This is the 25th interview in my series Interviewing Late-Identified Autistics. Yvette is a late-identified autistic. My questions are in bold and Yvette's responses follow in regular typeface.
What name do you use and, if you want to share it, what pronouns do you use?
How old were you when you learned you were autistic?
How did you learn you are autistic?
In another period of my life I was a special education teacher specializing in working with teenagers and young adults with cognitive and developmental challenges. In 2008 I had to stop working because I had a serious burnout event. I didn’t realize at the time it was autistic burnout. I stopped reading the research.
I’ve been catching up on my research on autism because my 12 year old granddaughter was officially diagnosed in the spring of this year. I knew that Ellie and I had a lot in common, and her diagnosis was not a surprise, but at the time I hadn’t thought our similarities made me autistic.
In September of this year (it’s been a rough year) I was near a mild burnout while helping my younger daughter move (I was the childcare). During a particularly stressful moment I was pacing around the house and it exploded in my head that I was acting like someone on the spectrum! ( Normally I would immediately suppress such behavior.) Then it occurred to me that I was on the spectrum! Immediately childhood memories exploded into my head with my autistic behaviors and my birth family’s reactions to the autistic behaviors I used.
How did you decide whether to self-identify or diagnose?
I chose to get diagnosed because my husband and siblings would either not believe me and my experiences or completely disregard me.
How did you feel when you learned you were autistic?
When I self-diagnosed I was agitated and upset at first. I went through several nights of no sleep. The memories that came back were of the abuse and neglect I experienced as a female child on the spectrum. The girl’s in my family were treated differently than the boys so when my younger brother (also on the spectrum) had his own difficulties he was nurtured and excuses were given.
After the diagnosis I felt euphoria and vindication combined with moments of sadness and anger at the treatment I was subjected to by my “loving” family.
How did your friends and family respond when you told them you are autistic?
My husband had no reaction at the time. He is acting differently towards me now. It’s like he doesn’t know how to act around me.
My oldest sister was happy for me. I haven’t told any other siblings yet and I won’t tell my father. My mother is dead.
My daughters were happy and proud of me for taking the step.
Did you seek out therapy, coaching, or other forms of structured support for autism?
It’s only been 2 weeks since my diagnosis and it’s the holidays. I’m going on a search when things settle down in January.
Your Current Life
How have you modified or adapted your life since learning you’re autistic?
I’m paying more attention to my autistic needs, identifying them and figuring out how to work with them, not against them or denying them. My goal is to be able to communicate these things with my significant people.
In what ways does being autistic enhance your life?
I have excellent observation skills and my music special interest has been my primary source of calming.
Is there anyone else in your family who is neurodiverse, autistic, or otherwise?
I have several siblings, nieces and nephews who I believe to be on the spectrum. I’m not sure which parent had the DNA.
What helps you prevent or cope with moments of overwhelm?
I’m still learning about this.
What skills or strategies have helped you to work with your autistic mind?
I’m still learning about this.
What accessibility/support have you sought since learning you’re autistic? What support do you wish was easier to access?
I’m in serious need of appropriate therapy. I have had so many inadequate therapists!
How have you self-advocated for your needs?
I have been trying to explain myself and needs to my husband. It’s difficult.
For the holidays I designated our RV as a quiet zone for anyone who needs it. It’s been a successful experiment.
I have stopped wearing bras!
What is your experience with medical systems? Are there ways you feel they can be improved for autistic individuals?
The Arizona medical system is not friendly to autistic people or, for that matter, anyone with any kind of disability. I paid out of pocket for my evaluation.
How did being an undiagnosed autistic child impact your childhood?
I was bullied terribly by my mother, siblings and schoolmates. At the age of 8 a brother molested me and I was told it was my fault because I was a girl. I must have “led him on.” Another brother took my voice by beating me up if I spoke or laughed near him. (I’m only now trying to get it back. It’s extremely frustrating and difficult. )
I was suicidal as a teenager with no help or support from my parents and siblings. It’s a miracle that I survived. I was terribly and utterly naive and gullible. I was taken sexually advantage of by a teacher and one of my dad’s creepy friends.
I’ve been struggling with executive functioning, relationships, and depression with anxiety my entire adult life.
Talking to Others About Autism
What do you wish others knew about autism?
It’s not your parent’s version of autism! Autism is a dynamic and fascinating condition and people who are neurodivergent should be celebrated and respected.
Are there any fictional autitistic characters that miss the mark on depicting autism?
All entertainment on TV and in the movies depict males as if females autistics are non-existent.
Connecting with You
If someone would like to connect with you, how can they reach you?
Thank you for reading. Would you like to expand the world's understanding of autism and help fellow autistics? You can do so by sharing your experiences as a late-identified autistic. I'm looking for more people to complete written interviews just like this one. I'll send you the questions and you can complete them on your own time. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.