PORT Stephens man Sean Walker was diagnosed with autism at the age of 41.
At a talk last week hosted by Hunter Connect, a local charity working with families experiencing autism, he sat and spoke about his life before his diagnosis.
Sean didn’t look up and seemed uncomfortable, but this was in complete contrast to speaking with him afterwards, where he was animated and friendly.
Sean said that his life before diagnosis had been marked by difficulty in social situations, lack of organisational skills; having shutdowns, a very strong sense of justice, voice control, depression and anxiety, being gullible and naive, intense feelings and being too honest.
He has had many failed relationships, been estranged from his children, been in fights, arrested, been an alcoholic and suicidal on many occasions.
Sean was diagnosed following his son after a friend suggested he may also be on the spectrum.
His whole life then made sense but he had to re-evaluate it in light of this, with feelings of grief and frustration leading to final acceptance.
The father of three, stepfather of two, grandfather of one and now happily married to his wife, Lisa, also runs a successful business.
Sean is a different man these days.
He lists his positive attributes, which are common to many autistic people, as analytical, a seeker of the truth, thinking in pictures, an affinity with animals, loyal, says what he means, and has no hidden agendas and is not materialistic.
Sean has an IQ of 136, has won scholarships to university and has a talent for mathematics.
Sean told News Of The Area, “I think, although difficult, it is important for articulate autistic adults to talk about autism, so that those autistics who are not articulate or can not express themselves are understood, especially by those close to them.”
Sean stresses that autism is a genetic neurological difference and not an intellectual or learning disability.
He uses the example of an iPhone and a Samsung: it’s a different operating system, borne out by FMRI brain scans.
Sean says that autism is not an add-on, it is part of him.
By Sarah STOKES