UNDERGOING AUTISM DIAGNOSIS AS AN ADULT
There are several cases of people who have lived relatively normal lives without knowing that they are autistic. There are successful entrepreneurs, celebrities, politicians and professionals who are living their lives to the fullest although that troubling feeling of alienation seems to linger. Autistic people who are unaware of their neurologic disorder tend to develop coping mechanisms that help them manage to feel and act normal despite the mild symptoms that they experience. However, this doesn’t guarantee that all autistic persons who do not know their condition are living comfortably. Some may have already got married with kids and landed decent jobs, while others may be more adversely affected by the persisting challenges they are experiencing.
What causes autistic individuals to not get diagnosed when they were younger? Medical reports suggest that persons with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s are most likely able to “outgrow” some of the symptoms because such warning signs are being mistaken as part of the hurdles of childhood development. Problems such as speech challenges, repetitive behaviour and social withdrawal can be attributed to the nature of a learning and develop a child. As they grow older and reach higher development milestones, it is possible that individuals with HFA or Asperger’s can somehow adapt to these symptoms and be able to manage their needs on their own means, which makes it quite difficult to detect autism-related traits in teens and adults.
However, it cannot be avoided if undiagnosed autistic adults begin to realize that they feel different than most neurotypical people around them in one way or another. They might begin questioning their overall wellness, and in some occasions, suspect that they are suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you feel like there’s something not normal happening with yourself and you feel the need to get tested for autism, it is highly suggested that you push through with that decision and know the truth once and for all. This step-by-step guide in getting tested for autism will help you know what needs to be done and what must be avoided as you undergo the whole process.
Consult Your General Practitioner
In the absence of a known autism expert that can directly run tests on you, it is highly advised that you consult a general practitioner to discuss this matter with. When setting up an appointment, make sure that you won’t be discussing any other topic aside from autism diagnosis or else the general practitioner won’t have enough time and focus on this specific area. It is better to schedule a consultation solely for the purpose of determining whether you have autism or not.
The more difficult part would be explaining to the general practitioner the reason why you think you need to get tested to give them a solid basis for referral to an autism specialist. Depending on your own circumstances, you could say that you’ve read some articles from online sources or books about autism which made you aware of your own condition, or you managed to get in touch with an autism org or community where you found the much-needed information to convince yourself to get tested. When it comes to symptoms, tell them about certain difficulties you’ve experienced since your childhood and your current problems in sensory responses, routine changes, and social engagements. More importantly, point out how these issues affect your life in many aspects, such as friendship, family, and work. If you think you need help in expressing your concerns, it might be better to take with you someone who’s close, like a family member, partner, or friend.
The Need for Referral
When your general practitioner has a strong basis to refer you to another professional specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of autism, you can expect different possible outcomes. You may be referred to a team of medical practitioners (multidisciplinary team) or individual specialists like a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. With their wide knowledge and experience about autism, it is most likely that you will be given the correct diagnosis of your condition and you won’t have to undergo any more tests in the future. If you know any diagnostic service in your area, relaying the information to the general practitioner would help a lot.
If on the other hand, your general practitioner decides not to refer you to anybody else because they think a diagnosis isn’t necessary, you can either accept the decision or ask them for a clear reason. If you don’t agree with their findings, you can go and ask for a second opinion from another general practitioner.
The Diagnostic Process
Undergoing an autism diagnosis is not the same with other medical examinations that you know of so there’s no need to worry about being physically examined or having to give a blood sample because these are not required in the diagnostic process for autism. What’s necessary is that you bring with you a person close to you who can credibly provide information to the specialist about your childhood.
Specialists use a variety of tools that will help determine if your autistic and if you’re autistic or not, and the type of autism you have with respect to the spectrum. These tools comprise specific standardized questionnaires and tests that will assess your social communication skills, sensory responses, and any repetitive behaviour. The most crucial part in diagnosing autism is that the impairment you’re suffering from should be great enough to negatively impact your daily functions.
Waiting time for the result may vary from the same day of the diagnostic test to a couple of days or weeks. You should also know that the manner in which the results are to be communicated can be done in different ways. The specialist may either relay it to you face to face, on the phone, or through an email. If you are indeed autistic, the result will also explain your autism profile, specifically where your condition falls in the spectrum. Accepting your diagnosis means that you either live with it or seek the necessary follow-up treatment or support services. If you feel like your diagnosis is not completely representative of your condition, undergoing a second diagnostic test may be necessary.