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Catherine's story

Catherine Londero has kindly agreed to share her story with us.

At the end of this article, there are links to more of Catherine's writing, and a link in case you'd like to share your story too.

Thank you, Catherine, for answering some questions about your story :)


How did you find out you are autistic?

The possibility had never entered my head until I was in my late 30s. I had started to see traits in my eldest son (aged 3 at the time) and so my journey on understanding autism began. I had always thought my husband was likely autistic but didn’t think it applied to me.

Once I had done the necessary research to work out how to get my son assessed, I did an online search for “autistic women traits”. By the time I had got to the end of the first article I knew that this applied to me. It was like fireworks going off in my head. All the questions I had about myself, that I hadn’t really considered finding an answer for, I could now explain.

I was 37 when I first identified that I am autistic and received my formal diagnosis aged 39. I am now on a waiting list for an ADHD diagnosis.

How did you feel about it at the time, and has that changed since?

At first I did feel overwhelmed. I flipped from spending hours reading about it, to not wanting to think about it. I found it hard to process the fact that my brain had been experiencing the world differently to most other people for my whole life and I didn’t even know about it.

I found myself getting flashbacks to moments from my past which highlighted my neurodivergence. It felt both liberating and anxiety inducing. I knew deep down that knowing I am autistic changed things. I had masked all my life but hadn’t realised and now I knew, I became a lot more conscious of it.

I definitely feel different about it now. I am proud to be autistic and proud to have got to where I have in life without even knowing about it. All the sides of my personality that I used to keep hidden, I feel more able to show. These are the parts of me which make me special and if someone has a problem with it then I am not afraid to stand up for myself.

It also helps me support my son as I do know what he is experiencing. I have empathy for him and use that to navigate the best ways to look after him. I see it as my job to interpret for him and show others what he is really experiencing.

What is one thing you wish you could tell your pre-diagnosis self?

You don’t have a problem and you don’t have to change yourself to solve it. The issue lies with a society based on the average neurotypical brain and it is not your fault that it doesn’t suit your needs. Be true to yourself and you can live a healthy and happy life, without constantly worrying about standing out. You do stand out and that’s ok.

Do you have any special interests? What are they?

Films. I have certain films I watch over and over again and find it comforting. I particularly enjoy gangster films, like the Godfather and Goodfellas. I notice something new each time I watch them.

I also love the Harry Potter films and like to watch them in their entirety every Christmas (not so much now I have kids!).

I don’t tend to have areas which I learn lots about, I prefer to lose myself in my own world and that has led to me becoming a children’s writer. I do think that being autistic enables me to tap into the vivid imagination I had as a child as I have never lost it!

What tips and tricks for managing your brain can you not do without?

For socialising and communicating

I like to prepare questions beforehand and will remind myself of the basic facts about the people I am meeting. I have a tendency not to remember that information so it helps me feel more at ease knowing those things when I meet someone.

I also have different social masks, depending on who I am meeting. Although masking can be exhausting and not great for your mental health, it can sometimes be useful to navigate a social situation without exposing yourself to unhelpful comments from those less open to the differences with those who are neurodivergent. The difference now is I use it to protect myself whereas before I knew I was autistic, I was constantly masking to protect others.

I also make sure I wear an outfit that I feel at ease in and matches the social mask I will be using. This helps me get in the right headspace for that particular mask.

If I have to make a phone call, for example to the doctor, then I will write out the background for my call and try to work out any questions they might ask me. I find it really hard being put on the spot so the more I can predict, the better.

For routines

Reminders on my phone! I use an app which allows me to have a section on the homepage of my phone which shows me the tasks I need to do each day. I have to have a reminder for most things. It is often the daily tasks that I need the reminder for more as I find it easier to remember a one off task than a routine one.

If my task list has more than five items on then I will add times to complete each task. This stops me running through my to do list every five minutes throughout the day.

I find a regular bedtime (although I do struggle to stick to it once I am comfortable on the sofa!) and sticking to regular mealtimes helps me with my executive function. I tend to eat certain foods every week to balance my diet but also my brain likes the predictability of how each meal will taste. I enjoy a wide range of food but on an average day, I like a meal that is familiar.

I also carry out self-care in a certain order so I don’t forget anything. I could easily forget to brush my teeth if I didn’t do it before I got dressed. I use the same method with my children.

For handling change

I still find change really challenging but, understanding that it is a big part of having a neurodivergent brain, has helped me be kinder to myself. I used to be quite harsh and force myself to get on with it, even if it felt really uncomfortable. Now I make allowances and cut down on plans around a time of change to give me plenty of processing time.

Giving myself the processing time I need makes a big difference to emotional regulation. On a normal day, where most things are predictable, I still need to give myself processing time at the end of the day to go through anything that was unexpected. When a big change happens, predicted or not, I need to allow a lot more time to process the impact of that change and work out what emotions I am feeling from that.

For sensory issues

Similar to coping with change; now I know that this is something I find challenging, I am kinder to myself. I have always found certain noises intolerable but I didn’t have the confidence to remove myself from hearing them. I now speak out if I am struggling with a certain noise as it makes such a difference to me.

I also put a lot more energy into enhancing my sensory experiences. I find certain lighting incredibly soothing so I have candles and orange light bulbs in the lounge to help me relax in the evening. I also find certain smells help me relax and can even give me an energy boost so I make sure I have regular baths with strong smelling bath oil and use wax melts and scented candles. I don’t just save these things for a treat as that sensory experience in an evening helps me unwind from the day and prepare myself for the next. It is not a luxury, it is a need.

I make sure that my clothes fit nicely and avoid scratchy fabrics. I find certain materials have a smell to them so I avoid them.

Here are links to Catherine's writing:


I hope to include more of these types of articles on the website, to share more people's perspectives. If you've got a story to share or want to contribute other things you've written, let me know via this form.


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