By sharing her story of her diagnosis as part of World Autism Week, Megan Rhiannon hopes to help others living with autism to manage their lives.
Her first book ‘Existing Autistic’ is being shared with others by The Retreat with the aim of helping them deal with their own diagnosis. The Retreat is developing its Post-Diagnostic Services by speaking to autistic people and using a peer mentoring service to support them.
Megan was diagnosed with autism, aged 19, and believes the world needs autistic voices like hers. In her book she recounts her struggle to get a diagnosis and how she learnt to ‘trust her gut’ as she began dealing with autism.
“I often found that the doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t give me straight or simple answers. They spent a lot of time talking in circles and telling me not to worry about it,” she said.
“Unfortunately, many misconceptions and stereotypes about autism still persist even within the medical industry and in those who are meant to be well versed in the subject,” she explains.
In her book which she also self-illustrates, she uses imagery to communicate her sensory world.
The Retreat’s Expert by Experience Victoria Gray, describes how the book givens real examples of what it feels like to have autistic sensory experience. “Megan offers some really rich descriptions of her sensory experiences which gave me goose bumps! I connected with her book, being autistic myself. I felt a strong affinity to her unique abilities to express as an artist-illustrator too.
“She also tackles the thorny issue of diagnostic terminology, particularly the conceptualisation of autism being on a linear spectrum from high to low functioning.”
Megan describes her experiences as ‘incredibly overwhelming’. “From the clashing and conflicting sounds of traffic and movement in a street, to the clatter and clinking of a kitchen, coffee shop or restaurant, the combined smells of perfume, aftershave and body odour on public transport, and the indecipherable but ear-aching hum of overlapping conversations in a closed space – everything is just a lot, always,” she says.
In the book Megan says her first year after her diagnosis, made her feel like she finally had the answers.
“I think I felt only joy – I was so immensely relieved to finally have answers that I really leaned into it and embraced my differences.”
She also offers autistic people some excellent strategies for managing meltdowns, shutdown and autistic burnout, such as removing themselves from a situation and using specific hues and smells to remind her of different places and times.
Download the full interview HERE