My Neurodivergence Is Part Of Who I Am Not A Handicap
People often want to call autism a disorder, a handicap, or maybe even a disease.
I read something once by an anti-vaxxer, saying that vaccines could cause autism which, in turn, could prevent your child from becoming all that they could be.
An interesting turn of phrase, all that they could be. As if being autistic prevents you from being whole or yourself.
Neurodivergence, or autism, isnt something thats separate from who I am. Its just one of the things that makes me who I am.
Im whole and complete including my neurodivergence not despite it. I actually think that without it, I wouldnt be completely me.
Usually, people dont think Im on the spectrum at all, mainly because it doesnt always look the way they think it should.
Plus, Im really good at altering my behavior to mimic conventional social norms even when it feels odd to me or is contrary to what I actually want to do or say. Many autistic people are.
Pretty much every single thing I do when in public is so nobody thinks Im weird. Ill probably always alter my behavior, because its easier over time. Because if I didnt, I likely wouldnt have the career or life that I have now.
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Do I Need A Diagnosis
For some people having a formal diagnosis can help simply by giving the person some answers. This will help them to understand why they may have been struggling with particular issues.
It may also be helpful in school/college/university life and in the work place in evidencing why someone may need additional support or reasonable adjustments to be made to help them.
For other people, they may have long suspected that they have Autism but dont wish to have a formal diagnosis. They may consider their Autism to be a private matter and may feel that they dont want to be given a label.
It is up to each individual to decide for themselves what is best for them.
At Derriford Autism Service, we dont insist upon a formal diagnosis as long as the person wishes to be known to the service. This information will not be shared outside of the Hospital, and will only be used to alert staff of the need to consider offering you Reasonable Adjustments.
How To Begin A Diagnosis Process
Adults who suspect they or a loved one might be autistic can do a self-assessment test for adults. A person can find these tests online. While they cannot give a diagnosis, the tests are a good starting point.
A person seeking a diagnosis can take the results of such a test to a primary care doctor who will try to determine whether ASD may be present by:
- enquiring about the symptoms, both current and during childhood
- observing and interacting with the person
- speaking to a loved one
- checking for other physical or mental health conditions that may be causing symptoms
If no underlying physical condition can explain the symptoms, the doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to make an ASD diagnosis.
If symptoms are not present in childhood but begin in adolescence or adulthood, this may indicate a cognitive or mental health condition other than ASD.
It may be difficult to find a specialist who can diagnose ASD in adults. Individuals who would like a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one may need to do research to find a provider with experience diagnosing autistic adults.
Another option is to speak to a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who is willing to see adult clients.
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Crisis Can Often Lead To Late Autism Diagnosis
All of these new challenges can lead to mental health issues such as depression or increased anxiety. The young adult often reaches a crisis point after struggling with the new demands of adulthood and failures in the areas of education, relationships, and/or losing a job. It can be at the apex of this crisis that a diagnosis is pursued and received.
Receiving a diagnosis can be difficult for the young adult and they will need help with this new identity.
Top 10 Facts About Adult Autism
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
People with autism, like everyone else, are adults for much longer than they are kids. That’s an easy fact to overlook when you search online for information about autism, because most articles and images focus on young children.
While it’s true that symptoms of autism appear first in early childhood, autism is not a pediatric disorder. Adults with autism face lifelong challenges.
So why is relatively little written about autism and adulthood? While there’s no absolute answer, here are some educated guesses:
- Autism manifests before age 3, so most new diagnoses of autism are in children.
- Most people who actively read about autism are worried-but-hopeful parents of children who are or may be autistic.
- Because of the changes in how autism is defined, many adults now considered autistic never received an autism diagnosis.
- High-functioning adults with autism are often uninterested in reading about non-autistic perspectives on autism.
- Some adults with autism have intellectual disabilities that make it extremely difficult to read about autism.
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Tip : Better Organize Your Life
While many adults with ASD are extremely organized, others may become so fixated on certain interests that other aspects of their lives become disorganized. If this is a challenge you face, these tips can help you stay organized:
Use a timer to stay on track. This can be especially useful when youre working on a hobby that youre intensely passionate about. Once the timer goes off, you know its time to switch to an activity that is less intriguing, but nonetheless important, such as paying bills or grocery shopping.
Use a list or day planner. If remembering appointments and other responsibilities is a challenge, use a paper planner or an organizational app for your cell phone. You could also use anything from spreadsheets to a whiteboard to help you organize daily tasks.
Automate certain aspects of your life. For example, use online banking to track spending and automatic payment options to manage your bills. This can also help you avoid the clutter that tends to build up when you receive paper billing statements in the mail.
Signs Or Symptoms Of Autism
If you are experiencing one or more of the following, you may want to consider asking for an assessment for autism:
- difficulties interacting or communicating with others socially
- rigid and repetitive behaviours, resistance to change or restricted interests
- problems finding or staying in a job or education
- difficulties having social relationships
- previous or current contact with mental health or learning disability services
- a history of a neurodevelopmental condition or mental disorder.
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Living With A Diagnosis
Feel caught off guard by your adult autism diagnosis? It may help to look at your diagnosis as a path to better understanding yourself. You can gain insight on challenging moments from your childhood or teen years, for example, or any relationship problems youve experienced as an adult.
Every adult with ASD has both unique challenges to overcome and unique strengths to draw upon. However, there are some common challenges to address, including difficulty building or maintaining relationships, social isolation, managing mood disorders, and staying organized.
Even if you havent received a formal diagnosis, if you suspect you have ASD, you can begin to take steps to improve your life. The following tips and strategies can help.
I Have Heard Of Aspergers Syndrome Is That Different
Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism which may also affect the way a person communicates and relates to other people. People with Asperger’s syndrome may experience challenges such as specific learning difficulties, anxiety or other conditions.
Some people can be diagnosed with Autism alongside another existing medical condition. For example, someone might have Autism alongside a Learning Disability, Dyspraxia, Depression or Epilepsy.
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Finding Autism Services For Adults
Autistic adults often struggle to find services, since many advocacy organizations and public health agencies focus on children. The right doctor or therapist may be able to offer a referral to local organizations. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network offers a rich variety of resources, including tips on advocating for oneself and talking about autism with others. The Asperger/Autism Network has compiled a list of resources specifically for adults.
Autistic adults should know that discrimination against people with autism is a form of disability discrimination. The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits employers from making hiring or firing decisions based on disability status. It also requires that, in most cases, employers offer reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, including those with autism. In some cases, a lawyer may be a valuable resource who can help with identifying specific rights and accommodations to which a person may be entitled.
Therapy can help autistic adults in many ways. Therapists who specialize in autism can connect autistic people to additional services, offer coping strategies, and educate adults about life on the spectrum. A therapist can also help autistic adults talk to others about their diagnosis and manage relationship challenges. In addition, therapy can help a person cope with the social or economic barriers that may have delayed their diagnosis.
Social Media And Forums
There are many people with experience of autism offering support and sharing their stories on forums and social media.
You do not have to talk to others in online groups, but it can be helpful to look at what they’re saying.
A good place to start is the groups run by autism charities. But bear in mind the NHS does not monitor these sites.
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A Lot Of People Have Gotten Lost
When I started working in this area 20 years ago, the thinking was that 75% of people with autism had mental retardation, Solomon says. Now, that percentage has flip-flopped and we say these individuals have ASD. In the course of the switch, a lot of people have gotten lost.
Moran was lost for several decades. Repeatedly defined as undisciplined by her teachers, in 1961, she was sent to live at The Menninger Clinic, then located in Topeka . There, because doctors did not yet know that ASD is a brain development disorder, the 10-year-old girl was told that she had made a choice to be mentally ill.
The term autism was first used around 1911 to describe symptoms of schizophrenia. In 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner adopted the term to describe children with a range of behavioral problems recognized today as typical of ASD. By the 1950s, Dr. Bruno Bettelheim began to publicize Kanners work, blaming autism on absentee parenting.
At the time of Kanners work, Dr. Hans Asperger also was studying children with behavioral problems, but his research was overlooked for three decades. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association combined subcategories of autism and related conditions into one unified category: ASD.
If You Are Told You Are Not Autistic
Sometimes people are told they aren’t autistic, and sometimes they may be given a diagnosis they don’t agree with.
You can seek a second opinion, which either means going back to your GP to explain that you aren’t happy with your diagnosis and ask them to refer you elsewhere, or paying for a private assessment.
If you go for a second assessment, remember that it may reach the same conclusion as your first.
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What Usually Happens During A Diagnostic Evaluation
Your provider’s evaluation of you might take anywhere from two days to two or more months, depending on the method your provider uses, and how busy he or she is. The provider doing your assessment may do the following:
- Ask you questions
- Ask you to take a series of tests
- Ask you to complete questionnaires about your autistic traits such as sensory issues, or other things that may relate to autism
- After getting your permission and if possible, interview your parents, other family members, or close friends who know you well or can give information about your childhood development
- Explore other possible diagnosis, for example, ADHD, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or learning disabilities.
For Children And Young People
For people under 25, ask your council about their “local offer”.
This is the name for the support they provide for young people with special educational needs.
Every council has to have a local offer.
You can also get advice about the local offer from your local special educational needs advice service.
What This Means For You
This research highlights the importance of timely diagnosis and support for autistic individuals. It is why O’Connor says, “If we can identify autism early on, understand and meet the unique needs of autistic kids while celebrating them for exactly who they are, we are on track for raising happy, healthy autistic people. And that’s the ultimate goal.”
Be Attentive And Thoughtful
With ASD students, there is no one-size-fits-all solution . Try to see what bothers each of them. Someone finds it difficult to concentrate because of the noisy environment. Another one gets distracted by the colorful chaos of pictures on the wall. Someone might find too many choices overwhelming. Having a spectrum child in your class reminds you how unique all students are, thus encouraging you to be inventive and to find an individual approach to each of them.
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Getting Diagnosed In Adulthood
In these videos Mai, Meg, Aishah and Lucy share their experience of being diagnosed as young adults.
Mai was diagnosed when she was 19 years old. Hear how a diagnosis helped Mai understand her past behaviours and gave her the tools to explain to others why she can struggle in social situations.
Meg was diagnosed when she was 21 years old. Hear how a diagnosis gave Meg the confidence to take on new opportunities and become motivated to help others with disabilities.
Aishah was diagnosed when they were 21 years old. Aishah explains how stereotypes about autistic people can be harmful, and how an autism diagnosis is now a desirable new trend.
Lucy was diagnosed when she was 23 years old. Lucy emphasises the need for socialising as many diagnosed with autism can feel quite isolated, and how everyone deserves to be themselves.
After Receiving A Diagnosis Contact Therapeutic Pathways
An autism diagnosis can make an enormous difference in your life.
Instead of being in the dark about the disorder and your symptoms, you will have the freedom to pursue treatment options and the awareness that you are not alone. Although most people with autism are diagnosed as children, plenty of adults are diagnosed later in life.
Dozens of online communities provide support and social interaction, as well as in-person resources available at autism centers like Therapeutic Pathways.
Even if youve experienced symptoms your whole life, you can take the steps to be diagnosed and treated in order to live a fuller, more satisfying life. For more information, contact Therapeutic Pathways at 422-3280.
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If You Get An Autism Diagnosis
If you are diagnosed as autistic, you may have a lot of questions. You might be wondering how you can find out more about your condition, meet other autistic people or access services and support.
Some people find post-diagnostic support valuable. Some diagnostic teams and professionals offer follow-up services after diagnosis and might be able to answer your questions and point you towards support services. However, not all do this.
Support does not automatically follow diagnosis, but having a formal diagnosis does mean that you are more likely to be able to accessservicesand claim anybenefitsyou are entitled to. Not everyone feels they need further support for some people, simply getting a diagnosis is enough.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Autism
There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate a person has autism spectrum disorder. Not all adults or children with autism will have every symptom, and some adults and children without autism may display some of the same behaviors and symptoms.
People with autism spectrum disorder often have difficulties with communication, and connecting emotionally and socially with others. They may also process sensory information, such as sounds and smells, differently from other people. These differences can underlie some of the behavioral signs of autism that people may display.
When looking for early signs of autism spectrum disorder, there are developmental milestones that children are expected to reach by certain ages, such as babbling by four months old and being able to use simple sentences by two years old. If a child reaches these milestones later, or does not develop the skills at all, it may indicate a developmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder.
Autism can be diagnosed by age two, though symptoms may be apparent much earlier.
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Have An Autism Assessment
An autism assessment is where a team of autism specialists check if you or your child are autistic.
An assessment team may:
- ask about any problems you or your child are having
- watch how you or your child interact with other people
- speak to people who know you or your child well, such as family, friends, your GP or your child’s teachers
At the end of the assessment, you’ll be given a report saying if you or your child are autistic.