Life on the Autism spectrum

Harriet - Interview 42


Brief outline: Harriet was diagnosed with high functioning autism when she was 39 years old. She has aspects of her life which she finds difficult like changes in routine, sensory sensitivities and a dislike of social interaction.

Background: Harriet, a classroom assistant, lives with her children.

Audio & video

Harriet, a classroom assistant, was diagnosed with high functioning autism when she was 39. She describes feeling happy and sad when she found out; sad because she would never be part of the world she had spent so long trying to fit in and happy because she could stop trying so hard. She describes how she has always known she was not like other people and has had a difficult life in many ways; experiencing self harm, bulimia/anorexia and suicide attempts.
Harriet realised she may have autism after attending a training course to support children with AS. The people running the course commented on some of her responses and when she went back to school she was told that the staff at the school were convinced that she was ‘on the autistic spectrum quite noticeably’. Harriet went to her GP who referred her to a specialist who diagnosed her with high functioning autism.
She thinks her life would have been easier if she had been diagnosed at a much earlier age. She had difficult experiences at school and at home when she was growing up and has experienced abusive relationships. She feels comfortable with computers and likes science which gives her puzzles to solve, driving and playing tennis. She is doing an OU degree in science which is a safe place for her and enjoys her allotment which is “peaceful and beautiful with frogs, toads and foxes.” Her four children have been very supportive and helped her with aspects of life she finds difficult.
Harriet describes how she has difficulties staying still, communicating verbally, remembering instructions, obsession and fixations, stimming, changes in routine, textures, sound and light sensitivity, doing more than one task at a time, eating food and textures. For example, non uniform days are very difficult at school because first, the routine has changed and second, she finds the different colours confusing.
Harriet would like people “to listen to each other and see the person inside and accept each other for how they are, not what they wish them to be.” As she says; “Accept I move and feel and think differently but I am not stupid – I can show you beauty and peace and make you smile – I can do things differently and find answers that make life easier.”


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