A is for Autistic
Having only 20 years of life experience, this is not in any way going to attempt to be a professional, or clinical blog but rather a journey of myself through the past and future, as well as sharing and raising the level of acceptance of autism in society. Every autistic person is different. I am just one autistic person and not a representative of the whole community.
I am Saffron Anderton, born and raised in Suffolk, UK. I am approaching the end of my second year at university where I am studying politics. I am leaving all political opinions aside. I received my ASD diagnosis in November 2020. The diagnosis process was longer because it was undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a child, I grew up and developed at the same rate as other children, I walked and talked at the right time. I could happily entertain myself but also could interact with other children. As a child, no one could tell there was the possibility of me being autistic.
At age 13, the first sign appeared. After the passing of my Great Grandpa, I reacted in such a way that appeared odd to those around me, and I said somethings that were not socially acceptable for the situation. It was after then that all my eccentricities became more noticeable. Secondary school became harder, friends that I had known for years began to see me as weird and did not want to associate with me anymore and after that, making friends was near impossible. I thrived in education, loved to learn and yes, I was the teacher’s pet. I then really struggled for the last two years of secondary school, there was a lot of issues going on at home and I was preparing for my GCSEs. I had a lot of support from my school but somehow no one noticed I was autistic. GCSEs results were poor which impacted my college prospects. This time my mum suggested the possibility of being autistic, but nothing was done with this. 2 years spent at college was where I found my passion for politics and history. But this time I was very isolated, did not make any friends or talk to anyone in my lessons (in my second year, a boy in my politics class asked what my name was.) A-levels were just as disastrous. I failed those too and ended up getting rejected by my university choices so had to beg one of them to let me keep my place. Had I been diagnosed here, I would have had extra help with exams, such as extra time and more support with making friends.
After my A-level results mum then suggested getting assessed for autism. We even filled out some online tests which put me on the borderline of being autistic which put us off getting assessed then. I started my first year of university, moved into student accommodation and living with other people like me as I had picked ‘moderate living’ so no alcohol and house parties. A month later I had a meltdown and wanted to drop out. I got hold of student support and mentioned to them about the possibility to being autistic and I did the screening test for it. The result put me above the threshold and so I was put forward for going through the assessment process. This indicates how many undiagnosed autistic people come to find out they are autistic, because it is when they are struggling, when the mask slips off.
I am fortunate enough that my university is connected to an autism diagnostic centre on campus. It receives funding to assess a few students each year. I went through the DISCO (Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders) in April 2020, online with mum during Lockdown, and then completed my diagnosis with the ADOS (Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule) in November 2020, also online and that is when I received my diagnosis. I am so incredibly relieved that I am autistic, I am proud to be autistic and have a learned a lot about myself through this process. I will continue to talk about elements of my autism in future posts.
Why the name ‘Elements of AuTiSm’?
During school I was obsessed with science, I loved it. Science has that logic and straightforwardness I find easier to understand. The periodic table is the epitome of order and structure and I liked to be able to make words using the element symbols. I also memorised it, in two different ways. I know it in order, and in alphabetical order. My autism community at university also associate the element ‘Technetium’ with me because they know I was obsessed with this and it is my favourite element. Autism is a spectrum, implying there are many elements to it. The name fits both autism and my personality.