So recently I've had the results back from the Adult Autism Service. In January I had a pre-assessment to see if it would be beneficial for me to be assessed for autism and in February I had the full assessment for autism. Then on the 17th June I had a follow-up appointment to discuss the outcome of my assessment and I was officially diagnosed with autism.
I don't see my autism as a 'new' diagnosis as I've always been autistic from day 1, but now looking back and even now I can identify aspects of my autism. For example taking phrases literately like the time my teacher in year 4 told me to 'pull my socks up' and how when I was in Reception class I like to sit and play under the table and how I struggle socially so much, even now.
My Dad being a teacher always wondered if I could be autistic.
Getting officially diagnosed has helped me a lot.
It's allowed me to understand why I am the way I am and why I engage in certain behaviours like stimming (repetitive physical movements and sounds like for me to tap my hands on my legs especially when I'm anxious), or find social interaction and social rules far too confusing and difficult and why eye contact feels awkward even though I know it's polite to do and most importantly that there's nothing wrong with me, my brain is just wired a little differently.
It's also given me access to new support through the Adult Autism Service. I'm currently waiting to be assigned a key worker who will help me to understand autism and how to cope and manage the things I find difficult. The service also has psychologists, assistant psychologists, mental health workers and a psychiatrist. In September they've organised a MDT meeting to discuss my care as I have my mental health issues alongside my autism so they want to discuss how to move forwards with my care. Personally, and my mental health care co-ordinator agrees that probably the best thing for me is rather than having two teams (autism team and mental health team) I's be under just the autism team which would be less confusing for me. I also prefer the model of working at the Adult Autism Service which is person-led rather than diagnosis-led like it is within mental health services. There's also no time limit on the autism team, I can dip in-and-out as an when I need their support whereas with mental health services it is just a every so often phone call and if I moved to the CMHT* it would just be an occasional chat over coffee whilst I wait for EMDR therapy and then once I have the EMDR I'd most likely be discharged as it a treat and discharge model of care now and for me I feel I need more long-term mental health support.
*CMHT - Community Mental Health Team
The autism team also runs social groups and yesterday I went along to my first one. I took my carer with me just in case, but it was also someone familiar for me. The social group I went along to yesterday was the Autism Café; each one has a theme and the theme for that one was 'Hobbies'. One of the members of staff helped me have a conversation with someone else who was new. It was quite noisy and busy and it did get a bit overwhelming so I spent some time in the quiet room with my carer.
(I get sensory overwhelmed for a number of reasons a) with my FND I cannot process a lots of stimulus; b) with my M.E. lots of sensory stimulation is energy zapping and painful and c) with my autism it's very anxiety provoking and overwhelming)
The group finished early and I enjoyed leaving and gaining back some quiet. The group wasn't quite what I imagined. It was very difficult on the sensory side of things which sort of puts me off going to another group again (they have an event every 2 weeks). So anyway, the group finished early so we had a little bit of spare time when we got home so my carer painted my nails for me and it was a nice activity to help me calm down.
All-in-all I feel positive about my autism diagnosis and I look forward to getting support from the autism team and now when I'm getting anxious about things like changes to my routine I can explain to others that I have autism so they can support me without me just thinking I'm being demanding as to why the nurse is running 16 minutes late.