“I was diagnosed with autism and a lot of things fell into place.” - Irene

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. A lot of things fell 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 in the best 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 mentally block, and so sometimes I may react very angry out of the blue. It’s also difficult to spontaneously plan something, because I always have to consider 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 is possible 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.

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