Advancing Through Autism #1: My Early Years


If you didn’t already know, I have Autism. Back in the day, I was recruited by a website called My Trending Stories who were interested in me writing an ongoing series of posts for them. What I came up with was something called ‘Advancing Through Autism‘. I wrote 5 posts about my autism and my personal struggles.

While I have no intentions of rewriting or revisiting that series, I have had a few requests from people to read my posts, and I might as well. It’s my work, and I wrote it.

A lot of my earlier years were spent taking tests. It was my nursery that actually spoke to my Mum about me and how I acted. I guess I just showed traits that the teacher noticed.

Part One: My Early Years (Ages 0-5)

I was and I still am an insular person. As a child, I did not go out much. I still don’t go out much, and I am quite anti-social by my own admission. I am a very open and talkative person, don’t get me wrong, but I just cannot bring myself to going out and meeting friends. Or it least I make it a task to do so.

I remember the various trips I made to hospitals as passing experiences, rather than solidified memories. I went through a series of tests that the doctors and analysts gave to me. I think they marketed them to me as games rather than tests, probably to put me more at ease. The doctor’s names and faces I could not remember, but I remember them talking to my Mum. I don’t think my Dad ever went to any of those meetings. 

The standout memory from those earlier years was the blood test. I was about five years old, and I had taken the morning out of school. We went to Whiston Hospital, which at the time was a scattered series of brick buildings, rather than the giant brick/metal giant that presides over the city.

I clearly remember them putting cream on my arm where they would put the needle. It made that part of my arm untouchable. It was a strange experience. I also remember crying when it was about to happen, as I was scared of the needle. They may have shown me a picture book of it, but I was nonetheless scared. They distracted me with soap bubbles, and I turned away to see a pipe going from my arm to a tube. I was mesmerised. I didn’t cry, but words couldn’t describe how I felt when I saw the dark red liquid drained from my arm.

The other (sort of) clear memory I recall was my trips to therapy. I was what my teachers would consider a ‘delayed child’ in my speech, movement, and other areas. I had to go to speech therapy, physical therapy, and other places to sort myself out. I do remember finishing school early on Thursdays to do these things. That made me happy, though I was actually quite happy in school.

I came out well from it all eventually. I cannot comment on whether the therapy worked. I think it caught me up to my peers at the time, but I don’t know how delayed I was. If you consider taking your child to therapy, I would recommend it as a little way of helping them. As for the blood test, I found out years later it was to find out if I had some form of a disease that made me behave the way I did at the time. I was a slightly naughty boy. The test was negative though, which ruled that disease out, though I do not know what it was.

Regardless, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of 5. It affects my coordination. To this day, tieing my ties and fastening my shoelaces I struggle with, but at least I can do it. I can still come across as clumsy or aloof though. This can be mildly annoying. If I were to give advice about children’s development, give them time and help them out. A bit of patience and time to help them will get them there.

Part 2: Age 5 Onwards

By the age of 5, I was already diagnosed with Dyspraxia, a neurological condition which affects coordination and speech. I went through Primary School with relative ease, with the occasional troubles with bullies and my own bad behaviour, but as I became older, I began to feel that there was something more.

I went to Rainhill High School, and then Rainhill Sixth Form, for 7 years. After being in Primary School for what was then the majority of my life, it was a big change for me. That change is something I will probably end up writing about in the near future.I wouldn’t say I was isolated in my new environment, but I was more insular for at least the first two years at High School. That’s when I began to suspect that there was something more than dyspraxia affecting how I acted. When the teachers at my new school asked if I was autistic, that was the catalyst for me wanting to have more definitive tests, where I was in control.

There were other reasons why I decided to undergo more testing. The fact I moved to a new school in a different borough (for the non-UK readers, a borough is essentially an area governed by a local council. So I essentially moved from a school under control by one borough to a school controlled by another borough) it meant that any records of my previous tests were NOT handed over. This was problematic, which basically meant that those teachers at my new school knew little about my status. I also did a lot more reading up on Autism and Asperger’s and I noticed a lot of the traits described, while not all accurate, did describe things I do. 

I underwent a series of more tests in various places across the St. Helens Borough. Unlike my earlier tests, I have a better recollection of events. I remember people coming into school to see me, and taking mornings off for the first two hours of lessons to go to various health centres to meet a multitude of doctors. A lot of these meetings involved filling in questionnaires, talking with doctors, and generally explaining how I perceived the world around me. 

The last meeting I had was at the age of 15. The penultimate one I had was bad. I had to get a tooth removed straight after, and I was in a lot of pain. Thankfully, there was no tooth removal after this particular meeting. It was still a memorable one, as I was officially diagnosed with ASD. I was happy to get that officially diagnosed, but I do not agree with the term. As I have mentioned, Autism is not one condition, it has many levels. While there are similar characteristics, Labelling it all as one condition really is counterproductive, especially when it comes to the mislabelling and stereotypes attached to me because of my condition. 

Despite my objection to the label, it is written down on paper, and is there to use. I now have access to benefits and other things because of my condition to help me function. While I am probably less deserving of it than other people, it must be said that they and myself are under threat of losing it. It will be catastrophic if these lifelines are taken away from  people, no matter the severity of their condition.

All I can say to people reading this is that if you have questions to ask, I would follow them up. I believe it is important for you to know an answer. If finding out about your condition will help you out, then I would strongly suggest you follow it up, as it will shed light on things.

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About the author


Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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