'I Grew Up to Think I Was an Evil Young Man and I Didn't Know Why' Being Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the Age of 21 Has Changed Jonathan Hanna, as He Told Bethan Evans

Article excerpt

AS A child he thought he was evil, but at the age of 21 Jonathan Hanna finally learned the cause of his behavioural problems.

Now he's using his experiences of Asperger syndrome - an autism spectrum disorder - to motivate others and raise awareness of the condition.

Jonathan, now 26, who lives in the Fairwater area of Cardiff, said that not knowing what was causing his unruly behaviour as he was growing up made life very difficult for him.

Despite seeing a series of therapists he was repeatedly misdiagnosed and labelled with having a mental health problem.

"With having the problem of being misdiagnosed, I didn't know why I was behaving this way. It caused severe problems at home and my family came close to collapsing," he recalled.

"I could be very aggressive when I had meltdowns, which were pure emotional overloads. I was completely out of control and one time trashed my mother's flat because I couldn't cope with an argument. I couldn't interpret feelings properly."

There is little happiness in Jonathan's memories of his school days. Instead of looking back at a joyful time, he remembers only depression and loneliness.

"I felt like a bit of a social outcast and I didn't know why I didn't have any friends. In total I spent about a year-and-a-half in high school and I couldn't cope with taking exams.

"Many times I felt like I just didn't want to be here. But my family are the reason that didn't happen. Since I've been diagnosed they've been amazing. They are patient and understanding and that's all I need." Jonathan had seen a long line of therapists during his teenage years, but no-one was able to diagnose Asperger syndrome.

After being admitted to a psychiatric unit for adolescents and repeated misdiagnoses from therapists, Jonathan's mother wanted a better answer.

"My mother had experience in the speech and language field and she was the one who could see there was some Aspergers in me.

"If it hadn't been for her determination I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been diagnosed. I'm fortunate to have such a wonderful mother."

When Jonathan was finally diagnosed at the age of 21, he said it felt wonderful.

"There was just a wave of relief," he said, "I grew up to think I was just an evil young man and to find out I wasn't and there was a reason why I was exerting this behaviour, it was just wonderful."

After being diagnosed, Jonathan began taking small steps to reclaim his independence, starting from scratch at the age of 21.

He said: "I have had to go from nothing, from being virtually a recluse, to learning how to talk to people, how to get on a bus and having the responsibility of owning my own home. …