In our medical system, there’s been a long-term dearth of care for young people and adults who are neurodivergent. Statistically, women are less likely to be diagnosed due to a number of factors, and black women less more so. It’s a fact I think about in connection to my own late diagnosis of autism at the age of 17, but also something that’s set me on a path to make sure others have it differently.
Whilst growing up black in a white area is challenging for a lot of reasons, there’s a whole layer of difference that comes with being black and neurodivergent. I was raised in Chorlton, a primarily white area of Manchester. I had to contend with the issues that come with being isolated due to race; in school, teachers often criticised my behaviour with microaggressive terms, lamenting that I was so smart but my ‘attitude’ let me down – that same old terminology many black girls will be familiar with. This combination of frustrations with my then-undiagnosed neurodivergence and race led to marginalisation by adults, and I became an easy target to label as difficult. Girls who bullied me in class would claim I had been the problem and I learnt from a young age how white girls are quick to weaponise their tears. I didn't have a leg to stand on other than the truth, which never got me very far.
Looking back, I believe this greatly impacted my neurodiversity being missed in my younger years. Constantly being placed in detention meant I often had to miss break times, and thus didn't have to work out how to play with everyone else. My acting out was labelled as aggression, my feelings of isolation written off as hyperbole and expressions of suicidal thoughts seen as me trying to get out of trouble.