This week Dr David Newman (consultant psychologist for the Sheffield Adult Autism and Neurodevelopmental Service and Learning Disabilities) has worked with staff with lived experience of Neurodivergence, to craft some blogs. The below blog has been written by Hedley Bishop, a Clinical Educator, sharing his experience of living with Asperger’s.
Autism has several alternative labels including Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Condition and Autism Spectrum Disorder. I identify with Asperger’s, but I did not receive a formal diagnosis until I was 50.
When I was a child in the 1970s and 80s, autism was often not recognised or was mistaken for bad behaviour. I was seen by lots of doctors and a psychiatrist but received little or no support for my then undiagnosed autism.
This made my childhood very challenging, at times I felt different and very alone. I felt most content in my own company, making safe places to play in the garden, I loved the silence and drifted into a calm place not unlike that in the Magic Faraway Tree book by Enid Blyton.
This made school difficult and did have an impact on my learning. As I grew older things changed and became more difficult, comprehensive school was a challenge and I often misbehaved to avoid certain situations.
I left school at 16 with no qualifications and then left home at 17, then life was a rollercoaster, moving around the city taking jobs and then leaving them and generally not settling, relationships were also very difficult.
Receiving a diagnosis has changed my life (I just wish it had come earlier!) and helped me become confident to be myself, instead of masking myself, which made me very tired.
In my adult years I managed to get a job in mental health in the 90s as a support worker, working my way up to become a nurse and more recently a clinical educator. I believe education is key to ensuring that others can support neurodiverse people and positively embrace our strengths, reasonable adjustments are also so very important.
The role of clinical educator aligns with my strengths, a supportive and flexible team helps me to manage my environment and avoid burnout. I do support other nurses who are autistic, giving them the support and advice that I so needed when I was younger. I am keen to create autistic friendly environments for both our staff and the people who use our services.
I am proud of my autism, it has made me who I am today.