A Q&A with Aoife Dooley, author of Frankie’s World, award winning Illustrator and comedian from Dublin, Ireland.
Aoife shares with us her experiences of being diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 27, and how a diagnosis helped her to truly understand herself.
Thank you Aoife for taking the time to answer our questions.
1) We have many girls and women in our Facebook group (8.9k members) who have been recognised as autistic quite late in their lives, and it has been life-changing for them. What was your experience?
It was definitely life changing for me, too. It felt kind of bizarre in a way – I’d wondered all my life why I struggled with certain things, why I behaved differently to others, and why I found social situations hard. When I got my diagnosis at 27 I could finally begin to understand myself and in turn it helped others close to me to understand me better too. It was a relief to know I was not alone.
2) What gave you the idea for Frankie’s World and why did you decide to create it in this format?
Frankie’s World is loosely based on my own experiences growing up and finding it difficult understanding why I felt so different. I was a reluctant reader but enjoyed reading comic strips in the local paper when I was a kid so I wanted to create something visual for that reason.
3) You have called Frankie’s World ‘a love letter to being different’. How easy has it been for you to embrace being different and how would you help a young person to be able to accept and embrace their differences when it may make them stand out?
I liked being different, I just didn’t like how people treated me for being different so that made it hard. I loved metal music and dressing in all black and even though I stood out in that way, I still tried to blend in. I think when you’re young, it can be quite difficult to be yourself a lot of the time. There’s a part of you that really doesn’t want to care what others think but it is hard to internalise those feelings sometimes. For me, it was learning to love myself and accept who I am. I think one of the big things I learned was that you are not the things others say you are. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.
4) Do you wish you had been diagnosed earlier? What things might have been different for you if you had been diagnosed before secondary school, for example?
Yes, I think it would have been helpful to know. In school I was sleeping a lot, and when I wasn’t sleeping I was bored (and when I was bored I would act like the class clown) and that would get me in trouble often. I felt like I was really trying and everyone around me thought I was barely trying. I think I was overlooked and had to find my own ways to cope (and I think drawing was one of those things). It would have been great to be able to understand myself a little better at that age because I definitely blamed myself about things that weren’t my fault and now looking back as an adult I’m proud of those differences or things that I tried to hide that I didn’t understand at the time.
5) How did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how easy has it been to carve out a career?
Drawing for me was therapeutic and I knew I wanted to do something creative when I was older. I didn’t have an interest in anything else. By the time I got to college I was studying graphic design and created zines and books based on where I grew up. After college, I worked as a freelance illustrator and it wasn’t easy getting started, but putting myself out there and creating work that I enjoyed definitely helped me to gain confidence and enter exhibitions where I would meet people and network.
6) What advice would you give young autistic girls reading Frankie’s World?
To know that you’re not alone and that it’s ok to be different. Also, that being kind can change someone’s life! It feels like a cliché thing to say but I can’t count the number of occasions that someone else’s kindness impacted me immensely and brightened my world. It’s a very simple thing that everyone can do.
7) Finally, is there any advice you would give to adults who are caring for or working with girls?
Speaking from my own experience I think to support special interests. Listen. If you see someone struggling do try to help. I would have really liked an adult to understand how I was feeling in school and reach out to me or my parents at the time. I have been hearing in recent years though this has been happening more which is great. I think that it can only help kids to understand themselves better and those around them too.
Find Frankie’s World alongside many other recommended books, links, Youtube channels and apps on our resources page.
The publishers Scholastic have very kindly given us a copy of Frankie’s World to giveaway. In order to be in with a chance of winning, please enter your email address below.
Giveaway closes March 7th 2022 at 23:59.