In support of World Autism Awareness Day at CPA, Tamsin Colley, one of our CP Active Champions, shares her experience being diagnosed with autism, her strengths, ambitions and the shifts she would like to see in attitudes towards autism.
When were you diagnosed with autism and what was it like understanding your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with autism on the 8th of March 2022. I had done some research on it before my autism assessment, so I knew what it was but actually getting the diagnosis was really validating because I finally had an explanation for why my brain works differently, and why I have quite high sensory sensitivities and a strong need for routine.
This also helped me to not be so hard on myself whenever I went into sensory overload or missed social cues and things like that. I was a bit in denial of having it for a few weeks after but realising that everyone with autism is different by exposing myself to autistic creators on Instagram helped me to settle into my diagnosis a bit more. I still feel a bit weird about my diagnosis but am hoping that over time I will become more confident in embracing my differences!
What do you think are the most common misconceptions about autism?
I think the most common misconception about autism is that everyone with autism is stereotypically autistic, like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. People don’t understand that it is a spectrum of different traits, and some people can have more or less of one and still have autism.
These stereotypes are partly why I struggled with understanding that I had autism but when I did more research on my diagnosis, I found out that I actually fit the criteria perfectly and that not everyone with autism is the same (that would be boring!)
What strengths do you have because of your autism?
My autistic brain likes routine a lot, so I have always been very organised and good with time management (when I want to be!) and embracing my diagnosis has also meant not getting annoyed at the fact that I need to schedule out my day down to the minute. I also am good at seeing things in a different way to others, having attention to detail, and being creative in my own unique way. Everyone with autism has different strengths though, and we all have some days where our strengths play out in different ways depending on how we’re feeling just like anyone else.
You recently finished high school, what are your ambitions for the future?
I am currently studying Exercise Physiology at university in the hope of one day becoming an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to help people with disabilities improve their lives through physical activity. I am also training hard in athletics in the hope of qualifying and being selected for the Paris 2024 Paralympics in the 200m T36, which is a classification for people with ataxic Cerebral Palsy like me.
What shifts would you like to see for kids born today who have autism?
I would like to see attitudes towards autism change within the community so that kids born with autism are not looked down upon and people don’t worry about all the things they can’t do but instead be hopeful for all the things they can do and embrace their mind that is beautifully different.
This means less stereotypes of people with autism and more portrayals of actually autistic people in the media like Chloé Hayden. This will help people with autism feel a greater sense of belonging and like they’re understood and supported more and will also hopefully contribute to people being diagnosed with autism sooner so they can get the support they need to live a wonderful life catered to their unique needs.