Late-diagnosed autistic women are having another moment
Media coverage (in the Guardian) identifies the trend and focuses on the positive aspects.
Earlier this week, Melanie Sykes ‘came out’ as autistic.
And then the Guardian put a call out for late-diagnosed women to share their stories. They got 139 responses in less than 20 hours.
And in another piece today they talk about the Melanie Sykes’ story as part of a growing trend:
Reading about late-diagnosed autistic women feels comforting and inspiring and validating. Sykes describes feeling different, and an inability to do certain things that others seemed to find easy. Some women shared devastation about getting this new information about themselves, but they weren’t the majority.
“Most women, however, spoke ecstatically about the result of their diagnosis,” the article says.
Reading it, I thought of my mum, who has so related to my experiences as I’ve shared them with her. She hasn’t pursued diagnosis, and I’m not sure she will, but she has had a similar rise in self-compassion and self-understanding since thinking that it might be a part of who she is, too.
There is no hint of the narrative which is suspicious of the growing number of people being diagnosed, I was relieved to notice. Instead, the focus is on how life-changing the experience of getting a diagnosis can be.
The article also discusses what it calls the ‘devastating’ waiting list for NHS diagnosis, which it says is currently between four and nine years. Yikes. And there is some discussion of the total lack of services or support to process what you have discovered.
As Melanie Sykes says in one of the pieces that focuses on her: The so-called neurotypical brain “might not be typical at all. So the system that supports those types of brains isn’t necessarily what should be the norm.”
She wants education to be reformed to make space for the different ways of learning and being. Her school failed her, like mine failed me. I left, having completely gone off the rails by 16, and only just made it back on track in order to get to university. (Not that everyone must do this, but it was an obvious path for me.) Melanie Sykes left school at 15, and sounds similarly saddened by how her talents were wasted during those formative years, while her defects seemed to be glaringly obvious.
I relate. And I can imagine you might, too.
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Chelsey Flood is the author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers, and a senior lecturer in creative writing at UWE University. She writes about freedom, addiction, nature and love at Beautiful Hangover, autism and self-compassion at Polite Robot, and is also working on a non-fiction book about getting sober, and a new YA novel.