Originally posted on 29th November 2016.
About 10 years ago I started to develop a problem in my right hip that was to dominate the next 6 to 7 years of my life. After several years of pain, doctors and physios, I eventually had a total hip replacement and 6 months later, I was good as new. It was time to move on and enjoy my renewed mobility, free from a crutch, and I wanted to shake off my identity of the previous few years. I didn’t want to be a wonky hip who just happened to answer to the name of Kim, I wanted to be simply Kim, to be known as me. So that was one of my motivations for getting out of the house with my nice new shiny hip and my ability to bend and walk without pain and getting a job seemed like a good idea. I did a little volunteering first and that led to the job in the same place.
The only glitch in my plan is that in my quest to rediscover the Kim underneath the Wife and Mum of over 35 years, I truly didn’t expect to find autism. Even writing that word still feels unreal. That’s not me. It can’t be me. Of course it isn’t. I mean autism is special needs. I’m not that. Am I? Surely not.
It has certainly led me to question what I thought autism was /is and how I viewed people with autism. I did a fair amount of volunteering in my teens, in the 1970’s when I don’t think I ever heard the word autism. I mostly visited a lovely respite care home for children with not overly severe disabilities (no wheelchairs, all children could walk and talk, even if not very well). None were full time. Some were regular most weeks, say 2 or 3 days there and the rest at home every week, some went for a few weeks every now and then to give the family a break. When I look back, there are 2 in particular who stand out for me, knowing what I do now, as possibly autistic. Both talked, but both seemed a little odd, in their own world. I remember one of them banging his head with his hand rhythmically at times, or rocking. He liked the same book to be read every time I arrived. He talked with a very monotone voice. The other was prone to what seemed like odd tantrums, but I now realise were overload melt downs and I remember he used to do it if play got excitable with the other children. I’ve also see Rainman and read The curious incident of the dog in the night. We went to see the play on stage, my husband and daughter didn’t fully understand the way the sensory overload was depicted in the play, but I sat there thinking this is brilliant, I totally understood the feeling. Um…. Yes…. But I didn’t see any connection…. Silly me.
Anyhow, those are all my ideas of how autism is. All male for a start. Some bright, some less so. But generally the kind who would be seen by many as oddballs. I’m not an oddball. Am l? If I’m close to any fictional characters, it would be Mr Spock and Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory). I’m not calm and dispassionate like Mr Spoke, but I do think in terms of logic like he does. And although Sheldon and his friends are somewhat exaggerated Asperger type geeks, I do identify with them and their thinking. However, other people also do, and that doesn’t mean I’m on the Autism spectrum, does it?
Probably I had fallen into the same trap that the typical/normal/majority would think, building perception mostly on well known fictional characters. Who for the sake of good drama are likely to be a little exaggerated to make an impact. Now of course I am having to question this perception. But the question is, which is my wrong perception? The one of me, or a person on the Autism spectrum? Do I fit the profile or does the profile fit me?
Only time will tell I suppose.
I had my first pre-assessment yesterday. An NHS mental health assessment. The specialist nurse said she agrees there is definitely a reason to refer me onto the autism assessment team, I do exhibit traits. So this is real. Not a figment of my imagination, or simply a new topic of conversation within the family. It’s a real thing.
Tomorrow (30th November 2016)I see a psychologist for private pre-assessment, I’m wondering how different it will be from the NHS mental health assessment.