16 March 2022

What late diagnosis autism means to me


Our Marketing Associate Rob Martin was recently diagnosed with autism and wrote an essay about it on his blog. We asked him to write for us about the impact that late diagnosis can have and what greater self-awareness can bring.

I was recently diagnosed as autistic. Or having autism. I’m not sure if there’s a correct way to say it.

With an estimated 2% of the population sitting somewhere on the autism spectrum, I find myself part of a growing and very diverse group of people.

About half of that 2% is made up of children. I’m 56, confident that you could describe my diagnosis as ‘late’. In fact, on the day that I was officially diagnosed, in January 2022, I was told that, and I quote,

“You’ve done amazingly well to get this far in your work and in life without any of the support that you’ve needed.”

Apparently, I have been very good at ‘masking’ since I was a boy.

So, what does being diagnosed as autistic as I head towards my third act actually mean?

Well, in part, it allows me to decipher some of the ways in which my mind works. It would take a longer article to explain that, but let’s just say it looks for patterns, logic, consistency. The consequences of not having those things can be stressful, exhausting and awkward, for me and for those around me.

So, for most of my life, I’ve wondered why I’m so inwardly awkward, pre-occupied and ill-at-ease with myself.

And now I know.

Diagnosis has explained part of me and provided a context that provides permission for me to give myself a break.

That’s very liberating, switching some of the emphasis of my internal monologue away from self-doubt and criticism towards self-awareness and kindness. In other words, I’m easier on myself and that makes me easier to be around, hopefully.

The process was much more straightforward than I thought it would be, and it started with a suspicion, a little research and a conversation. That was followed by a chat with my Doctor and a decision to go ahead with the formal process towards diagnosis.

I filled in some assessment forms and then, because there’s a belief that some autism can be brought on by childhood loss and trauma, which fits with me, the next step was a conversation between my assessment team and my older sister. Then followed a series of sessions with me which included various tasks and which took place over a few months.

After all of this, I was given a date on which I’d get a phone call to tell me of the outcome. When I was told the diagnosis, it was one of the most unbelievable things I’d ever heard (I was absolutely convinced I’d been wasting everyone’s time) and an enormous relief. 

And that's because, after years of wondering what’s wrong with me, the answer is that there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just autistic.

For me, self-awareness, an ability to better understand how I fit into the world and interact with the people around me, all contributes to my sense of wellbeing. Diagnosis has reduced some of the stress I have felt about, well, who I am and my impact on others.

If you’re seeking something similar, have a chat to people close to you and see if those conversations lead you towards following a path of self-discovery. Diagnosis has been part of self-care. I recommend it.

Rob Martin is a freelance marketing consultant and author.

Result CIC is currently coaching a number of people on the autism spectrum. Find out more about coaching here.

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We are Result CIC, a community interest company. We work with people who feel marginalised or excluded to become more confident about their abilities and to fulfill their potential. We also work with Directors, Managers and CEOs who need support to bring about positive change in terms of diversity and inclusion in their organisations. We each have personal experience of the issues affecting the people we work to support, including disability, immigration, mental health and sexuality. We have also worked in senior positions in industry and government.

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