Puberty and My Autism Diagnosis

Mair Elliott

Mair Elliott

Mair Elliott, now aged 18, shares her experience of being diagnosed with Autism as a teenager.

“Most of us will know the time, the time when we suddenly got really grumpy, our bodies started sprouting hair from random places, we started to spend a lot more time ‘hanging out’ with our friends. The time when everyone suddenly became obsessed with relationships and sex, and when everyone wanted to try the latest ‘must haves’. People started to wear different clothing and tried different styles . Our parents drove us up the wall, and school always set too much homework. You guessed it; the teenage years.

Many of us will remember those precious few years as being full of fun, experimenting, heartbreak, excitement and a little confusion. No one has smooth sailing through puberty, all of us were desperate to ‘find ourselves’. Most will find their paths, and learn to sail the rough seas of growing up. But what happens when your whole world is turned upside down by a few simple words, slap bang in the middle of those unstable years?

I was 14 when something started going wrong, I didn’t have a clue what it was. Low moods, an inability to concentrate, lack of interest in things. I brushed it off as ‘teenage angst’ after all that’s what’s supposed to happen isn’t it? But over a couple of months things got worse and I felt low all of the time, I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t anything really, just empty. And then the worrying and stressing kicked in. The fear and nervous energy began to sing its song in my head. I would be reduced to a quivering ball of tears and breathlessness, something which I now know as a panic attack. I had no control over what my head was doing, but it was certainly not doing as it was supposed to. I started hurting myself, not something which came as a decision but more as an instinct when I couldn’t deal with how I felt. I could no longer face eating, and slowly restricted what I put in my mouth, which again was not a conscious decision, it wasn’t something I had control over.

Luckily, a teacher in school had noticed, she referred me to school nurse, who promptly referred me to mental health services. I met with a psychiatrist, something which could be a blog post in itself! I was never good at speaking about how I felt, because I never actually was able to understand how I felt. But after a couple of sessions the psychiatrist said something which would change my life forever.

“I think you might be on the Autism spectrum.”

I was given a diagnosis of Autism at 15 years old, I was also diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety, just to complete the set.

I had always known I was different, but at a young age I took matters into my own hands and decided to learn how to be ‘normal’. I would watch other children and copy what they did, mimic their body language and facial expressions, and I learn what words they used. And this became my obsession, people were my obsession. So no, it probably wasn’t noticeable that I had autism to the untrained eye. All the stereotypical things that people think of when it comes to autism, I just didn’t do. For example, I learned how to make eye contact, I hated it but I did it because that’s what everyone else did, my obsession was people, so I didn’t have any obviously unusual obsessions, I could speak and communicate well because I had taught myself how.

Being given a diagnosis during the years in which I was supposed to be figuring out who I was, blew everything into confusion. I started questioning the everyday things, whether or not they were ‘autistic’ things or just me. Questions like, ‘what does this mean for the future?’ And, ‘Am I going to be able to live a ‘normal’ life?’ started cropping up. My mental illness had declined to the point where I required hospitalisation. All the while I was desperate to work out who I was.

I quickly started to believe that I was destined to be the ‘crazy’ one. The ‘crazy cat lady’ or the ‘mad hatter’. Because all of these things, the mental illness, the autism discovery completely blew my world into pieces. And I was subjecting myself to stigma which the rest of the word was waving in my face. I thought that I would be ill, and unsuccessful because apparently that Is who I’d become during those years. Whilst my friends were out experimenting, trying new things, developing their personalities and becoming people, I was in and out of hospital, meeting with doctors and nurses, taking medication, having meltdowns in the school corridors and needing stitches every couple of days.

I am now 18, I am a lot better, and doing well. I believe that I have managed to reach the other side of the terrible teenage years. My path through was completely different to my peers, who have all recently embarked on their new journeys in University. But I think the most important thing I think that I have recently discovered, is that I don’t have to be the ‘crazy’ one, I can be who I want to be. I have autism, and that’s ok. I have depression, and that’s ok. I have anxiety, and that’s ok. In the past I have thought that those things will define me for the rest of my life, that I would always be known by my autistic traits. But now I know that although those things are part of me, they cannot and will not define who I am as a person. They do not have that kind of power over me, and I won’t ever give them that kind of power ever again. I can search for who I am , and I can become something which does not allow my diagnoses to set any limits on my abilities. And of course Autism comes with its advantages, for example once I find something I like I have the drive and willpower of a police dog on the scent of explosives to pursue that topic of interest. I can see the world in a completely different way to most other people, and I think my view of the world is a beautiful one.”

Mair gave us full permission to publish this article which originally appeared as guest blog on the website aspertypical 

Kim Philpotts is Cerebra’s newest Ambassador

Kim Philpotts

Kim Philpotts

Kim Philpotts from Malvern in Worcestershire has recently become an Ambassador for Cerebra:

“I am married to my husband Scott and I’m mum to two little boys – Fraser, aged 3, and Archie,  aged 7. Both boys were born prematurely.  Archie suffered lots of complications at birth and has a bleed on the brain known as PVL. As a result he has learning disabilities, is on the autistic spectrum, has hypermobility, and conductive hearing loss.

I also work as a nurse practitioner in general practice with special interest in childhood neurodevelopmental difficulties and mental health.

I like to be busy, and as I wanted to help families that were in a similar situation to our family, I set up a special needs group known as ‘What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful’.

Kim's son Archie

Kim’s son Archie

I started by running coffee mornings at local community centres, ran trips and  workshops and the service grew. Now I have successfully raised enough money to open a centre for families with children whom have special and additional needs. This was my dream to do and in less than two years I made it happen. The centre offers lots of direct support to the families such as workshops, cooking sessions, gardening, events, trips and support for siblings.

We heavily rely on Cerebra publications for information and Cerebra’s Regional Support Officers regularly visit the centre to offer advice and support and help parents access Cerebra’s services.

I am proud to be an Ambassador for Cerebra and be in a position to promote Cerebra’s services. Having a child with disabilities has a huge impact on the whole family and without the kind of support that Cerbera offer, it’s a lonely journey”.

We are always looking for new people to join our team of Ambassadors. If you are interested you can find out more here or contact Elaine Collins on

Christine Bunting Receives Award at Downing Street

Christine receiving her award from Samantha Cameron

Christine receiving her award from Samantha Cameron

Christine Bunting, Director at Hyphen Law has been working tirelessly to promote the work that Cerebra does for some time, even going so far as to complete a skydive to raise funds for us. Now, she has been recognised with a prestigious award at our recent charity reception at 10 Downing Street.

Christine was named was named a ‘Point of Light’ by Prime Minister David Cameron for the part she played in forming a group of fundraisers in London.

She was instrumental in setting up the London Minds group to support the work of Cerebra, having been made aware of the charity through her work at Hyphen Law who specialise in supporting people with a mental impairment. Christine wanted to find a way for the firm to support people beyond their clients. She realised that she could help the charity to access a key audience of potential supporters in London and set up London Minds.

With London Minds, Christine has united a team of six other professionals based in London who are all committed to raising awareness and support for the charity.  By promoting Cerebra at exhibitions and events Christine has already reached hundreds of people and raised important funds for Cerebra in her first year of supporting the charity and hopes to expand even further in the coming years.

Christine is the latest recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Christine has shown great initiative in helping a fantastic charity to raise awareness and funding for its work in London. Cerebra is a lifeline for many children and young people with neurological conditions and their families.  By inspiring others to give their time and money, Christine has helped Cerebra to support even more young people, and she thoroughly deserves to be recognised as a Point of Light.”

Christine said:

“I am extremely humbled yet incredibly proud to accept this significant award on behalf of Cerebra and its dedicated team of staff and volunteers. I am by no means the only person helping to get Cerebra’s London Minds group up and running and to raise awareness in the capital. I am part of a great team of people who are working hard to get the word out that Cerebra is there to provide help and support to children and their families whose lives have been affected by neurological conditions and to give them the opportunity to have a happier, more fulfilled and enjoyable life together.”

Sian Morgan head of Fundraising and PR at Cerebra said:

“We are delighted that Christine Bunting has been chosen to receive this prestigious award. She is such a passionate supporter of Cerebra’s work and has already done so much to help us raise the charity’s profile, communicate with new audiences and secure vital support in key areas. Her commitment, enthusiasm and determination make her a very worthy recipient of a Points of Light Award.”

Christine raised £3,500 for Cerebra through her skydive in the summer in addition to her work through the London Minds. Her colleagues at Hyphen Law are also proactively raising awareness and funds to support our work.

Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Point of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.

Cerebra Reception at Number 10 Downing Street

The London Minds Group with Samantha Cameron

The London Minds Group with Samantha Cameron

On Tuesday 3rd November Cerebra held a prestigious fundraising reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by Samantha Cameron.

The reception at 10 Downing Street was an opportunity to celebrate the charity’s work while raising Cerebra’s profile and generating essential support.

Chris Jones, Chief Executive of Cerebra, said: “I am extremely grateful to both Mr and Mrs Cameron that we are able to be at No 10 Downing Street today. It is an honour shared by everyone present. Mr Cameron, as Leader of the Opposition, wrote to Cerebra with the following words: “’I am delighted to welcome the work of Cerebra, which has done so much to help support children, and their families, in cases where children are living with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy. I am sure the practical support and information you provide has been a lifeline to people – especially parents – in times of need, and that the ground breaking research you have sponsored will help future generations too. Many people have cause to be grateful for all you have done’. I am sure then that Mrs Cameron’s kind offer to host today’s event at this venue, steeped in history and of such gravitas is not without the depth of sincerity that I imagine. We are proud of what we do. We are proud of the people with whom we do it. Most of all we are proud of the families who we support.  They are an inspiration and deserve all the recognition we can give. Today we are here at No 10 to do just that”.

Guests at the event were joined by several families that have received support from Cerebra, including David and Mary Jane Hoyle from Hull whose daughter Annie-May was born with massive brain damage. David and Mary Jane spoke movingly at the event telling guests that “when we were told about Annie-May’s problems we felt lost and alone with nowhere to turn. But Cerebra have been a true friend to us and have been with us on a journey from the start, giving us the support we needed”.

Laura and Brendon Jones explained that their eight year old daughter Violet has a very rare chromosome deletion. Her condition affects her in many ways – she is profoundly deaf and visually impaired, non-verbal and unable to walk or stand unaided. She has profound and multiple learning disabilities and has complex health needs. Despite all her difficulties Violet is a joy to all who know her. She has endured many operations, procedures, tests and hospital stays and is often poorly, however she is a happy, giggly girl who enjoys life to the full and loves to cuddle and be with her family. Cerebra have helped the family with a stay at their specially adapted holiday home, a grant for a specialist trike and sledge designed by our Innovation Centre. Mum Laura said “Life with Violet brings many challenges but Cerebra helps families like us enjoy the good times together, making special memories”

Cerebra’s fundraising group ‘London Minds’ were instrumental in ensuring the success of the evening. ‘London Minds’ was set up with the concept of forming a small group of individuals from various corporate backgrounds who identified strongly with Cerebra’s purpose and aims, and who were keen to promote the charity’s work to likeminded souls within the city, whether they be friends, colleagues or associates. For charities, opportunities to communicate their message to potential supporters in big business are few and far-between -arguably more so in London than anywhere else. The London Minds group aims to grow support for Cerebra organically, with members actively engaging friends, colleagues and associates who they feel will be genuinely interested in hearing about the charity’s work, and who might in-turn communicate this to others, via promotional and, in particular, fundraising events.

For further information on supporting Cerebra, becoming a Trustee or an Ambassador or about joining the London Minds group please contact