As far as I’m aware, I don’t have any autistic friends or family members. In terms of my ‘journey’, I’m on my own in the sense that nobody else I know is having an ‘adult autism adventure’. But whilst that might sound like a lonely experience, I’ve discovered that I am getting quality support and that support is coming in many different ways…
The most surprising and positive discovery I’ve made is that there is a wealth of online support out there for people going through experiences like mine. Discovering that I’m not the only person to go through this, and that pretty much all of my autistic traits belong to plenty of other people is great for my well-being.
The National Autistic Society is a fantastic resource to find groups and support networks, as well as being a comprehensive guide to the condition. When I get round to writing a post along the lines of ‘What is autism’ it will be my primary source. It also has a busy forum where contributors offer advice and tips, as well as sometimes just unloading their thoughts and problems. As I mentioned previously, just reading about others who share my issues is a great source of comfort.
For the first time in about 10 years, I’ve been venturing onto Facebook over the last few months. I previously gave up on Facebook as I got annoyed with the endless stream of humblebrags, politics and people who seem to have a bizarre view that anybody else gives a shit about their train being ten minutes late or what alcoholic drink they have on the table. But I’ve found a couple of very good UK based adult autism groups. The content is similar to the NAS forum, but because of the nature of Facebook, you can do a bit of casual stalking!
‘Casual stalking’ is of course completely harmless and in no way similar to the ‘serious stalking’ favoured by the likes of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. Casual stalking just involves a few seconds of finding out who the person behind the post is. And that can be invaluable – not because the person is especially interesting, but usually because they are perfectly normal and uninteresting…just like me! Normal job, maybe a partner, a few hobbies, post annoying nonsense on Facebook and so on.
Some Facebook posts are from people going through, to put it lightly, a really rough time. Be that down to depression, anxiety or just the sometimes extremely tough side effects of being autistic in the world. And that’s when the community aspect of the groups really kicks in. Whatever your circumstance, no matter how close to giving up you are, somebody has been there before and can offer hope and advice.
I’ve made a few posts introducing myself and my circumstances, as well as asking for feedback on this blog. I’ve had lots of encouraging messages and constructive feedback. All of which has helped me feel less overwhelmed by events.
Offline, there are plenty of local support groups out there for both children and adults. is a twice-weekly meet up in Birmingham city centre for adults with autism. As well as similar events in cities all over the UK. I don’t think I’m in a position to want to go to these just yet, but that may change post-diagnosis.
Not surprisingly, there are also a fair few blogs from autistic adults out there. Equally unsurprisingly, they vary in quality and content – I mean, obviously none of them are as good as this! But regardless of that, it’s great for spreading the word and raising awareness amongst fellow autistic people.
Despite the often negative places people are in, there’s a real sense of positivity about all of the online (and I presume offline) communities. The internet can often be a nasty place, but when it’s used for the right reasons it can be a really heart-warming, useful and empowering place.
I didn’t really start writing this blog with the aim of appealing to autistic people, it was more about raising awareness for people who weren’t on the spectrum. But if anybody reading this is either autistic or knows somebody who is, then I can highly recommend getting involved with the online communities I’ve mentioned here.
The other aspect of support that I’ve found a great comfort is the support I’ve received from friends and family. My wife and mum have been especially supportive, but (in the nicest possible way) that’s not been a great surprise to me as they’re great. Equally, close friends have regularly got in touch asking how I am and offering to meet up, but again I almost expect that from close friends and I hope I’d be the same were the situation reversed.
What’s been more surprising and, in some ways, more heart-warming has been the messages from people who I wouldn’t have expected to have offered support. Work colleagues, ex-work colleagues, ex-school/university friends, even people who I hardly knew from school who had read the blog and got in touch. Honestly, every single message is a great source of comfort and support.
All of which is helping me to stay positive and look forward, despite my brain trying to look for negatives at every corner. Which leads nicely on to my next blog post…why autism is so difficult to understand AKA the paradox of autism.