World Autism Day 2023 – Meet Garry
Date: 02 April 2023
Today is World Autism Day, which coincides with World Autism Acceptance Week. It aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism face every day.
To mark the day, Paramedic and member of EEAST’s Disability Support Network Garry Cockrill is sharing his story of living with Autism.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Garry which always gets misspelled as Gary despite being the same as Harry, Barry and Larry.
I am a Paramedic with the East of England Ambulance Service, having graduated from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in 2018 at the age of 55.
I am now also a Lecturer/Practitioner in Paramedic Science at ARU. I am currently taking the second year of my master’s degree in Medical and Healthcare Education and did my first presentation this week.
When did you first receive your diagnosis of Autism?
I was not diagnosed until the age of 50. It was my wife who first queried whether I was Autistic when she noticed similarities between me and two Autistic children that we were fostering in 2007.
What led to your diagnosis?
I first went to my GP who did not respond so I went again and was diagnosed after a two-and-a-half-year process involving both a Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologists.
What challenges do you face on a daily basis due to your Autism diagnosis?
On a daily basis I have difficulties with communication as I am very literal and can misunderstand what people are saying to me. If I don’t get very clear brief instructions I can get things wrong. I constantly adapt to other people around me in order to conform but this can become mentally exhausting. I tend to get frustrated at myself and suffer lots of anxiety.
What coping mechanisms do you have in place to overcome any challenges that you face?
I cope by trying to get advance notice of who I am working with on shift so that I can prepare myself beforehand. For each new crew member I inform them that I am Autistic and ask them to use my name when getting my attention on scene or I may not realise they are speaking to me as opposed to the patient or a relative. I also pray a lot in my head as I have strong Christian faith.
I take medication for depression and anxiety which has been very helpful and did enable me to take the plunge of starting a degree and new career at 52.
What is the most ridiculous stereotype about Autism that you have heard?
Stereotypes of Autism tend to be that ‘everybody is on the spectrum’ which is not the case as it is a hard wiring of the brain. You are either Autistic or not.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they may be Autistic?
For someone who suspects that they are Autistic I would recommend taking the Autism Spectrum Quotient test which can be found online. If you score highly perhaps a conversation with your GP.
What tips would you give to people with friends, family or colleagues with Autism?
For people with friends, family or colleagues with Autism I would say please be patient. Our thought processes are slower, and we do not read between the lines. Say exactly what you mean and only give brief instructions, or you may be misunderstood.
Appreciate that Autism also has many strengths of hyper focus, goal setting, a driving passion for a favoured topic and a very strong desire to solve problems for other people.
Thank you so much for answering our questions Garry!
For more information and support around autism, click here.
Today is World Autism Day, which coincides with World Autism Acceptance Week. It aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism face every day