How it feels to be diagnosed with autism later in life

“He is wired differently to you and me, this child of mine. He doesn’t like loud noises, or dark spaces, or strangers touching his head”. These are the first lines from a poem a mother penned about her son 11-year-old son who has Asperger’s syndrome.

Sophie Billington goes on to explain how her son Tristan’s brain works differently: “He can see in an instant the pattern, the layout, the solution to a puzzle”, but that “the world judges” and “sees only the outbursts and over-reactions”. It seems the poem struck a chord – going viral after being posted on Facebook.

Although autism is predominantly diagnosed in childhood, increasing numbers of adults are finding out that they too have autism. This issue, of later life diagnosis, was brought to light recently after nature photographer and TV presenter, Chris Packham, went public with his experiences.

About 1% of the adult population has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum – with more people diagnosed with autism than ever before. And yet, generally, the focus on who has autism is still mostly on infants, children and young adults.

This is despite the fact that autism can be defined as a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder – characterised by differences in social communication and interaction with people and wider society – making it very much a label for people of all ages.

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  • I think it is good that there is greater awareness and more people being diagnosed, but I think more help should be provided for adults post-diagnosis.  At the moment it is very much 'right off you go and get on with it' when in some cases like my own, I was left feeling a bit numb and confused (?overwhelmed) by the whole thing.  Help on how to manage symptoms with meltdowns/shutdowns and day to day stress would be useful, in addition to self-care strategies.  Trying to do this on your own, whilst trying to inform/educate those around you, can be exhausting.  I am happy for my diagnosis, but I am also burnout from it too.  It is a slow recovery that I am working on and I wouldn't want more people to have to handle it in this way.