Those with autism often struggle to be understood by neurotypical people. Often, much of the conversation around autism centers on the challenges of bridging understanding between the two groups. Just as important, however is the ability of those with autism to understand themselves. For many, this process starts with a diagnosis.
On average, those with autism receive a diagnosis between the ages of 4 and 7, which can help them and their families take appropriate steps. For others, like the English former MMA fighter and reality TV star Alex Reid, that step comes much later and helps provide retrospective clarity to their lives.
“It’s a relief in many ways but it’s a bit unnerving because it’s coming to terms with new things, but it also explains so much,” Reid told The Mirror in early March. He’d received a diagnosis at the age of 45, after a chain of events starting with a chance encounter in the park.
While walking with his fiancee, Nikki Manashe, Reid was tripped up by a young boy who was in the park with his family. Reid playfully took a fall to avoid hurting the child, and got to talking with his parents, who explained the boy had autism. That day marked the start of a friendship between Reid and the Boyce family. He even helped them raise funds for a support dog — but had no idea just how much this friendship would impact his life.
“I was so friendly with the children and the parents started to notice so many traits in me. They saw that in interviews I can sometimes be so together and then I can completely fall apart. They said they thought I was autistic,” Reid explained to the outlet.
He was initially resistant to the idea. Like many, the image he had in his head when he thought of autism was not that of a broad spectrum of expression, but something more stereotypical. “I’ve always thought of autism being like ‘Rain Man’ and thought that wasn’t me, but understanding it more now, it makes so much sense,” he continued.
With their support, he decided to take an autism test to learn more. The results, Reid said, showed that he was “significantly autistic.” “Now that I can understand myself a bit more I might have a more harmonious life,” he continued.
Thanks to that chance encounter in the park, Reid has been given a new way of understanding himself, and an opportunity to advocate for the things he cares about. In his interview with The Mirror, he shared the way that the diagnosis has affected his work as a children’s martial arts trainer, stating that “everyone’s triggers are different,” and “everyone has different coping mechanisms.”
Reid and his fiancee have also been on a journey to conceive, going through the IVF process publicly with frequent Instagram updates. He hopes to take the lessons he’s learned about himself and use them to inform his parenting. “I was the kid in school who asked the questions no one else would and I’d be laughed at, I was the kid that the teachers would say had to try harder and they didn’t understand it. Even in the army I’ve been bullied and I’ve been bullied for being different. This has kind of made sense of why.”
Learn more and keep up with Alex and Nikki as they continue their IVF and autism acceptance journey on Instagram!Whizzco