Amy Allen | Letchworth Garden City, UK
Positive Role Model (Disability)
My name is Amy Allen and I have Autism, and a painful chronic spinal condition called degenerative disc disease.
For as long as I can remember, I always felt different. I have never felt like I belong. It’s pretty hard, growing up and not understanding yourself, always wondering why everyone else seemed to just know how to do things.
I felt like I had missed the lessons at school that were about social skills and the correct way to interact with people. Cue a life of making multiple social faux pas and managing to make people cross and upset by just being myself. Even though I still didn’t really know what ‘myself’ was.
I mostly failed at everything and never felt I was good enough or bright enough to try and be anything more than I was.
Even with an autistic son and a yet to be diagnosed autistic daughter by this point, it wasn’t until March of 2017 when I went to a talk by Sarah Hendrickx about Autism in girls, that I had a rather profound realisation. This women whom I had never met, stood and spoke in detail about my life, my experiences as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. My feelings, my confusion, The kind of thoughts that run through my head. I left at the end feeling shaken and exposed but there was something burning in me that I couldn’t ignore.
I had the start of an answer.
I got home and managed to word vomit the entire 2 hours at my husband in about 3 minutes, and then burst into tears. It was an emotional time.
It was shortly after this that I decided to go to uni and applied for an access course.
As someone who had failed miserably at school in spite of apparently being very bright, I was nervous.
So getting 90% on my first assignment was a shock.
As time progressed,my confidence grew and I finally took the plunge of chasing a formal diagnosis for my autism. In just 6 months I had been referred and seen and was then seen by a psychologist, who in 2 appointments confirmed my autism, along with OCD and quite a few traits of ADD,
Even though it was what I wanted it was still a shock and I went through a brief period of grief at everything I had missed out on in life because of the lack of support or knowledge for my condition.
Especially when by this point I had decided that I wasn’t stupid, I was just autistic, and pushed myself to be more. I had been elected to chair of my local Labour Party branch and had helped run an election in which we were very successful.
I also finished my access course and passed easily. I chose my degree and started in October 2018.
I am currently studying Law and hope to be able to do what I can to support my community and to help families of autistic children understand that just because you’re different, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
While I have had my struggles, I have also been blessed with a different view of the world. It’s made me creative, and have a love for detail. It’s helped me see things in people that others don’t.
I’ve found joy in music all of my life. I understand myself better and I’m proud of me and the person I have finally been able to become.
My spine? I’m in pain a lot and some days are very hard. But I try not to let it get me down. On the good days I appreciate my mobility more and take great joy in being able to take the children to school or go for a walk listening to some music (something I have loved doing since I was allowed to leave the house alone) or potter in the garden. I have hope that my back will improve but in the meantime I have a funky cane and can rock a look as well as any able bodied person.