A MAN with autism who was undiagnosed for decades has told how he has turned his life around and realised his dreams thanks to support workers.
Throughout his childhood Derren Thorne said he was treated like ‘the naughty child’, was called stupid by teachers and bullied by his peers.
He became so low he turned to alcohol and lived in squalor, failing to meet his own personal needs of nutrition or hygiene.
However it was a suicide attempt that led to him finally getting support.
Aged 39, after decades of facing the condition alone, Derren was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia, social phobia and high anxiety, suffering from panic attacks.
Now his life has changed for the better. He has overcome alcoholism, poor self-esteem and suicidal thoughts and is even celebrating becoming a father.
Derren, from Bournemouth, said: “Teachers called me stupid and my peers bullied and belittled me. I struggled academically, socially and emotionally. I didn’t have any real friends and, in adulthood bounced from job to job never really finding my way.
“I self-medicated with alcohol and failed to get any help before reaching rock bottom. I didn’t see how I could ever be happy or feel part of anything.
“When I could no longer see a way out of my debt, my squalid flat, my dependence on alcohol and people using me, I tried to commit suicide.”
Derren was referred to a psychiatrist by his GP and it took 18 months to be diagnosed with autism. For five years Derren has received support from Autism Wessex.
The 46-year-old dad-of-one said: “I have realised my dreams despite my autism. People with autism are like everyone else. Of course we have dreams and ambitions. It’s just a lot harder to achieve them without the right support in place. I thank Autism Wessex for providing me with a support worker who has the patience to listen, the professionalism to give my life direction and the heart to care.”
Autism Wessex said in the 1970s just one in every 2000 people were diagnosed with autism and today more than one in 100 people are diagnosed with the condition.
Karen Jeans, a support worker for the charity said the whole community has a responsibility to its members. She said: “Derren has done an incredible job putting his life back together and moving forward. He has a wonderful partner in Lee-Anne and they are nurturing their happy and healthy one year old daughter. But it’s important to remember that even the realisation of a dream doesn’t always mean a happy-ever-after ending.
“Derren has come so far, but Autism is a lifelong condition. Thanks to continued support, Derren’s life today is vastly different from that even a year ago. As a charity we will continue to support Derren with his new life, help him maintain a healthy balance and realise his next ambitions; gaining additional qualifications, employment and new housing. As a charity we endeavour to improve understanding of autism. With increased understanding and early intervention we hope no-one with autism will be treated like the ‘naughty’ child and suffer those potentially devastating consequences.”
For advice on anything relating to autism, call the charity on 01305 213135.