While the prevalence of autism in Australia is much higher for children than adults, the number of adults being diagnosed is also on the increase.
In fact, more than 200,000 Australians have been diagnosed with autism. That’s a lot of people, but sadly there’s still a huge chuck of non-autistic people that don’t understand what it means to have ASD, nor do they try to.
Awareness is on the rise though, thanks in part to high profile autism advocates, such as autistic comedian Em Rusciano, who has been outspoken about her adult diagnosis.
Journalist and author, Zoe Simmons, is lending her voice to the cause too, after being diagnosed with autism at 27 years of age.
“It’s pretty wild to be diagnosed with autism as an adult. It makes you re-consider everything from the past with a new very eye-opening lens. It explains a lot,” says Zoe.
“Looking back, differences that should have been an indication include my sensory issues. I couldn’t handle any clothes that had seams or tags, and I’d often meltdown as a result. Noise and light and scents were also hard for me, and I wasn’t great in social situations. I didn’t understand lots of cues"
“I was also often told I was rude for speaking directly and in ways a child normally didn’t.”
Throughout her childhood, Zoe didn’t pay particular attention to any differences in her experience of the world, because she’d assumed that’s how everybody was.
“Over the past few years, I’d seen a lot of advocates talking about late diagnosed autism, and how women are especially hard to diagnose because we’re master maskers"
“Hearing their descriptions of their autistic experiences really resonated with me, and in true autistic fashion, I went down a research rabbit hole and began learning everything I could about autism from people who were autistic.”
Zoe says getting diagnosed with autism was one of the best things that has ever happened to her.
“Because whether or not I have a diagnosis, I am still autistic. My diagnosis felt so validating, and it helped me understand myself so much more. It was a bit of a light bulb moment—everything just suddenly made so much sense.”
According to Autism Queensland, who happened to be Spoonie Society’s charity for the month of April, Autism is a spectrum condition.
That means that while all people with a diagnosis share certain differences, they can present in a variety of ways and with varying impact.
“Autism results from biological or neurological differences in the brain. While the cause of autism is unknown, research suggests there may be a genetic basis in many instances, although not all,” say Autism Queensland.
Autism affects how a person makes sense of the world. As a result, a communication gap between people with and without the condition may occur.
That’s because autistic people can have trouble understanding non-autistic people, and conversely, non-autistic people may have trouble understanding a person on the spectrum.
This can influence how people make friends, share interests, have conversations, or fit in to social contexts. It’s important to remember that no two people on the spectrum are the same – each person has their own way of seeing the world, which makes them interesting and unique.
“If you think you’re autistic, you might be,” says Zoe.
“Don’t gaslight yourself. You don’t need a diagnosis to be valid. Learn about autism, and learn about ways you can take care of yourself better. Set boundaries, and be firm about them, and your access needs. You are not being a pain. You are simply daring to exist as an autistic person in a neurotypical society. You are different, not less. Embrace your beautiful autistic brain. Connect with others in the autism community. Shine your light. Take up space. And remember you are loved.”