Melanie Sykes and Christine McGuinness, for example, were diagnosed autistic after their children.

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Melanie Sykes and Christine McGuinness, for example, were diagnosed autistic after their children.

MELTDOWNS, suicidal thoughts, and relationship problems had led these three parents to wonder if they were “disabled.”

However, it wasn’t until their children were diagnosed with autism that they realized they, too, were on the autism spectrum.

In the United Kingdom, 700,000 people have a lifelong development disability, and the majority of cases are discovered in childhood, with boys being the most affected.

However, some experts believe that thousands of women are living with the disease and are unaware of it.

Christine McGuinness, 33, the wife of TV personality Paddy McGuinness, was diagnosed with autism earlier this year, along with her three children, twins Penelope and Leo, eight, and Felicity, five.

Melanie Sykes, 51, a TV presenter whose autistic son Valentino is 17, said she “celebrated” her own recent diagnosis.

Natasha Harding and Sam Carlisle interview three parents who were diagnosed with autism later in life.

Heather Tingle, 44, lives in Sheffield with Emily, her autistic 11-year-old daughter.

Heather, who owns a decluttering company, says the diagnosis she received in May of last year changed her life.

“When Emily was six years old, the paediatrician asked me how long I’d known I was autistic,” she says.

“At first, I laughed and said, ‘Oh, I’m not autistic.'”

“However, as I walked out of the room, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’m autistic too.'”

Why hadn’t I noticed before?

“Although her words seemed to come out of nowhere at first, everything came together in the end.

“I realized why I find socializing and visiting new places exhausting, why I require structure and routine, and why small talk is difficult for me.”

“Over the next few years, I did a lot of research before going for my own assessment, because having the diagnosis confirmed felt like a huge deal, and I wanted to be absolutely certain in my own mind.”

“I went for my own assessment when I was 43, and it has changed my life.”

“There have been times in my life when I’ve felt so mentally drained that I’m thankful I’m still alive.”

“Growing up was a nightmare.

“I always felt like an outsider, as if everything I did and said was wrong, even though I had wonderful friends and family.”

“I had a nervous breakdown at university because it was all too much for me.”

I was diagnosed with depression and put on antidepressants for five years.

“It was a misdiagnosis, in retrospect.”

I now believe I was suffering from autistic burnout, a type of exhaustion experienced by autistic people who live in a world designed for neurotypical people.

“Time, a better understanding of myself, and putting coping strategies in place all helped.”

“Every autistic symptom was present,…

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