I turned 31 years today (Friday the 27th July, 2018). Yet inside I don’t feel as though I have changed significantly from when I was the 8 year old girl above, celebrating my birthday at the Stratford Upon Avon caravan site I visited every summer holiday. I suspect that because I am autistic, I have followed my own developmental path that separates me from my age peers. I’ve never been in a relationship, never had a proper job, and I spend a lot of time alone because I struggle with socialising and do not have the strong social drive that occupies non autistic people. Inside I can be playful, strong willed, egocentric, and I’m often unable to see someone else’s point of view, resulting in what some might label as childish behaviour.
That said, I continue to make small gains each year in terms of my confidence and ability to challenge my fears and OCD. Last year I have achieved the following:
- Developed a new friendship with another autistic woman
- Ate at several new cafes in my area, including having chips at a local pub with my new friend
- Began cooking fish, first with support and then on my own (I had huge OCD contamination fears around handling and eating fresh fish)
- Began cooking all meals at my new flat, increasing my independence
- Went on several trips to Brighton, including to the Brighton Pavilion and the natural history museum on a supported outing; with a friend; and traveled there once on my own
- Can confidently travel to Horsham on my own
- Went on a supported outing to Guildford- first time I had looked round the town
- Attended a new autism social group, run by Autism Hampshire. I used Google maps to find the venue, and traveled there all on my own! (I only went to a couple of meetings, and stopped attending because it was too noisy and unstructured, but was a good challenge)
- Presented an Aspie Trainer talk on women and autism three times, at different venues
- Presented an Aspie Trainer talk on autism and sensory issues for the first time
- I was interviewed about autism for a local radio station
- Took part in a colour perception research study at Sussex University
- Began my you tube video channel at the end of 2017
- Went to Portsmouth on my own several times, including my first visit to the Natural History museum
- Created an organisational system for my files with my support worker’s help, which has brought a bit more order to my life and has helped me develop my cooking skills
- Developed my interest in food by becoming very interested in seasonality or what foods are currently growing in the UK
- Had a cognitive assessment, which showed that I have a very high verbal IQ, but have severe non verbal challenges
- Began going on regular outings, on my own, to Arundel
- Ate twice ( teacake and then scone) at new cafe in Arundel
A few changes have also taken place this year. At the end of 2017, I stopped volunteering at AGE UK (which I had been doing for just over 5 years) because I was struggling to mask my autism and needed more space for myself. This decision, while not easy, has definitely improved my stress levels.
My support worker of 10 years announced that she was leaving a month ago, and I said goodbye to her earlier this week (although we will keep in touch). I feel sad that she is leaving and uncertain about the future, but am trying to focus on the positives in my life and to keep challenging my anxiety.
Finally, on Thursday, I baked a cardamom, banana, cranberry, and green tea loaf cake for my birthday (with thanks to my support worker who gave me the recipe from a Waitrose card).