Me too, Nick Ransom (I’ve stopped saying I ‘have autism’ – for me, being autistic is brilliant, not a burden, 6 February)! I left school depressed, knowing that my results grossly underrepresented my potential. I too spent years unemployed or underemployed until someone gave me a chance.
Consequently, I am a graduate with a postgraduate teaching qualification. After that, someone else gave me a chance and, as a result, I retired last year from a great job in the civil service that I held for 29 years, with wonderful colleagues who respected my abilities.
What neurodiverse people need are opportunities to develop and people to have faith in them. And people who don’t feel threatened by us, with our intensity of concentration, our ability to see what others miss and our stubborn refusal to give up a challenge easily.
Give us a chance, and the other interpersonal skills issues will improve over time, although you may see us biting our tongues when we see you not seeing the obvious in front of you. Or if you’re a repeat offender, we’ll just tell you.
Thanks to Nick Ransom for his perspective. It matches my experience. I was identified as neurodiverse in 2005, when I was 47. Before then, I knew I was different, yet considered myself a geek – or freak – and was hard on myself. Now, I celebrate my neurodiversity. It has been a huge journey to go from a selective mute to speaking in a plenary session in the House of Lords a few years ago.
I work with the “hardest to help” teens. With retirement on the horizon, my intention is to add to my creations by speaking, painting and writing, and build my body of work, which gives a voice to the voiceless and meaning to the marginalised. My gifts are my superpowers, and my style is writing moments that provide a social story, a quote and an original artwork or photograph.
I turned my life around 180 degrees and now wish to support other neurodiverse people and help them feel valued by neurotypical people and organisations.
I am 65 and have never been diagnosed as neurodivergent, but I have known it is my truth for years. The only times I have discussed it have been with anxious parents with children “on the spectrum”.
If I had been neurotypical, I would most likely have married young and led a comfortable life. Instead, I pushed myself to the periphery and ended up living on five continents and doing research in difficult conditions, with the results published in international journals. It was rarely comfortable, and I am often mentally tortured by the inadvertently hurtful and apparently inexplicable things I have said and done over my life. I have been my own worst enemy.
What is my point? The idea that there is a statistically normal bell-shaped distribution curve of human behaviour, with neurodivergent people separated into a “spectrum”, needs to be revised. Early recognition of neurodivergence would help people like me understand our own thinking and behaviour, and potentially improve the lives of those around us. We need to be able to understand our differences before we can celebrate them, and try to avoid collateral damage.
Name and address supplied