Aoife Dooley: ‘There are a lot of views around autism that are very backwards’

The author and illustrator reflects on her adult diagnosis of autism

Listen | 47:09

Author and illustrator Aoife Dooley was 27 years-old when she was first diagnosed with autism.

While she always felt a little different growing up, having struggled in school and in social situations, autism wasn’t on her radar.

“I had some idea that there was something, but I had no idea what it was,” she explains to Róisín Ingle on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

“I’d always struggled with social stuff and talking to people… as I got older, I realised how different I was to a lot of people around me”.


It was a close friend who first suggested she might be on the autism spectrum, but the author was sceptical.

“What are you talking about? I’m 27, I think I’d know, c’mon like,” she says, recalling her reaction at the time.

Shortly after that conversation, Dooley received her autism diagnosis and says the relief was indescribable. Aspects of her life that she had struggled with for years suddenly began to make sense.

“It was just nice to know what it finally was,’ she explains.

“Now I understand why I talk so much or why I talk about something I’m interested in so much”.

Speaking about the misconceptions around the condition, Dooley recalls a time when she was told that autism is caused by childhood vaccines. She has also been told people with autism are “not very intelligent or a bit stupid”.

“I’ve had people talk slow to me,” the illustrator tells Ingle. “There are a lot of views around autism that are very backwards”.

Reflecting on her late diagnosis, Aoife says it’s not uncommon for women to find out they are autistic later in life.

“A lot of women don’t find out until they’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s”.

Her experience navigating the world while feeling a little different to everyone else is the inspiration behind her graphic novel Frankie’s World, published last year.

Now she’s just released Finding My Voice: Frankies World 2, which follows Frankie as she enters secondary school and faces up to the fresh challenges it brings.

“It’s very much about friendship and finding out who you are,” she explains, hoping that the book will help anyone on a similar path.

In this episode we also hear about Dooley’s life growing up in Dublin, how she uses art to promote positive messages around the condition and the joy she’s finding in new friendships.

You can listen back to this conversation in the player above, or wherever you get your podcast.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times