When I first started writing here, I could only find a small handful of elderly
autistic adults who were writing… elderly being subjective… there were several authors
in their mid 40’s, one or two in their early 50’s, and none over 60.
I have been giving consideration to whether having self diagnosed (still chasing ‘official’ diagnosis, one of the subjects of this blog) my learning of my autism has changed anything? Has knowing about my autism changed a thing?
Many people have asked, what good does it do, to have a diagnosis at this age?
I have to admit that it doesn’t change my disabilities or handicaps, not one bit.
I still struggle with all the sensory processing issues in the same old way.
I still suffer emotional distress, still struggle to understand context, intent, and other issues involved in any social interaction.
What has it changed, this knowing after all these years that i am autistic?
It has changed my outlook and my attitude. I no longer see myself as hopelessly inept.
It has allowed me to forgive myself for all of my weaknesses.
I now know my failures are a side effect of my sensory struggles, and not a moral weakness or a lack of inner strength, a weakness of character.
I am beginning to understand my strengths and the way my own mind works.
I am beginning to understand so many things that I misunderstood because of my not knowing about my autism and my lack of insights in so many parts of my early life due to a complex mix of family and social issues during the time I grew up.
I have been reading and learning for almost 2 years now, intently and for hours almost every day.
I finally am beginning to understand how difficult my life is and would have been under any circumstances due to the autism. I knew it was difficult, but now I know why, and I can congratulate myself on coming so far with handicaps nobody understood, rather than punishing myself for not measuring up in so many ways. That alone has been worth more than anything else! My self image is more in perspective with reality.
My self worth is now visible. I had never valued my existence or seen myself as other than undesirable, unworthy, a failure, a burden, an affliction to others. Autism with its rigid perceptions and inflexible rules had me caught in believing things I had been taught about myself from an early age without being able to see beyond those early ideas.
Knowing about my autism, that I am not to blame for all of the things that troubled me and troubled my family and associates, and knowing that others did not know either, answers almost every “why” I suffered with for so many years.
It has allowed me to move on to learn about and understand more about myself than I had ever understood before.
The answer of knowing it is autism is an explanation, not an excuse.
I am responsible for my own behavior, beliefs, morals, values, actions and reactions. I have made some terrible mistakes, terrible choices, in my past. I will continue to have failures in the future.
If I have successes it will be because my knowing I am autistic has not changed my disabilities, it has actually sharpened my understanding of these, but it has also allowed me to understand myself and the reasons for the results of so many issues of the past.
Diagnosis of autism will help me understand better ways to go about dealing with things in the present and in the future. I have new insights from a totally new perspective. I like this side of autism much better than the place I had been for my first 65 years. What a relief to finally know and understand!
I hope more autistic folk of later years ( old people like me!) can find answers to the questions of their pasts and have the relief of knowing that autism explains so much.
In the near future I hope to put together a short description of autism in older adults to be distributed to medical facilities, public agencies of all sorts- nursing homes, senior center,homeless shelters, library, etc. to help people consider autism as a diagnosis in struggling populations. Still working toward an official diagnosis, anxious to get to work.