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Late Diagnosis of Autism in Women

Catriona Jones December 15, 2023 0 comments 0

Diagnosed with Autism at 49

I’m a women diagnosed with Autism at 49 in menopause. My diagnosis came as a shock initially but has been completely liberating. It stirred up mixed emotions for me at the beginning, particularly sadness and grief. A part of me wondered – why didn’t someone see me, know and catch it. My own personal research and study of Autism, reassured me that it can be difficult to identify and even challenging to evident in girls and women. I presented your classic high masking Autistic girl, probably from the age of 5.

I understood myself better

When I received my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition this year (I am not a fan of the word disorder) something within in me totally relaxed. I embraced this deeper level of understanding of myself with inner ease. Coinciding with this relief, I felt that there was an eery hush in the world. People did not feel comfortable talking about it or even acknowledging it. This caused emotional dysregulation for my inner child as she was confused and felt she was being rejected.

Honouring my strengths

However, I was able to join the dots of my life rapidly. The past illuminated up with great clarity and I was home to me! Quirky, creative and smart! It was an opportunity to witness my genius level of hyper focus, understand the areas of my work that I did with excellence and KNOW  for sure that I was hard wired to be an empath. In many ways I was living my life in alignment but emotionally dysregulated by menopause and couldn’t put a finger on why my life had become so exasperating.

Late diagnosis of Autism in Women and Girls

Other people’s denial

Even though I moved quickly into acceptance of my neurodiversity and my whole life began to make sense, others did not want to go there. I began a wee dance between hurt and acceptance, triggered by the ignoring and lack of response from people. The truth is, when we step into authenticity and shine a light on a well hidden patriarchal wound, it’s never going to be a big coming home party in society.

The same old dysfunctional rules will apply, don’t talk and don’t feel. Often the discomfort that others are experiencing around the topic, could be their unconscious knowing or wondering, maybe I am on the spectrum too. Or … they simply don’t have the information or knowledge to believe you! Whatever the reasons, it’s their stuff. I was not dismissing me. Never be afraid to be you.

Lack of insight and awareness

Another big factor at play with a late diagnosis of Autism in a women is the lack of education on high masking neurodivergence. We as a society are presented with the male stereotypical traits, such as poor eye contact, social awkwardness and nerdy computer interests. Autism can present very different in women and some men are high masking too.

Autism presents differently in females

My best learning has been to consider the stereotypical trait and think about, what the opposite might look like. Therefore, for every socially awkward man, consider the high masking, socially forward female. Open and friendly with everyone (maybe even too familiar). If you consider the Autistic person that cares only to speak a few words, think about the potentially Autistic woman that talks in detail, in chronological order. I mean, I cannot tell you a story without sharing the background, the timeline of events and all the trimmings of the story. I like to include the detail of what each person was wearing, it can be exhausting for some people. I know.

Dispelling myths around AutismLate diagnosis of Autism in women

We are often taught to believe that Autistic people don’t feel and I agree that some Autistic people can put up a shell of protection, shutting down to stay safe in an overwhelming world. A world created for neurotypicals. Other Autistic people (and I am one of these for sure) feel everything and are total empaths. Connectivity is actually my super power. In considering more than just the stereotypical traits (from Hans Asperger, 1944)  this will help us unmask and uncover Autism in girls and women. Then, we can really test the theory and suggestion that Autism presents more in males.

Displaying myths around Autism

Today I sit in total acceptance of my neurodivergence and all my quirks. I believe it is vital to give oneself full permission to process the grief of a late diagnosis. The shock can be outweighed by the personal healing of getting to know yourself deeper. It has strengthened my mission and passion for education and personal growth even more, at a whole new level. Raising awareness will help create a softer landing for individuals on receiving a diagnosis, educating for the family, friends and professionals to support appropriately with compassion.

What to say to an adult recently diagnosed with Autism?

The golden rule is this, if you have met one Autistic person, you have met one Autistic person.

My advice would be to subtly acknowledge the diagnosis (indirectly) and create an opening for the individual to proceed with the dialogue if they wish to. Ask the person how they are doing in a tone that makes it clear you are acknowledging them. (but not patronising) Gently reassure them that you are available if they ever fancy a chat over coffee! That is simply it, just do not behave as normal because their life has possibly been turned on it’s head and they are navigating a brand new normal.

DON’T sweep it under the carpet, there is no shame in neurodiversity, we are all wired differently!

I am super lit up about my next stage in life, raising awareness and supporting Neurodiversity. If you want to connect more, join my ‘Bloom Girl’ group where I will be planning some exciting new events on Neurodiversity in 2024.

Join here – Join ‘Bloom Girl’ Group

Life Coach Derry


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