Last month Christine McGuinness, TV personality and mother of 3 autistic children, shared that she has recently been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at the age of 33.  In an extract from her new book A Beautiful Nightmare she said “it all makes sense now. And as much as I’m not totally surprised, it’s still been emotional for me to accept, but it’s a relief as well.” 

TV presenter Melanie Sykes also recently confirmed she has been diagnosed with the developmental condition at the age of 51. Melanie shared on Instagram that “there's a sense of relief about it but there's also a sense of mourning… I wish I'd known sooner.”

Individuals can be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum from as young as 5 years old, whereas many others do not receive a diagnosis until much later on into adulthood.  Several family members can be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and research indicates a genetic link in some cases. Females are at substantially elevated risk of their ASC going undiagnosed, with their difficulties frequently mislabelled or missed entirely.  Christine and Melanie’s experience will certainly resonate with many females, as well as any parent living with an autistic child, perhaps recognising similar traits in themselves. 

Our Family Support Service at Aspens offers support to parents, carers and adults who are living with a diagnosis of autism, as well as those who may just be exploring the subject.  Gaining a diagnosis can enable people to understand why they might find some things harder than others and help them explain to others why they see and feel the world in a different way.  A diagnosis can also enable individuals to get support at college, university or work as well as possible financial benefits to help them live a little easier.

We spoke to Sam, who began exploring the possibility that she may be autistic after her 5 year old son Felix was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  Felix is is supported by Kat Henry, Specialist Intervention Advisor and Jodie Wilson, Family Engagement Worker provides regular support to Sam. 

"In the past, my understanding of autism was one of fear. I knew some autistic individuals were very strong and could lash out easily, but what I didn't realise was why this might happen. 

When my son Felix was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, I had not fully appreciated the need an autistic person has for routine and rituals and that things can make them overstimulated and even the smallest of changes can impact their whole day.

At the time an autistic person I knew advised me to 'research, research, research'.  So I purchased a book, started reading and was quickly blown away to recognise myself in those books.  So many questions I had growing up were answered.  I always knew I was a bit different and was an easy target for bullies in school (this even continued when older in the workplace), I just didn’t know why.  I refused to go to school, even failed my 11+ test, and despite always being told I was a bright child, I just couldn’t apply myself enough.

I went to see my GP who asked me for a statement explaining why I felt I was autistic or had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or PDA (pathological demand avoidance). I sent him a three page document and he sent the referral of straight away. This was around April last year. I am now waiting for a diagnosis.

Even though I haven't been officially diagnosed as yet, just finding out I might be and relating to my tribe is amazing.  I want the diagnosis to give me the validation.  I no longer want to be without a diagnosis.  Often people dislike drawing attention to themselves, but often we draw attention to ourselves by trying not to.

Being autistic affects me in so many ways.  I don't follow spoken instructions very well, so asking for directions is tricky, unless I repeat the way out loud several times, I will forget, even then I can still get it wrong.  I am socially awkward at times, I struggle with friendships and only have a handful of friends.  I can go mute if the environment is too busy or noisy.  I can be easily distracted by sounds.  I am extremely forgetful, finding it difficult to retain information.  I can put off doing important tasks if I feel overwhelmed.

I've been helped so much by my family who are incredibly supportive. My daughter, who is the younger sibling, is amazing with Felix. It has been a lot for her to take on as well.

And Felix himself has helped me too. I love the bones of Felix, me and him are auti-us and we are super-heros.  He's taught me more about myself as a person than I ever learned in 40 odd years.  He never ceases to amaze me, I have so much pride for both my children.  Felix has had it rough this last year, but the last couple of months, he's really blossomed and I am blessed to have two amazing children." 

Find out more about the support Aspens offers here Specialist Support .