Police Federation

Blog: ‘I’m autistic, but I’m not a walking cliché’

20 April 2021

Inspector Adam O'Loughlin

Inspector Adam O'Loughlin

Avon & Somerset Inspector Adam O'Loughlin explains why he’s open about his diagnosis as autistic

I have been part of the police force for nearly twenty years now: I joined the MET in 2001 and transferred to Avon and Somerset two and a half years later, where I’ve been ever since. I am currently the neighbourhood inspector for North Somerset. I was diagnosed as autistic in 2016.

As a note - I’m using the term autistic here because that’s the term I prefer. I am not someone ‘with’ autism, it’s not a bolted-on part of my personality. I am an autistic person, and treating me as a whole person, even just by changing the language, can really improve the conversation.

I only began to consider that I might be autistic when a young family member of mine was diagnosed- like a lot of people my age it was something that I was aware of but I thought it didn’t affect me. It turned out it affected me a great deal – when a family member is diagnosed, you get a booklet that lists the symptoms and what struggles you may have as an autistic person. I was looking through this booklet with my wife and we both agreed that a lot of what was listed there sounded like me.

To cut a long story short, I went to my GP and got referred to a specialist centre in Bristol where I eventually received my own diagnosis.

One big sign for me was my difficulty in communicating with people. I couldn’t always trust that what I was saying would be appropriate to the setting I was saying it in- not that I was being rude or inappropriate, but just that the things I’d say wouldn’t really match the context of where I was. I came off a bit odd, and sometimes I unintentionally offended people.

I’ve lost count of the things I’ve said or done, pre-diagnosis, that lost me friendships, invitations to nights out, working relationships. It was really isolating and led to a pattern throughout my policing career where every time I joined a team, people would slowly begin to realise unusual things about how I interacted and I’d end up being isolated.

Finding a reason for this was a huge relief, but shortly after I was diagnosed, someone asked me if I was going to tell anyone. I hadn’t really considered that I wouldn’t- it’s important stuff, after all. However, there’s lots of good reasons why people choose not to be open about their diagnoses. There’s still prejudice and fear out there, and a lot of people have unhelpful preconceptions about autism that make the lives of autistic people difficult.

However, I felt that for me, I wanted to be open about it. The reason was very simple. For a lot of autistic people, including myself, life can be very tough. I’d always known there was something different about me that made my life harder, and now I had a label for it – I was autistic! Now that I knew what it was, I wanted to talk to people about my experiences and help them understand autism.

One of the places where I express myself best is in the written word, which is why I have such an active Twitter presence. I really enjoy being open about my diagnosis and I love talking about it. I hope that by doing this, I can encourage people to be open about their own neurodiversity and see that there’s places for them.

I also want to show that I’m not a walking cliché. I’m terrible at maths, for example. Autistic people are as diverse as any other group, and to reduce us to one or two traits is really unhelpful.

I can honestly say that being open about my diagnosis is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feel much more able to be myself, both at work and at home.


We use cookies on this website, you can read about them here To use the website as intended please... ACCEPT COOKIES