30th March 2023
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism and others living with autism face every day. April 2nd 2023 marks the 16th annual World Autism Awareness Day.
Ahead of the day, which falls in the Easter break, we have gathered some insight from three current St Brendan’s students who have been diagnosed with autism, who have kindly given us a glimpse in to their lives and to what autism means to them:
Anna studies A-Levels in Psychology, English Language & Literature and Maths.
Molly studies Music A-Level, BTEC Music Performing and French A-Level
How did your diagnosis make you feel?
It being confirmed was more normal than I thought it would be. It wasn't a whole ‘wow now everything makes sense’ experience it was more of ‘ok good to know’. The ‘wow everything makes sense’ came after, when I started to notice my own behaviour and I recognised how autism made my behaviour different to a neurotypical person's behaviour. To this day I notice things that I do that others don't, and get surprised when I figure out it’s actually autism.
I was diagnosed at age 8, I remember it making me feel pretty good as I could understand why I was different from other kids and it meant I could start learning better-tailored coping strategies and such.
I was diagnosed in late November 2022, when I was 16. I felt relief because the feeling of being different on the outside looking in finally had a justification and explanation. However, I felt that I didn't want to broadcast it due to me being afraid of being stereotyped. It has made me realise I am smart and capable.
What support have you received from the College?
I'm fine with it, as any support I have needed I have been able to receive without bringing up my autism. Which I think is amazing and has definitely helped over the 2 years I have been here.
The College offer support on a ‘as much or as little as you need basis’ which I think is really good, as I don't need as much support as a lot of autistic people might. I haven't actually interacted with the college's SEND department all that much, but my experiences have all been good, they have always been helpful and friendly when I've spoken to them. I appreciate the fact that they're not at all overbearing, I have had experiences with SEND departments at other schools where it's more of a one size fits all approach.
I have exam access arrangements (rest breaks). I am also free to go to the Learning Development Department if I feel overstimulated or tired of masking.
What advice would you give other students who may be struggling with Autism?
Advise is very individual, however, one main thing is if you have friends that are a lot like you, they're probably autistic too - autistic individuals usually find each other easily so you shouldn't be too worried. Also, don't feel as if you constantly have to talk about autism or that your life revolves around autism. It doesn't. You're an individual with a lot more to them than a neurodivergency. Don't get sucked into the neurotypical way of viewing yourself.
To students who are having difficulty managing some aspects of their autism, I would suggest making sure you can have social time with people you love, with who you feel comfortable not masking any autistic behaviours. This is extremely important for preserving one's mental health as an autistic person in my experience. I would also suggest ensuring you have a good schedule with something you enjoy slotted in at a particular time each day. Make sure to take plenty of alone time for enjoying a special interest as well!
You don't owe your diagnosis to anyone, but you should never be ashamed. Your autism doesn't define you, but it's an integral part of you that should be embraced.
What does Autism mean for you?
Not much to be honest. It's just a different way of thinking compared to others. You may need to figure out how neurotypicals think to function "normally" since neurotypicals aren't very accepting of learning how we think instead, but generally autism is just that difference in how we perceive the world.
For me, autism just means me! I'm autistic, and if I wasn't, I wouldn't be the person I am.
Autism for me means that I take things at face value and struggle immensely with social interactions and making friends. I often have to follow a 'script' during conversations and often note down things to talk to somebody about before speaking to them as this doesn't come naturally. I get very anxious before 1-1 interactions.
We’d like to thank all three students for volunteering to share their stories with us. We look forward to celebrating and raise awareness for the 2024 National Autism Day which won’t fall on day in the holidays!