Autism, to be more precise Aspergers. I have Aspergers, which is a form of Autism. Some people call it ‘High Functioning’, some say its ‘just social issues’, I say it's my gift and I wouldn’t change a thing about me, but I have to be honest it's also the hardest thing I deal with each day.
I wasn’t diagnosed as a child; I wasn’t even diagnosed as a teenager. I was diagnosed at the age of 40! Sadly, that is 40 years that has been wasted. There are arguments by some that being diagnosed won't help you as a person, I disagree very strongly. Until my diagnosis I went through 40 years of knowing I was different. Let's start at the beginning......
As a young child my speech was slower than others but even though I went to a speech therapist it wasn’t long before I was at the same stage as others. I have vivid memories of sitting in a classroom, but I felt daunted, everything was so loud and confusing. The teacher would be speaking but it was too complex for me to follow at the pace I was being taught. Friends were playing together in the yard, but I didn’t understand this I could never get a word in edge ways, I quickly learnt to spend every playtime in ‘my spot’. My spot was a drainpipe, yes, a drainpipe. It was my safe place; it was in a corner and I had my back to the wall which meant I only had to worry about what was in front of me. Luckily my school only had 34 children in it, and this was my saving grace, I am not sure how I would have coped with being in a large school I can only imagine that this would have been very detrimental to my well-being and education.
Educationally I left secondary school with a GCSE in Welsh and a GCSE in Art (something I was very passionate about). The teachers gave up on me and told me not to attempt any other GSCEs. Nobody picked up on any issues that I had. I however went through my life knowing that I was very different to my peers, I saw things differently than other people. What do I mean by differently? I am very practical and can find a solution to anything, I am a problem solver. I do not learn the traditional way, but I will explain this later.
Nannying is the perfect job for me, largely this is down to the solo working that I do. Being a nanny has never caused me issues with regards working with children. I always understood when a child was having a meltdown as I experience these myself, although these are always managed in a way that won't cause an impact on my working hours. I have learned to now channel my anxiety to times I am alone. It may take me longer to understand situations, but most of all what I do find difficult to this day is extended periods of being around others and social situations. This is due to the information I am constantly taking in and worrying about the social situation and how I am conducting myself. I learnt from my third job how people conduct themselves and I have stuck to this since. Let me explain. This job was for a HNW family who were just the most beautiful people, I learnt how people greet each other. If people meet me now you will get a beaming smile, a handshake and I will ask how you are, or I will say ‘its lovely to meet you’. This is a learnt behaviour. People have suggested that I can't have Asperger's as I obviously don’t have issues talking to people. Let me explain what is going on in my head, the head of someone with Asperger's who has learnt to mask. I will be looking you in the eye but to me this almost physically hurts, I don’t look people in the eye because I just don’t understand it. It is so unnatural and doesn’t feel normal. I will ask you how you are or that it's nice to meet you but inside I am hoping you don’t make a joke as I won't instantly understand what you mean by this, my mind is going like the clappers taking in my surroundings. It is exhausting and therefore I am so tired all the time.
Fast forward to the age of 37. After 18 years of nannying I decided I needed to take a break to conquer the life differences I was facing. I needed to understand who I was and why I was so different to others. After a one-week job in London turned into a ten-month temp job I decided it was time to find out who I was and headed back to Wales to do just that. Two years I waited to be seen by the Autism Spectrum Disorder team. Whilst I was waiting, I was offered the opportunity to go to university. I knew I was clever, but I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out considering leaving school without many qualifications. Long story short I asked for an assessment as I was struggling and thought maybe I also had dyslexia. This showed I wasn’t dyslexic, but I had Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a developmental delay condition that affected my processing of information, this shed light on why I learn differently than others. The educational psychologist also noted that the test was unusual and suggested I might also have Asperger's; this was the best news as it confirmed my thoughts.
Asperger's/ASD was confirmed by a psychologist from the Local Health Board. What this all meant to me was immense. I was now labelled, to me though it meant I was normal. I knew now that yes, I had issues but that I could access the help I needed to live a normal life. I was attending University of Wales Trinity St David's in at the time and they were amazing. They allowed me to just learn at home, I wasn’t required to attend lectures. I would sit in lectures and come out exhausted and not learn anything. To process the information, I need to process I had to learn what worked for me. Reading, reading and reading was how I learnt. I had to buy a huge white board to even attempt my dissertation. I used something called Mindview, this meant I could jot all my thoughts down on the board and get them out of my head to then be able to process everything and form my argument. Without doing this there would be no way I could have done my dissertation. 10000 words would not have made sense otherwise. I went from getting a Pass mark to getting Merits to getting Distinctions in my second and third years. I finished university in 2018 with a 2:1 BSc Hons Health Management. My Graduation was the proudest day of my life, I did it I went from zero qualifications to a full-blown degree with almost top marks something I always knew I could do. I just did it my way!
Children are complex, unique and amazing. Autism can sometimes be so subtle that it may not appear to affect a child but there are always clues. This could be a failure to thrive at school or difficulties keeping or making friends. It could be autism, it could not but one thing I am certain of, getting the help at the earliest possible opportunity will only help a child in the future. If a child is testing you and you are finding the job tough, think about what you can do to help and if there is something that you think needs discussing with the parents. The most valuable thing that I wish people did when I was young would have been to talk to me, I was educationally ignored but you as a nanny could change the course of a child's life forever and for the better by thinking
outside of the box and asking “does this child need something more than they are being offered now?”
Emilie has been a nanny for 23 Years. She’s currently working as a Nanny/PA and lives in the South of the UK. Emilie lives with her dog. When Emilie is not working, she enjoys exploring local footpaths and camping. She also volunteers as a Community First Responder for the Ambulance Service in her local area which she does to give back to her community.