Autism Acceptance Day 2023

Today is Autism Acceptance day and the start of Autism Acceptance Month. This is a post that, until last year, I never thought I’d write.

Around this time in 2022, I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at the age of 44. I had friends being diagnosed with ADHD and the things they described I could see in myself, but I had never thought I could be autistic.

Growing up, I read The October Child by Eleanor Spence. It won the CBCA Book of the Year in 1977, the year I was born, and that was essentially all I knew about autism. During the 1980s and 1990s, autism and ADHD were seen as essentially a behavioural issue in boys. Quiet, intelligent girls who were sensitive and followed the rules were left to their own devices.

When I saw the neuropsychologist last year, she went through my school reports and pointed out the signs – I was sensitive, needed extra encouragement, struggled to get work in on time, among other things. All these things had been seen as things I just needed to work harder at, and I did work hard. I did everything that was expected of me, but it never seemed to be enough.

Over the last 20+ years, I have seen numerous psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors, including an inpatient stay for post-natal depression, and none of them looked beyond the surface to identify neurodiversity. Every time I was diagnosed with depression, it didn’t feel right and I got more and more frustrated that anti-depressants only made me put on weight and I’d talk about stuff and nothing would change.

With everything that was going on in my life, no matter my age, I would lose myself in stories. I would read in class during secondary school. I now know that this was a way of stimming, regulating my emotions so I could cope with the sensory overload of the classroom and school bus and anywhere else that was noisy and busy. I would write stories as a way to make sense of the world around me as well as to calm the stories that are constantly swirling in my mind. Even now, at 45, when life gets crazy if I can curl up and read for a while, it helps me calm down and get on top of things again.

Autism acceptance is important. I don’t look autistic. I don’t fit the stereotypes. Even as a child, I didn’t fit the stereotypes. My first step is accepting myself and the way my brain works, my amazing brain that thinks outside the box and comes up with amazing, quirky stories. My amazing brain that runs programs that inspire people to have fun writing. I don’t fit the box, I’m not even sure where the box is!

During Autism Acceptance Month, I plan to write some more blog posts sharing some amazing stories I’ve read that feature autistic characters, as well as more of my own story. I hope you’ll come along for the journey.

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About Melissa

Melissa Gijsbers started writing when she was in High School during the 1990s, even winning some awards for a short story and a script. For many years, life got in the way of creative writing, however she did start blogging around 2006.

She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two sons and a pet blue tongue lizard.

Melissa Gijsbers, Author, Speaker & Booklover
Melissa Gijsbers - Author, Speaker & Booklover
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