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For so many years before then I knew that there was something about me that was different from most people, and when I was given books to read about autism just prior to my eventual diagnosis I felt like so many questions were answered. Those same questions I had asked myself were present for a very long time, and to begin with I was reluctant to express them openly.

Mum began to wonder whether I had autism when I was a toddler. All of the characteristics I have which have gotten me diagnosed with autism were present since birth (and I remember every day of my life). Yet as a toddler it became more apparent to other people merely for the reason that children are expected to open up a speak a little more at that age.

I preferred to play games on my own much more than interacting with other people, I’d scream whenever I heard loud noises or if I was given a different bowl to the one I usually had, and preferred to read atlases instead of typical children’s books. Mum hadn’t initially heard of autism. However she came across the condition when I was three years old and expressed to a doctor that she thought I had it.

Mum was told by a doctor that he didn’t think that I had autism. Though he diagnosed me with chronic anxiety, which is one of the conditions that affect me to this day. When I was six years old I had my first assessment for autism. But in 1996 it was believed that I couldn’t have autism because I was (overly) attached to my mother, and I had a sense of humour for slapstick shows like Mr. Bean.

Due to missing that diagnosis I struggled throughout school with both socialising, doing my school work and handling my anxiety. I felt like there was something wrong with me, and I believed bullies when they told me that I was “weird” and “a freak”. Despite not knowing about autism at first I believed there was something that made me different from most people. However due to social insecurities I was reluctant to voice this all openly.

As I moved on further and further through school, things progressively became harder for me. In Grade 9 (aged 14) I completely lost my ability to handle school and life. I was in a stage of complete clinical depression, didn’t have a clue who I was or where I was heading (even in the immediate future), and lost my ability to do any of my schoolwork or to understand anything my teachers tried to teach me.

That same year my mother met my stepfather and his three children came to join our family. My step siblings were then aged 2, 5 and 7 years old and were getting diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and autism. When mum was told a little more (and more up to date information) about autism she again felt that I had the condition. My mother then gave me all of the booklets she received, just so that I could read and consider for myself. After reading all of that information it came to the moment when I felt that the vast majority of my lifelong questions about myself had been answered.

At the age of 15 I received a diagnosis of autism, and I wasn’t in horror or surprise about it. Getting diagnosed with autism didn’t feel like a new chapter of my life either. It had always been there and would continue to be for the rest of my life.

My life experience hasn’t really changed from that moment. It’s more rather a case of me viewing the world with more defined sight. To this day I continue to flounder my way through life in the best way possible; and don’t we all, really?! However when I look at my life so far, I have absolutely no regrets from my past, regardless of whether I failed or succeeded with something. The reason for this is because I’ve always put in 100% effort and tried my very best; and this is the way I plan to continue living my life.