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'I got an Asperger's diagnosis aged 45'

How having an autism spectrum disorder in adulthood affected Aly, who describes the effects of an Asperger's diagnosis in middle-age.

"My name is Aly Gynn. I am 46 years old and was formally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome last year."  

"I had diagnosed myself three years earlier. I was teaching adults with autism and had a sudden realisation. Throughout my teaching career I had periods of depression. I pushed myself too hard and worried intensely about my pupils, sometimes to the point of breakdown. I now attribute this to Asperger syndrome.

"Despite having the support of my homeopath, friends and family, and a good GP, getting a diagnosis was exhausting. I struggled to convince them that I had autism because I didn't match their preconceived ideas of the disability. I think they felt I had managed in life so far, but I needed to know how to cope.

"Receiving the diagnosis felt like the last piece of the jigsaw. But I was frightened of things becoming concrete, of finding out how I was different to others and realising my areas of difficulty. I was genuinely shocked to discover that people don't think like me, aren't preoccupied by the same things and don't experience the same sensory issues. For example, I find the sound of pans banging together painful.

"I have now learnt what is good for my health and to concentrate on my creative work. My work is me. It's a comfort to have it around me in my flat.

"Books of my poetry and a 'running tap of words' also surround me. Sometimes words come too quickly and I have to write things down on any piece of paper to hand. I have done some performance work, but my written work feels safer. I can't play games or pretend not to be me."

As I See It: autism photography exhibition

Aly took part in "As I See It", an exhibition exploring how people with autism view the world. Their portraits, taken by photographer Robin Hammond, appear throughout the features on autism. 

"I have enormous respect for the power of photography, but I knew that I would find the experience difficult. It would be really important for me to have complete trust in the photographer to capture me and some of my story.

"Robin and I chatted intensely. It was an incredible day, but I could not talk to anyone much for a week or two afterwards. It is wonderful to meet compassionate, warm and exceptionally lovely people, but it can be tiring. I need words, not as therapy but to help me explain my abstract world.

"I absorb everything like a sponge in five or six different dimensions, so when I've had a big day, I need to get back to a routine to settle myself down, because I don't let go of things like other people do."

Aly Gynn, Bury St Edmunds

Read more about the As I See It exhibition.

Article provided by NHS Choices

See original on NHS Choices

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