Rosie Weldon is an Autistic accountant living and working in the North West of England. She is also a prolific author and has her own blog about everyday Autistic life, including things like Autistic behaviors, mental health, advice for parenting Autistic children, and lots more. This week she shared her path to a diagnosis and the ways she advocates for inclusion and autism acceptance.
What led you to pursue an autism diagnosis?
The actual ‘ah ha’ moment that led to it happened when I was twenty-five, and was a comment by a university lecturer that I lacked eye contact. Eye contact is so closely linked to autism– it was like everything fell into place when that was said. I went straight home to research signs of autism, and it became very apparent I was autistic.
Prior to that comment, I had been diagnosed with social anxiety and generalised anxiety, and like many females, autism had not been considered.
In what ways do you advocate for autism inclusion and understanding?
I try to share my life as honestly and openly as I can through my blog and books. I think the biggest barrier to autism inclusion is a lack of awareness and education on what it is really like. Textbooks and qualifications in autism are great, and I absolutely encourage people to get them (I have also done that route), but it needs to be alongside learning about how life really is for autistic people.
It’s not always easy putting the vulnerable parts of my life online, and there are times I click the publish button on a blog and panic what the reaction will be. But ultimately if I am being honest in how things affect me, then I think that is for the better. I try not to filter my content and to actually write it when I am emotional or struggling, to give it authenticity.
An important part of the community to me is the connection between parents of autistic children and autistic adults. I am fortunate to be able to articulate in writing how things make me feel, and hope to use this to help parents understand and support their children. I have been lucky enough to engage with some incredible parents and am amazed at the lengths they will go to understand and support their children.
How have you learned to adopt a positive Autistic identity?
I think generally anything that makes us different can be hard to be positive about. While we see quotes everywhere about it being great to be different, the reality is it’s often difficult to not fit in. And especially so at the beginning of a journey. Whether it be your sexuality or something like autism, there is always going to be a journey of acceptance.
For me that came in engaging with others in the community. The brilliant thing about 2020 is no matter how different you are, there is a community waiting for you online. The same way the LGBT+ community can help someone come out, there is a similar coming out process in being autistic, and there is an incredible community waiting to support you through it.
When I first engaged with the #actuallyautistic tag and saw things like ‘autistic pride’ I was a bit taken back. How could I ever be proud of something that made my life harder? But I have come to learn that while I do see autism as a disability that gives me challenges others do not have, I am also incredibly proud to be autistic.
Autistic life is often dominated by the things that make life hard for us– meltdowns, sensory overload, etc. However, there are so many brilliant things about being autistic. From special interests to the intensity with which I experience life, I wouldn’t change it if I could.
Have you ever met resistance/obstacles to adopting a positive autism identity? Explain.
Yes, of course. I am an autistic advocate that most of the time is incredibly proud to be autistic. But I would be lying to say there aren’t days where I walk through my door in tears, and in that moment, would give anything to not be autistic. When the world gets heavy and it all seems too much, there are times I just want to ‘be normal’. But these days are few and far between. I guess everyone has days they think the world is unfair, and they want it to be easier.
I understand this process and journey of acceptance enough now to know those times will pass. Autistic life is a life of extremes, and when it all gets too much, it is hard to see through the weight of it all. I engage in calming and recovery activities (special interests, sleep, etc) and let it wash over.
What do you wish more people understood about autism (or about you specifically)?
I wish people would not apply their own experiences of the world onto others. Autism by definition means we experience the world differently. You won’t always understand our way of life and why we feel/think the things we do. But that doesn’t make it wrong, it doesn’t mean you can’t support us.
What are your current academic and professional goals?
Academically I am studying my Master’s in Business Management in Financial Services and also chartering to be a management accountant. Professionally I am a full-time accountant and incredibly lucky to work for an inclusive company that supports me.
Who are your greatest allies and why?
My greatest allies are my closest family and partner. The hardest part of autistic life is feeling isolated from the world. When your brain works differently to most people’s, it can feel like there is a constant barrier between you and the world.
The things they do to support me are often the smallest of things that make a huge difference to my day. Whether it be making sense of instructions or helping me gain perspective on a situation that is blowing up in my mind – they constantly make the world more accessible for me.
Aside from my support system, I have come across incredible work colleagues and university lecturers that have made huge differences to my life. I don’t think any of them realise just how much they have affected my life in the small things. In a world that is intense and scary, just giving us time and patience will go a long way to helping us through.