It Often Goes Undetected: Autism Diagnosis At 33: “It Was A Relief”

Note: This essay was originally published by Futter, the young magazine Kleine Zeitung.

On the first day in kindergarten, maybe Katja Schöffmann remember like it was yesterday: “It was loud and terrible. I sat in the corner and looked after myself until my mother picked me up at a quarter to two. ” Katja was only three years old at the time. At the age of four, she started doing things that were actually intended for primary school students. “When it comes to intelligence, I’ve been further afield. For example, I was reading the Kleine Zeitung aloud, even if I didn’t understand the text yet, ”he says.

Katja didn’t feel well at school either: “Today I think to myself that I wanted to shoot all my classmates on the moon and shut up with my teachers. Then I would have learned even more. ” And today he also knows why it was like this: Katja has autism. But she was diagnosed only decades later, when she was already 33 years old. “Nobody noticed anything in kindergarten or school. Back then, in the early 1990s, no one had a clue, ”says the 37-year-old, who made friends when hanging it at university. There she studied Spanish and journalism. It is not surprising that she was diagnosed so late. Overall it is estimated that a good 1,000 people in Klagenfurt can be classified on the spectrum, but not all are looked aftersays Katja: “In women, autism often goes unrecognized for the rest of their lives.”

Katja Schöffmann
© male

Autism diagnosis as a relief

In any case, Katja’s diagnosis was a great relief. Suddenly a lot of things made sense: “I started crying. Nobody ever thought about it, never noticed it. But how does autism affect their daily lives? “I live well with it. I have many talents, but I get everything. It doesn’t have to be a defect, ”he says, eyes drifting to the window. “I see a lot of details. For example, in houses, bricks are of a different color. “ But your ears are at full capacity 24 hours a day. The noise or the phone ringing can be unpleasant. “But it also helps me with music. I play the piano and the violin. “

From a medical point of view, autism is classified as a developmental disorder. “I don’t think it’s a disability, it’s more of an ability,” says Carinthian, who has been living alone since the age of 18 and has attended two groups of adult social autism since diagnosis. “Depending on where you are on the spectrum, you need more or less support,” he says Birgit Bierbaumer. He works as a health psychologist at the Carinthia Inclusion Association. Some of the victims live alone and even have jobs – or several, as in the case of Katja, who is not only a journalist but also conducts classes in several languages. Earlier, she held, inter alia, internship in Brussels. On the other hand, other sufferers have difficulties with communication and the social sphere. Bierbaumer knows that autistic people are often discriminated against in everyday life. “It starts when you use the word” autism “as a curse. Bullying is definitely a problem, and people often don’t trust those affected very much. ‘

Autism and stereotypes

This may be because autism is full of many stereotypes. Autistic people are often shown in movies and series with sunglasses and headphones because they want to protect themselves from external stimuli. “But I can concentrate well and work with concentration. I only need headphones when there are two calls in the office, ”says Katja, who doesn’t necessarily have to eat the same thing every day – another prejudice. “Mum cooked until she was 18. When I was in college, I ate something every day, and now I pay more attention to my health and make a plan. ”

In an interview, a young woman regularly maintains eye contact: “That’s not a problem either.” Nor can it confirm that people with autism should lack empathy: “We are oversensitive as well as hypersensitive and perceive way too much, also emotionally.” Only when it comes to interpreting facial expressions, he often gets confused: “I have a hard time with that. I think why someone looks surprised? He can also be irritated. ”

Overall, everyone with the disease has a place on the autism spectrum. That’s why the effects are often so different.

More than a diagnosis

In any case, Katja is characterized by much more than just a diagnosis. Some of her features may have something to do with it – even as a child, she always meticulously sorted books by title, the rug always had to be straight and the drawers had to be tightly closed. But she is also an avid pianist and violinist, recently she has taken up chess – “Eight games with the computer were drawn, I won two” – and is an amateur astronomer. Like the others, Covid-19 worried her. “The crown pandemic scares me more and more. In the beginning it was still nice for me and other friends with autism, we had the supermarket to ourselves and we were able to go shopping in an autism friendly way. I was pleased, “she says. But I’m worried about the planet.

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