Discovering your autistism later in life

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“My initial explanation was you're bad, there's something wrong with you, you're not good. I had applied a lot of judgment to myself,” says Lauren Ober Photo by Mongkolchon Akesin/Shutterstock.

Once recognized in early childhood, today autism is more and more frequently being diagnosed in mid-or later life and increasingly amongst women.  

Historically, when it comes to getting a diagnosis girls were overlooked. That may have been because autistic traits present slightly differently between the genders. In addition many girls and women have been able to mask or camouflage their condition - suffering in silence, trying to fit in.  

That was the case for Lauren Ober, who growing up always knew something wasn’t quite right; “ I've always struggled in a lot of ways, just sort of moving through the world never felt very seamless, it was always with some amount of friction,” says Ober.

Ober explains that she struggled in school, she was loud, had weird food and sensory issues and would get really anxious.  

“I have crazy sensory issues with food…challenges with fruits in particular or foods I can barely even look at….I'm a very bizarre eater. When I do eat, although as an adult, I've worked really hard to mask that.”

 “The biggest thing for me was that I'm extremely loud, I talk a lot and I talk loudly and I can't hear how loudly I talk, “says Ober.  “And I laugh very loudly and I laugh at inappropriate times, and I make comments and inappropriate times. And my mouth sort of has a mind of its own.”

Jonathan Bastian talks with Ober about the moment during the pandemic that everything changed and at the age of 42 Ober found out that she was autistic. That diagnosis and confirmation that she had been living with a neurodevelopmental condition was a moment of affirmation for Ober.

“There was my life before I understood myself and a life after I understood myself,” says Ober  “and what fell in the middle of that was a diagnosis. But I would say, a diagnosis gives you a language to both understand yourself better and then to advocate for yourself.”

Asked about what message she shares with others who discover they’re autistic, Ober says “it's a very personal diagnosis, it's a very personal condition, some people choose to embrace it and some people feel shame and stigma around it and choose to be more stealth about it.” 

“There are a million ways of being and there are a million ways of being that are perfectly acceptable.” 

The Loudest Girl in The World,” a new series from Pushkin Industries and iHeartMedia features Lauren Ober as host and producer telling her own autism diagnosis journey, ““I wasn't really seeing any autistic representation that felt relatable anywhere, and maybe that’s because most media portraying autistic people isn't made by autistic people,” says Ober. Photo courtesy of Lauren Ober

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Andrea Brody