diagnosis, I was 33 years old. Today, I am nearly 37.
It was, of course, a lightbulb moment for me. The diagnosis helped me better understand myself and feel that much less absurd. But that’s about all it did for me: assure me that I wasn’t so crazy afterall.
Discovering you’ve had autism your entire life can also feel like shit, because it’s one more diagnosis you carry which means you will likely always struggle to interact with others.
Plus, it points to an entire lifetime of missed opportunities. Such a late diagnosis of autism is more than some aha moment. It is a severe failure of our educational system, as well as the autism movement at large.
You’re not given any sort of apology. There’s no, “I’m sorry you never got the help you needed as a child and young adult to better function in this world. Let’s get you back on track right now.” Nope. You don’t get a special name tag or ID. You simply move on.
The people who have known you for your whole life or even just a week will all still expect you to behave like a neurotypical person. It doesn’t matter that you’re not and have never been neurotypical.
It doesn’t matter that this diagnosis explains why some of your behavior drives your neurotypical friends and family nuts. In my experience, autism isn’t a diagnosis that most loved ones seem able to accept with ease.
When you try to educate friends and family members about your diagnosis as a woman with autism, most can’t wrap their mind around it. They want to know why you’re not more like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Or The Good Doctor. Or that one Netflix show with the actor who mocks people with disabilities.
Older folks bring up The Rain Man and ask why you’re not, you know, a genius. Well…