Cardiff podcast shares the ups and downs of life for autistic adults
Founder of The Square Peg was not diagnosed until she was 37 and wants to help others
A CARDIFF woman who was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 37 has launched a podcast to share her experiences and insights.
Amy Richards, 43, from Llandaff North, founded The Square Peg Podcast to discuss experiences of autism and neurodivergence.
“Around the time of my diagnosis, I shared a blog with my friends and family just because it was easier to explain all of it that way. Two people who read the blog ended up getting diagnosed after reading it.
“That really stayed with me, and I thought there have got to be more stories to share. It’s so powerful and can help so many people. So, creating a podcast to share more autistic people’s stories in 2020 felt like a natural next step.”
The full-time virtual business assistant said: “Late diagnosis for my generation is so common and I hope it becomes less common as people are diagnosed younger. I know people who have been diagnosed in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s even.
“It’s a big thing to get your head around. You have spent decades wondering why you feel like an outsider then it turns out there was a reason for a lot of the problems you faced or things you experienced.”
“I have felt a bit of anger in wondering if I was diagnosed earlier would things have been easier for me? If I had more support at previous jobs, would things be different now?”
Disparities in diagnoses
A recent study revealed that there has been a 787% increase in autism diagnoses over the last 20 years.
In 1998, one adult per 100,000 was diagnosed with autism. This increased to 20 in 2018.
While the study showed that women are usually diagnosed much later than men, the number of women being diagnosed is increasing.
Researchers claim this is not down to more cases but thanks to campaigns and projects like Amy’s which have helped educate people about what autism is.
Community and misconceptions
“The purpose of the podcast is to tell these human stories – and everyone has a story. Every time I talk with somebody I find something I can relate to. It’s helped me connect with the wider community of autistic people worldwide and it has been amazing to talk with so many lovely people,” said Amy.
Amy has hosted some famous faces including comedian Fern Brady, comedy writer Sara Gibbs, and author Holly Smale.
“The podcast is like hearing myself in ten different accents. I LOVE it. This has helped me more than talking to doctors or autism counsellors,” Fern said.
Amy also strives to reshape misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding autism and hopes that more non-autistic (allistic) people will listen and learn.
“I want to remove some of the stigma and get away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of what autistic people are like. I’ve had people say, ‘you don’t look autistic’ or ‘you don’t seem autistic’. Autistic people have different traits which can fluctuate day-to-day.
“There’s a lot of talk about autism being like a ‘superpower’ too. Yes, we can have certain traits that are advantageous. For example, I learn certain things, like software, quickly and can hyper-focus well. But calling it a superpower dangerously skirts over issues we face. It takes away from the idea that we need support.”
She is looking forward to talking with more guests and is excited by her growing online presence with nearly 4,000 followers on Instagram alone.
Amy said: “I get so many emails, messages from people all the time. People say ‘I have been diagnosed because of this’. Some even say ‘you have saved my life’, or ‘you have changed the way I look at myself’. It’s just amazing. The podcast will not be ending anytime soon.”
If you are autistic or think you might be, Amy has compiled a list of quizzes and resources for support and further information. You can find this here.