Flying under the radar
I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at the ripe old age of 19. While that’s certainly not the oldest I know of, it is older than is usual, at least for my generation, and I am often asked why it took so long. Well, it’s a long story, but here’s the short version.
Our story begins back in the primordial mists of 1989, an ancient epoch when perms, bum bags and the Soviet Union were still a thing, and the term “Asperger’s” had not yet been included in the World Health Organization’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Sure, Autism was a known condition, and there are many others my age who were diagnosed young, but the definition was somewhat narrower than it is today.
My parents were fairly sure I was on the spectrum from a relatively young age, but whenever I was tested by psychologists and the like, I didn’t quite fit into their pigeonhole of what Autism looked like. And so, my parents were told over and over that it was all in their heads. You’d think that hand flapping and intense interests would be dead giveaways, but apparently the “experts” thought I was too social and too clever to possibly be on the spectrum.
It wasn’t until I was 18, and my anxiety went off like Mount Doom at the end of Return of the King that I finally got my first diagnosis; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This explained my fears, but left the rest of my spectrum traits unaccounted for.
The following year, my parents arranged for me to be evaluated by one of the leading specialists on Autism in the state. Her verdict was conclusive; I was on the spectrum.
Being diagnosed as Autistic was a big relief for me, because I finally had an answer as to why I experienced the world so differently from those around me. For the first time in my life, everything made sense. I wish it had happened sooner, as I feel like this knowledge would have helped immensely during my high school years, but hey, at least it happened in time for University.
This is why it’s so important that we recognize the diversity of the spectrum; so that those who are on it but don’t quite match the examples in the textbook get the support and answers they need.