For my final installment of Autism Acceptance Month 2015, I have decided to interview a FaceBook friend. This is Elinor Broadbent, who is a moderator of many FaceBook groups for autistic people, such as Âû (Autistic Union) and Autism: We Are a Race Not a Disease. She lives in Australia.
1. Tell me about your childhood. When were you diagnosed as autistic?
I was not diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome until I was 32 years old. As a result my childhood was quite challenging at times, especially at school where I was labeled as a lazy daydreamer, rebellious, stubborn or strong-willed and generally incompetent. Although I had a close group of friends, I preferred to spend my time alone in my own little world. I loved to read and was very interested in how things worked. With my father’s encouragement I learned to rebuild car engines by the age of 8 or 9 and was very much a tom boy. I had no interest in dolls, dresses or playing princesses. I preferred to explore, build things and to get lost in the science fiction world through books and shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek.
2. Do you have any comorbid conditions often associated with autism, such as ADHD?
School was an extra challenge for me because as well as being diagnosed with Asperger’s I also learned that I have a condition called Dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is essentially a problem within the frontal lobe of the brain which effects handwriting. While I knew exactly what I wanted to say in essays and school assignments transposing thought onto paper was a near impossibility. My hand writing, which was done all in capitol letters was barely legible and in those days there were no computers for word processing. My words often ended up as a jumbled mess and it always took me four times as long as the other students to complete work. This lead to a great deal of frustration from my teachers and my inevitable failure at school. I also have a condition called Prosopagnosia (Facial Blindness) where I do not recognize people by their facial features but am dependent on things such as posture or defining features such as scars to be able to recognize someone. Those closest to me I can recognize by their face but if they change their hair style or something to that effect then it takes me a lot longer to recognize them. I actually find this much more of a hindrance than my autism.
3. What kind of education did you receive?
I work part time at a local supermarket as a Customer Service Supervisor which is a fancy title for someone who acts as manager when they are not around. Customer service and autism generally don’t mix well together, but I have taken it as an opportunity to challenge myself and grow in my personal character. In the 4 years I have worked there I have certainly learnt a lot about myself in terms of my coping mechanisms, what triggers an autistic meltdown, and in managing the stresses of dealing with people.