Image created by Jamie Aldridge with ideas from Zoe Rattigan
Zoe Rattigan shares the colourful life she leads
When I was around seven years old I was diagnosed with autism and Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I also have social anxiety.
Welcome to the world of Zoe: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful!
There are different words used to describe autism, such as ASD or Asperger Syndrome. All types of autism cause difficulties in social communication, social interaction and imagination;
ASD means Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Some signs of autism are delayed speech, difficulties making friends, finding eye contact hard and having sensory issues. Most autistic people have ‘special interests’, which means they are really into very narrow or specific topics such as trains, horses and Pokémon. At the moment, I’m interested in Taylor Swift and her song ‘Love Story’, so much so that I’ve written an article about her career and recorded my version of ‘Love Story’ multiple times. It’s beautiful!
Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger Syndrome typically don’t have delayed speech and have average or above-average intelligence. Some people call this ‘high-functioning autism’, which means they may need less support than other autistic people;
ADHD means Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. This causes difficulties focusing, paying attention to tasks and settling for long periods e.g. during lessons at school. Although I struggle to keep still for any length of time, I do have good energy for getting things done quickly and efficiently;
Social anxiety means feeling extremely nervous (anxious) in social situations (around people). People with social anxiety can worry a lot about meeting people, going out to see people, talking on the phone or embarrassing themselves in public e.g. blushing.
Check out this video: ‘Understand autism, the person and what to do.’
Many autistic people also have ADHD, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.
Having autism affects me in many ways, for example I often find it hard to understand the consequences of my actions. Some people don’t realise how sensitive I am, which I find very frustrating as I can feel that people don’t take the time to understand me.
Social anxiety makes it difficult for me to be in a room full of people, or in crowds. I tend to overthink things that have happened already, for example worrying I’ve done something wrong when I haven’t. I feel very overwhelmed when this happens to me; my heart rate increases, I panic and become breathless. Sometimes I get so nervous I can’t speak properly, I have to rehearse what I want to say before I say it out loud. When these feelings come up, I like to take time out in a quiet space and breathe deeply until I feel calm and happy again.
On Thursdays at my youth centre, Somers Town, it can get too crowded and hectic for me. I like going on the quieter days, which are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I also don’t like Thursdays at the centre because I often bump into people I’ve fallen out with, I feel like they’re making fun of me and talking about me behind my back. I can get too anxious to go to the youth centre on Thursdays; I prefer to stay at home and listen to soothing music which makes me feel chilled.
I was interested to learn that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. For every five boys who are diagnosed with autism, only one girl will be.
At my college, Leighton College there are a lot more boys than girls. We are all very different young people with different abilities and disabilities but generally we all have fun and a lot of laughs. I enjoy every day at college. It is a very supportive place.
If you are autistic or know someone who is and would like advice and support check out this link.
For more information about Leighton College go to the Elfrida Rathbone Camden website.