…But everyone does that, don’t they?
How your girl’s autism diagnosis might have you realising that you may be neurodivergent too.
The older my daughter gets, the more I notice traits in her that were traits I had too. Although secure in my knowledge of my own autism before she was born, I realise now that I have many traits which may have not been picked up on when I was a child. Growing up in the 80s meant that autism was not on anyone’s radar – it was a thing that ‘just happened to boys’, and would have included rocking and flapping, or lining things up, according to the understanding of the time. The idea that a shy, sensitive girl who liked her own company, and who would disappear for hours into the fantasy worlds of her book collection could possibly be autistic was something which never crossed anyone’s mind. Now I am viewing my own childhood through the lens of parenting a diagnosed autistic girl – and a lot is coming to light that I had not previously considered:
I was an early reader
I was reading fluently well before starting school, and one of my few memories of Reception class was taking a chapter book into school for story time and reading some of it to the class. My daughter could recognise most of the alphabet before she was two, and was also talking in full sentences by 19 months.
I was a perfectionist, even as a baby
My mum reports that as a baby and toddler, there were a number of things which I didn’t appear to try until I could do them properly. I didn’t like not being able to do something easily – something I still struggle with and my daughter does also. I know in theory that it is good to learn a new thing and to acquire a skill built up over time, but I have to remind myself, even now in my 40s, of this fact.
I loved to swing and move
I had a swing in our back garden. I loved to spend hours swinging back and forth, particularly when I felt stressed or upset, and it always made me feel really happy. My daughter has a mini trampoline, and also has a spinning office chair, which she spins on all the time, even when eating.
I have always hated using the phone
As a child, my mum used to encourage me to phone my friends myself if I wanted to ask them to come and play. I used to hate doing that – if one of their parents answered the phone, I would suddenly feel panicked as I wouldn’t know what to say to them. As I grew older, I started to write down a short script or summary of what I wanted to say so that I wouldn’t forget. This didn’t get rid of the unpredictability of what the other person might say, but it helped a little. When I started to work in office jobs, I did the same. I still hate phone calls – if I need to sort something out over the phone, I will write down everything I want to say, but sometimes my words get jumbled or lost entirely if I am stressed. If someone phones me, the sound of my phone ringing makes me jump and a little stressed, even if I recognise who is calling.
I have always had trouble distinguishing speech from other sounds
I have realised in recent years that I probably have auditory processing disorder, specifically the type which makes it hard to distinguish speech from other sounds, which explains why I strongly dislike listening to voice messages, watching videos with the sound up (unless it’s on tv), and really can’t stand radio stations where there is more talk than music. I also found out during the pandemic that I lip-read – something which really only came to light when everyone was wearing masks and I suddenly couldn’t understand a word they were saying. This also helped to explain why I thought I was ok at eye contact but had in fact been looking at people’s mouths all along, and why I get so annoyed by films or tv where the sound is not in synch with the picture. Although not a trait which is specifically autism-related, auditory processing issues are not uncommon amongst autistic people.
Why it took so long to realise I am autistic
When I have talked about my autism in the past, finding examples from my experience to illustrate, I have often been met with ‘yes, but everyone does / thinks / feels that’, or the dreaded ‘well, we’re all a bit autistic / we’re all on the spectrum’. A very good article by Chris Bonnello of Autistic not Weird explains why this is not actually the case, and how it can actually be offensive to autistic people.
So, now you’ve identified that you might be neurodivergent, where do you go from here?
Well, the good news is that there is actually a lot of support and information out there if you know where to look. I wrote a blog post back in May about some blogs and websites by autistic people that may be of interest, some of which are listed below:
Laura James – Odd Girl Out – available on Amazon
Autistic not Weird – a website / blog written by an autistic ex-teacher who is now an autism advocate, speaker and bestselling author.
Autistic not Weird – as well as linking to blog posts on the website, there is a very supportive community of people following this page.
Auti-Ms – a Bristol charity which supports women and girls on the autistic spectrum
Neurobeautiful – a blog by a late-diagnosed autistic woman, celebrating neurodiversity
Facebook Groups (none of which require a formal diagnosis of autism to join)
Mums on the Spectrum – a large, international group of mums who identify as autistic
Our Village – a group for neurodivergent adults, especially autistic and PDA, to support one another
Autistic Parents UK – Peer Support Group - this organisation sometimes runs in-person regional groups as well
Surprise! You’re Autistic! – a lively, international support group for late-identified autistic adults
Have you found other sources of support that you'd like to recommend? Tell us in the comments or contact us.
Laura Webb is a director of NeonDaisy