‘A way to be me’: Autobiographical reflections of autistic adults diagnosed in mid-to-late adulthood

Published October 2021
Abstract
Using oral history methods, we interviewed and recorded 26 autistic adults in Australia about their life history. We wanted to better understand interviewees’ self-reflections about their lives. The interviewers were autistic researchers and the interviews were analysed by autistic and non-autistic researchers. All of the adults we interviewed were born before 1975 and formally identified as autistic after age 35 years. This group of people is sometimes referred to as ‘late-diagnosed autistic adults’. In general, there is not much research done about autistic adults and even less is known about those diagnosed late in life. In this article, we explore what these adults said about their sense of self and how that changed over time. These autistic adults told us about many negative experiences, including trauma, which had shaped how they think about themselves. For most, autism diagnosis had a very positive impact on their sense of self, allowing them to understand more about their own past and to feel good about their autistic identity. Previously some researchers have said that autistic people have a limited or impaired sense of self. Instead, our results show some autistic people can actually reflect deeply on their lives and their changing sense of self-identity over time.
Citation
Lilley, R., Lawson, W., Hall, G., Mahony, J., Clapham, H., Heyworth, M., Arnold, S.R.C., Trollor, J. T., Yudell, M., Pellicano, E. (2021). ‘A way to be me’: Autobiographical reflections of autistic adults diagnosed in mid-to-late adulthood. Autism, early online. doi: 10.1177/13623613211050694

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