Hi, My name is Sarah, I’m 22 years old and I have Autism.
I was diagnosed when I was 3 years old when my grandma who worked with children with special needs at the time, noticed I was showing signs. My mum and dad saw the health visitor & the doctor referred me for an assessment at the Raeden Centre, where I got diagnosed very quickly. I also had echolalia which is repetition of speech. I would only use single words. I didn’t talk properly until I was 6 years old, when I started school.
Growing up was difficult for me
I was never able to express my emotions or communicated properly. I was never comfortable around groups of people because I was never used to it before, I didn’t know how to communicate or include myself in conversations and activities with people. Whenever they would attempt to involve me, I would push them away and lock myself in the toilets at school, due to my anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
I couldn’t and to this day cannot cope with some noises and sounds that lead to sensory overload, including motorbikes, horns, fire alarms, police cars and ambulances driving by, multiple people talking at once, etc.
I preferred having a small group of friends instead of a big group. If I was stuck with my work at school, I would find it hard to put my hand up and ask a teacher for help. I used to put myself down for being different but realised later when I got older that I was able to accept that I may have this condition but there is nothing wrong with being different and I can love myself.
When I finally left school at 16
I was able to do whatever I wanted and went to college. I saw it as a new chapter in my life and didn’t want to be the same shy and quiet person I used to be because I wanted to start increasing my confidence and communication skills by meeting new people. I met some great people and made a couple of friends there and felt happier at college than I ever was at school, I became more open and not let anything bad get to me and learnt to let things go.
Despite dealing with anxiety and depression, I’ve made a lot of achievements. I completed my bakery course at college, I started my first job as a director for dates-n-mates – a dating and friendship agency for adults with learning disabilities. I met my boyfriend Ryan who I’ve been with for nearly 4 years, I’ve moved out and live with my boyfriend and our cat Misty.
I have finally gained some independence for the first time in my adult life. I feel so lucky and happy with everything I have.
I drew an autism puzzle piece and had it tattooed on my lower arm
I am so proud of having this tattoo because if someone asks what it means, it gives me an opportunity to talk about my experience living with the condition and being able to spread awareness at the same time.
One day, I would like to be an advocate for autistic people. I have been inspired recently by a woman from England called Sara, known on social media as Agony Autie who is an advocate for autism who also lives with the condition and talks about her experience and does a brilliant job spreading awareness.
If you are living with autism and you are finding it difficult to feel included, don’t give up.
I thought I would never achieve my goal of increasing my social skills.
It takes a lot of time and patience to find our voice. When that time comes, you will be prouder of yourself than anything in your life.
This was my story and I hope you enjoyed it.
Sarah: dates-n-mates Aberdeen Director