Autism in females is not well understood: possibly because autistic traits manifest themselves differently in girls than they do in males and girls are better as masking their autistic traits. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many females go through their entire lives without a diagnosis. Through the story of my life (and my experience of living with autism), I hope to raise awareness of autism in females and remove some of the mental health stigmas and misconceptions attached to the label.
The following is a short extract from my book entitled.
Label Me: My Journey Towards an Autism Diagnosis
Label Me, from Chapter Five. Entering the World of Work
My first job was short lived. I was fifteen years old and desperate to establish some independence and in turn, earn some money. My mum helped me get a job in a local chip shop, and as my sister worked there already, I pretty much had it in the bag. Just as well really since the interview was a disaster! Well, perhaps this is a little harsh, but it did demonstrate my naivety and inexperience of the interview process.
When asked about my hobbies, I responded with “er… I enjoy cleaning dishes”. I knew this was a big part of the job role and thus thought this was the most appropriate answer; a mistake I have since learned from.
The job was much harder than anticipated. I struggled to cope with the fast-paced nature of it and the need to multitask – holding a conversation, whilst writing down an order and collecting plates all at the same time was, for me, an almost impossible task. It was a busy place and the whole experience was overwhelming. To make matters worse, one of the managers approached me during my second shift and said with what I thought was an inappropriate tone, “THE CUPS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE CLEAN”. He must have thought I was useless and could not do the job. There was no way I could face him again. “Screw this”, I thought. “I am out of here”. I was too embarrassed to call, so instead, and without an explanation, I did not turn up to my next shift. Little did I know, this would become a recurring behavioural pattern in relation to work. I don’t think my sister was very impressed either as she had to make up some excuse about me not being well and unable to resume my role as the terrible cup cleaner – kind of ironic given my recently stated hobby.
Francesca Baird, 28 February, 2021