A-Z of autism from a personal autistic perspective.

‘F’s (fascination, focus and functioning)


What stands out to me about my childhood was how fascinated I was by everything.

I often remained incredibly focused on activities for long periods of time.

Until I got my autism diagnosis, two years ago, it hadn’t occurred to me that this might be seen as ‘dysfunctional’.

2/ Small child with bobbed hair and short fringe gazing downwar
Fascination and focus have been functional for me in career terms.

They have also helped me bond with people I love.

I prefer fairly serious forms of ‘fun’.

And I find deep conversations more fulfilling.

My ‘focus’ doesn’t seem ‘hyper’ to me.

It’s part of the way I am.

Now I know I’m autistic I feel like I should be part of a fandom, but I don’t think I am.

I’ve looked up the meaning, just to be sure:

‘A fandom is a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.’

If I’m a fan of anything it’s equality, justice, and letting people be themselves.

I know the world isn’t fair; I got told it all the time as a child.

But in spite of everything that life has taught me, I’ve never completely lost faith in the possibility.


I’ve never been keen on fakery, or any good at it.

Applying fake tan, fake nails, or fake eyelashes just ended up in a mess.

And being told to “fake it till you make it” never really worked for me.

How do I fathom what’s real and what isn’t if I’m surrounded by duplicity?

Perhaps that’s why I like searching out the facts of the matter.

This is often the only way to either prove or disprove something.

Is it true, or is it false?

But as anyone who has ever done autism screening tests knows, such a lot lies in the murky territory in-between.

After I discovered I was autistic I wondered about the extent to which lack of foresight made me brave.

If I’d known the full consequences of standing up for what was right beforehand would I still have done it?

I decided I would.

The desire for justice gives me fortitude.

A terrible injustice happened to me once.

It was almost unbearable, because instead of being held to account, the perpetrator was feted.

Someone gave me a book on forgiveness, which made me furious.

And I became fixated on getting justice, before realising it was futile.

I just had a flashback to my teenage years when my feelings sometimes had such intensity they couldn’t be contained.

In early childhood occasional loss of control wasn’t seen as abnormal or stigmatised.

Losing control of myself as a young adult felt dangerously different.

Intense feelings that resulted from being bullied or abused did me a lot of damage in the course of my life.

When the other party wouldn’t acknowledge any responsibility, my distress was difficult to resolve.

So I ended up just suppressing my feelings of anguish instead.

As is often the case where abuse is repeated I began to believe that it might be my fault.

And like many late diagnosed people I felt huge relief on discovering that I was autistic.

This finally convinced me that I wasn’t to blame for all the bad things that had happened.

When I got my autism diagnosis I also got a freedom pass.

I could begin to be myself now.

I’d begun to feel like a failure because my attempts to ‘fix’ myself had been fruitless.

It was liberating to discover this was how I was meant to be.

I didn’t need fixing at all.

How fortunate I felt to arrive at this point before it was too late.

Fear had been snapping at my heels for years.

I knew it would catch up with me one day.

Now I could turn and look it in the face.

And I felt less fatalistic about my future once I’d faced up to my past.

‘Executive functioning’- I don’t much like the term.

‘Executive’ summons up images of shiny black briefcases and pushy career climbers.

‘Functioning’ reminds me of bodily functions and boring ‘functional’ things.

But the concept explains a lot that’s different about me.

Now I understand the way my mind works I can apply this in practical situations, like when I’m learning how to do something.

Just as importantly I can explain it to other people too.

In the right circumstances I can be very flexible. And now I know what conditions apply.

Being autistic can be fabulous, fantastic, and full of joyfulness.

This is the flip side of autism you only ever tend to hear about from #ActuallyAutistic people.

If other people knew how good it felt they’d want to be autistic.

Perhaps that’s why we keep it to ourselves.

While I can’t always avoid becoming overwhelmed I have been able to put in place some failsafe mechanisms.

It’s only discovering that I’m autistic, and exploring things from this angle, that’s allowed me to do this.

I feel far more confident now I know where my fulcrum is.

I took a break to go up onto the fell with Izzy.

Being out in the fresh air, far from anyone, is so freeing.

All the flak and friction of everyday life falls away.

It was rather cool up there, but we don’t mind that.

We go walking in all kinds of weather, fair and foul.

While I was walking lots of ‘F’ words skimmed through my mind.

I was thinking about friction, and how ‘rubbing people up the wrong way’ it isn’t necessarily our fault.

Differences can make for strong bonds, like Velcro, but they can also be scratchy like sandpaper on wood.

Being fierce is sometimes a necessary defence.

I was sometimes taken for a fool because I trusted people.

That made me think of trauma responses: fight, flight, freeze, flop, fawn*.

And the fact I should have said “Fuck off!” more often.

*More here cotswoldcentrefortraumahealing.co.uk/how-ptsd-occur…
Counselling touched issues that made me flinch, but then I faltered.

I dug deep to try and make sense of things.

There was something much more fundamental I needed to find out about in order to save myself.

I was much too far out all my life, and not waving but drowning.

The more time that elapsed the harder it got.

I was accumulating traumatic experiences, and becoming ever more fearful.

But then fate intervened, when a former colleague reached out to me, and told me she was autistic.

And that’s how I managed to finally find my way home.

My partner is both ‘family’. and ‘friend’ to me.

It’s our 13th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I try never to forget how fragile relationships are.

And since finding out that I’m autistic I also have #neurokin.

Shared experience of being neurodivergent creates bonds.

There’s a comforting familiarity about people and places I know well, and favourite foods.

When all of these combine I know I’ll have a lovely time.

Tomorrow I’ll have a go at recreating the cheese scones and coffee cake we would have eaten in a local dog friendly cafe.

If I forage in the cupboard I might even find some Russian Caravan tea.

I first drank this in the cafe, then my partner bought some as a surprise.

I’m good at forensic detail if I’m working on a project but noticing what my partner’s favourite things are isn’t always easy.

My relatives are used to me giving them somewhat random gifts.

I veer between fun and functional.

Sometimes I find something so fantastic I can’t resist buying it for everyone.

One year they all got colour-changing illuminated umbrellas, in 2020 it was pulse oximeters.

I’m not supposed to find it easy to foresee the future or determine other people’s intentions.

But I frequently ‘fast forward’ to the end of a scenario in my mind and work out how it’s likely to play out.

And sometimes I just have a strong gut feeling or intuition.

There are so many fallacies about being autistic.

I’m lucky not to have been exposed to these while my sense of identity was still forming.

I try to reject or reframe the negatives.

Why should we feel faulty or flawed just because we have a different way of functioning?

We grow up in a world where falsehood abounds and fibs are approved of.

If we’re fastidious about honesty we’re made to feel foolish.

This seems farcical.

Meanwhile stimming is deemed to be ‘fidgeting’ and gets banned.

No wonder we end up feeling horribly confused!

30/ end

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More from @NortherlyRose

8 Apr

There were three of us out walking today, because it seemed churlish to leave my partner behind on our wedding anniversary.

We found a footpath leading down to a small reservoir.

It was a bit like being by the sea with the waves rolling in.


We decided to walk the whole of the service road around the edge of the reservoir.

We weren’t far from one of our usual walks, but it was good to have some different views to look at.


The rain caught up with us part way round but Izzy didn’t mind.

She has a lovely warm undercoat and her top coat is water resistant.

A good shake now and then and she’s happy.

The moss and lichen on the old stone wall were beautiful.


Read 4 tweets
8 Apr

A-Z of autism from a personal autistic perspective

‘G’s (from gatekeeping to gratitude).


I completed a research questionnaire the other day about my experience of autism assessment and post diagnostic support.

Two years on, it was interesting to look back on what got me through the process.

I was supposed to seek referral via my GP, but I hadn’t the energy.

For those of us who weren’t recognised as being autistic when we were younger, it’s often some kind of life crisis that generates the impetus to seek autism assessment.

But ironically, just when we need to be able to articulate our difficulties, we may struggle to do so.

Read 18 tweets
6 Apr

It was so windy today we went up to the hills in my tiny Toyota, not the high-top campervan.

It was bitterly cold but sunny with some lovely cloud reflections.


1/ Clouds reflected in the rear window of a car.
Izzy wasn’t bothered by the cold or wind, being up here always seems to exhilarate her.

I was glad to be wearing my eBay bargain £6 salopettes.


We got almost to the halfway point of our walk when the weather started closing in.

Time to begin heading for home.


Read 7 tweets
6 Apr

A-Z of autism from a personal autistic perspective.

‘E’s - enlightenment and emancipation.


When I discovered I was autistic, just over two years ago, my emancipation began.

It was enlightening to realise why so many aspects of life had been effortfully exhausting.

Even lovely, enjoyable events could completely drain me.

At last I understood why.


I had often had to ‘get out of’ social events that I feared I’d find overwhelming.

And employment in roles that required a lot of social interaction left me exhausted.

This made me feel really pathetic.

But now I had an explanation I understood and embraced these limits.

Read 30 tweets
5 Apr
Because I love books, alliteration and #RachelJoyce I bought myself Miss Benson’s Beetle.


The blurb at the beginning is beautiful.


There are even questions at the end.

Wish I was still running a

Read 4 tweets
5 Apr

A-Z of autism

From a personal autistic perspective.

‘D’ words (the disaster zone!)


A lot of the D words used about autism are potentially damaging.

Deficit, disorder, developmental delay, dangerous, disaster.

We’re encouraged to feel a sense of despondency, to see ourselves as damaged goods.

Why else would people research ways to prevent or cure autism?

The diagnostic criteria set out in DSM-5 evoke despair:

‘Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity.’

‘Deficits in non-verbal communicative behaviours.’

‘Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships.’

Replace ‘deficits’ with ‘differences’ and it transforms things.

Read 20 tweets

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