It’s Autism Awareness Week in the UK this week and, while we want to foreground the voices of our autistic authors as much as possible every week of the year, this week it’s especially important for us all to better recognise, understand and accept the variety and validity of autistic experience. With this in mind, the below extract is an introduction to Gillian Drew’s bestselling An Adult With an Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. Aimed at those who receive a diagnosis for the first time as adults, this book draws on personal experiences to provide positive advice on dealing with life, health, and relationships following an adult diagnosis. With thanks to the author for allowing us to share their story.
When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, at the age of 28, I was sent away without so much as a leaflet to explain what it all meant. As you can imagine, I was left with more questions than answers. What exactly is autism? Why do I have it? How can it be treated? What does it mean for my life? How does it affect work? How does it affect relationships? What are the long-term consequences? Can I still get married and have children? Should I get professional support? Where should I live? How do I explain this to people? Why was I not diagnosed as a child? Will things improve?
Unfortunately, there was nobody I could ask and nobody who could answer. As someone whose only knowledge of autism came from the movie Rain Man, I discovered to my dismay that there were no books catering for the newly diagnosed adult. The vast majority of the literature on autism focuses on children with the condition, and those books that do cover adults assume you either received the diagnosis as a child and therefore understand an awful lot about it already, or are qualified as a clinical psychologist. I craved a book that could help me understand what it means to be diagnosed with autism as an adult.
Failing to find it, I decided to write it myself to help others come to terms with this life-changing news.