I feel privileged to live in a country where healthcare is paid for by taxes, so you don’t have to worry about health insurance or whether you can afford a simple doctor visit. Regardless of your income, you will still be entitled to healthcare.
As a fourteen year-old, we began the diagnostic process for autism, after years of mental health issues and struggling to fit in at school. I was still classed as a child so got to go through CAMHS, the child mental health service in the UK. I will say I had quite a nice team of people who diagnosed me. As an adult, I have found adult mental health services to be lacking compared to child mental health services. There is a lot of help I am not entitled to simply because I am autistic and they don’t know how to help autistic people. It took a year long waiting list before I was diagnosed, which I thought was pretty long as I was a child and ever closer to ending school life. The length of the waiting list meant I wasn’t able to get as much help for my final exams at school as I wanted. However, others getting diagnosed can have even longer waiting lists.
I feel because of the waiting list, lots of people choose to go private when seeking an autism diagnosis. This is, of course, if they can afford it. I had already missed out on the chance to go to a school that better understood my needs, so the diagnosis was a means to get help with my exams, but even then it was too late to get most of the help I needed. I was only given a separate room which wasn’t that separate as they put all the kids who needed a separate room in the same room. I think I would have done better completely by myself. I didn’t get the computer I asked for to complete my exams, which meant that I had to battle with the anxiety inside my head telling me that the examiners wouldn’t be able to read my awful handwriting. My handwriting was pretty bad and I already had a dyspraxia diagnosis so I don’t know why they couldn’t get me a computer in time.
I feel thankful that my mum could advocate for me at the time because, without her, I may not have gotten the diagnosis at all. She advocated for me even though she was going through cancer treatment at the time. She kept telling the GP to refer me, even when they told her they didn’t think I was autistic (despite having no experience with autism). As soon as CAMHS saw me, they could tell I was autistic.
I have been thinking about all the people that are told they can’t be autistic, that self-diagnosis isn’t valid, and I remember my own story. People live in countries where healthcare is expensive and so many of them can’t afford it. People live in countries where women having autism is still not recognised. People live in countries without the privilege I have: the privilege of accessible diagnosis, the privilege of being white, the privilege of a supportive mother who advocated for me. Not everyone has that. Not everyone has an advocate. I lack a lot of privilege in other areas but I remember where I have privilege and why I am so privileged to be acknowledged by my own healthcare system, the wonderful NHS, as being autistic.
Before you doubt someone’s autism, remember that you don’t know how hard it might have been for them to get a diagnosis, or how they may not have been able to get one at all. No one wants to be autistic, it is not a trend. It is a reality for so many people and just because someone doesn’t look autistic or seem autistic doesn’t mean they aren’t. Autism is such a colourful spectrum full of beautiful shades and hues, but we shouldn’t forget the shades of it that aren’t so pretty. They’re there and they’re real.
Thanks for reading,
The Autistic Panda