Search the website

I’m not super, I’m just quite good and autistic

28th March 2024

Sanctuary Supported Living

An image of Neil, a man sat wearing an orange jumper holding a book in front of a Superman figure.

Neil Laurenson sharing his personal journey as an autistic person

As we mark World Autism Acceptance Week, a crucial time to recognise and celebrate neurodiversity, Neil Laurenson, who works for Sanctuary Supported Living, shares his personal journey on what it means to be autistic, along with those of other prominent figures in the autism community. 

“Rachel Winder is an autistic autism consultant. She wrote on X (formerly Twitter): ‘Why do we have to go to extremes? Why can’t autism be a human variation that’s neither a disorder or a superpower but a valid and valuable aspect of human nature?’ 

On a similar note, autistic comedian Fern Brady said: ‘Sometimes when I tell people I’m autistic, they try and smooth things over at any cost, and they say, ‘But it’s a superpower!’ And I say, ‘Really? Is it a superpower?’ Would it have made a good film if, instead of having superhuman strength and being able to fly around the world on a whim, Superman instead monologued at you about the 1960s poet Sylvia Plath at length, with no ability to register your disinterest? Neurotypical people can’t get the balance right. It’s always either a tragedy or you have to say it’s a superpower, and I wished people just viewed autism with a bit more neutrality because you need to see it as a different operating system like iPhones versus Androids.’ 

Another autistic comedian, Joe Wells, refers to his dislike of the term ‘severe’ autism, and the National Autistic Society advises against using functioning and severity labels, as they ‘fail to capture how a person's needs may vary (they may excel at certain things while finding others very challenging)’.  To refer to me as ‘mildly’ autistic would also fail to take into account that I am masking so that I can blend in with society and attract as little attention as possible. As the word suggests, masking means suppressing authentic behaviour, which is exhausting and damaging.  

YouTube content creator, Foster on the Spectrum, said: ‘Masking… leads to a terrible sense of self and self-image, when you don’t consider yourself a human being and you think everyone is so inherently superior to you that you have to pretend to be them in order to be worthy.’ 

That is a tragedy – not autism. Another tragedy is the reality that so many autistic people spend years not knowing they’re autistic and feel that they’re broken because they’re not like most people. That was certainly the case with me. I was very depressed three years ago, and the suggestion by a woman at Crisis that I might be autistic changed my life – for the better. After months of subsequent research, I realised that I am autistic. Self-recognition is valid, and I have since had an official autism diagnosis. It’s common for people to wait years for an autism assessment, though to have an assessment much sooner, you can ask your GP to arrange one through the Right to Choose pathway. 

"It's vital that we acknowledge, accept, and celebrate neurodiversity."

Neil Laurenson

It's vital that we acknowledge, accept, and celebrate neurodiversity. As clinical psychologist, Lesley Cook, said, life depends on diversity: ‘In any healthy ecosystem, we need to have a huge diversity of plants and animals and species to make that ecosystem work well…As humans, the concept of neurodiversity is the same, so that autistic people and ADHD people and other diagnoses that would fit under that umbrella are all part of the same community.’ 

Neil is a Bid Writer for Sanctuary Supported Living. He was diagnosed as autistic last year at the age of 41, and as an ADHDer a couple of months ago. His blog piece highlights the diverse spectrum of autism, where some individuals thrive independently with tailored adjustments, while others find strength in a range of support levels. This may include supported housing, such as that offered by Sanctuary Supported Living. To find out more about Sanctuary Supported Living’s services in your area, read more about what we do, visit our find local services page, or see our latest news

You can hear more about Neil’s autistic experiences by visiting his YouTube channel, Autistic Not Alien.