I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Aspling (also known as ‘Girl on the Spectrum) about her late diagnosis of autism. I found this interview very interesting as an individual who has not had much experience in regards to autism. I hope that you too find it interesting to read! So let’s begin:
When were you diagnosed with Autism?
May 2017, at the age of 25.
How did you know that something was not right? What made you seek help from your GP in the first place?
I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right, I didn’t have many friends and I didn’t fit in. I’d gone through my teenage years feeling lost and alone. My mum, who worked with autistic children at the time, said that I ticked all of the boxes. It was then that I thought to go to a doctor – I was turned down twice, third time lucky I guess!
May I ask, had your mum had her suspicions about you having autism since you were young? Or did it not occur to her until later on in your life?
When I was younger, no one exactly knew; they knew I was developmentally delayed but no one thought about autism until I was around 16/17.
If it was thought about in your teenage years, can I ask why you didn’t see a doctor sooner?
I wasn’t bothered at the time, I had a group of friends and was content. I went to the doctors when I was 19/20, I think, but it took a while due to being turned away and refused funding.
I imagine that to be quite tough to think about at the age of 16-17, especially if you are in a good place at the time. I have heard many stories about autism and being diagnosed… many people have been turned away before finally being diagnosed; which leads to my next question: What was the process for being diagnosed, what kind of tests/assessments did they run?
Initially, I had an appointment with a mental health practitioner, in which they asked me about my background history, things about growing up, such as, did I ever learn to ride a bike or swim? When did I first start to walk and talk? It was pretty simple and my mum was there to help fill in any blanks. After that, I had a second meeting in which diagnostic tests were used. For that I had to complete a set of tasks – one being to role play brushing my teeth, another to narrate a story which had no words; so I had to look at the pictures and describe what was going on. After that, I had the third and final meeting to discuss the results, that was when I was told that I had formally met the ‘criteria’. That’s it in a brief nutshell, there’s more to it and it’s more in depth, but that is what is consisted of. They’re pretty straightforward tasks, but you’re being observed as you do them so it is adding pressure onto you as you want to do well. There’s a thought at the back of your mind saying ‘this will decide whether or not I am autistic, so I’d better do well!’.
I imagine the added pressure to be a lot. I myself panic in exam situations or whenever I have to give a presentation in front of a group of people. So I think being observed in such a situation would make me feel rather anxious.
I have never been told about the different tests/assessments that are used in the diagnosis of autism before, I think it is quite interesting to see how it is done. How long did the diagnosis take overall?
Overall, I had my first meeting in June 2016 and was officially diagnosed in May 2017. It took a while as, after the assessments, a report needed to be written, so I presume that took a while.
That is quite a long time to have to wait, I imagine it felt even longer for you too. How did you feel once you had been diagnosed?
At the end I was like; ‘wow, after all that, it’s over’. But I felt a huge relief, it pretty much backed up my own thoughts and feelings anyway.
It must be weird, like ‘so that’s it?’… I am glad that it brought you relief. May I ask what kind of symptoms an/or characteristic you portray due to having autism? I know that all individual cases of autism are different.
I always have to think about this… okay, so I am very literal. I take things literally. I am not great in social situations, I have meltdowns a lot due to being overwhelmed. I have a hard time understanding people and their emotions. There’s probably more, but that its all I can remember from the top of my head.
How would you describe having a meltdown? Do they occur in certain situations or can they happen at random?
They are horrible honestly. Things become too much for me and I just break down. Sometimes I scream, sometimes I cry, sometimes I can’t control it. They occur at random times, mainly when I am overwhelmed.
That must be really difficult
It can be really hard, it’s just about managing them. Sometimes I can cope, other times I can’t.
Have you received support since your diagnosis? This could be from professionals, friends and family, education or your place of work.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve received support mostly from my university. I’ve had extra support sessions in place and my lecturers have been made aware. I have one lecturer in particular who’s specialism is in autism, so he’s really understanding and has supported me over my degree.
That is really good that you received such a huge support from your university as there are many universities out there that are lacking in that area.
My last question for you lovely, is: What made you start your blog ‘Girl on the Spectrum’?
I wanted to share my experiences with people. Being diagnosed so late was difficult and my blog is my outlet, a way of sharing my feelings.
Do you feel as though your blog not only helps other people but also helps you too?
Yes, it does! It keeps me busy and focused and lets people know that they are not alone. We all go through things like this and I offer tips and things which have helped me that may help others.
Well, that is a little bit about Aspling and her experience with a late diagnosis of autism and what it is like to live with autism. If you would like to know more, I am sure Aspling would be more than happy to answer your questions! You can find her here: