I’m Autistic, But Not As You Imagine

The story of Frank Ray, a self-employed software engineer who was diagnosed autistic in his mid-40s

I’m autistic, but probably not as you imagine.

  • I’m married
  • I have two children
  • I have been self-employed for 20 years
  • I have run Frank Ray & Associates since 2011
  • I have supported my family and been the sole breadwinner
  • I have relocated internationally
  • I volunteer for the Samaritan’s helpline

And yet, I have the formal diagnosis of a disability recognised under UK law. And I’m potentially entitled to non-means-tested disability benefits.


There’s a great quote that goes like this:

“If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”

Mumsnet post

I really see the truth in that quote because autism is such an individual experience and can present in so many different ways. I don’t use the term “Aspergers” even though I could, to avoid the mistaken belief that I’m just ‘normal with a few quirks’.

I have, and continue to at times, struggle with autism. My diagnosis is recent which means I have lived with autism for almost all of my life, largely unaware and unsupported. Autism can definitely make life harder although I have had many years to find ways to better deal with it such that life functions well. The bullet points above demonstrate that.

Autism @ Work

Things really started coming together in my professional life when I started to understand what my unique strengths are as an engineer, and importantly the right environment to bring them out. This is completely embodied by a one-pager I put together for all future clients of ours, called the Key Facts.

Working remotely a good amount of the time is a key strategy I use to create the right environment to perform excellent work. I find business analysis and software development is best done in a quiet space away from distraction. Clients come to value excellence and Frank Ray & Associates now has several direct to client engagements, all built on mutual trust and respect.

However, things haven’t always been rosy. I used to find myself in workplaces where the management style didn’t suit me nor offer the support I needed, and the environment was noisy and chaotic. My wellbeing would be affected; I didn’t really know what was happening or how to explain it.

But experiences like these and the newly acquired knowledge from my diagnosis has only strengthened the desire to create a company that supports my own needs, the needs of my clients, to stand on my own two feet and chart my own journey. It’s been working and this year is set to be a record breaking year for Frank Ray & Associates.

So when my autistic daughter tells me,

“Daddy, I do things my way”

I no longer argue and try to impose my own will. But understand where she got that from in the first place.

I wish you the very best of luck, all you travellers.


Footnotes

“University of Cambridge test shows engineers are most autistic profession” [reference]

The National Autistic Society helpline kindly explained that some, perhaps many, autistic people have empathy towards others, feelings and emotions (not understanding this fact had been a major blocker to the possibility that I might be autistic)

NICE recommends the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ-10) to help identify whether an individual should be referred for further assessment (link). The Autism Spectrum Quotient test is also available online, for those brave enough to try it out

I completed the test (as recommended by my GP) and the results indicated further assessment was warranted

Once referred, I was informed by the NHS that the wait time for adult assessments was 24 months. Not willing to wait that long, I chose a private company to perform the assessment. Wait time was 6 months and cost circa ~ £1500

I’m not going to apply for disability benefits (eg. DLA) as I feel there are other people more in need of this than myself.


Frank Ray

Frank Ray & Associates is a software engineering consultancy that builds high quality software for businesses.

We develop new applications, automate manual processes, integrate vendor packages, replace Excel workarounds, fix unreliable applications, retire end of life software and remove dependence on poor value suppliers.

Get in touch if you need our help