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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 24-Jul-14 11:25:48

Understanding autism

We hear from 13-year-old Pippa Tompsett, diagnosed as autistic when she was three - and perfectly happy about that ever since! While it's hard, sometimes, for others to understand exactly what being autistic means, Pippa is determined to climb the mountain that is social understanding.

Pippa Tompsett

Understanding autism

Posted on: Thu 24-Jul-14 11:25:48


Lead photo

Pippa Tompsett

Hello, my name is Pippa, I'm thirteen years of age and I'm on the autistic spectrum. I was diagnosed when I was three and have ever since been delighted with that!

If I were to tell you all the things I wish people knew about autism... well let's just say you'd be reading a book not a blog post. The first, and probably most important part, is that you can not see autism. It's in the brain, in severe cases, yes, it is noticeable, but with me and my six other siblings, five on the spectrum, it is a shock to most people when I come out with the sentence "Oh, I'm on the autistic spectrum!", and the usual
response "Really? You don't look autistic?". Why thank you, but please do tell me, what does autism look like?

Secondly, we're not rude, just blunt. I say it how it is. One of my friends is thirty-five and he doesn't think what he's saying, so it comes across as rude but really he just says it how it is. I'm much the same, usually I will think before I speak but if I'm having an "aspie" day (an Autism day) then I will say what I'm feeling. In the past I have upset people, not intentionally, but that is the end result. When someone comments to tell me that it was rude I'll apologise and, being sincerely genuine, explain that it's my autism.

Next, I have to touch the step/door/path before you. If I suddenly decide in my head that what's planned out is I will touch it first then that is what will be. My sister, Nikita (17), and I used to argue about who would touch the given object/place first. Once, I said "I have to touch the floor first Nik." Whilst running down the stairs.

I don't want to hide it because it is a gift not a burden. I'm pleased I have autism, because, well, why wouldn't I?

"No," she replied "I do."

"Same time?" We both asked in harmony. So we put our feet side by side and counted down from three. "Arrrgghh, you touch it first!" I screamed.

"No I didn't." She would defend, because this happened many a time.

Do not change the plans... Please? I plan out every step of my day...literally every step I take. Before I get out of bed I already know what foot will take the first step down the stairs. I know what I'll put on first and what hand I'll use to pick up my toothbrush. To me, this is a given. I can't handle change.

Once, I had doctors appointment and I was already off school that day ill. "I don't know if they'll let you go Pippa", my mum told me.

"Why wouldn't they?" I asked, already starting to panic.

"Because the other children there only have poorly arms or legs," it was an appointment to check my legs (I have cerebral palsy), "so we don't want to make them ill as well." She tried to reason.

"Well, can you ring them?" I was looking for anything to help me now.

"Sorry Pippa, you can't go", my mum explained, walking back into the room.

"What?" I screamed. Tears streamed down my face, I'd had the day all planned out and now my life was turned upside down. I started to claw at the back of my legs with my nails whilst I screamed. For my mum and I, this was the usual response.

But today, even though I’m only thirteen, I have more control over it. I don't want to hide it because it is a gift not a burden. I'm pleased I have autism, because, well, why wouldn't I? Yes there are bad days, no doubt that there are, but for this list I'm writing I don't want to be told I can't or I won't because I can and I will. There's no way you can stop me, I have this gift, this power.

So, I will use it to my advantage. I'll stand up tall with my head held high, and shout from the mountain tops that I have the ability to do something amazing in this world, and that I will do...right after I climb this mountain of a task that is social understanding and coping.

If you know someone with autism or if you have it yourself, tell them or yourself, there's nothing you can't handle. Use this to your advantage. You have great problem solving skills, so help those in need.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this. Help and cherish.

Pippa's mum Vikie Shanks has written a book called Unravelled, about life with her autistic children. Out now £9.99 paperback and £3.99 kindle from Amazon.

By Pippa Tompsett

Twitter: @Gransnet

ninathenana Thu 24-Jul-14 11:52:40

Pippa I love your attitude and I'm sure you will do well in everything you set out to do smile

What a daft statement "you don't look autistic." No, that's because you look like the beautiful, intelligent young lady that you obviously are.

whenim64 Thu 24-Jul-14 12:36:10

Wow, Pippa what a great attitude you have about autism. We need more young people like you explaining how you manage your life and showing that you can achieve so much because you have abilities that don't limit you. It would be good to hear more - as you say, you get bad days so I guess you have learned how to cope at such times. It sounds like you come from a family which understands about strength and potential in you and your siblings. Thanks for your blog sunshine

Mishap Thu 24-Jul-14 13:21:13

Good to read - all power to your elbow!

Lona Thu 24-Jul-14 13:40:54

Well done Pippa for being so positive and forthcoming. You will go far I'm sure, and your parents must be proud of you

ffinnochio Thu 24-Jul-14 13:49:18

Pippa You have a happy and positive outlook on life! It's a pleasure to read your blog. sunshine

oznan Thu 24-Jul-14 14:31:10

What a delight to read your post,Pippa! You are an inspiration to other young people on the spectrum with your positivity and honesty.I'm sure you will do very well in life while celebrating your "difference."
I have a grandson,also 13 years old who was diagnosed with Asperger's aged 9.He is a wonderful boy and although high-functioning,can be a challenge too.To his family though,he is just who he has always been but it's easier to understand him since his diagnosis.
Keep on banging the drum for autistic spectrum individuals!You are right,you have a gift,you are someone special and can achieve what you want in life.Wishing a very happy future x

grammargran Thu 24-Jul-14 15:11:47

Pippa - you're a star! Like oznan above, I too have an grandson, 16 soon to be 17-years old who was diagnosed with high functioning autism pre-school. A more delightful human being you couldn't come across - he is certainly the most polite of all my grandchildren - and they're all pretty good. He has loads of friends, both boys and girls. He's not particularly academic and has not found that part of school easy but loved the social side. Perhaps his biggest challenge is yet to come as he starts at College in September. On the upside, once he finds something that interests him, nothing is too much trouble to find out everything about the subject. You sound incredibly mature for 13 - I wish you every success in whatever you decide to do with your life - it sounds as though you're going to be a force to be reckoned with!

janerowena Thu 24-Jul-14 15:58:29

My 19 year old DS is the same as grammarnan's - and he loves going to university. You sound like him, and one of his biggest assets now is that very bluntness! Also being able to converse happily with people of all ages and lack of shyness. I'm sure you will do well in life, because he has exceeded all my expectations.

trendygran Thu 24-Jul-14 16:16:28

How refreshing to hear from someone 'inside' the Autistic Spectrum, instead of just from the professionals giving their ideas and opinions, excellent though some of them are.

Crafting Thu 24-Jul-14 21:37:08

Poppa thank you for this. My grandson has problems thought to possibly be Aspergers or autism but not yet confirmed by anyone. We are gradually beginning to understand what life is like for him and why he doesn't behave as we would expect (or hope) sometimes. We love him to bits and want to do all we can to help him get on in life (not academically but in his relationships with others). He is having problems with bullying at the moment so we hope to understand him better and help him.

Crafting Thu 24-Jul-14 21:38:02

Sorry Pippa mistyped your name! I have dyslexia.

annodomini Thu 24-Jul-14 22:22:49

Pippa, you have an unusually high level of self-awareness which will stand you in good stead in your - no doubt successful - future. Well done for telling us about what your autism means to you: you are not 'autistic' you happen to be an exceptional individual with autism.

mygrannycanfly Fri 25-Jul-14 08:45:12

Hi Pippa and welcome. It was lovely to read your post. My grown up married son and my husband are Aspie's. My son's wife has an Aspie brother, so all the women in our small family (me, my daughter and my daughter-in-law) are bilingual.

Actually, we prefer speaking Aspie! We often get into trouble in our dealings with everyone else for being too blunt and direct. It can be a right nuisance phrasing things carefully so that other people don't take offence or get upset and actually understand what you are trying to point out, but it is worth it as they are more likely to fit into your plans. Mwahaha!

What I like best about being married to an Aspie is that Aspie's are always working things out and learning new things all the time. This is because they notice stuff that other people don't. I like having conversations about the things that DH has recently noticed or eXperienced.

The other day DH saw a blind person at the place where DH worked. She had got lost and DH wanted to help but wasn't sure what to say or do. We had a talk about it later and decided that it might be a good idea to ask the blind person if they would like some help and what sort of help they would like. This has been really useful to me because now if I see a blind person, instead of just feeling sorry for them I will be able to be helpful if that is needed. Most people just ignore blind people because they don't know what to do or say. Now I won't be one of those people any more. This makes me very happy and glad that I can talk about things with an Aspie who has helped me to understand my place in the world better.

granfromafar Fri 25-Jul-14 19:05:02

Pippa, I learnt a lot from reading your blog. You come across as a very mature young lady and I'm sure you will achieve everything that you aim for in life. Maybe you should consider starting a book! All the best for the future.

shoreham55 Sat 02-Aug-14 08:11:23

fantastic. I have an autistic, non verbal virtually blind young adult son and I so undestand what you say aboutmthe importance of not changing plans. No amount of explaining the unexpected helps! now I know what it feels like. ghank tou for a great piece, Pippa! Inspirational.

PippaHasAutism Mon 04-Aug-14 13:19:39

Wow! Thank you all so much! What positive feedback??

I must admit I was a bit hesitant to hand this over in case someone came out with. "Nope, I've decided, you're a fake!" (You never know who you'll find on the tintinet!

I mean someone's even suggested I write a book, but I think I'll get some more life experience first!

Recently, I've also been informally diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia. So now instead of putting all the issues I've been having down to autism I've got a lot less eggs in one basket!

Once again thank you for the great feedback, I hope to speak to you all again!

Buy for now...

whenim64 Mon 04-Aug-14 13:27:20

You have a great outlook on life, Pippa. Best wishes for the future smile sunshine

durhamjen Wed 13-Aug-14 00:18:52

I find this very interesting because I have a twelve year old grandson with autism, but he has not been told yet. He quite often says, "What's wrong with my head? Why do I think like this?"
He told his dad that he wasn't going to talk to him for the rest of his life, then said he didn't mean it, and got really upset about what he'd said.
Do you think he should be told? Not by me, I hasten to add, but by his parents.

dustyangel Wed 13-Aug-14 16:36:56

I would say he should be told durhamjen.
A friend of ours, a lovely lad, bright, articulate, friendly, always thought he wasn't as clever as the rest of his high flying family. He managed to get to University and was diagnosed as having Aspergers syndrome. He said to his Dad, " Thank God for that, I always thought I was thick."

Freeflyer Thu 21-Aug-14 19:32:42

Thank you, Pippa, for your wonderful insight. I have a 13 year old granddaughter diagnosed with autism, and I know she would love to read your blog. I have sent your link to her mum, so she can show her daughter. You are one amazing young woman, and an inspiration to us all.

karinu Fri 22-Aug-14 21:39:36

Thank you, Pippa! It's brilliant that you have such a "matter of fact" view of
Your condition.

My Grandson (6) was diagnosed at about the same age as you. He is a
Lovely kid but very shy - I so hope he will grow up as confident as you.
His parents and siblings (he is the only one with Autism) are really close.

Sadly, they are a long way from me in Australia....

apricot Sun 24-Aug-14 18:51:22

It's great that you are so positive about being on the spectrum but everyone with autism is at a different place on it. My granddaughter was not diagnosed until she was 12, after nine years of difficulties and misery for her and all her family.
It's so sad that her entire childhood was blighted and she received no help as she blundered through a terrifying world of fear and anxiety and misunderstanding. School was a nightmare and she only got help in her last year when they feared she would lower their place in the league tables.
I wish far more people (including teachers) knew far more about autism.