Author Stephanie Hughes recently released her new book ‘Little Me’, raising £125 for Autism Together at the launch event in Wirral.
Stephanie is autistic and Little Me is a children’s storybook all about Isla, a girl on the autism spectrum, as she navigates her first day at school. So we asked Stephanie if she’d like to write a blog all about her book and how she created it…
My name is Stephanie Hughes, I’m 36 and I was diagnosed with autism only last year – aged 35.
I have always struggled in new situations and felt anxious around people. I also have dyspraxia and I find it hard to process information that is read out to me, I must read the information myself. When I was in school, I just used to sit there when the teacher was talking because I just could not concentrate, I would be thinking of random things like animals or what’s for tea.
Although my daughter had been diagnosed with autism, and I knew a lot about it already, one day during lockdown I had a massive realisation that I must be too. Then I received my official diagnosis and my whole life made sense. I was autistic, I couldn’t believe that it had been missed because looking back it was so obvious. I masked well and tried my best to fit in, doing everything for other people so that I would be liked.
My long-term memory is fantastic, I can literally remember anything – from what people were wearing, to the time, place and what they ate – from years ago. But I struggle with left and right, I would get laughed at because of this, but it is an actual struggle for me.
Lists, well I have a list for everything and everyone. I have different notepads for different things, and I carry them everywhere with me, I literally write everything down. I think that’s why I found it so enjoyable writing ‘Little Me – my first day of school’.
I have always been different, I never tell anyone how I am feeling, I keep it all in. Jobs were another thing that I struggled with, I kept changing jobs and never felt settled. I was constantly worrying what people thought of me and felt so embarrassed trying to talk to people, some days, that I would just drive to work and turn around and come home.
Masking for all those years, led to autistic burnout last year. I was exhausted. I had pain, couldn’t eat, lost weight, it was quite worrying. I now know I must look after myself and do what’s right for me.
My autism diagnosis inspired me to write my book, after watching my eldest daughter struggle with school for years, and then my second youngest now going through the same. I just felt for them, I knew exactly how they felt but I know there are a lot of people who don’t understand it. If you don’t “look autistic” you can’t be.
The number of times people have said to me or my daughters, “You can’t be that autistic!” or “Well, she hasn’t got it that bad!” frustrates me so much, as they do not know the daily battle, the struggles, the meltdowns and the planning that goes into things daily.
Again, a lot of people say, “Everyone is on the spectrum” and I find it so patronising as it devalidates a person’s diagnosis. People really do need to learn more about autism.
My book “Little Me – my first day of school” should be read by everyone. It’s a children’s story book but I think it would help them understand autism and how a child feels. The story is through the eyes of Isla, an autistic little girl. I want the reader to really empathise with her. The book is for anyone, not just those with autism. It’s for adults, children, parents, teachers, siblings, etc. I want people to know it’s okay to be different and to understand why some people are different.
You can purchase a copy of Stephanie’s book ‘Little Me’, via Amazon by clicking here.
You can also find out more about Stephanie and order her book via her website: www.stephaniehughesauthor.com