I Was Diagnosed  With Autism Later In Life



What do  Hannah Gadsby  and Grace Tame have in common?

Both Australians are autistic and have helped debunk the myth that autism is solely the preserve of boys and men. More and more adults are coming forward and being diagnosed with autism. In 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that around one in 100 Australians have autism, but experts say the rates could be even higher.

PRIMER spoke to three women who were diagnosed with autism as adults.

“When my autism diagnosis was confirmed, I burst into tears. Finally,  I understood why I had struggled for my entire life and always felt so different.”

Chantell Marshall, 43, a mother of four,  from Australind, WA.

“Looking back there were so  many signs. I was always a very shy, sensitive girl.

I had significant separation anxiety from my mum, and relied on family and friends to speak for me when I could not speak myself.”

“As an adult, I struggled with severe anxiety constantly and failed all attempts at working due to severe social anxiety and overwhelm. My children had no choice but to witness my breakdowns.”

“My autism diagnosis has been incredibly positive. To other women who think they might be autistic, I would say to trust your intuition. Keep in mind too that each autistic person experiences autism differently.”

“My youngest son was diagnosed with autism aged two, and my oldest as a teenager.  It was their diagnoses, combined with the way they experienced life, that finally got me thinking that I, too, may be autistic.”

Sandra Thom-Jones, 56, is an author and academic and mother of two sons.

“Yeah mum, where do you think we got it from?”

"My older son had similar challenges to me in school: not feeling like he fit in, not understanding things about other kids. One day I asked my older son  if he thought I was also autistic. And he said,"

"I’d always known something was different about me.  I find bright lights really painful. Strong smells also make me feel dizzy and unwell, and I have issues separating individual sounds from each other."

“But my diagnosis has let me be kinder to myself, and I hope others in my position find the same relief.”

“I always felt very different to people my age.  Though I was working very hard to be like others, I never quite fit in, and I felt somewhat quietly separate.”

Jessie Aiton, 37, Bellarine Penninsula, VIC

"At university, I had to withdraw from some of my subjects, and it took me 10 years to do my arts degree. There were a lot of deadlines missed and extension requests. Bright lecture theatres affected my senses which made it hard to attend class."

"Today I don’t feel grief over the fact I am autistic. But I do feel a sense of grief for a life that I’ve never quite been able to grasp.

I don’t necessarily want autism to be celebrated. I’d just like it to be normalised. I don’t want younger girls to go through that sense of shame, or face barriers.”

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Read more about Chantell, Sandra and Jessie’s experiences at PRIMER.


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