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Aiden Tsen

Thursday 14 October 2021

Living and learning with autism

Secondary school was overwhelming 

The transition to secondary school was really tough, especially as I joined a new school in Year 8. I felt overwhelmed: it was much bigger than primary school and the social expectations were higher. 

My parents noticed I wasn’t settling in well, though I maintain Year 8 would be a challenging time to join a new school for anyone. When I read a book containing an autistic character, I told my parents that I thought I was autistic too. That’s what led to me getting my autism diagnosis


My diagnosis helped me find new strategies 

It was a relief to learn I was different as it helped me and my family understand what my strengths are and where I struggle. We were able to adapt so I could live in a way that suited me better. 

I learnt to create transition plans with the special educational needs coordinator at school, making the prospect of facing change in the future easier to manage. 

My schools also made adjustments for me when I took my GCSE and A-Level exams, giving me the same opportunity to succeed as everyone else. Now when I apply for jobs, I also ask for reasonable adjustments during the application and interview process. 

The disability charity KEEN London, which I’ve been volunteering with for four years, also tries really hard to understand my viewpoint as an autistic person. The organisation makes adjustments that help me get the best out of myself, and allow me to provide better support for the autistic and disabled children and young people I work with there. They’ve said multiple times that they value my perspective as a disabled person, and I believe my lived experience of autism makes me a better volunteer. 


I want a society that understands and helps autistic people 

Although I’m now much better equipped to deal with the challenges I face, life still has its struggles. 

As I get older, my senses keep changing. I continually have to rediscover what I’m comfortable with and relearn my sensory and social limits. I’ve also found some job application processes, even with disability charities, to be inaccessible for me. This is really frustrating. 

As autistic people, it’s easy to feel marginalised and like we’re not fully seen as human. I’d love a greater acknowledgement of autistic struggles, and a society that helps us play to our strengths. Ultimately, I just want what every other young person wants: to feel valued and understood. 


About the author 

Youth Patron Aiden is a 20-year-old freelance autistic LGBTQ+ public speaker, blogger, writer and artist


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