Cover Image - Growing Up With ADHD & Autism

Growing Up with ADHD & Autism

By Emily Steinbach

My Journey With ADHD and Autism

My name is Emily Steinbach and I am a 24-year-old student obtaining my Bachelors in psychology. My journey with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been a difficult, yet insightful one. As a writer and as a psychology student, I hope to one day make an impact on those who are going through a similar journey. I also hope that my story can spread awareness for those who are struggling with similar issues. I now realize that the hurdles I face are common in those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it is refreshing to know I am not alone. In this article, I will share more about my journey with ASD, and also discuss my exciting new role as an intern at Different Brains.

During childhood and school years

As an insecure child, I always wondered what was wrong with me. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to fit in; a common theme for those on the autism spectrum. I was always interested in my toys, as opposed to the people around me and I found it near impossible to make friends. I got diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7, but my autism diagnosis came much later in life. Growing up with both autism and ADHD I always felt like the odd one out, and bullying became frequently prevalent during my school years. I ate lunch in the school bathrooms and found myself focusing more on the bullying than the actual school work. Due to the fact that the school years were so difficult for me, I actually repressed most of these memories. The only reminders of this time in my life are found in the local newspaper, where I was featured in an article about bullying.

Receiving a diagnosis

It wasn’t until I was hospitalized at the age of 18 at a local hospital for depression that I received a surprise diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). At the time, I had no idea what having this diagnosis entailed, and I certainly had no idea what it meant for me. I thought that everyone thought and acted the same way as I do, and because of that, accepting the diagnosis took a bit longer than it should have. Receiving this diagnosis helped me to understand ASD, and helped me to realize why life seemed so difficult all the time. Unfortunately, however, even with a diagnosis, I found myself still, without many friends or much support. The diagnosis didn’t change how other people viewed me, rather it simply helped me to understand myself. I believe that Autism Spectrum Disorder is just a label that describes people who have a different way of thinking.

As an adult

Being an adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorder remains a continuous challenge. As I approach 25 years old, I am still worried I am falling behind, and I often feel a constant pressure to “catch up” with my peers. I also still find myself “masking” at times in order to fit in and socialize, and still struggle to comprehend others. There are moments when the world still seems confusing, but I have hope that one day everything will come together. I am thankful to those who have supported me this far and to those who have remained by my side. My personal journey with this disorder has inspired me to become an advocate for individuals facing mental health challenges. I hope that one day I am able to make a difference in the lives of others who are also struggling.

Being part of Different Brains

The Different Brains internship program is remarkable. Being part of a neurodivergent community is an experience I’ve always longed for but haven’t had the chance to be a part of. I admire everything Different Brains stands for, and I am thankful for the opportunity to become an intern.  I hope that during the internship I am able to develop new skills and also improve the skills that I already have. I also hope to meet with other neurodivergent individuals and make a few meaningful connections along the way. In the future, I would like to continue to volunteer with Different Brains, and continue my journey as a writer and autism advocate.

Overall, living with Autism Spectrum Disorder has been difficult, but not impossible. The challenges that come with the disorder have also played a significant role in shaping my identity and contributed to making me the unique individual that I am today. In spite of it being considered a disorder, I still view it as simply a different way of thinking. Despite the obstacles I face, I wouldn’t change who I am for the world. I am proud to be autistic and believe people on the autism spectrum have so much to offer.

Headshot of Emily Steinbach

Emily Steinbach is a dedicated psychology student at CUNY School of Professional Studies, fueled by a profound passion for mental health advocacy. Through her active involvement as a volunteer at Crisis Text Line and her engaging contributions as a published writer on Medium, she strives to share valuable insights and raise awareness on various mental health topics. Beyond her academic pursuits and volunteer work, Emily is thrilled to embark on an internship journey at Different Brains. With a deep commitment to making a positive impact, her ultimate goal is to empower individuals, fostering fulfilling lives and contributing to the creation of a more inclusive society.