Who am I?
I am a white British autistic female, living and working full time as a scientist in the UK. I was undiagnosed as a child, obtaining a professional diagnosis in my late twenties. I love to sing, and I run. If you’re wondering what any of that has to do with elephants, I can only say that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Why am I here?
When I realised I was autistic and what that meant, the first thing I wanted and needed were ways of coping better at work. So I looked to Google. You’ve been there too, so I don’t need to tell you what I found.
Eventually, I found a few blogs I resonated with. I love to read about the experiences of other people like me. As someone who doesn’t meet many people outside work, in a culture in which only 15% of autistic people are employed and 20% of diagnosed autistics are female (yes this matters – it’s about safety: I’ll link to a post when I’ve written it), the odds weren’t good I’d ever find someone like me in the real world. But those people do exist, and I read their work on the internet and feel like I’m not alone.
Although most of the blogs I read are written by autistic people (mostly women), not all of them are like me. Our lives and experiences are as diverse as those of non-autistic people. Some of these women are young, some middle-aged, and some have families of their own. Some cannot speak in words, or have unreliable verbal capabilities – although they can and do write – and some need support to live independently. Some are in academia and some are self-employed. But most cannot hold down a “traditional” job due to the social requirements and the changing, uncertain nature of the world of full time employment.
I have been lucky: I can work. But in this I am very much in the minority. And even in this, I am increasingly recognising that I need supports. When I self-diagnosed I had nowhere to go for advice on what I could access and what might help me. So I guess the main reason I am here is to say that if that is where you are right now – if you are looking for your first job or struggling with a diagnosis – you are not alone. And maybe some of my experiences are relevant to you.
The other reason I’m here is because I love to write. I’ll talk a lot about autism on this blog, obviously: it’s the lens through which I see the world and it’s utterly fascinating. I’ll talk about anxiety – the Evil Twin of autism. And I’ll probably vent on occasion. But I expect I’ll talk about other things too. We’ll have to wait and see!
I was diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), specifically Asperger Syndrome, in my late twenties. I had been working full time for several years, and initially self-diagnosed on the basis of problems I was experiencing throughout my personal and working life. Due to waiting times and the costs of adult diagnosis, even with additional help, it was several months before I was able to get an official diagnosis.
I believe that adult self-diagnosis is absolutely valid, and that it’s not necessary to get an official diagnosis to identify as autistic. For me, the official diagnosis was important for self-confidence and to access supports at work. However if workplace accommodations are not something you need, just knowing in yourself that you are autistic can provide you with extra tools to navigate a world that was not designed with us in mind.
My autistic identity
I identify as an autistic person, with autism being an intrinsic part of my identity, so I prefer to use identity-first rather than person-first language. My view is specific to autism, as that is my particular disability. I’m very aware that other disabled communities have different preferences, and I will try to reflect those preferences if and when I write about other disabilities.
I respect that individuals may have different preferences, and if you ask me to use person-first language in my interactions with you then I will try my best to do so. However I will continue to use my preferred language in blog posts.
I work full time as a scientist in the UK. I run experiments and write a lot of code. Through this blog I will talk about my work experiences in general, and about accommodations that have helped me to carry out my job.
I will not under any circumstances blog or be drawn into public conversations about specifics of my job, the organisation I work for or the people I work with. This is due to the potential for misunderstandings and misrepresentation, and the hurt and damage that these could easily cause.
I have not used my name anywhere on this blog. However I am under no illusions about anonymity on the internet. If you are reading this blog and you think you know me, you probably do. Congratulations! Please respect my decision not to use my name and don’t identify me publically. However if you’re interested in the content and ever want to chat about it over coffee, you know where to find me.