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My journey to diagnosis and what it means to me - by Alexandra Robinson

28 February 2023

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I was misdiagnosed during my school years as ADHD and was given Ritalin to take for a time, three times a day. This was embarrassing, to a degree. l had to take the medication at lunchtime and the teacher had to ensure l took the tablet with a snack size pack of Nutella. I was often teased at school by other children.

Unfortunately, being teased and bullied happened a lot and started in Years 2 and 3. l was bullied for my spectacles because of a lazy eye. They teased me because l had long blonde hair that went down the length of my back when it wasn’t tied up in ponytails or plaits. The bullying continued through high school when I got braces. The school always sided with the bullies with their incorrect information and punished me instead of them.

Following high school, I studied hospitality and worked in hotel pubs. Later, I made a career change and got a degree in Business Administration: Medical Administration with TAFE NSW.

My family are trained health professionals and started looking into autism when l was in kindergarten as they didn’t agree with the original diagnosis.

It wasn’t until l was 25 that they told me they thought l was Autistic and had been looking into it for an extended period of time. One of my parents handed me a copy of Tony Attwood’s “The complete guide to Asperger’s Syndrome” to read. While reading the strongly highlighted text, things started to make sense to me.

It was then we went through the process of getting a diagnosis through a clinic in the Sydney suburb of Pymble, which my family were made aware of through Dr Attwood’s clinic in Queensland.

Once diagnosed, as a family we commenced a long association with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) that has varied over the years, from taking part in research projects, such as “We Belong” with Dr Trevor Clark, Vicki Gibbs, Anthony Warren, to taking part in the promotional campaigns for a Different Brilliant®, having the opportunity to attend APAC Sydney, Adelaide and Singapore, and joining the Think Tank in 2019 among other ventures.

The diagnosis itself for me has been like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and l am still learning about certain things that l do not fully understand. For example, l’m not very good at reading social cues and that is an ongoing work in progress. l have also had to learn when it is appropriate to disclose my diagnosis. This is still a work in progress.

The one thing l would love for other people to know is that having a diagnosis of autism isn’t a negative thing and that all the stereotypical associations with the condition are not all true. For example, not everyone on the spectrum is an IT genius. We are all “a different brilliant” and all have our own special interests and are well versed in a wide range of topics.

See Alexandra’s video here as to why she Walks for autism - Aspect’s annual fundraiser to support people on the autism spectrum.

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