'I'm proud of my achievements' 

Sarah Ridout lives in Exeter. At the age of 23, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a condition on the autistm spectrum.

"I went to my GP after I watched a documentary about autism and recognised some of the characteristics in myself, particularly the difficulty with forming friendships. My GP diagnosed me with Asperger syndrome.

"Looking back, I can now relate some of my educational experiences to having autism. Like many people with the condition, I was bullied a great deal at school and college, often in PE and sports. I was always picked last. I found it really difficult to play games with other children at break times, and they would refuse to let me join in.

"I find it funny now, because I'm proud of my achievements. Despite having Asperger syndrome, I can do whatever I choose in life, it's just that I might do some things differently, or need time to learn. I work for Devon and Cornwall Police, and manage a team of people who gather and input crime data. In my role, I rely on communication and social skills, which aren't typically associated with people with autism. People with autism experience the condition in different ways, but we're also individuals. I hate stereotyping.

"I live a varied life, and I have many friends and hobbies, including being a Woodcraft Folk group leader. I'm a keen runner and completed the London Marathon earlier this year. I've come a long way since I was picked last in PE!

"I think my job carries an important message about people with Asperger syndrome. I'm passionate about raising awareness, particularly within the police force. I'm a member of the force's Disability Forum. We support each other's problems, and we raise concerns with the diversity directorate. I think everyone has the right to live and work without discrimination.

"I wish that people had a better understanding of my needs. I can do things, but I don't always understand what is expected of me. Sometimes, I get upset and anxious about other people judging me, because I find it difficult to interpret what others are thinking and feeling.

"As I work in the police force, it's important to me to raise awareness of autism for the benefit of the wider community. Some people with autism are more likely to be victims of crime because of their social difficulties. People with autism can also be easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. It's important that the police know how to communicate with people with autism and give them appropriate support."

Page last reviewed: 06/01/2016

Next review due: 01/09/2018