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Sue raises autism awareness after ‘decade of denial’

By Felicity Hay

A POPULAR staff member working for Autism Hampshire has marked the current 2024 ‘Autism Awareness Month’ by opening up about her life and journey with certain difficulties as she looks to improve understanding both in the local area / further afield.

Stubbington-based Sue Morgan was sixty-five years old when she accepted a self-diagnosis of autism, which followed approximately a decade of denial since her close autistic friend first mentioned it as a possibility that explained ongoing difficulties.

She said: I’d dismissed it because of my previous view of what autism was. I thought of it as being a disability and linked with severe meltdowns. I recognised my eldest grandson is autistic as he has meltdowns and has a need for order and routine. I also associated autism with superior intelligence or lack of. Looking at all of this, I didn’t think that it was me.”

Sue enjoys a creative side and she has found that her artwork has discovered new meaning since she accepted her autism; adding: “For me, it was the experience of having the freedom to experiment. You can do it your own way. I drew a sunset in crayon years ago. My husband didn’t understand it. But more recently I showed it to someone else and they got the point.”

Continuing to speak about her new-found creative freedom, Sue said: “When I drew it, I just knew what it had to look like and what I had to produce. That’s the point. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit in with someone else’s idea of what art is meant to look like. I felt constricted by the need to draw something that people recognised. What’s more important is that I like it and that I have expressed myself. Now, art is about expressing myself in colour and feeling.  It’s very good for releasing stress.”

Before her self-diagnosis, Sue used to describe her autistic characteristics as ‘foibles’ that significantly affect her life. These include a sensitivity to sound, an elevated focus on the English language, and social challenges with large groups of people.

Sue said: “I have auditory issues as there are a lot of sounds that I can’t bear. For example, when I am cooking in the kitchen, we have a large extractor fan and after about 20 minutes, I just can’t do anything. I can’t think. The sound is all I hear and all I can process.”​

“With the English language, I can’t bear to hear people not speaking properly. TV is the worst. It’s like it makes your brain itch and there’s nothing you can do about it. I have also been known to walk into a shop and walk straight back out again. You’re trying to do your weekly shop but, if you can’t cope, then you can’t cope. I just thought they were things I had to live with. But they aren’t foibles. They are part of who I am.”

Sue currently works at Autism Hampshire and expressed her relief that she can “work in an accepting environment where you are asked ‘what do you need to make the workplace a comfortable place to work in. To accept it is to free yourself. It’s freed me and given me more confidence than I have ever had. Even when I used to look confident, inside I was in constant anxiety, constantly worried about people judging me. “

She concluded by stating:” I have accepted who I am. I’m not hurting anyone. It doesn’t have to have any impact on anyone else’s life. If you feel you have got certain issues, don’t shy away from the idea. That’s what it is about, the acceptance.”

Readers can read about autism by clicking this NHS link; which details potential characteristics / difficulties that can affect people alongside the range of support on offer. Further information about Autism Hampshire and their work / projects can be explored via: https://autismhampshire.org.uk/

PICTURED BY AUTISM HAMPSHIRE: Sue Morgan poses for photograph with notebook and card on her desk in the office.