Miranda Stevens

"Because every picture tells a story"



100

 PORTRAITS OF AUTISTIC WOMEN AND GIRLS


Sietske

I’m Sietske. I’m 25 years old and I live in Groningen with my assistance dog (in training), Lilly. I like music, writing and walking in nature.

At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with ASD. I got stuck in life, especially when I started living on my own and studied Physiotherapy. My autism makes it difficult for me to switch gears and therefore I have difficulty with changes. I suffer from anxiety. Processing stimuli is also a challenge. In addition to the stimuli from outside, I’m also a deep thinker and I analyze conversations, for example. My head is often filled to the brim. 


There are positive sides to my ASD as well, which actually make my life pleasant. I can become very enthusiastic about (sometimes small) things and I can express myself well in writing.

I’m proud that, despite the 'bumps' in the road, I’ve made more steps than I’ve ever done before. I’m also proud of Lilly, my best buddy on paws. I'm now writing a book about my road within mental health care and having a psychosocial service dog, which I love to do! If everything goes according to plan, the book will be finished around May 2023.

The tip I want to give to others with autism is: bloom like a flower, which dances in the rain. And save the bright sides in life.



Nienke

I'm Nienke, I’m 26 years old and a student, studying to become a Dutch language teacher. I relax by watching series on the couch or reading, with my two cats. If I want to be in a bigger crowd, I drink a specialty beer with friends or go to a concert. I also go to the climbing gym and do yoga.

Previously, everything was exhausting, confusing and heavy to me and I couldn't imagine that this was the case for everyone. When I saw the documentary about autism in women by Vet Gezellig, I had an ‘aha-experience’. This was the reason for my diagnosis process: I’m autistic and I got ADD as a bonus. Since then, I’ve made a lot of progress. That's great, but it also means that I managed to cram a quarter of a century of trial and error into one year.

The grieving process came first, together with the discovery that I’ve always copied others. Then finding the strength to give meaning to my identity followed. I get a lot of satisfaction from doing the things that I want to do. I’m more aware of my limits. I know I'm not neurotypical, so I can stop trying to be that way.


Autism is not a reason to think I can't do something, nor is it a straitjacket. That has an impact on many parts of life. For example, my boyfriend and I lived together, but we found out that it was better to live separately again. I discover new insights every day. This is overwhelming, sometimes hopeless, but it helps me go along.

During my diagnosis process I was in the first year of my studies. I was unsure whether my suspicion of autism was the explanation for my feeling of always being different, and what it would mean if I was indeed autistic. I'm surprised, but most importantly proud, that I survived that emotional rollercoaster and embraced my diagnosis.

My tip: If you have autism, especially in an overwhelming neurotypical environment, it’s important to listen to yourself. Don't get lost in "that's how everyone does it" and don't think it's selfish or weird. I wear sunglasses on cloudy days, on the sunniest days I stay indoors. I don't do small talk if I don't have the energy for it and in a restaurant I ask if the volume of the music can be lowered. It's more meaningful to follow your needs, not someone else's.



Annelien

My name is Annelien, I live in the beautiful province Overijssel in the Netherlands, where my husband and I are raising our son and daughter together. Sometimes I joke that I’m autistic and they 'unfortunately are normal'. They develop according to 'the guidelines', while I clearly was different as a child… I’m alternately happy and stressed about that. I explore these feelings, in addition to scientific articles about autism and parenting, on my Instagram instagram.com/ann_autimam. I also write blogs and I want to publish a book.

I was diagnosed with autism in 2000. The medical explanation about autism did not give me a positive image of myself, but it did help me find peers. I understand other autistic people much easier and I like talking to them! I like social contact. It’s just that 'normal' people have so many social rules, or they want to meet in environments that are very noisy. At the same time, I understand that friends and family are not always understanding when I get overstimulated. They still enjoy a situation, while I want to go back to the peace of my own home (or I mentally check out).
Despite the fact that a lot of things do not go according to 'the standard', I’m proud that I persevere and that I know my qualities. To me, the core of autism lies in the layout of my brain: In some areas I can think very fast ('autistical'?), while in another area I think slowly (processing emotions). Every day, I have to weigh up what my brain can handle.  I look for too much stimuli: Everyday tasks will no longer be doable. I look for too few stimuli: I slide into inactivity. Since 2006, I have an ambulatory support worker helping me with maintaining a weekly structure. In a tougher year, I will see the SGGZ (specialized mental health care) again. And since I became a mother, finding my balance is more difficult, but I like challenges.
 
My tips: If you want to have children, don’t let anything stop you. There will be people (even caregivers and support workers) that see your struggles and say that “because of your autism, you can’t be a mother”. Come on! You’ve reached adulthood, so you have enough qualities, right? You are allowed to have weaknesses and a solution can be found for everything. If you don’t know a solution, there are people around you who want to help you. Parenting doesn’t just rest on your shoulders. You are not alone <3. 



I got diagnosed very late (when I was 38 years old). When I came back from my mission to Afghanistan, my mother sent me to a doctor because I was depressed. Since then, I've had more and more of periods like these, I became more emotional, I felt stuck and I was severely fatigued. Eventually I got diagnosed and shortly after that I had to call in sick, because I was in a burnout. I really didn’t enjoy life, it was very tough and I felt very down.

Claire

Hi! My name is Claire, I’m 23 years old and I live in Hilversum with my boyfriend and my two cats. Together we are making a podcast about mental health, which is called Stoorzender. In addition, I’m currently working a few days a week as a barista, and I also set up my own business, a webshop through which I sell my illustrations and handmade products.
I’ve been diagnosed with autism for a year now. I’ve been in treatment in mental health care for a long time, but with little actual result. When I read a bit more about masking in autism, it was like I was reading about myself. As I read more and more about autism, I have come to understand myself better and better. I suffer a lot from shutdowns, in which I can no longer communicate. I also get overstimulated easily. I’m now learning how to deal with this with a support worker.

My autism limits me in many ways, but I wouldn't want to live without it. I am very detail-oriented and creative because of my autism. I can also enjoy occupying myself with my creative hobbies with a big intensity. I can completely forget about the time, because I get so caught up in it.
My tip to other autistic people is to not only look at the bothersome sides of your autism. Find a hobby or interest that makes you intensely happy. For me, that’s being creative. You will probably also have something that makes you very happy!

Suzanne

My name is Suzanne Rijken (instagram.com/autiesuus), I’m 17 years old and I’m from Den Bosch. This year I’m in my final year of secondary school, next year I hope to study linguistics. My hobbies are playing the trombone and pursuing my special interests (autism and linguistics).
I was diagnosed with ASD at the end of 2020. The reason I went out for diagnosis was that I wasn’t feeling well. After receiving the diagnosis, I felt a lot of relief. I always felt weird and different. I didn't feel understood as well. 

Getting the diagnosis has partly been able to change that feeling.
Autism causes a lot of anxiety, I become easily overstimulated and I have difficulty with changes, among other things. My autism also has positive sides; I’m creative, I always go for things 200% and I have a strong sense of justice. I try to show this on my Instagram account Instagram.com/autiesuus. There are also informative posts. 
I’m proud that - in recent years -  I have come to know myself better and that, as a result, I can listen to myself better and therefore set boundaries.
My tip for others with autism is to look for recognition and acknowledgement. I was able to find this on Instagram. Especially fellow auties have ensured that I dare to be myself more.


If you have autism, especially in an overwhelming neurotypical environment, it’s important to listen to yourself. Don't get lost in "that's how everyone does it" and don't think it's selfish or weird

Laura

I’m Laura and I’m 44 years old. I got my autism and AD(H)D diagnoses nine years ago.

I’m the mother of one son and a ‘gift-mom’ of two bonus kids with ASD and/or AD(H)D. I got my diagnoses because people didn’t really know why my son was having issues at a young age. Instead, I was taken in for tests. If I didn’t do this, I probably never would have known I have autism. I’ve been walking around with autism for 35 years, without even knowing it. And still, it often isn’t recognized in women and girls well, unfortunately. That is why I’m very happy to participate in the FANN project, to empower other women and girls with autism and to show that there really are a whole lot of possibilities. For instance, at the age of 30 I studied SPW3 and now I’m doing the MBO4 training to become a personal guide/coach and lived-experience expert. I also created an Instagram account to give others a glimpse into my life and autistic brain (@autistic.lautie). I really like to help others, especially by showing how things work for me. That often makes it recognizable to the other individual. Because of that recognition, it can help someone enormously when processing their diagnosis. Not being the only one dealing with certain things that you run into or have difficulty with, or not at all.


The impact of my diagnosis gave me an explanation for my mega 'burnout 2.0' of 5,5 years. At the time, I got no help after my diagnosis (which my son did receive immediately), that took me more than four years. Finding out by yourself and understanding for yourself what YOUR autism means to you, and why you sometimes have issues with things is so important in this process.

I’m proud of my son (who also has autism and ADHD), how he gets through life despite the fact that it’s often difficult for him at school, with friendships, etc. He really is just himself and that is admirable, I believe.

My tips: See what suits you and what you need to rediscover and develop yourself. You often can do much more than you think and you certainly can do more than other people sometimes say you can. Keep looking at what is possible and focus on those positive things!

Marleen

My name is Marleen, I’m 28 and I know that I have autism for about a year now. In 2019 I graduated from Copenhagen Business School, with a Master of Science Advanced Economics & Finance degree. In 2021 I moved back to the Netherlands, after living and working in Copenhagen for 4,5 years. I didn’t feel all that good, to put it mildly. The covid-19 pandemic reinforced that feeling. After a few months, I went to a mental health institution to ask if I might have autism. That turned out to be the case, which means that my brain processes information and stimuli differently than 99% of the population without ASD. My whole life I have felt extremely stressed, over the smallest things. Issues where others had no problem with, could make me feel extremely stressed out, tense, anxious or insecure. I now know that this is due to being autistic.  


I have analyzed and copied the behavior of others for 27 years. My brain over-analyzes on a daily basis and relaxing or unwinding is difficult. As a result, I’m exhausted a lot quicker than “neurotypical” people. I’ve had to accept that I can’t do as much as what I would initially like to do. If I don't set firm limits, I will outrun myself out of enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, perseverance and willpower. I’m proud of my growth, compared to one year ago. Unfortunately, social affairs, interaction and communication with others, remain difficult. Even when I meet with friends, especially in a group, I feel tense. As fun as it is, it costs me a lot of energy. What I especially struggle with, is having a conversation about autism and neurodiversity with “neurotypical” people. 

However, I would like to say to everyone that it’s important to have that conversation. That’s also why I’m participating in this photo project.

In a society that is geared to the average “neurotypical” person, my behavior sometimes leads to conflicts. By openly talking about autism and neurodiversity together, I hope we can create a more accessible society. A society in which we can all be the best version of ourselves!

LENNIE

Hi, I'm Lennie. I’m 18 years old and I love (making) music, animals, creative things and watching movies. Currently, I’m doing 5 vwo in regular education in Groningen.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was eleven years old. At first, I didn't like that diagnosis at all. But later it started to feel better. It established a better understanding in my surroundings. Next to that, I suddenly understood what the cause of certain problems was as well.

Because of my autism, I have a lot of anxiety. This limits my freedom of movement and my social contacts. Because of the anxiety, I was unable to go to school for half a year during my last school year. I’m also easily overstimulated, which often makes me tired. I fall asleep almost every afternoon.

I’m proud of every time I overcome my anxiety. And I’m proud of the fact that I’m always truly myself. Because I am truly me, I sometimes get comments that I’m childish or not normal. I try not to worry about that, because I believe that there is no age-related behavior. And I think it's normal and perfectly fine to be yourself, it makes you happy!

My tip for other people with autism: think about your strengths as well and don't just pay attention to the impossibilities. Be yourself!



The impact of my diagnosis gave me an explanation for my mega 'burnout 2.0' of 5,5 years. At the time, I got no help after my diagnosis (which my son did receive immediately), that took me more than four years. 


Eva

I’m Eva, I’m 28 years old. My love and I are having our baby soon! Today I'm a model, but most of the time I'm behind the camera. My hyperfocus is currently about pregnancy, childbirth and babies. My hobby is Feng Shui. The very best thing is cuddling with my hamster and the feeling of baby feet kicking in my belly.


I was diagnosed with autism when I was 14 years old. Before that, I was thought to be highly sensitive. The diagnosis helped me to understand myself better. Like why it took me more time than my classmates needed to learn certain things, or why I never fit in with the group. That didn't make things any easier or more fun, but at least I knew where it came from. I wasn't crazy, stupid or lazy. My brain just needed different things.

I'm still hitting the same walls now and I still need more time to learn something. Recently, I got my driver's license with only 'slightly' more lessons than I estimated (sarcasm). I still find social contact difficult. Fortunately, I have very neurodiverse friends who experience that same problem. They understand if it takes me 3 weeks to answer a message.

I’m proud of how my life looks like now. I can message friends with a joke or a problem. I’m in good contact with my family. I have a nice job with a daily structure and kind colleagues. I take good care of myself. I live in a super cool house and the most important thing: I'm with the best daddy my baby could wish for!


My tips: It's about balance. Accept that you have specific needs. Rest after doing something over-stimulating. Take action after doing something under-stimulating. Take care of yourself. Make your life pleasant.

I think it's important to join FANN at this point in my life, as a pregnant autist. People with autism are still confronted with people who actively advise against starting parenting. I don’t understand that. No, parenting isn't for everyone, but that also applies to people without autism. The choice here lies with the person themselves. You know yourself best, so you know best whether you can offer a child what it needs.

 

Kaylee

I’m Kaylee, I’m 28 years old and I live with my boyfriend (and my rabbit Ans). I have a degree in juvenile law (my big passion) and I love to bake and read books (instagram.com/kayleestboeken)!

When I got diagnosed with ASD at the end of 2018, I was relieved on the one hand, because many pieces of the puzzle fell into place. On the other hand, it was very difficult for me to accept this diagnosis. I still find it hard to use the word 'autism' when talking about myself. I prefer to use the abbreviation ASD. I’ve also told few people in my environment about the diagnosis, but participating in this project is a big step in the acceptance process for me.


The first period after the diagnosis I continued as I always had: fully participating in society, where I absolutely didn’t take my limits into account. After a while, I started to feel that by living this way I would fall back into a pattern of depression and exhaustion. This time I called in appropriate (outpatient and psychological) help to help me shape my life in a way that I can sustain. Although I started the help too late, to avoid having to call in sick for a long time at work. Which is hard for me. Currently, I’m happier than I’ve been in the past eight years!


I have now learned to recognize and respond to the tension in my body and I’m supported in creating a healthy work-life balance. My sensitivity to stimuli, difficulty with (sudden) changes, fatigue, the tendency to lose myself in work, etc. will never disappear, but now I have the tools to deal with this. Awareness and acceptance are the most important for me. Although the acceptance is still a 'work in progress', I am proud of the steps I have taken so far.

My tip that I want to pass on to other women with ASD: get help if you have trouble shaping your life in a way that is sustainable for you!

Marloes

My name is Marloes and I’m 31 years old. I live in Soest with my two cats and I work as an office manager. I’ve known that I have autism since 2020. After reading a piece on the internet about women with autism, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me and I started with further exploration. 

Besides the fact that autism entails a lot of inconveniences for me, I’m mainly focused on the search for the positive sides of it. For example, I’m good at writing texts (and puns), I always make clear agreements, I’m extremely creative and you can take me with you if you want to win at a pub quiz, because I remember a lot of random facts. Despite the fact that I never managed to complete an education, I am now exactly where I want to be in terms of work. By working hard and tripping a lot along the way, I also managed to get to this point. That is automatically my tip for everyone: if plan A doesn’t work, try plan B! 

Renske

My name is Renske, I’m 28 years old.

In 2020 I got diagnosed with autism. A lot of things fell into place.

Due to my autism I have lots of challenges, but it certainly also has its strengths! I’m proud that, now that I know that I have autism, I dare to be myself more and more, and I’m not ashamed of it. I also want to pass that on to others, that being yourself is the most important thing.

Autism affects my life in many ways. I notice that I actually work very differently than others do and I keep discovering these things! I’m overstimulated and tired easily, I go beyond my limits quickly and social situations are difficult for me.


Mirte

My name is Mirte, and I’m 39 years old. I live with my tail-wagging buddy in Roermond. I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 15 years and for the past 3 years I was editor-in-chief of Tzitzo magazine, a periodical that I founded by myself and which provided openness about mental health.

At the age of 13 I ended up in care with an anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I followed many therapies, was often hospitalized and I had to deal with a lot of misunderstanding from care providers. As a result, I lost the understanding of myself, showed less and less of my authentic self and I was often depressed.

I collected 9 diagnoses and only found out at the age of 37 that I have autism. When I finally thought I was getting appropriate treatment, I was told that I was too complex and that, due to my long therapy history, treatment wasn’t an option anymore.

Quite a blow, but I decided to go it alone. Because I no longer talked to care providers about problems, I started looking for solutions myself. By reading a lot from and about women with autism, I found recognition and the relief that I wasn’t the only one with this diagnosis. That gave me the permission to be myself and to show myself again.


Now I help other women with autism, giftedness and high sensitivity to follow their creative heart and earn money with their talent. In addition to my work as a graphic designer, I help them to become visible and to overcome their fear of failure, perfectionism and self-doubt. So they can do what makes them happy: use their creative talent and show it to the world!

I don't talk about problems but about solutions when coaching people, because talking about solutions creates more solutions. I’m guided by my own conviction: growth is not the reduction of issues, but the development of strengths.

My tips for women with autism: Never be ashamed or apologize for who you are and what you need. The poster of ‘Loesje’ above my desk reminds me daily: Be yourself, there are already so many others!

Jacintha

My name is Jacintha, I’m 26 years old and I live on my own in Nijmegen. I love fantasy, gaming and animals, and I like going to fantasy festivals and rock/metal concerts with my boyfriend or friends.
My autism has impacted my life in many ways. The main thing is that I’m very sensitive to stimuli and therefore get tired quickly. I also experience some social expectations difficulties, especially when I’m in groups. Because of this, I have not yet been able to complete my studies, but that remains a goal for me!
What I do find positive about my autism is that I’m super honest and that I really accept people as they are, even if they don't fit the norm.
I’m very proud of how far I’ve come. After 12 years of being bullied and the diagnosis I eventually received when I was 15 years old, I’ve worked very hard on myself in recent years. Which means that I now live on my own, I have a relationship and I feel like I’m firmly standing my grounds more and more. 

The tip I want to give to others with autism is: don't give up and listen to your own feelings. Sometimes care or assistance may not be right for you. Keep looking further if something or someone doesn't feel right for you. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't keep developing in your life!

Anne-Lotte

My name is Annelotte, I’m 23 years old and I live with my fiancé in the Utrecht area. I’m creative and I love fashion, interior, architecture, film and series. I work as an interior and lighting designer and have been able to turn my interests into my profession. I can go on with this for hours, with passion. 

After many trajectories, I finally have an answer to the question of what made me different: Autism. I haven't had the diagnosis of ASD for a long time, but I have suspected it for a long while.

My autism affects my daily life, in my thinking, acting and how I approach tasks. It has many advantages, but also many disadvantages. I quickly notice details, which is convenient in my field of work, I can be very focused on something and I often think out-of-the-box. I have a different view on things and that often leads to creative solutions.

I do suffer a lot from external stimuli. For example, I suffer from light, sound and sudden touches. But internal stimuli are difficult to me as well. I often do not realize that I have to drink something or that I have eaten enough.

A change in my schedule can throw my whole routine upside down. It is difficult for me to deal with this. I often panic. This is very annoying for me, but also for the people around me.

Social contact is challenging too. I often find it difficult to determine the tone of a conversation and I do not understand whether someone is joking or not. I do my best to mask, but this takes a lot of energy and effort. After a busy day or many social appointments, I am exhausted. Basically always, this manifests itself in migraine.


Getting my diagnosis has given me more confidence. I now have two good friends with autism. We get on well. I'm glad I got to know them.

I'm still learning what works for me and I'm still rediscovering myself, but I'm proud of the steps I've already taken.

My tips for others: The small victories can be big and they should be celebrated. Be proud of yourself, be happy with who you are. Ask for help if you need it, you are not alone.

Julia

I’m Julia and I’m 21 years old. I’ve got my diagnosis since I was 8 years old and I’ve had therapy all my life. I’m extremely eager to learn and I love to develop myself. I can be an extreme perfectionist in this, which is often very difficult for me. I also find it hard to say no, because I'm afraid of disappointing people or having them get upset with me. I give myself peace and space by reading, traveling, to see beautiful things in the world and by painting and drawing as a hobby.


The impact that autism has on my life, is that it sometimes is more difficult for me to understand other people in their communication. As a result, I’ve never been able to work well with classmates at school and there always was a conflict. This has been very difficult for me, because I couldn't always do something about it and sometimes people just don't understand you because of autism.

This can be extremely frustrating. I also notice that I can't do everything like everyone else. I get tired faster, have to take more moments of rest and I have to take good care of myself. I often find this difficult, because I just want to join in with the rest and not be "different". However, autism also has its advantages. You just are very unique and different. For me, this expresses itself in my honesty, my trust in people, my patience and my perseverance.


I’m proud of all the things I have learned in the years of therapy. I’ve become more confident and I stand up for myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m still far from where I need to be, but every day I learn more about myself and my autism, and how I can learn to deal with it and that is very valuable to me.

The advice I want to give to people with autism is: Don't worry if people have prejudices about people with autism, but keep focusing on yourself at all times. About what makes you special and what positive qualities your autism has and don't let anyone put you off. Even if this sometimes may be very difficult and tough.

You can't tell I’m autistic from my appearance. But I have trouble with changes, with planning, I don't like fruit and vegetables and I have a very monotonous diet. I often get judged for that. I have trouble showing emotions as well.


Natasja

I’m Natasja, I’m 29 years old. I was diagnosed with autism when I was 25 years old. My father died when I was young; mourning and reduced social capacity, because I’m highly gifted, was the explanation for my (social) problems. I’ve been in therapy several times, without diagnosis and without success. In high school I already recognized myself in the diagnosis of autism, but my psychologist refused to seriously consider this. A few years ago I collapsed and fell into a depression. This finally got me the recognition of my autism.
I like to be creative, for distraction and stimulation. I like the repetitiveness of crocheting or embroidery, the tranquility of drawing and coloring. I love to read and learn, I want to know and understand everything, and in my enthusiasm, I will tell everything about it.
Studying is a wonderful intellectual challenge. I started with Medicine - my dream study, which I couldn't finish because of the social aspects. At that time, I had no diagnosis to understand why I continued to encounter problems when patient contact increased, so I switched studies. Religious science is a study in which you can focus on a subject with a hyperfocus and you can bury yourself between piles of books. Perfect. What fascinates me is 'how do people work?': the difference between my studies is not as big as you might think.

I always felt that it was my responsibility to make sure that I could manage myself, so others didn't suffer from my differences and didn’t notice that things weren’t so easy or obvious for me. I should be able to do it by myself. Now I’m learning that asking for help is always possible and allowed, and I certainly don't have to do it on my own.
There are also times when I thought it was fine or even wonderful that I’m different from other people. Let me do my own thing. I want to rediscover that nonchalance in my life: just don't care about what others expect of you.

My tip for others: Be different. It's not about others accepting your autism, you have to accept it.

Isa

My name is Isa. I'm 20 years old. I was born and raised in Rotterdam. I’ve been living in Capelle aan den IJssel for 5 years now. In my daily life I work 3 days a week as a janitor’s assistant at the secondary school where I was a student for 7 years myself.
I've only known for almost 2 years that I have autism and ADD. That means that I often find it difficult to accept that I have these diagnoses. As a result, I’m right in the middle of the process of what autism and ADD mean to me. I’m dealing with on a daily basis, and some days go better than other days. Therefore, I see this project as a major step in my acceptance process of my diagnoses.

My autism means that I cannot tolerate busy surroundings and a whole lot of stimuli. It means that I'm always tired. That I like clarity. That, when things unexpectedly change, it’s difficult for me. Unless I chose it myself. And that I always compare myself to others. And that I find it hard to accept that I’m different than other people.
For a while, I was struggling. Therefore, I was in day treatment for 11 months, during which I got to know myself. That’s why I’m proud of myself, of where I currently am in life.
What I want to pass on to others with autism is: accept who and how you are and don't let other people influence you.

Alexia

Hi, my name is Alexia, I'm 21 years old and I live together with my boyfriend and 2 cats. I like to be creative, like taking photos and editing them. I also like to cuddle with my cats on the couch or to go on walks when the weather is nice. It hasn’t been long known that I am autistic. I've always felt like I was different. I thought and acted differently, but never really cared about that. I am me and that’s enough. I did wonder why, of course. Why don't I think and act like "the others"? That’s why I started a diagnostic trajectory to get an answer.


Autism is part of who I am, part of my view of the world and part of how I experience things. I experience light, sound, smell, taste and touch quite intensely. This has disadvantages, but it also has many advantages. I really enjoy the different layers and instruments in music, and a soft blanket, a plush toy or sweater can make me happy again and some nice smells bring back beautiful memories. But ... the same sensory stimuli also ensure, for example, that I quickly become overstimulated by the various conversations when I’m in a loud, large group.

I’m proud of the steps I have taken over the past year and I am still taking. I didn't get my diagnosis until December 2021, so in a short period of time I learned a lot about myself. Rediscovering who Alexia actually is, what my limits are and discovering what truly makes me happy.

During this "journey of discovery" I got to know 2 very dear friends, who are also autistic. Girls I can laugh with, have fun with and most of all... really be myself with.

My tip? Don't let others determine who you should be or what you should/can’t do/can do, be yourself and be proud of who you are! Take care of yourself and don't force yourself to live up to the expectations of others, it's okay if something doesn't work out once in a while or to do things at a pace that you feel comfortable with.

I don’t have my autism diagnosis for a long time, but I have already accepted it and I now know why I things are so difficult to me. I’m also transgender, which means that I was born as a girl, but that I identify as a man.


Mary-Lou

I’m Mary-Lou, I’m 26 years old and I’ve been living together with my boyfriend in Dordrecht for 5.5 years. I work 36 hours as a business analyst/functional manager for a small organization. Besides my work I enjoy singing, meeting with friends, watching series, plants, gemstones, our hamster and going out with my partner.


Autism affects how and whether I approach situation(s) on a daily basis. Because I process information 'differently', I sometimes see more or less connections/details, which is both a curse and a blessing. Also, I’m not always able to communicate what is happening with my lived experience all that well, which may cause misunderstanding. I have to work hard to give socially acceptable responses and to be understood. I also have to think about my body language, intonation and expressions. At the end of the day I’m tired and overstimulated.


I also experience beautiful autism moments. I can experience emotions to an extreme degree, including joy and happiness. I get overwhelmed by a complete warmth in my body. I’m straightforward, I have no hidden agenda. Yes means yes and no means no. I don't like fuss, I prefer to be clear and explicit. I can become extremely fixated on certain areas of interest, which causes me to know a lot of facts about many ‘unusual’ topics. At work I can extremely focus on tasks that other people “don’t feel like doing”, because I really enjoy them.  


I’m proud, because I have achieved a lot: A stable home base, a completed HBO education, a partner I can rely on, I work 36 hours a week and I have a group of friends. People with autism are not 'doomed'. Everyone is unique and has the same rights as others. We have beautiful talents. Our fellow human beings just have to do their best to find it, accept it and use it in the right way. My tip for others with autism is that you can and may use your interests and specialize in them. This is not a sin, it is your way of being human and that is beautiful. Don't be ashamed, it's a gift!

Amarantha

 My name is Amarantha and I’ve been diagnosed with Autism/PDDNOS since I was 22 years old. I work 32h-40h a week as a helper in an emergency center. I’m (almost) married and I have 2 cats. My hobbies are very diverse, from going to parties, to reading and learning about herbs.

For a long time, I felt misunderstood and I tried to adjust myself everywhere, like a chameleon. After receiving my diagnosis, a lot fell into place.


About 7 years later I also got diagnosed with ADHD, so I could finally get medication. After receiving methylphenidate, my head suddenly became quieter. This opened up a whole new world for me. The medication allows me to somewhat 'channel' my hyperfocus and make sure I get the most out of my moments.


In addition, I have found running, fitness and CrossFit as my outlet. This gives me peace of mind so I can continue on for a while. Exercise, structure, rest and stability is the ultimate recipe for me to keep standing.

Yvonne

I'm Yvonne. I’m 27 years old, married and living together, and I have 2 kittens. I work as a pharmacy technician where I prepare medication and my hobbies are photography and making costumes based on games/movies.

 

I’ve been diagnosed with autism since 2015 and with ADHD since 2022. There were suspicions of this since I was about 8 years old, but unfortunately little to no action was taken at that time. Fortunately, after these diagnoses, everything fell into place and I’m learning to deal with it in a better way. I’ve also been on medication since the ADHD diagnosis, which has given me peace of mind.


I find the impact of autism on me a difficult question to answer, purely because I recently learned that it’s combined with ADHD and I can't quite place what trait comes from which diagnosis. But my communication is the biggest problem. When I'm just getting to know someone, I start masking intensely and seem neurotypical, it happens automatically. Little by little I’m trying to unlearn this.


Then I fall through the cracks, and it costs me a lot of energy to keep up with that, I don't express non-verbal signals or I express them plain wrong, I don't pick up on the others’ non-verbal cues at all. I have a very strong hyperfocus that arises spontaneously and it’s also difficult for me to get out; This is sometimes useful and sometimes not at all. In that respect it’s often very black and white with me: Either I get distracted by everything or I can't possibly be distracted from where the hyperfocus is at that moment, when this is the case it’s very difficult to switch to something else. I also get overstimulated very quickly, but I often look for stimuli. “Social cues” is something I find very difficult to have and to take into account, I honestly do not realize this and it can often lead to unpleasant situations. These situations made me very insecure.


Despite that, I’m proud that I have found my ways to make situations more bearable for myself and others and that I’ve learned a lot. And I continue to learn every day. I also advise everyone to find what works for you.

Scarlett

My name is Scarlett, I’m 44 years old, married to Raymond and mother of two boys (17 & 13). I have known that I’m autistic for 3 years now. Not knowing has led me to walk a difficult road. Recently, I feel happy for the first time.


I’ve had depressions since puberty, due to constant overload from not knowing that I’m autistic, because I wanted to be as 'normal' as possible. I wanted to prove to those around me that I'm not stupid or different, even though I had that idea myself. The constant stress also resulted in 2 cancer diagnoses before my 40th birthday. Having survived this, I fell into a severe depression, with admission. I then read an article by Annelies Spek and the book ‘Niet ongevoelig’ ('Not insensitive') by Hennie Struik; For the first time I fully recognized myself. Shortly after the diagnosis I got a gastric bypass and partly because of that and lots of exercise, I lost 50 kg. Due to stress and medication I had become overweight.

Since the diagnosis I’ve had personal guidance: 2 Boba life course coaches who guide me through everything that’s difficult to me. This is the best help I could get. Finally, I experience peace in my life.

I’m proud of myself. Recently I got a tattoo of a wolf, lotus flower and full moon. The wolf symbolizes my fighting power and found zest for life. I can now enjoy the little things, like taking the dog for a walk, homemade soup, being creative in the garage, painting or baking something.

I’m proud of my husband. Raymond has continued to believe in me and us. We've been through some hard times, but never gave up. We have two beautiful sons that we’re very proud of.

 

My tip for people with autism: Look for the right specialized assistance, such as a life coach, through WMO. Together you can search for what feels right for you. Let go of what you think "should" and do what makes you happy. Be open to your environment and vocalize what you need. Be kind and forgiving to yourself, especially during the period when you didn't know any better! Even though it looks black and dark, life can become beautiful again. That is and remains hard work, always!



Denise

My name is Denise and I’m 25 years old. I’m a Dutch person living in a Belgian border municipality. I’m active in both countries. The best of both worlds, as I always say it. I work as an activities director with people with disabilities and as a swimming teacher where I pay extra attention to children who need extra support. In my spare time I like to write and swim, I take word-drama lessons and I like to keep myself busy with the French language that I love dearly. I also enjoy reading books and spending time with my dog and being out in nature. 


For me, autism is above all having a brain that’s always working overtime: raging, dominating thoughts that constantly break the silence. I’m busy with processing information every single moment: estimating context, classifying, over-analyzing, correcting and checking. In addition, I experience feelings very intensely. What I experience as positive about this is that I enjoy things with my whole body, and not just with my heart. 

I’m the proudest of my perseverance and creativity. When I go for something, I go for it with passion. I’m currently in an intensive surgery and rehabilitation process and I had to learn how to walk again two times after my toddlerhood. Because of my autism, things often turn out differently than usual, including my rehabilitation process. I always dare to choose to do things differently and therefore in my own way. And I'm proud of that! 

 

What I would like to pass on to other people with autism, is that sometimes you have to be brave to demand inclusion by expressing your needs. Make yourself vulnerable and tell others what you need and how they can help you. Inclusion is a right, not a privilege. Everyone belongs and our unique way of thinking is like a different kind of flower. Together we make this world a beautiful garden!




Iris

Hi! My name is Iris Barten, I’m 26 years old and I live in Wageningen, where I go to university. 
I’m currently in the final phase of my master's studies at Wageningen University & Research and I’m writing my thesis, in the field of health and society. I also like to play sports, play the violin and hang out with friends. 
As of lately, I’m comfortable in my own skin. I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from my studies and I like living with my roommates. This hasn’t always been the case. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 20, when I was depressed and struggled with my bachelor study. 

My autism makes me need clarity and structure. This makes it that I’m good with planning, but also in working precise and having an eye for detail. Furthermore, I take a lot of information literally and sarcasm is my least favorite form of humor. Others will describe me as open, honest and direct. That's definitely true, because I like to share a lot with people and I don't like it when people have different intentions than what they initially show. People who don’t know me that well will describe me as serious, because I can appear reserved when I don't feel completely comfortable. When I feel comfortable, I’m cheerful and spontaneous. 

What I’m proud of is that, despite my late diagnosis, I took the time to get to know myself better through therapy. As a result, I learned a lot and that also made me able to develop into the person I am today. 
My tip for people with autism: I would actually like to emphasize to everyone that it’s important to (learn to) listen to yourself. Know, for example, what you like and what gives you energy, but also what depletes your energy, so that you can make conscious decisions about things. There is no right or wrong and don't compare yourself to others, as long as you are satisfied and can act according to what is pleasant for you, it’s fine.


Petra

My coming out. You’re so athletic, you’re creative, you’re social, you’re spontaneous, you’re a good mom, you do so much… etcetera, etcetera.

But the 'autism' secret is also hidden within this woman. Why is this a secret, you may ask? That’s because it only really manifests itself within our four walls.

The meltdowns, the rigid (thinking) patterns, the non-social person, the fixed routines and structures, the crying fits, the extreme fatigue, the negative thoughts, the physical complaints… and that’s only a small portion of it.

Outside our four walls I’m the woman described in the first paragraph and that has taken me far. But that's exhausting!


But how confused I still am after my diagnosis, which I got almost a year ago. Who am I now? It’s one of the questions you often hear among people with ASD. Every day I struggle with this, which includes the acceptance process.

Were the therapists right? Have they done the research properly? Didn't I fool them because I already knew so much beforehand? Isn't it a 'hype' these days?

Yet, this is the only diagnosis where I feel 'at home', after many misdiagnoses.


My name is Petra and I’m 37 years old, I’m married and I have two children and this is my coming out!

So for anyone who’s still at the same stage as me...

It's OK to not be perfect all the time! (small side note: it’s still a long learning process for me, but where there’s a will...)

Madelief

My name is Madelief, I am 19 years old and I’m from Schiedam. In my daily life I’m a busy person, I study biology and medical laboratory research and I’m spending time setting up my own creative company (@madeby.liev).

Autism affects my life in many ways. I notice that I actually work very differently than others do and I keep discovering these things! I’m overstimulated and tired easily, I go beyond my limits quickly and social situations are difficult for me. But I also get good grades at school and I'm very creative. I experience many disadvantages of autism, but advantages too. Autism is just a part of me!

I am very proud of how much I have learned about myself so far. I am a go-getter and I really believe that I can achieve anything I want. I will never give up. But I’m also learning to listen to myself more and more, what do I want? What's good for me? So I don't go over my limits. Finding a balance is getting better and better. I’m so proud of that!

My tip for other autistics: Talk to others! Talking really helps. And surround yourself with people who make you feel good and loved. Don't be afraid to indicate what you need, that will only make you strong!


Mayke

My name is Mayke Bloem and I’m 22 years old. I’ve been diagnosed with autism, social anxiety disorder and depression since 2017. I dropped out of school because of this too. I struggled a lot with myself, so I decided to write down my issues and started a blog. These blogs can be read at www.mijnlevenmetautisme.nl. This was such a success that a publisher approached me to create a book of these blogs, along with stories and experiences from the people around me. And that book is available now, it's called 'My life with autism' and can also be ordered through my website.


The impact of autism on my life is mainly the disadvantage that I’m afraid to make phone calls and I’m scared to go outside by myself. This makes it that I’m afraid to do anything alone and my boyfriend/mother have to go everywhere with me.


And of course I’m also very proud of my book. Since being in a relationship with my boyfriend, I've made great strides in my life. I have overcome more fears and I have a better control of my depression.


My tip to everyone is: be yourself and be open about your struggles. If you don't dare or thin something is scary, discuss it so that others know about it. That way it’s easier for them to help you!

Kim

I’m Kim, I’m 40 years old, a veteran and I’m currently working in the logistics sector. In my spare time I like to play sports (kickboxing), go hiking, read a book, have cuddle sessions with my two sphynxes and I like to go out with my husband and/or friends.
 
I got diagnosed very late (when I was 38 years old). When I came back from my mission to Afghanistan, my mother sent me to a doctor because I was depressed. Since then, I've had more and more of periods like these, I became more emotional, I felt stuck and I was severely fatigued. Eventually I got diagnosed and shortly after that I had to call in sick, because I was in a burnout. I really didn’t enjoy life, it was very tough and I felt very down.
 
I’m proud of myself that I continued to see some brightness in the darkness, which gave me something to fight for, and that I asked for help to not to give in to those dark thoughts. That I always stayed hopeful that things will change for the better. I’m also proud of my parents, my sister, my husband and my friends, because they have always been there for me. I had to search for the right guidance for a long time, but now that I have it, a world opens up for me, literally.
 
Therefore, my tip is to not give up, stay open-minded and find someone who can help you discover the best version of yourself. Everyone is unique, be-YOU-tiful.

Willemijn

My name is Willemijn and I’m 26 years old. I like drawing, painting and animals. I’m creative, sensitive and thoughtful.
Having autism and growing up is a difficult combination to me. I’ve almost completed my engineering studies, but I cannot yet imagine myself as a professional. The responsibilities, the workload and the interaction with colleagues scare me. I feel like I’m a child among 'grown-ups'. Completing my education means the start of something new. I’m experiencing that this transition is very difficult at the moment. When I think about it, the world seems to break into pieces, together with me. That's why I prefer to keep everything the same. Familiar and safe. But that’s simply impossible.
I’ve been living in the Autism Clinic in Heiloo for a few months now. Here, I hope to gradually develop more self-confidence, and to become more resilient. To discover how I can shape my life in a way that suits me.

Connecting with other people isn’t always easy for me. If someone has a communication style that differs from mine, I can shut down. Often, I prepare conversations in my head. I come up with answers to possible questions and 'rewrite' those answers again. Even after conversations, I have a lot of thinking to do. Did I say 'the right thing'?!
I’m proud that, even on difficult days, I manage to get up and get something out of my day, even if it’s just as small as feeling the warm sun on my face on a cold winter's day.
I would like to say to other people with autism: It's okay if you need more time than others to get used to a change. Give yourself the time for that.


Dèbra

I’m Dèbra, I’m 36 years old and I live in Burgh-Haamstede.
I was diagnosed with ASD when I was 34 years old. I've always felt that I was different and with the diagnosis I found out that I actually was. I only got my diagnosis because I was in a burnout at that time. Working 5 days a week in a high position turned out to be much too much for me with my autism. I now have great guidance from an autism coach and things are getting better and better.

I am very insecure about my appearance and would like to participate in this FANN photo project to be more proud of myself. So I can look back at the photos and think “Look, how beautiful!” What I’m proud of is that I’m currently working again and that I have recovered after my burnout.
I would like to tell other people with autism to search for good guidance, someone with whom you feel safe and who gives you tips. 
Really, it’s worth it.

Kristin

My name is Kristin, I’m 25 years old and I have autism.


I experience the impact of autism as a daily 'burden'. I always have to be aware of what I'm doing and when I shouldn’t do anything for a little bit. If I don’t, I’ll become overstimulated. Accepting my capacities remains difficult and confrontational. I do manage to keep a better balance. Yet, there are moments when I can curse the consequences of autism and the acceptance is nowhere to be seen. Especially when I'm confronted with things that I can't do or are more difficult to me because of autism, and therefore I have to take a step back more often than the average person would. I have found a lot of recognition and peace in this through the term ‘living loss’.

Living loss is chronic grief. It is sorrow for a loss that never ends. The process of living loss gives words to my feelings, and peace as well. Because earlier I could not rhyme why on the one hand I can accept myself as I am - with autism - but on the other hand can be so taken by surprise at times where I’m confronted with the impact of autism. I now know who I want to be, who I am and where I want to go. This gives me the power to keep going.


I'm most proud of the way I got through everything and turned that into something valuable; lived experience expertise. I’m almost finished with my HBO level and I have a wonderful place of work within specialist mental health care which focusses on implementing recovery-supportive care. With even more pride I am committed to create a more diverse society and help with destigmatisation.

My tip to people with autism: Listen to the feeling your body gives you, try to put that into words and find a way that suits you. And never let other people define the limit of what is possible to grow and change. When you manage to focus on improving your strengths, your self-confidence will grow and you’ll often feel like a more powerful person. When you dare to look with another perspective, you show courage, you make someone else think and you make the world a little bit more beautiful every day.

Sus

My name is Sus van Boxel (@autism stories). I’m 16 years old. Since I was 7, I’ve known that I have autism (then: Asperger). Since 2018 this is called autism. I currently work in a restaurant and I’m in the fourth year of the HAVO in special education.
Autism has a very big influence on my life. For example, I can't always join a family activity if I want to. In addition, because of all the stimuli and stress, I am unable to go to school.

Every time I am at work and then come home, I’m proud. I always dread the stimuli and everything that is expected of me. Despite the fact that I can put on 'a mask' very well, it seems as if it costs more energy at work than usual.

My tip for people with autism: I once received this tip myself, but it’s also the hardest tip (for me): follow your heart. If you think something isn’t working for whatever reason, then follow and trust your gut and don't do it. Don't go with the crowd because you think you should or because they expect you to.

Virginie

My name is Virginie, I’m 53 years old. A Sunday child, because I was born on s Sunday and everything seemed to go very smoothly. I was a happy child, I liked going to school, had many friends and was always on the tennis court. I was born quite a few years later than my siblings [In Dutch: nakomertje]. It was tranquil at home, perhaps that's why there were no signs of autism. When I started studying it immediately became more difficult. I graduated with my willpower, hard work and perseverance. I didn't follow the usual career path, thought up all kinds of loopholes, because I instinctively felt that I wouldn't make it otherwise.
When I was 28 years old I got a burnout. Many professionals have bitten their teeth on me. The fatigue was linked to mononucleosis and Lyme. From 2018 on, I got into a rollercoaster. Due to multiple loss experiences in quick succession, my world was turned upside down. My foundation was my training as a yoga teacher. It caused me to know myself better and I met the right people.

At the end of 2021 I was diagnosed with autism. This was a great relief, but I was also mourning at first. My struggle, and especially the comments that I had gotten before and which touched me, passed me like a movie. I had competed in top sport and it was great that I had kept it up for so long.
At last the search was over and there is peace and reconciliation. I feel at home with this diagnosis. I now know that I don't have to fix anything anymore, this is who I am. I can take the pressure off me now. I no longer hide from my overstimulation. I am structuring my life in a more organized way, for example by decluttering.
My tips for others: (1) Have a few basic ingredients on hand to quickly prepare a nutritious meal. (2) For me, yoga, breathing techniques and meditation are helpful. (3) I wish everyone one or more people who are there for you unconditionally when you need it.
This poem by Marianne Pepels describes my feeling quite accurately:

I am I
and that has its reason
I was born that way, made that way
wouldn't trade with anyone
because I'm quite satisfied

so i stay who i am
I just decided that
wouldn't trade with anyone
because my skin fits like a glove

Zoë

I’m 21 years old and I’ve known that I have autism since I was 16 years old. I like to write and therefore I started a blog (@insandauts) where I post lots of informative articles.

Autism has had a much bigger impact on my life than I would’ve expected. After I collapsed in 2020 because of this, I am slowly getting back on track and I can say that I have grown tremendously, also because of my blog!
I’m proud of how far I have come. I'm much more open, much more confident and I’m doing things I never thought I could.
If I have a tip... I'd advice to stay close to yourself. Normal does not exist and that means that not being normal is very normal.

Esther

My name is Esther, I’m almost 17 years old and I love animals a lot. My hobbies are working with animals and drawing. I will start para-veterinary (veterinary assistant) schooling in 2022. I was diagnosed with autism when I was 15 years old.

Because of my autism, I can hardly tolerate stimuli. That’s why I am often overstimulated. I also can't stand changes and my processing speed is very slow. It’s also difficult for me to make contact. Things like looking at people, social activities, etcetera cost me a lot of energy. To make things a little easier, I have some tools, such as hearing protection to muffle sounds, a fidget tangle, a weighted blanket and a wobble pillow.

I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in the past few years. When I see where I come from, I can be proud of that.
I would like to advise people with autism that you don’t have to be insecure about your autism, because it brings a lot of positive things.

Janyke

My name is Janyke, I’m 26 years old. I live in the beautiful South Veluwe where I like to cross through the forest on my mountain bike. Colored sneakers, coffee, puns, good conversation with friends, brownies, happy dogs, surfing, snowboarding, music, books and watching a Lord of the Rings/Disney movie make me happy. I work as a data manager at the UMC Utrecht and I am a Christian, through trial and error ;-)

I was recently diagnosed with autism, in May 2021. I’m still figuring out exactly how autism works for me. One of the most important things is that I often have a whole cupboard filled with open drawers in my head. Each drawer represents a task or something I'm working on, and everything just screams for attention. This quickly causes me to no longer oversee situations and become mentally overstimulated.
 Social contact also costs me a lot of energy; my head is sometimes working overtime, even during regular conversations. I don't like small talk: I'd rather dive right into the depths than having to maintain small talk. It’s way more interesting right? ;-) Finally, some external stimuli get too much very fast, for example eye contact, crowds in the supermarket, or food that has a funny texture.
Autism mostly plays a roll on the inside, for me. Very regular things will come in a little harder, costing me more energy, causing more rollercoasters in my head. That is why I think it’s important to broaden the picture of autism. Even if you can't see it on someone, they could be autistic!
I’m proud that I can completely immerse myself in a hobby and become good at it as a result. For example, I go surfing every summer; I can hardly get out of the water! The rolling waves, the feeling of the water around you, I experience it all quite intensely. I think that's one of the beautiful things about autism: being able to completely immerse yourself in what you're doing.

My tip for people with autism: Don't be afraid of a little self-mockery. Sometimes that’s the best weapon against negative thoughts! For example, according to my sister's friend, my best statement ever is: "Don't take it so literally... says the autist".
 

Jonina

My name is Jonina and I’m a Dutch language teacher at an MBO school in Rotterdam. I live with my boyfriend, his son (half of the week) and my dog ​​Loes. I read a lot and I like to be in the woods.
 
Autism is seemingly intertwined with everything in my life. I don't know exactly how that works; the diagnosis is still fresh. It confuses me that I suddenly have a diagnosis that feels so fitting. I don't understand why I didn't realize this before, since - as a teacher - I have been a learning coach for students who had ASD, among other things.
Talking about autism in education is laced with prejudice. Unfortunately, there still is little knowledge and that’s reflected in statements that have touched me a lot lately. Since the diagnosis, I seem to be even more sensitive than I already was.
 
I’m very happy with that sensitivity. I see, feel, hear and experience things much more intensely than others. That breaks me down regularly, but it also gives me a kind of superpower. Now that I know that this is part of autism, I also know that others don’t have that. I always thought that everyone experiences all these things the same way I do.
In addition, I’m also happy that the way I work is quite structured, even if it sometimes seems like I'm chaotic. I'm not, but sometimes I find it hard to actually do something. I really need a push if I haven't figured it out yet.
 
I don't have any tips for people with autism yet. I’m still such a rookie when it comes to this diagnosis. Ask me again in a few months; I may have plenty of tips.

Nieke

My name is Nieke Pluimers. I’m 29 years old and at the moment I’m in living in Almelo, in an assisted living facility.

 

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 17 years old. I have trouble regulating thoughts and emotions and I was bullied a lot because when I was a kid because I cried for unknown reasons. When I was in primary school, it was difficult for me to connect with my peers. I preferred to play with boys or girls that were younger than me. I also had a lot of trouble learning.Due to too many accumulations and stimuli, I started to have meltdowns and I took it out on the people I care about very much. After a while I get regrets and I will develop a huge sense of guilt. Often, I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin and had a negative image of myself. I turned my sadness into anger, because I thought crying was weak. So I kept everyone at a distance, but I didn't really see this myself. 

I worried a lot and I always saw too many obstacles in front of me, that weren’t actually there. I also like structure and clarity and I have issues with unexpected situations. I set the bar very high for myself and I often compared myself to friends. Sometimes, I suffer from stimuli if I engage in too many activities in one day. I always have to find a good balance between activity and rest. Moments of rest are very important to me.

 

I’m good at making contact with others, but I sometimes find it difficult to maintain that contact. I was also good at masking and I always pretended to be better. I’ve been walking on my toes all this time.
I’ve been through a lot in my past and I have followed various trajectories such as: Aveleijn Nijverdal, Leo Kannerhuis, creative therapy, and naturopathy. Now I get great help from Aveleijn Beeckesteyn, which is a training home for people with disabilities. I eventually started to accept help because -around puberty - I didn't want help and didn't want to know anything about it. I was in my denial phase. 

 

Now that I’m many years further, I have made very great steps in my development. I'm a social and spontaneous girl, I'm well balanced, my tantrums have faded to the background, I'm more positive, I have a good foundation and I’m grateful for the things that have come my way. I’m enjoying the beautiful things out there! I am very proud of this! Because I ended up doing this myself. Of course with some help, but that's not a big deal. It's okay if you ask for help!

 

My goal is to find a job as a lived-experience worker, to help other young people/adults in this society. I also give presentations about autism, so that I can help and inspire people.

As a tip I would like to say that you may be very proud of what you have achieved in your life. It's okay if you're feeling down and you are allowed to feel bad for a while. Just don't linger in it for too long. Be yourself, stay true to yourself and listen to your gut feeling.

 

Everyone has their own beautiful qualities, so make sure to use them! Follow the passions that you like and chase your dreams, what you want to achieve. Do this at your own pace, level and in small steps. The direction is more important than the speed. Take your moments of rest and try to find some pleasant distractions that may help you cope.

Rebecca

My name is Rebecca. I ‘m 17 years old.

My hobbies are photography and horseback riding. 

I've been riding horses for 10 years.

 

Autism has a big impact on my life. 

Sometimes, I find it difficult to correctly evaluate things and to cope with my anger. Also, I get easily overwhelmed by sensory input: I can react extremely, while others are not bothered by these sensations at all. 

 

I am proud of my autism.

I am different from others and that makes me me.

Everyone is different, but my autism makes me.

And I am especially proud of how I approach and indicate things, even if I find things difficult.

 

My tip for people with autism: let others know, in time, what you find difficult and when you need help, so that people can help you with a situation that you are having trouble with.

Michelle

I’m Michelle, I’m 29 years old and born in Nijmegen. I have autism and I live in an assisted living facility at 's Heeren Loo.

Autism has a daily impact on me. I am very sensitive to stimuli, easily overstimulated, I think in black and white and have difficulty dealing with changes. If necessary, I use a schedule, but sometimes I don’t, because I want to remain flexible.
Due to PTSD, in combination with autism, I ended up in a depression. That’s also because I would like to participate in society and keep pushing past my limits. Fortunately, things are getting better and I am learning, together with the guidance of my social workers, to determine what I can do, what becomes too much and when to get some rest.

I became a volunteer at the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme [Dutch Autism Association]. I support the NVA with many things and I thrive on it. Little by little I’m overcoming the depression, also by exercising a lot, cycling, walking, swimming, keep doing fun things and get some rest often. Because I've managed to make it this far, I regain meaningin life. I wish everyone could experience that feeling, because it's so nice that you can help others with what you can do!
I am proud that I have studied ICT, that I have volunteered for the NVA, that I am becoming a lived-experience worker at 's Heeren Loo… and that I have made it this far. I am also proud of my autism, because that’s what makes me unique. There are drawbacks to autism, but I also enjoy the benefits, such as having a good memory, good drawing- and puzzle skills. And also that I built 17 Ultimaker 3D printers, taught students how to build them and, with my critical viewing- and reading skills, I could show them how to make a correct manual for it. 

My tips to people with autism: (1) Make yourself a priority. Take your autism into account and get your rest on time, because preventing depression or autistic burnout is really a challenge. It takes way longer to recover from that... (2) See autism as a strength, not as something negative. (3) Contact with fellow autistics is nice, because you don't have to explain everything. (4) Create a social network, maintain it… and real friends will understand when something doesn't work out because you're feeling blue. (5) And most of all, be kind to yourself!

Bep

I’m an inspired pioneer. For example, I 'founded' a women's center and a spiritual center. I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was 55. After that I started writing my autobiographical novel trilogy De Poort, de Paljas and het Meisje [The Gate, the Joker and the Girl] . On the cover of part 2 it is stated: her artistic versatility and intense(ive) love for people spontaneously earned her titles such as Night Mayor, Pub Mother and Icon of the Literary Café. In addition to the SPW (social pedagogical work) education, I am trained in esotericism, astrology and aura healing.
In the preface to part 1, my therapist and 'co-author' Els Blijd-Hoogewys wrote: “BepSchilder also didn't know what to do or feel for a while, after the diagnosis. She had mentored children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the past… and now she turned out to have it herself? Why had she never seen this in herself? Who was she, anyway? Her identity was shattered. She struggled a lot with this. Slowly she has reshaped her identity, built up from those old shards. It became a beautiful, colorful and warm mosaic.”
 
I am proud of the above 'pat on the back'. And I’m proud of surviving many dark 'soul nights'. And I’m also proud of the result of my efforts to 'color the world a little better', by giving lectures about various aspects of autism and about 'The New Age', among other things.
My tip to people with autism is: Rescue Bach remedies and/or oxytocin with essential oils (see my website) to put you at ease. And meditate.
For more information, articles in the press and lectures that can be booked, see: bepschilder.nl

Nina

I’m Nina, I’m 22 years old. I live at home with my parents, our 2 dogs and 1 cat. I discovered I’m autistic 3 years ago. I work at a cemetery for 20 hours a week, where I maintain the greenery. My hobbies are: watching TV, listening to music, sports, shopping and photography.
Out of all the autism traits, I suffer the most from changes and overstimulation, of course. I have less energy compared to someone without autism, so I cannot do everything I want to. 

I also have an ADHD diagnosis and the combination with my autism sometimes clashes.
I got burned out in 2015. After which I received an autism diagnosis and the right help in 2018. I'm proud of how far I've bounced back yet.
My tip for people with autism is something I also have to learn to realize myself: You are notdifferent, but your head just works in another way.

Nanda

Hi, I am Nanda, I’m 31 years old and I live together with my dear husband, my son and my dog in beautiful Amersfoort. I would describe myself as a creative introvert. And we can probably talk about traveling, movies, series and games for a long time.
I am a huge go-getter, and for years I forced myself to what I thought was expected of me. So much so that after an incident at work, I developed PTSD and became depressed. In the years since, I have been overloaded a few time more. At the end of 2020, I was diagnosed with autism.
Daily stimuli, mainly (social) busyness and a lot of information, express themselves in fatigue. I feel painful stimuli too late, which means I walk around with certain ailments fortoo long. Now I feel less content sometimes as well, but this is often due to a busy day/week. I am overstimulated at these moments, and after getting some rest it gets better.

I am proud of my family, my parents and brother. And I’m proud that I now dare to be vulnerable. That I know how to turn my lifelong struggle into something positive, with @onlineautismcoach.
My tip for people with autism: Now, or in a while, you will rock that diagnosis, I'm sure of that. Your brain may differ slightly from your neighbor's brain. But, she would love to borrowyour focus, eye for detail, sense of responsibility and honesty for a day. We are at the beginning of a mental revolution! Every day more and more people are open about bits of themselves that they used to be ashamed of. My tip: Be yourself, because you really are an awesome person! So get that help, and then be proud, because that's such a powerful step.
 

Anne

My name is Anne, I am 25 years old and I live in Tilburg with my cat Ollie. I studied biology and I now work as a data analyst for 20 hours a week. In my spare time I exercise a lot, I play the piano and I enjoy sailing. I also love to write, and a year and a half ago I published my poetry collection, named "Oververhit Brein" [Overheated Brain].

I got diagnosed with autism three years ago, after I ended up in a burnout. The way autism expresses itself in me, among other things, is through a busy head, that never slows down. I experience the world very intensely, which is both a curse and a blessing. As a result, I can easily become overstimulated, which often manifests itself in anxiety and dreariness. In addition, I (used to) mask a lot, because I did (and do) not want to be "different". Luckily, I am increasingly discovering that being different is not necessarily something negative, but it can also be something beautiful.
I am proud of where I am now, and how I keep trying to take forward steps every day. I'm not there yet, but I am a whole lot further than I was a few years ago.
My tip for other people with autism - but also to myself - would be to care less about "how it’s supposed to be". It's actually so much enjoyable to do things in your own way and on your own speed, and not because “you’re supposed to”.

Myrthe

I am Myrthe, I’m 47 years old and I live alone with my cat. I like reading, walking, being in nature, photography and at times I also like to write. I like to develop myself, gain new knowledge and applying it right away.
I work part time as an assistant archivist and I am currently setting up my own business. Transferring knowledge is a common thread in my life: through writing, training and workshops, coaching, teaching, training colleagues and learning new skills. I now make use of that to improve current knowledge about autism and to make the world more autism-friendly, through training, advice and coaching for people with autism and for people who deal with autistics.
From an early age, it was clear that I was gifted. But I always felt that that wasn’t the entire story. Ten years ago I came to the conclusion that I might be autistic. But I lived abroad and therefore did not go after a diagnosis at the time. Three years later I was forced to move to the Netherlands. Shortly after, my suspicion was confirmed and I was diagnosed with autism; I was 39 at the time.

I am good at keeping an overview of things, seeing and applying structure, solving problems and I have a good sense of language. My autism means that I struggle a lot with crowds and noise. I get tired and overstimulated very quickly. Social contact also takes a lot of energy out of me. I need to schedule adequate rest and recovery time. Long walks and sleeping are the best de-stressors for me. Walking and the quietness of nature also help me to calm my thundering head.
I am proud of myself and my perseverance. That despite everything I've been through, I'm still here. My autism diagnosis has given me a lot of peace of mind, self-knowledge and self-confidence. I know how I am built, what I need and what is important to me. I have learned to indicate my limits (usually) and above all: I know that I’m worthy, that I am perfectly fine the way I am.
 
My tip for people with autism is: learn to recognize and indicate your boundaries. That's not always an easy task, but it's worth a whole lot.

Katja

I am Katja (@kitkat_.mini), I’m 18 years old and I live with my parents, my sister and two cats. I love nature very much and therefore you can find me outdoors often.

I also like to draw, listen to music and watch movies. I'm a big fan of the bands One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer and the musicians Ed Sheeran and Yungblud. I’m also a fan of the Harry Potter movies and the Marvel movies. I also really enjoy photography. I especially enjoy photographing birds. It brings me joy to make time for that.


Before I was diagnosed, I already noticed that I was different from other children my age. Where other children met on the weekends, I was staying home in order to recover from the busy week I'd had. I was diagnosed with autism a few years ago. I could finally understand why I needed that rest. I now have learned to live with this and my environment adapts to it.

I am proud of what I have achieved in my life so far. I now study Applied Biology (MBO level 4), I have a side job at an awesome zoo (Almere Jungle) and I volunteer at Staatsbosbeheer [National Forest Management] and the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme[Dutch Autism Association].


My tip for people with autism: Stay your true self. Don't change yourself because other people think certain things about you. I don't see my autism as something negative. You are who you are, it’s just that you may need more explanation about different things.

 

Lidya

My name is Lidiya and I'm 15 years old. I was born in Ethiopia, but I've lived in the Netherlands for pretty much my entire life. I live with my parents, my sister and two cats. Currently, I’m at the VSO TL in the final year and I am also taking two extra courses.
Every Friday night I’m going to athletics; My favorite discipline is running. My role model is Sifan Hassan who is also from Ethiopia. I love listening to music too and I am a fan of the Weeknd (how could I not, he has Ethiopian roots). I like to draw, like to watch thrillingmovies or series, I love Disney, and I like to read as well.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 10. I experience a lot of stimuli in busy spaces. Fortunately, I have a private taxi when I go to school, which gives me more peace of mind than a bus full of other students would. I don't like going to birthday parties, because they get too busy very quickly. When I’m at a party, I occasionally look for a quiet spot. Luckily, my family knows why I need rest and they help me with this. New social situations are difficult to me, because I don't know how others might react to me.
I am proud of my perseverance; I've been through a lot in the past. It took me a while to understand why I react differently in comparison to many of my peers. Therapy has helped me to understand myself better. I recently became a volunteer at the Nederlandse Verenigingvoor Autisme [Dutch Autism Association]. You can find pictures of me on the AutismeFonds[AutismFund] website.

At the end of last June, I got to meet the Ethiopian ambassador. That was amazing. There is a lot of prejudice in Ethiopia about autistic people, and the ambassador would like this to change. I want to help with that.
My tip for people with autism: Dare to say you have autism. By talking about this very often, others can learn about you, so they can understand you better.
To people who don't have autism, I would like to say: learn what autism entails. Listen to the people who are autistic and you will notice that we are ordinary people too, but our brains just work slightly different.

Margot

My name is Margot van Schendel @eenopenboekmetplaten, I am 27 years old and I work in autism care. Currently my occupation there is pedagogical counselor, lived experience workerand trainer for Stichting de As [The As Foundation]. From September 1st however, I’ll be working as a residential social worker and as a job coach for a protected housing facility of Jados.

I was diagnosed with ASD six years ago. Although I was hardly familiar with the meaning of this, it was a relief to have an explanation for my 'behavior', having always felt so differently. Both during my higher education and in my spare time, I immersed myself in everything that had to do with autism (my special interest), to eventually make this my profession. I am very proud that I have been able to turn my vulnerability into a strength. But it will always remain a vulnerability. I have learned a lot from a severe autistic burnout and I can grow even more in the social-emotional area. Fortunately, I am given all the space to develop into a (as much as possible) self-reliant woman at the housing facility (Woondroom Breda [LivingdreamBreda]) I reside. I have my own spacious apartment and I have been living/enjoying this with my dear neighbor, my boyfriend, for a little over a year now. I hope that we can be different together for a long time to come.
I am proud of who I am and what I do! The steps I have taken in recent years, the help I receive, the appreciation I receive from clients and colleagues, the love my boyfriend gives me... It all helps me moving forward. Tell me and I listen, show me and I watch, let me experience and I learn.

I notice that many people (with autism) worry about what others think of them, they are constantly adapting to that. What I want to say to them is, "Let's be different together!" You can't change the people around you, but you can change the people you choose to be a part ofyour life. What I want to tell others (with autism) is that not everyone has a part in your future. Some people just give you some wise lessons. See this video from award-winning storyteller Jay Shetty, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bosbLtiWqcE

Quinte

I am Quinte, I’m 16 years old and my Instagram is @strawberryblondcake. I love the Efteling, baking and cooking and animals... and that is why I happily work at the cat-café that’s located in my neighborhood.

My autism diagnosis has ensured that I was able to work through the things that I had/have problems with, or to 'blame' them on the autism diagnosis. Things like having trouble maintaining long friendships, sudden changes, things that I'm not prepared for, knowing how to say things… all of which make me clumsy in social situations and at times make me lose myself.
I am proud that, despite my diagnoses, I still do a lot of things outside of school. I am a member of the student council, the debate club and next school year I will be the chairman of the GSA at my school. I am proud that, despite the fact that the circumstances aren’t optimal sometimes, I continue to commit to things that I believe are important.

My tip for people with autism is: If you don't like the way of doing something in a certainway, look for something that does suit you, because only then you can really make sure that you move forward and help yourself.

Linsey

My name is Linsey and I'm 34 years old. I work as a lived-experience worker in mental health care and I also study Social Work. I like traveling, music, photography and searching for information on all kinds of subjects that interest me.

For me, being autistic mostly means that I always have to take into account how I process information. I feel like a whole lot is coming in and I also remember a lot of things. I then find it difficult to prioritize and keep an overview of everything. I need more time to recover from activities than the average person and I experience some form of fatigue about 80% of the time. It’s also difficult for me to 'turn off' my head, because my thoughts just keep flowing. I benefit from a certain degree of clarity and structure. Without this external structure, I barely function – if I function at all –and that’s annoying to me.

I am proud that I have worked hard to get to where I am today. My perseverance and courage have helped me with that. Despite setbacks, I've picked myself up time and time again, I learned valuable lessons and moved on. I value myself that I can attune well with other people and that I can cheer others up well. I am also proud that I’m continuing to develop myself and that I do not shy away from challenges.
I would like to say to other autistic people: You are just perfectly okay. Don't let anyone tell you that you are not good the way you are because some things may be different with you. Everyone follows their own path in life and you know best which paths suit you the most.

Suzanne

My name is Suzanne, I'm 33 years old, I live with my boyfriend and I'm expecting my first child.

Two years ago I got diagnosed with autism. The explanation was nice; I finally know why my head works the way it does. At the same time, it can be frustrating knowing that some things won't change. It can make me pretty angry or sad. On the other hand, I'm getting better at adapting to what I can and can't handle and I'm getting better at dealing with it.
I am proud of everything I have achieved so far. I have travelled a lot. I have lived in Canada, Ireland (2x), UK (London) and Australia. I learned a lot from this, traveling independently to the other side of the world was a huge adventure and in some places I also experienced a lot of peace. I have lost my heart to Ireland. I prefer to go there twice a year. Unfortunately, that’s impossible right now. During my travels, my love for writing has grown into an actual book. Verbonden [Connected], part 1 of the Verhalen van Schaduw en Licht [Stories of Shadow and Light]. It got published last year and although in the absence of festivals, such as Castle Fest and Elfia, sales aren't great yet. But looking at my book makes me overjoyed! (The book is also for sale through me, by the way.)

I am now embarking on a new adventure of becoming a mother. Something I really look forward to and excites me. I have worked in childcare for years as a nanny/au-pair and pedagogical employee. I have long dreamed of becoming a mother and it feels unreal and so special that this is finally becoming a reality.
Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. Of course, situations can be difficult, complicated or terrifying. But you can learn so much from new situations and environments. During my travels I did not know that I was autistic, but I felt so much peace and quiet andI’ve learned so much, including sensing when you can say ‘stop’. I terminated two trips before, because I was not doing well mentally. Listening to your body is extremely important.

Eden

My name is Eden and I am 12 years old. I live with my dad, my mom, my brother, my sister and our cat Emma.

I have autism. I don't like unexpected touches. It annoys me when kids tap me when they want to tell me something. I do like massages, they are expected and they are harder. That's okay. I especially don't like touching when I'm not expecting it. I am also rigid. I always like to sit in the same spot. I don't like it when I'm not given a warning when something is going to happen or when we are going somewhere. But because of this rigidity, I am also a perfectionist.
An advantage of my autism is that, because of my perfectionism, I can develop myself furtherwith my talents. A disadvantage of my autism is that I can appear strange, because I think differently. But I'm not one to camouflage.

What’s difficult is that I have dyslexia. I can't read easily, but I do like to read books. My dad read to me a lot. Reading by myself has already improved a lot. I'm reading Harry Potter right now. But it’s not going fast.
I am proud of my talent for drawing. I mainly draw animals, girls and fantasy.
I have three tips for kids with autism. If your earbuds are bothering you but want to listen to music from your phone, you can also lay your earbuds in large headphones and put them on. This way you can also hear the music, but you haven’t put anything 'in' your ears. If it's hard to look into people's eyes, then you can look at something else in their face. If you don't like cuddling, you can tell a cuddly person in advance that you don't like cuddling.

Nikki

Hey! I'm Nikki (@oh.so.neurodivergent). I am 34 years old and I live in Roosendaal, with my husband and two cats. I am studying to become a social worker (Social Work, mental health work). On June 22, 2021 (1 month ago) I got diagnosed with autism, after trying to get one for over two years.

All my life I have felt that I am different. I have rarely really felt a connection with others, partly because I pretended to be different from who I actually was. The masking was there from an early age and it happened without me realizing it, pretty much. But my peers were always aware of it. They thought I was strange and they thought it was weird that I had to call in sick from school so often. In retrospect, this was due to psychosomatic complaints that I developed, because I was chronically stressed. School was chaos: a lot of stimuli, a lot of information and socially I couldn't keep up. You’re ending up in a vicious circle.
Fortunately, I managed to hold my own. During my further education I got to know myself better and learned how to communicate. That is the advantage of getting an education in the social field. That’s also where I got to learn that I have a lot of perseverance, that I am resilient and that I have a unique view on things. Now that I'm over 30, I have less and less need to conform to society. I'm fine the way I am. I'm proud of that. 

Now that I have received the confirmation from my diagnosis as to why I always felt so different, I can let go of the past. I am moving forward, with a lot of courage.
My tip for others is that if you feel that you might be autistic, you should definitely search for information. Get to know other autistics, for example on Instagram. Or go to a peer meeting. See if it is possible to start a diagnosis trajectory. Embrace yourself and be gentle. You have so much to offer yourself and your loved ones as well!

Vera

My name is Vera Helleman. I am the founder of the EmotieCoach method, author of, among others, De Emotie Encyclopedie [The Emotion Encyclopedia] and De Kracht van Autisme[The Strength of Autism]. I am committed to a more positive understanding of emotions and autism. I am happily married, mother of four children and in between all the activities you will often find me on horseback in nature to maintain a balance.
Autism, that's the name of my mother planet. It's my home. It has made me who I am as a person, both in developing my strengths and in dealing consciously with the pitfalls and the world. Autism is everywhere in me and in what I have drawn in and accomplished in life. I see that as a blessing. Life is rich as an autistic. Deep, intense and therefore rich.
I pride myself on always going for my own path, without concessions and for following the integrity of my heart in all my actions. Autism inherent and oh so necessary in this world.

My tip for people with autism: Throw the rules that block you overboard and go for your inner flow! From there the pearls that others overlook will appear, but which you can put out into the world. Because we really need ourselves to bring change in the world.
More about Vera via Instagram @vera_helleman.

Sylvana

Hi! My name is Sylvana (@wereldvanautisme), I’m 33 years old, and I live together with my cat. I am a nurse by profession (not currently employed). One of my big passions is dancing salsa and bachata! I find relaxation in this. I have a huge heart for animals and I like to be creative. This year I founded Wereld van Autisme [World of Autism], where I share about (my) autism. I write poems and create Survival Guides for other people with autism.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 31 years old. The ‘not knowing about my autism’has had a major impact on my life. I have always felt different and misunderstood. I could never explain why. This has resulted in low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. I have masked (unconsciously) for years in the hope of being able to be a part of something. It’s very confrontational and sad when you suddenly realize that all those years you 'haven’t been or couldn’t be yourself completely'. I have lost myself, and my identity, because of this. I am very happy that I now do know about my autism and that I can really get to know and understand myself.
I am proud of my perseverance. Despite the many setbacks and low points in my life, I never gave up. I am a fighter and I have always managed to pick myself up again. In addition, I am proud of World of Autism and my creativity that I (also) express there. I receive so many positive and sweet messages from followers. They find recognition and comfort in my posts. It gives a fulfilling feeling to be able to help others this way!

My tip to people with autism: What has helped me enormously after my diagnosis is contact with other autistics, both on social media and through my peer group. It gives such a nice feeling when you find that recognition you've been looking for after years of searching and to find out that you're not alone!

Karin

I am Karin, 45 years old. When I was 24, a care provider thought I might be autistic, which was called Asperger’s back then. I hadn't thought of that myself, and I didn't recognize myself at all in the image of autism that I encountered after I started looking into it. I didn't experience all those kinds of problems that were written about people with autism. And vice versa, I did have issues that were not linked to autism. Such as a sensitivity to certain noises, which only recently became part of the autism characteristics. Or friends, whom I did have, just like getting an education and having a part-time job. Due to the lack of recognition, I started to doubt the correctness of the diagnosis. It’s a good thing that more attention is now being paid to (independent) women with autism, so that they can hopefully find recognition in each other and the diagnosis, which I had to miss out on.

I find it tough to say what the impact of autism is on my life. On the one hand, it’s a lot, because a large part of my job and volunteer work has to do with autism. On the other hand, I have accommodated my life to fit me for years, and there are times when I barely notice that I even have autism. At other times, for example when my life isn't going the way I'd like it to, I just don't know how much this is due to autism. I also try not to label everything as 'because of autism', but to see it as 'that's me' or 'this is a part of me'.
I am proud of my (volunteer) work in the field of autism over the years. Examples are the interest group Personen uit het Autisme Spectrum [People from the Autism Spectrum], Autminds and de Onderzoeksagenda Autisme [The Autism Research Agenda]. On my own website www.karinvandenbosch.nl you can find more information about what I do.
My tip to people with autism is to stay close to yourself. Get to know yourself and try to live from who you really are.

I am Irene, a Francophile and lover of dance and sports.


I was diagnosed with autism in 2008, after getting stuck in life several times before. This made a lot of things fall into place and it also explained why I do things in a specific way. At first it was hard to accept how to deal with it the right way. Fortunately, over the years I have experienced, with the right help, that a life with autism doesn’t have to be difficult at all. For me, it is now something that is a part of me, a strength through which I can make use of my talents. As a lived-experience worker I help out various projects such as Human Library and I work as a volunteer at the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme [Dutch Autism Association].

A disadvantage of my autism is that I sometimes get overstimulated and this makes me get locked up. And this makes it that I sometimes may react very angry out of the blue. It’s also difficult to spontaneously plan something, because I always have to think about the amount of energy it costs and the amount of stimuli I have to deal with. In addition, I sometimes find it tough to make decisions, because I’m afraid of picking the wrong thing. On the other hand, thinking about this a lot can give me new insights and ideas.


I am proud of my perseverance and that I can live a normal life with autism. This isn't always easy, but I try to stay positive. I don't shy away from things. When I start something, I finish it. I am also proud that I can see my autism as a strength.

My tip to people with autism: Think in possibilities, not in difficulties, look at what ispossible instead of what isn’t possible. Try to be open and clear about what you need. Autism is about adjusting yourself and your environment. Sometimes that can be done with small things, such as a quiet space when you are overstimulated. Try to live your life in a way that works well for you. I've lived in a way I thought was expected of me for years, now I've learned what's good for me and what works for me.

 

Aaliyah

I’m Aaliyah, I’m 17 years old and I just got diagnosed with autism. My hobbies are horseback riding and I do wing chun, which is a martial art. I am currently studying to become a hairdresser.
The impact of autism on my life is that people often don't understand what autism entails. You can't tell I’m autistic from my appearance. But I have trouble with changes, with planning, I don't like fruit and vegetables and I have a very monotonous diet. I often get judged for that. I have trouble showing emotions as well. But I am very driven in my education and sports. That's an advantage of it! I'm giving it the full 100%!

I am proud that, at the age of 17, I have almost finished my education. So, I’ve got that in my pocket! Even though I've only just been diagnosed and school was pretty much always a difficult time for me. Because I was/am always exhausted of all the stimuli.
My tip for girls with autism: It's okay to be different, as long as you believe in yourself and make things as suitable as possible for you.

Jip

My name is Jip. I am 7 years old. I only found out that I have autism a few months ago. My mom had the suspicion for a while though. I live with my super, super, super sweet dog Max of 6 months old, our tomcat Roger, my dad Michel, my mom Isabelle and my sister Kees, she’s 5 years old. We used to have two cats, but Freddy recently passed away. I thought that was very sad, but also strange, because you don't really notice that she died. I often argue with Kees, because she doesn't always want to do what I want and vice versa, but we do also like to play together.

Because I have autism, I am creative. I really enjoy drawing and crafting. But what really interests me is anatomy. I like everything that has to do with the human body. My favorite show on television is Topdoks. I memorize almost everything they say on the show and I know a lot about 'our body'. My biggest dream is to see Elbert and Rachel, who host the show, in real life.
I am not the only one in my family that’s autistic. My grandmother's brother also has ASD. He has Asperger's syndrome and my grandmother has never been tested, but thinks she also has ASD.
Sometimes I'm a bit ashamed that I have autism, but according to mom I should share it with people because things can become less difficult. I don't know if that is true. I mostly think it’s very annoying to be different from others.

Benefits of my autism, I do not know. A disadvantage is that I can become very angry quickly and I then I can’t stop being angry. I find that super irritating. Also, meeting new people is annoying, especially if they touch me. Corona makes things easier now, because you don't have to shake hands or kiss people on the cheeks at a birthday anymore!
I would like to become a doctor when I grow up, but I don't like going to school at all. Haha, so I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that yet.
Interview answered by mom.

Anne-Claire

My name is Anne-Claire (38 years old). I graduated as a movement technologist and remedial educationalist and I have autism, ADHD and dyslexia. I prefer to be in nature, where I can really relax. I also have a lot of interests and hobbies, such as drawing, reading (especially fantasy and SciFi), astronomy, construction material and playing the piano.

Because of my autism I experience the world intensely. I get overstimulated quickly and my head becomes a chaos because of change or lack of clarity. Unfortunately, this causes me to not be able to work. But luckily, there are plenty of other things I cán do, to do something positive for the world. For example, I help out as a volunteer on projects related to autism. Living independently is possible because I receive assistance a few times a week, and I am very grateful for that.


I am proud that I am getting better and better at shaping my life in a way that fits me. It’s quite a search, but I will persevere.

My tip for people with autism: Have regular pampering moments for your autism. For example, buy a magnifying glass or binoculars and look at things in great detail, rub over structures that you like, listen to the same song a hundred times, immerse yourself completely in an interesting subject or twirl around and flutter your arms. Whatever makes the autistic in you happy. With things like these, you can also enjoy your autism on a regular base.

Willeke

My name is Willeke and I am 33 years old. I have my own house with a garden in which I like to keep myself busy. Scouting is my biggest hobby. It’s so nice to be active outdoors with the children of my group or other adults. It’s a place where almost anything is possible and allowed. We do a lot of varied activities, which is perfect for me because I enjoy a lot of different things. I also like to exercise a lot, but I don't like choosing all that much, so every day I pick a different exercise activity.

The role that autism plays in my life is greater than I actually thought, for a long time. I've been diagnosed for almost 10 years, but only recently I've really learned how my autism works and how I can deal with it in a better way. The fact that I think about everything (really everything) has the biggest impact, I believe. This leads to many questions, restlessness, tension and sometimes even panic very regularly. There is so much going through my mindthat I lose track of it. Especially when things are unpredictable or unclear and when things don't go as they were planned. The overthinking and sensitivity to stimuli make it that things cost me more energy, before, during and after an activity or appointment. On the other hand, I also like being able to think so much and so deeply. It often yields creative ideas and insights.

I am proud of my perseverance. Despite all the difficulties, I do not shy away from things. When I start something, I finish it. In the same way, an agreement is an agreement to me, no matter how difficult something is.
In the other FANN photos I already see a lot of tips for people with autism about trying to be yourself and being open to your surroundings. I completely agree with this. To take a different approach, I want to give practical suggestions. I have a lot of problems with external stimuli. It helps me to be able to shield or limit them sometimes. Think of headphones (possibly with music or soothing sounds), fidgeting materials, sunglasses, etc.

Sanne

My name is Sanne, I'm 27 years old and I recently started living on my own, together with my dog ​​Mila. I am a part-time goldsmith and in my spare time I like to wander in nature. I also have a website and YouTube channel called Een Beetje Bijzonder [A Little Bit Special]. I share my personal experiences with autism on there.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 17 years old. It gave me the answer to the question of why I experienced the world so differently.
The impact of autism on my life differs. Sometimes the impact is bigger, sometimes it’s smaller, but it is always there. The fact that stimuli comes in more intensely has the biggest impact on me. I’m easily overstimulated, especially in a busy environment. This can make me extremely tired. But as soon as I’m in nature, that wave of stimuli is actually a nice thing. I see every single flower and I hear every single bird.

I am proud of where I’m at in my life. The past few years haven’t always been easy and my physical and mental health has been terrible. Autism (or rather the not knowing) has indirectly been the cause of this. But with the help of family, friends and social workers I managed to recover. A few years ago this seemed impossible, so I am proud that I succeeded. In addition, I am proud of Een Beetje Bijzonder. It’s something of mine which I share with the world and in the comments I get, I hear that it’s helping others. That feels so good to me.
My tip to people with autism: Try to organize your life in a way that is good for you, even if it’s not like the 'norm'. For years I’ve tried to do what I thought was expected of me, but it didn't make me happy and my health deteriorated. Now I’m learning what is good for me and what my needs are. I am getting to know myself better. This is a quest. Not always easy, but definitely worth it!

Sabine

I’m Sabine, I’m 34 years old and happily married to my husband since 2017. We live together and have a dog. I volunteer at a daycare center for children, which is located in a wooded area with animals, and I'm having a great time. I am a friendly, cheerful woman who is compassionate and kind to people and animals. I am creative and ambitious.

I was 5 years old when I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (ASD). My parents told me when I was 8 years old. I’m bothered by a full head very quickly. Too much information and stimuli make me tired and sensitive very fast, and my emotions become extra intense. I want to do everything the best I can, more than just 100% percent, for others as well, which makes me forget about myself. I find it very difficult to receive criticism, it can carry it with me for a long time and feel awful about it.
I pride myself on being visually minded, I’m able to see the smallest details and I have a good memory. I also work very precisely and accurately, which makes me very creative. I do all kinds of arts and crafts, like knitting, crocheting, working with a sewing machine and drawing. My perseverance has helped me achieve my goals which first seemed impossible. And I succeeded. I have a sweet husband who loves me very much, I have a nice job and a driver's license. It’s a fact that I need support, but I have personally chosen what I want in my life and I am happy with this.
 
My tip to people with autism is: I am open and honest about my autism with people who are familiar to me. For example, with my family, friends and at my workplace. People understand me better this way and I feel more space to just be myself. 


H A P P Y  M O T H E R' S  D A Y

I’m Billy, I’m 15 years old and in 3rd grade of high school. I have autism. I live in Tilburg with our father, mother and our 2 dogs.

I think a disadvantage of autism is that other kids in my class often do not understand me and they are very quick to judge without knowing a single thing. Because of this, it’s difficult for me to trust other people, that they really mean what they say or that it’s actually fake. An advantage of autism is that I’m always honest, but that is often harder for other people,because they think I am tóó honest.

Our mom has autism as well. That has advantages. She understands us a lot better than the majority of other people, because her brain works in the same way. My mom also likes gaming on the XboX and I really enjoy that. We sometimes play together. She also participates in the game Just Dance, which is really funny.

We don't just have a wish for her on Mother's Day :-) We just love her very much and want her to have a pleasant, long and happy life.

Tip for other girls with autism: Stay true to yourself, you are good the way you are.

I’m Mariëlle, I’m 47 years old, married to Collin and I have known that I am autistic for 5 years now. I've always been searching for who I am. The diagnosis offered answers, which helped me to understand the outside world better and I now know that I’m not alone. I have been working as a lived-experience worker at RIBW Brabant for 2 years now, supporting people with a psychological vulnerability in their recovery process and I’m contributing to the expansion of autism knowledge in healthcare professionals.

The autism diagnosis has made me go from an invisible me to a visible me. I have found myself, learned to understand myself, gain knowledge about my limits and how to indicatethem. It has had a positive impact on my life.

After Sam's birth, I got into a hyperfocus on motherhood. I stopped working, loved to walk with her, to run errands, to play, to take care of, but also to have time for myself when she slept for a bit. Likewise, with Billy 5 years later, when Sam was at school. In retrospect, I unconsciously listened to my gut. I wouldn't have kept myself going as long as I did now, when I would still work and had to keep the family going.

My daughters also have autism. That mainly has advantages. In our family we communicate directly, do not have to take any hidden messages into account, we do not have to put on social masks, but we can be ourselves. We all know what overstimulation means and that it’s okay to withdraw from everything for a while, without it being seen as 'unsociable'. My autism ensures that I understand my children better in their search for handles and that I can support them in explaining it to the outside world.

My tip to autistic mothers: Dare to listen to yourself in parenting, what’s important to you, what your limits are, what you think is necessary for your child. We may have a slightly different view of things, a slightly different approach or just a different idea about parenthood. That’s okay and you’re allowed to! That's not wrong, it’s just a little bit different sometimes.

I’m Sam, I’m 20 years old and I’m currently studying applied psychology in Eindhoven. I have autism. I live in Tilburg with our father, mother and our 2 dogs.

I think the advantage of autism is that I often have a different view of things, which allows me to be more creative. I think the disadvantage of autism is that neurotypical people often do not understand me and that they know very little about autism. And if they do think they know something, it's often a huge prejudice, such as not being able to socialize.

Our mom has autism too. That has advantages. She understands us a lot better than the majority of other people, because her brain works in the same way. 
My mom and I are very similar and I like that. In addition, she really is extremely funny, often without even realizing it.

We don't just have a wish for her on Mother's Day :-) We just love her very much and want her to have a pleasant, long and happy life.

Tip for other girls with autism: Stay true to yourself, you are good the way you are.

 

I am Tamara, a mother of 4 children between the ages of 12 and 17. I know that I have autism and ADHD since a year now.

The diagnosis turned my life upside down. I've struggled with myself since puberty, but always thought it was "treatable”. Since the diagnosis, I have to start over. Learning what really suits me and setting the bar less high. As a result, I quit working a year ago and we’ll look for other daytime activities in the future.

When I look at the impact of autism on my motherhood, I notice that I can't 'be on' all daylong. I retreat to refuel several times during the day. During the primary school period I couldn’t be a 'school playground mother' or volunteer during outings or activities. This was too overwhelming and chaotic for me. And if I did do it, because I didn't always want to say 'no', I had to recover for days.

Because my daughter has autism as well, I’m better at understanding her, because I recognize some struggles (advantage). But when she was younger and had a lot of angry moods, I couldn't handle it at all. That caused too many stimuli (disadvantage). She also claimed me for a considerable period of time and she didn’t feel that it was sometimes too much for me, yet. Now that she's almost 15 years old, it's getting better. Together, we can laugh a lot and get lost in our love for nature and animals.

I'm proud to still be here. I've had a lot on my plate, a lot of depression, and I kept coming out of that dark place. I’m a fighter and because of this I have gotten to where I am now. Now, I can be a little bit more gentle with myself.

I would like to advise other mothers with autism not to compare themselves with other mothers. Because you mainly see what they show on the outside. The 'I-can-do-it-all-moms' also fall down on the couch in the evenings and are sometimes tired of their children. Make sure to make good agreements at home, so that everything is clear to everyone. I am always open to my children. They are allowed to see my vulnerability, because of this they’re also quicker to understand. Conversely, they are also open and honest with me.

I’m Benthe and I am 14 years old. I live with my mother, stepfather, brother, sister and brother.

An advantage of autism is that if something interests me, I want to know everything about it and I have a lot of fun engaging in it. A disadvantage is that I get a headache in crowded places very fast and that I don't like a lot of food.

My mother has autism too. The advantage of this is that she understands me quicker than others. A disadvantage is that she’s also easily overstimulated.

I like that I can laugh with my mom and that we both love animals. I wish her many more Mother's Days.

I’m Sterre and I’m 16 years old. I have autism. It just has advantages that my mom has autismas well. She understands me so very well and we feel each other in a good way. I like that she fully accepts me for who I am and gives me the space to make my own decisions, despite the stress that having to make choices causes. She will never force me to do something that I am not ready for. I also enjoy the fact that she’s not only my mother, but also an amazing friend. I can talk to her about everything. We have no secrets.
My wish for my mom for Mother’s Day is that we may be together for many more years. 


I am Miranda, I’m 51 years old. I portray the women and girls with autism for FANN.
Sterre was born when I was 34 years old. A pregnancy and family expansion means a lot of switching and organizing in order to keep an overview. My husband and my parents have always been a huge support in this.
Motherhood is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me, it has taught me to cope with changes in a better way, but above all it has taught me to be softer, more flexible and patient.
Sterre also has autism. We think and speak the same language, have the same humor (which others often don't understand). There is an incredible amount of recognition and we are open and honest with each other. Our bond is tight, I understand the challenges she faces better than anyone and I can help her with translating things to her language for her. A disadvantage is that when one of us is overstimulated and out of balance, it has an effect on the other. Therefore, stability is important.
My tips to mothers with autism: Take time for yourself, it’s not selfish and it doesn’t make you a bad mother. Delegate the care (if possible) every once in a while and don’t worry about the so-called 'mother mafia', they always seem to know better. You’re the one that knows your child best, follow your gut feeling when it comes to assistance and feel free to be picky about who or what suits you best. It's trial and error for everyone, whether you are autistic or not, the perfect mom (fortunately) does not exist.
 
 


Lisa

My name is Lisa Verdoorn, I’m 31 years old and I’m an all-round creative person. I create, write, want to know and understand everything, often want too much which makes it that all the possibilities overwhelm me and nothing comes out anymore. Phone off, internet off, rest and my dearest friend nature and especially the sea. Recently I discovered the bass guitar that brings peace to my head because of its heavy, vibrating notes.

In March 2021 I got diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, after getting stuck many times. Not understanding yourself and the world, but wanting to belong, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Or at least, that’s how it felt to me. This reached its peak in July 2020. I am grateful to the person who told me I might be autistic, as this has allowed me to understand myself after all these years, to be myself and not have to prove myself anymore with things I see other people achieve so easily. I know that the impact before my diagnosis was big, that distressing situations were not uncommon and that my boundaries were nearly there at all. I still have to experience the impact now I’ve gotten the diagnosis, to give it a place and I now feel that I can breathe and I experience a necessity for peace, quietness and nature.

I am proud that despite everything I’ve always kept myself standing my ground, that I’m a go-getter and that I’m a positive thinker overall. I am also proud of my way of fleeing, which I’ve used for years by going to faraway places, because (I have just found this out) it took me far away from all the expectations, stress in everyday life and not getting time to myself. In faraway places I am the one in control, I’m at the seaside and nobody thinks I’m crazy, because I’m already a strange tourist ;-) This has shown me the most beautiful sights that I often dream about. ⠀
I’m still on a journey of discovery. A tip to other people with autism is to stay close to yourself and to set your boundaries. I also try to mainly focus on the positive sides of ASD and to find the purest version of myself. That’s really very uplifting.

Robin

My name is Robin, I am 19 years old and I live in a dorm room. I study HBO Communication and Multimedia Design, I also like tattoos, drawing, gaming and music. My favorite artist is Eminem; I have a tattoo of him, because he means a whole lot to me. I’m also transgender, which means that I was born as a girl, but that I identify as a man.
I don’t have my autism diagnosis for a long time, but I have already accepted it and I now know why I things are so difficult to me. What I notice is that I find adult life very tough. To me, it’s very difficult to arrange things by myself, to pay for things on my own and to be the one that has to figure things out, because I often don't know where to start. Social contact is a tricky thing as well. I find it difficult to make contact and to start friendships.

My transition is a big change, of course. Not only for me, but also for others. First of all, it's hard to figure out that this is the way you feel, but then having to tell others about it is the scariest part. It feels like I'm in a body that doesn't belong to me and that evokes a lot of emotions and insecurities. Often, I don't know how to deal with these emotions. The next step for me is to go to a gender clinic that can help me with my medical transition.
The thing I am very proud of is that I know who I am and what I stand for. I can completely immerse myself in the things I like and I know a lot about that too. Also, I spend a lot of time improving my skills for something I enjoy.

Jam

My name is Jam van der Aa, artist @jamvanderaa (art) and @alsana.a (autism) andhttps://www.jamvanderaa.nl

I’m a very curious person. Curiosity is also a beautiful quality in other people, in my opinion. I like creating things. Whether it's a homemade recipe for a dish, a fan, trousers, embroidery, a written text or a building kit… I just don't like chatting to strangers. I would often prefer to be invisible.


I struggled a lot with the “Things”. The (late) discovery that I am autistic has given me a new, more realistic chance to look at myself and my possibilities. Both on a relational (in a broad sense of that word) and on a professional level. Even though autism mainly describes my limitations, strangely enough I also get to know my strengths better.

I am proud of the fact that I have come thís far, without (being able to) take my specific challenges into account. I'm just a late bloomer. It's nice that I can do the trick of adjusting myself, but it's also nice that I don't always have to do that anymore. I’m proud that I dare to be myself more now and I’m daring to ask for what I need.


Autism means you can do certain things better than neurotypical people can. And worse too. I know it's unpleasant to be confronted with the things you're not good at. But my tip for others with autism is that it helps if you also acknowledge those things. Because you can oftenpractice or “hack” a lot of things. Autism is rarely an excuse. Being autistic is very twofold; It is best to learn to tolerate that feeling.

Marjanne

I’m Marjanne, I’m 41 years old and I live on my own (with 2 rabbits) in Veenendaal. I volunteer at a shelter/pet hotel (mainly cats) and at a hospice. I was diagnosed with ASD almost a year ago, after years of being diagnosed with something else, which was a relief for me.
Autism to me means that I think a lot about everything and I am usually very tired. Social matters can be very nice, but they take a lot of energy, both during and before and after, because of a lot of contemplating about it ('preparation' and 'evaluation'). I can also be bothered by noises or scents. It’s nice that I can really enjoy the small things in life, especially nature or music, and that I can sometimes express my feelings well in (abstract) painting and poems.

I'm happy that I'm getting better and better at shaping my life to the way it suits me; doing what I find valuable and where I can use my qualities. For instance, at my volunteer jobs (Where I can talk about 'deeper things' and my interest in people in the hospice and feeling a special bond with animals in the shelter/pet hotel); That I can do things that I enjoy; Allow myself more rest and space, which makes life much more pleasant than it did before.
Of course, I haven't lived that long with the knowledge of my own autism, but what has helped me so far is contacting fellow autistics; people who really recognize and/or acknowledge things, and who may already have some more experience, so they can give tipsas well, can help you recognize things in yourself, etc. And if necessary, seek and ask for appropriate help. I have a very nice personal counselor who has real knowledge of autism too.

Monique

My name is Monique de Clerck (29).

I got my autism diagnosis a year ago, when I was 28years old. I’ve been together with my dear husband for 13 years, of which we are married for 3,5 years. I studied pedagogics, but in May I will start a traineeship to become a software developer. My hobbies include everything that has to do with creativity: from drawing to photography, from crochet to programming and from diamond painting to writing articles for my website MijnAutisme [MyAutism].


Of course autism has a big impact on my life, but I always try to look at it as positively as possible. While some stimuli can be intense and annoying, they can also be very intense and beautiful. I see the most gorgeous details and certain songs can make me very happy. The challenges I have experienced because of my autism have given me a lot of perseverance. And because of all the negative things, I really see how valuable all of the positivity is in my life. It has taught me to appreciate what I cán do and what I already have!

I am proud of my perseverance. As a result, I completed my VWO and obtained my HBO pedagogics diploma. I am also proud that I now dare to take the bold step into programming. I am also very proud of the website that I am currently setting up, I hope to be able to give autism a more positive, but above all a more realistic view. Finally, I am immensely proud of my husband and how he deals with my autism.

My tip to people with autism is to truly be yourself! It’s very hard and exhausting to pretend to be different from who you actually are. By being yourself, you give yourself more peace of mind, but perhaps the most important thing: You’re most beautiful and fun when you are your true self!

Maxine

My name is Maxine. I was diagnosed with ASD 2 years ago, after a long search and a severe depression. The diagnosis has helped me tremendously and I have learned so much about myself.
For the most part, autism has had a positive impact on my life, in the sense that I am more self-aware, and more patient with myself as well. I don’t have to constantly compare myself with the development of other people anymore, which has given me peace of mind.
I am most proud of my independence. I started university last year, 1,5 hours away from home, while the treatment program with my therapist was completed. 

My personal development has progressed by leaps and bounds and I’m proud to have achieved that all by myself.
My tip to people with autism is that you should keep a close eye on your personal boundaries and to guard them well. Self-knowledge is one of the most important things you can have.

Elena

My name is Elena and I am 7 years old. I live with my sister Talitha, my father and my mother.
I like horse riding very much. I go to the equestrian facility three Saturdays a month to ride Suus. I adore Suus! I first rode in a group, but that caused too much stimulation. Now I get private lessons; I think that’s nice.
Every Thursday I can go to guidance care, from tailor-made care, which is also at an equestrian facility! I get therapy there. For example, the horses and the guidance I get therehelp me gain self-confidence. I get calm when I see horses. I feel accepted and I know that I can and may be myself. The pony I always brush there, is called Jolie. I don't ride her, because I only want to ride Suus. Sometimes I brush more ponies. And I also do other things there, like arts and crafts and chatting.

The advantage of autism is that I can ride well and can completely immerse myself in horses. Horses and Toy Story are my biggest interests. I know a lot about them and love to learn even more about the subjects.
The downside of autism is that sounds are louder. Not having a structure is difficult to me. I take language literally, so miscommunication is a reoccurring thing. I get upset when people make "jokes" that I don't understand. It's hard for me to make eye contact, which I don't mind, but some people really want me to look at them. That doesn't feel right.
I also find everything around corona difficult. Last year, with the first lockdown, I had a regression. Suddenly, I had to be homeschooled and my daily structure disappeared. When I switched to group 3 (regular education) after the summer holidays, things really went haywire. I didn't want to go to school anymore and cried every day. I literally got sick of having to go to school every day. My parents asked for help and I got a Temporary Education Place at an SBO school [Special Primary Education]. I bow enjoy going to school and I feel safe. The TEP spot will expire soon. Fingers crossed that I’m allowed to stay at this school.

Nova

I’m Nova. I am 13 years old and live with my father, mother, 2 brothers, a dog, a cat and a hamster.

I love to be creative, I like to watch Ginny and Georgia and other series on Netflix. I also like to spend time on TikTok and Instagram. I like to experiment with makeup as well. Next to that, I like to take care of animals. Animals make me very happy. Fashion is also something that I adore.


I think an advantage of autism is that I have met a lot of people with autism, and that I started a community for adolescent girls with autism, together with my mom (www.assmeisjes.nl). I met some lovely girls there.

A disadvantage of autism, to me, is that I get overstimulated very quickly, that I have difficulties with social contact and that I can’t go to school because of my autism.

I'm very proud of the community that my mom and I started, my looks, the things I've accomplished so far, and I'm proud of my family too.

As a tip for others with autism, I would like to say that you don’t have to be ashamed of your autism and that you’re not alone. There are so many fun and cool people with ASD.

Nikki

I’m Nikki, I’m 35 years old and I got diagnosed with ASD 5 years ago. I’m married and a mother of two children. I like to read, write, draw, do puzzles, watch TV... Which are mostly things that you can easily do by yourself.


I experience the impact of autism on my life as a huge one. In my childhood I regularly got bullied and excluded, which had quite some consequences for my self-confidence and self-image. Changes are a horror to me and often lead to feelings of panic. Fatigue is basically a constant factor in my life. For example, because of stimuli, but because of issues with sleep too. There’s always something going on in my head. Whether it's conversations that I repeat or am preparing, situations that I try to visualize, annoying songs that seem to be on an endless 'repeat'; it’s never quiet. And although I am very sensitive of the energy of others, it seems that others can hardly read me. As a result, it often seems like I’m doing better than actually is the case and I won’t show my true face very soon, in that regard.


I’m a go-getter. Honest and trustworthy. I will always do everything I can to be there for the people who are important to me. I’m most proud of my children and the bond I continue to build with them. The fact that I’m able to say sorry to them and teach them that you can and should make mistakes. Consciously talking about feelings. Offering structure and tranquility and thereby creating a safe haven.

My tip to people with autism is to spend time with yourself. To get to know yourself and to start build a life that works for you, from there.

 

Ingrid

I’m Ingrid, I’m 42 years old and I have a 12-year old daughter and a 10-year old son, together with my husband. I work 24 hours a week and in my spare time I like to read, write or be creative in any other way.

I was diagnosed with autism about 4 years ago. Not long after that, I got housebound due to a burnout. In retrospect, it turned out to be a time in which I learned a lot about myself and autism. After watching Netflix on the couch for a few months, I slowly calmed down and actually started rearranging my life. I’ve learned to listen to my feelings and my body. And I now know how important the balance between activity and rest is for me and what I need to achieve that. I have to consciously think about that every day, because I will exhaust myself without even noticing it, otherwise.
I am proud of the fact that when I have a goal in mind, I won’t let anything or anyone stop me. As a result, I am where I am now and I know what I need to be happy.
My tip to people with autism is: Try to find out what’s the right balance for you and what you need to organize your life as good as possible. Ask others for help if you can't figure it out by yourself.

 

Sem

My name is Sem van Hofwegen, I’m 32 years old, engaged to Dao and I live in beautiful Noord Brabant, together with our dog, cat and 7 guinea pigs. I love singing, playing guitar and drawing. In addition, I like to share my experiences, tips and tricks regarding my autism diagnosis through my blog on Asperwoman.
The impact that autism has on my life is both a negative and a positive one. Before my diagnosis, my life has always been one big battle, which eventually led to an autistic burnout. A lot of things are difficult for me, but this always takes place internally and therefore isn’tvisible. People are often surprised when I tell them that I’m autistic and sometimes they even question it. That hurts a lot.

I'm a star at camouflaging and I know what’s expected of me socially to a tee, which makes it seem like I'm doing pretty well. The reality is that it takes a lot of effort, that I experience a lot of melt-downs, that I am chronically overstimulated, and often do not understand the world very well, which causes me to structurally experience anxiety and, as a reaction to that, I try to control this with compulsive actions. The positive side is my unique view on life, my deep empathy, the intense way of feeling and my highly developed creative/analytical brain.
What I’m most proud of in my life, is that I have taken the step to choose for myself. To move to another city and environment with the love of my life, where I fit a whole lot better. Where I can be myself more often, together with our animals, the stunning nature and the mentality that suits me better.

The tip I would like to give to people with autism is to rearrange your life according to your needs, even if they deviate from the norm completely. This means that you might have to say goodbye to people, habits or an environment that otherwise will break you apart. New people, habits, etc. will naturally take their place. But they will fit your life in a positive way. And by the way! Ask for help when you need it.



 

Talitha

I’m Talitha and I’m 4 years old. I like to cuddle my favorite pony River.
I have autism. An advantage of this is that I’m very good with numbers and letters, very good at remembering lyrics and I can flawlessly sing along with them, in all languages. I can also withdraw myself well and I don't care what others think about me. And my humor is amazing.

A disadvantage is that I have meltdowns often, I also don’t understand a lot of things yet.
In addition to autism, I have a sensory integration disorder, which is quite difficult. This causes all kinds of stimuli to be a lot more intense. For example, lights are much brighter and sounds are a lot louder. Because of these strong stimuli, I get into a meltdown very fast. Another thing is that many things scare me quickly, such as different types of surfaces. I also have a hard time with crowded spaces. In order to be able to process stimuli better, I have a modified buggy, noise-canceling headphones and weighted items.
Oh yeah... I'm proud of my favorite pony River and of Tuttie, my stuffed animal too.



 

Nathalie

I'm Nathalie, I’m 46 years old and I’m a mother of two children (@bruggen_bouwen). I like walking in nature and like to photograph what I come across during my walks. I also like exercising (fitness, swimming, kickboxing) and making music. I’ve been divorced twice and am currently in a LAT-relationship, in which I’m very happy.


My autism helps me make connections and see details that other people often miss. It also costs me a lot of energy to organize my life in such a way that there’s a balance between active time and recovery time. The slightest change in my routine can throw this balance of its feet. It’s difficult for me to switch between activities and I need a lot of time to let information and impressions sink in. My autism also makes me creative and I can work on things that interest me with a lot of passion. I get underestimated, but also overestimated, very often.

I’m proud of my perseverance, my capacity for self-reflection and my eagerness to learn. It makes me happy to continue to develop myself and to include other’s in this as well.


My tip for people with autism? Don't let others tell you what you are and aren’t capable of. Know what you need to function and don't be afraid to ask for that. And if you’re faced with misunderstanding or ignorance, see it as an opportunity to educate that other person.



 

Judith

I'm Judith Visser ( @writerwithwolfdogs ). I write books and I live in a pack of wolfdogs. I was diagnosed with autism seven years ago. I’m the happiest when I’m in nature with my dogs. I showcase this on my Instagram: www.instagram.com/writerwithwolfdogs


Autism has always ensured that situations often quickly get "too busy" for me, which makes me get overwhelmed. As a result, I live a very withdrawn life. Some people call it isolation, but I don't experience it that way myself. I live by the sea, I’m very happy and I’m always surrounded by my three dogs Yuriko, Fontana and Marshall. I’m an author by trade and my two most recent novels Zondagskind [Sunday child] and Zondagsleven [Sunday life] are about my autism.


I am proud that I have managed to build my own world around me, in which I feel safe. That I’ve been able to make writing my profession and that I give lectures about what it’s like to live with autism, through which I can help others. I’m proud of the bond I have with my wolf dogs as well, we are in-tune with each other flawlessly.

My tip for people with autism? Don't feel obliged to do things that aren’t good for you and make sure you have enough recovery time if you do find yourself in a situation that overstimulates you. And if there are people around you who don't understand what autism means, gift them my books Zondagskind and Zondagsleven!

 

Lieke

My name is Lieke, I’m 11 years old. I live together with my mom, my dad, Gijs, Iris and Tim. One of the things I like are horses. I like taking care of horses, to be around horses and to ride a horse. I also like to meet up with friends.


I have autism. One advantage of my autism is that I get extra help. I go to Buitengewoon[Extraordinary], which is a farm-based care facility. I learn a lot there. I also have an autipas, which is an advantage at amusement parks. I think a disadvantage of my autism is that people sometimes don’t understand me, you can’t see it on the outside either. Sometimes, that’s difficult. 


There are also things that I’m proud of. I’m proud of myself, I have a good life. I’m also great with horses, I enjoy working with them. I also get along with people well, for example with classmates. 

To other people with autism I want to say that you have to believe in yourself, keep doing what you like to do!

Miranda

I'm Miranda (@fanntastic.portraits). I have been happily married for 27 years. We have a 16-year old daughter. My biggest passion is photography and photo editing. I take the photos for FANN's Instagram. I also enjoy interior decorating, exercising and walking in nature.
I was diagnosed with autism when I was 48 years old. The disadvantage of my autism is that I’m often insensitive to painful stimuli and have difficulty switching and keeping an overview. Due to busyness and social contact, I often get exhausted. I also get overestimated or underestimated a lot of times.

I’m proud of myself and my family. Photography makes me excited, it challenges me to be flexible and creative. Therefore, I’m very proud of the photos I take. Furthermore, I’m a go-getter and I’m always curious to learn new things that interest me. 
My tip for people with autism? Take care of yourself and try to shape your life in a way that feels the best for you. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need to.