Slipping Under the Radar – Part 2

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Fear of judgement and bullying

In September 2020, I went back to school to start my A-Levels. My form tutor had taught me before which meant I trusted her, which was very beneficial when my family life exploded, as though someone had put a pipe bomb at our feet. This meant that I struggled more than I would have done usually, and I refused to tell my sister about my autism for fear of judgment. She was very into TikTok and I knew there was a huge amount of misinformation about autism on it.

One of my best friends guessed before I said anything. It was probably obvious to other students as well, considering the number of meltdowns I had in lessons, but I didn’t want to outright say anything as I’d seen how they treated the other autistic girl in our year and I didn’t want to subject myself to that. In hindsight, it seems selfish to leave her to deal with all of it, but I was already “different” enough and had been made fun of in the past for my special interest in Doctor Who.

After an argument about a TV show with my sister in the summer holiday between Year 12 and Year 13, I wound up getting my mum to tell her, taking the cowardly option as per. It was around this time that I met another autistic person who was interested in the same things as me and we just clicked instantly. There’s a certain joy to finding someone who understands that bright lights hurt, and you can talk for hours about Line of Duty, months after the final episode.

Finally getting a diagnosis and it was worth it for me

After years of appointments and waiting, I finally got my diagnosis in December 2021, rushed to the top of the list because I was about to turn eighteen. I remember grinning in the car ride home, gleefully telling my mum that “I passed!”, much to the irritation of my dad. Still, finally getting a diagnosis is a gleeful thing, and I understand why so many autistic people, especially those that don’t fit into the stereotype of “white boy who likes trains”, don’t want to go through the lengthy process of getting a diagnosis.

Having it on paper meant that I was allowed certain accommodations when it came to exams. I had my own room, rest breaks, and extra time. These proved to be invaluable, even though doing a Drama paper for over three hours did take a little piece of my soul away. I started telling more people in online spaces, who didn’t always react well or at all, but the ones who did have been much kinder than I ever anticipated. Autism is something that most people don’t want to talk about because of the misconceptions and fear of offending, but that’s why education is so important.

Having friends who listen attentively to my rambling about TV shows and don’t make me feel like burden has meant more to me than they can ever know. Even when I feel shunned by the world for being autistic, I know that there is always someone on the other end of a WhatsApp voice note who’ll listen to my theories about a character they barely know and respond with the same enthusiasm, which makes life a great deal easier.

Getting a diagnosis of autism was difficult and took a long time, but in the end, it was worth it for me.

by Elizabeth Kendall