Autism Awareness Week

The Adult Autism Diagnostic Service provided by Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has just entered its third year.  Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people.  People with autism experience rigid patterns of thinking and can experience hypo (not getting enough) or hyper (getting too much) sensory sensitivity.  Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that while all people with autism share certain characteristics, their condition will affect them in different ways. Historically, it was believed that four times more males than females were effected by autism. This belief is changing, as better understanding of the female presentation is emerging. Many females can work hard at being sociable and this can mask their differences meaning they are less likely to have a diagnosis. The constant effort to make sense of people and situations can be exhausting and trigger depression, anxiety and physical health symptoms.  

Stephe Yeadon aged 32 from Ulverston explains about her experiences.

Stephe said “I didn’t have lots of friends apart from a small group of four and felt I was always the quiet one in the corner. Academically there were no problems, I went to University, trained as a teacher and then bought a pub.”  

Stephe was one of the first people to be referred to the Adult Autism Service. She told me; “My son was going through the diagnostic process, as it was thought he maybe on the autism spectrum. I did lots of research and attended a conference, and to her surprise; I was asked when I was diagnosed”?  

She looked at lots of information on websites and realised that she had 90% of the symptom associated with the female presentation of Autism. Her GP referred her for an initial assessment which involved meeting with Stephe and family members to build a picture of the past.

Stephe explains “Since the diagnosis, my family, friends and work colleagues from Royal Mail, Ulverston, have a better understanding of my condition and how to respond in certain situations. The support from the Autism service, and my own research has helped me cope better with both my son and myself. I have built a network, read blogs and have met with others experiencing similar issues.”

When I asked Stephe how she felt about the future she said “The future will be whatever I make it.”

Mel Fergus Community Nurse with the Autism Diagnostic service said “It is a two way process, we are still in the early days of understanding the differences in female presentation. Stephe has shared information with me which I can share with others. My aspiration would be for individuals who have used our service to be paid to support us in providing Autism Awareness Training and so helping others have a better understanding of the condition.”