Hazel Kerrison, 36, lives in York and was diagnosed with autism at 32 and ADHD at 34. Here, she writes about her experience - and about why proper assessment is vital...

It was suggested that I might be autistic when I was six years old but, for a multitude of reasons, I was well into my twenties when I looked into assessment.

It was a lengthy assessment process and by the end of it, to my surprise, I was told that not only was I autistic but I potentially had ADHD.

I have had mental health issues for most of my life; as a child I felt anxious and had difficulty concentrating and by my late teens I was diagnosed with a mental illness.

Although those diagnoses felt right, I had a nagging feeling that they didn't tell the full story.

By my twenties many people suspected I was autistic. I was exhausted by a lifetime of trying and failing to fit in; of desperately trying to find where I sat in the world; of accidentally insulting people; of trying with all my might to be a functional person but never seeming to meet the mark.

I had been branded as useless, lazy, spaced-out, awkward, and I was constantly told that if I just tried harder, if I just applied myself more, I could do X, Y, and Z. "Failure to achieve potential" was a phrase I was very familiar with.

On many levels I hated myself, I couldn't understand why everything seemed so easy for others but so hard for me. Maybe I really was useless, lazy, and all those other labels people ascribed to me.

It wasn't until I discovered that I was AuDHD - a term for someone who is both autistic and ADHD - that I started to unlearn these judgments. I became able to learn how to work with my brain and not against it, I was able to learn to ask for accommodations, to ask for support, to ask for what I need.


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I am no longer ashamed to wear sunglasses indoors or to excuse myself from a busy situation.

I will allow myself to stand up and move around in meetings rather than becoming overwhelmed and suffering physical pain because it is all I can do to concentrate on staying still.

If I don’t understand a particular social interaction, I ask. I'm no longer ashamed to be me.

Before diagnosis I was regularly very harsh on myself, both self-harm and suicidal ideation were common occurrences.

But now, although I may still not be quite the level of functional human being I want to be, I can understand my brain, myself, and my behaviours.

I know that it's not for lack of trying, it’s not because I'm an awful person - it's because my brain literally works differently and that's ok.

I do a lot of peer support with other people who are potentially neurodivergent and I have seen first hand how this pilot has impacted them.

These are very vulnerable people and many have been pushed towards crisis in the last few months.

Maybe the cruelest thing about this is that they are too disempowered to fight this themselves, many have been unable to even return to their GP due to the effects of all this.

And that's part of why I'm fighting for access to assessment: I already knew this pilot was wrong on a moral level and I had suspicions of the harm it could cause, but now I've witnessed the effects on people who can't fight for themselves, I’m motivated to fight on their behalf.