My advice on explaining your autistic needs
I was diagnosed as autistic in 2014 at my local hospital. This was quite a difficult time for me as I was struggling with other issues alongside trying to get my autism diagnosis. At the time I received it I was still in school and my Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) was able to support myself and my mum to get the help I needed during that time. We also applied for an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) plan so professionals could support me in the best way.
In the beginning, I found it very difficult to say what my needs were and what support I wanted. With time I was able to meet with my SENCO and talk about what could be adapted or changed to help me further. This gave me a chance to understand myself and my diagnosis better. After school, I went on to do an apprenticeship where I advocated for the support that I needed until I realised they had very little understanding of what autism was.
Currently, I receive support for autism and co-occurring conditions from my GP, mental health team, and other physical health practitioners. Each professional supports me in a slightly different way; for example, my GP, who I’ve known for many years now, will use basic language to make sure I understand what she is saying. She will also give me as long as I need in my appointments.
I advocated to have reasonable adjustments when meeting my community psychiatric nurse, asking them to meet me at my local medical practice rather than meeting at my house. I felt more comfortable discussing my autistic needs there and we also met at the same time each appointment for consistency. When I asked about having these adjustments, I felt quite nervous, so beforehand I wrote them down on my phone in case I became extremely anxious and forgot. My psychiatric nurse was pleased I had asked for adjustments - it helped us work better together to improve my wellbeing.
I am waiting to start a new adventure; I recently got a job offer to start working again. I’ve been apprehensive about this after struggling in my last job. I have had a positive experience so far, I declared that I am autistic and have other difficulties, and the company has been supportive of this right from the very beginning. Before my interview, I felt really supported, they made sure I was as comfortable as possible with the interview stages and if I had any questions leading to the day. Now leading up to me starting the job, they have assigned me with someone in HR who is able to support me to understand the forms and information I need to be able to start the job. I feel much more confident with this support. The adjustments that I currently have are completely different from the support that I had in school.
Your needs are forever changing and will change depending on your circumstances and what environment you are in. For example, if you are studying at college your needs will be different from when you’re in an interview situation. Don’t feel pressured to know what your needs are straight away and what support might help you. You’re always learning and developing skills about your diagnosis and what will help you to achieve your goals.
My top tips when advocating for your autistic needs are:
- Write them down
- Ask people around you or who already support you for their ideas
- Be flexible with the people you’re working with
- Don’t feel embarrassed about needing support
- Always be open and honest.
About the author
Georgia is a member of the Ambitious Youth Network.