Is Anybody Listening?
Adults coming for an autism assessment tell me their childhood was like yelling in to a mic but the sound was off. The message got lost or people didn't understand them. Some adults even stopped listening to their own needs as a result. Getting a proper diagnosis helps people finally "hear" and understand you. It can be empowering, validating, and liberating.
Autistic Adults Are Often Mis-diagnosed
The most common mis-diagnoses that I have seen in my practice are ADD or ADHD, anxiety, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Sure, it is possible to have ADD/ADHD or anxiety along with Autism, but Autism is the underlying neurological difference (neurodivergence) that is the most important. It's like trying to describe a vehicle with descriptors like "blue," "has wheels," and "fast." Yes, those are true - but if it's a motorcycle, not a minivan, then we need to know. Why? Because when you take your kids and their friends to the soccer game, they won't fit on a motorcycle. We don't say the motorcycle is being lazy or oppositional. We simply accept that a motorcycle won't fit 6 kids on it. Getting the right diagnosis helps you and others understand you better.
Not Lazy or Oppositional
Adults who come to me for autism assessment often tell me they have been labeled lazy, oppositional, or other negative things - and some have come to believe it. They have internalized these negative messages. I have yet to meet the client who is lazy or oppositional. Truly. I've been in the mental health field since 1996 and there is always - ALWAYS - a reason why people do what they do. It might not make sense to others, but it makes sense to the person themself. It might be a skill deficit, anxiety, sensory overload, rigidity, trauma, a medical concern, learning difference, or any number of other reasons. If the person is autistic or neurodivergent in some way, there could be many reasons why.
"You Don't Care!"
Virtually every single adult I have diagnosed with autism has been accused at some point in life of "not caring" - about others, their work, grades, friends, responsibilities - you name it. After I get to know clients, it is easy to understand why. They are neurodivergent and trying to function in a neurotypical world. Neurodivergent people have neurologically-based differences in processing information, conversations, sensory input (sound, light, touch, etc.), emotions, and attention compared to the typical or average (neurotypical) person. Neurodivergent people do not always meet every neurotypical expectation. Notice I said "do not always" meet "every" expectation. Sometimes they do. This confuses neurotypical people a LOT. "You did it last week, why can't you do it now? You obviously don't care!" Nothing could be further from the truth. Neurodivergent people care as much about meeting expectations and doing a great job as anyone else. It's just a lot harder, sometimes inconsistent, and often frustrating and confusing for everyone. Autistic people are neurodivergent, and understanding this helps everyone - including the autistic person themself - to be more understanding, accepting, and supportive.
Am I "Too Old" For A Diagnosis?
The oldest client I have diagnosed with autism was in his 80's, and he cried in my office when he received the confirmation that yes, he was autistic, just as he had suspected for decades. A lifetime of being misunderstood, unsupported, and criticized for his unique way of being in the world. So the question really should be, "How much longer do you want to go on being misunderstood - by others and yourself?" It is never too late for a correct, respectful, proper diagnosis.
What About Self-Diagnosis?
There is a big discussion in the autism community about self-diagnosis and whether it is "valid." Well, valid for what? Self-diagnosis is completely valid for your own purposes, your identity, and your self-concept. To me, it's like deciding whether you want to call your eye color blue, green, or hazel. Why should you have to go to an expert to tell you something that you can determine for yourself?
Self-diagnosis will NOT work if you want to access certain supports in school, college, work, insurance coverage, the Regional Center, Social Security, and some other organizations. Every organization has their own eligibility and testing requirements. It is important to know which organizations require referrals for testing to specific providers, what type of testing is required, and when it is actually best to have the organization itself do the testing (rather than a private assessor). I am happy to go over your particular needs and provide referrals if needed.
You Are Unique. So Is Your Assessment.
Everyone has different goals and needs for assessment. I am happy to go over your particular situation so that you can make find the right assessment for you. Click below to learn more. I look forward to hearing from you!