There are no tangible benefits for a late-diagnosed woman to tell the world that she is #autistic, but I did it anyway. Here’s why.
The reality is that no one comes rushing to your aid to offer the support, services and counselling you so desperately needed when you were young and struggling in school, at times being bullied, drowning in social anxiety, and barely coping under the weight of depression (as a result of trying to exist in a world not built for you).
No one actually says, ‘Wow, congratulations!’ They are actually more likely to say something like ‘You don’t look autistic’ or ‘you must be only MILDLY autistic’ or ‘everyone’s on the spectrum’ (which is false, by the way) and so on the one hand your ENTIRE life has been validated by your identification and at the same time DISMISSED by almost everyone around you. Worse yet, even though you’ve possibly been outwardly succeeding in all sorts of professional roles for twenty years or more, suddenly, you might be deemed incompetent (instead of celebrated for the unique diversity you bring). So why on earth would you disclose this?
For me, it came down to the fact that, culturally speaking, my time has, mostly, passed. But my visible existence in the world, as a professional autistic individual, is NEEDED. There are so many young autists out there who need to see what an adult #neurodivergent might look like. They need to see the career pathways that might be open to them, the family dynamics they might like to be part of, and they need to hear our voices advocating for them.
No one will be rushing to advocate for me and that’s due to nearly a hundred years of misdiagnosis, mismanagement and mistreatment of autistic individuals (more on that another time). The least I can do is try to untangle so many of the myths, poor stereotypes, incorrect information and barriers that keep autistic people down and let the young ones breathe. It isn’t up to them. It is up to US to do this for them. They have enough going on.
Meanwhile, my husband Alwyn Blayse bought me this cake to celebrate me finally coming home to myself. My wish is for every autistic individual to know themselves as something to be celebrated. Until then, I’ll be working away to open doors for the ones following me. They deserve that.