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Autistic Self-Identification is Valid

And it's a social justice issue

You don't need to read a library full of books or have a fancy degree to be able to say you are Autistic. 

It is not a disorder, it is not a disease, and you don't always need testing. You definitely don't need some gatekeeper with a clipboard and a "prove it" attitude deciding who you are, after putting you through tests that might not even be accurate. Not everyone can access testing because of inadequate insurance coverage, finances, lack of skilled providers in your area, or stigma that keeps people from accessing appropriate care. It's really a social justice issue. 

The question is, Do you think you are Autistic? Yes? Then chances are high that you are.

Sure, some people need an official assessment. Then we're talking about a medical diagnosis that may open doors to services such as Social Security, school or college supports, Regional Center services, counseling or therapy paid by insurance, certain job training programs, and other services that can be very helpful. Other people need to demonstrate to disbelieving family or others that the diagnosis fits. If so, then getting tested by someone who knows what they are doing is crucial. See the article I wrote on Autism Evaluation Tips on how to find an evaluator who can provide you with a skilled assessment for Autism.

So what if you don't need those particular services and supports? Then you might not need an official diagnosis. 

"But I'm not sure if I'm Autistic, so I need a diagnosis, right?" Maybe not. 

You might be able to figure it out on your own. Immerse yourself in the Autistic commuinity to see if Autism might be a fit for you. Settle in, read, explore, and see if you feel at home. Search for #ActuallyAutistic authors and bloggers. Read up on Nick Walker's essays for some of her foundational work on the neurodiversity paradigm. Find many talented Autistic authors at Neuroclastic, and check out the community building going on at the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network

Stay long enough to experience the diversity of the Autistic community, which is as varied as music. If you walked in to a sound studio to record an album, you would use a mixing sound board, with some aspects turned up for you, others turned down. There are literally hundreds of dials and sliders, and an infinite range of combinations. 

But it's all music. 

So how does the medical diagnosis fit in here? Think of it this way - some of those dials and sliders need to be turned up high enough, and in the right combinations, for the "Autism" diagnosis light to turn on. Maybe you also have the "ADHD" diagnosis light come on, or some other form of neurodivergence. 

The problem is, the way we diagnose Autism, ADHD, and other neurodivergence (such as OCD, learning differences, and other experiences) is flawed. The vast majority of testing instruments are outdated, and diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) relies heavily on the disease model that pathologizes Autism and other neurodivergence. That's where the toxic "cure" culture came from. Is it any wonder that suicide rates are more than 3 times higher for Autistic people than the general population? Even the official name is pathologizing (Autism Spectrum Disorder). 

Autism is not a disorder or disease

Autism needs to come out of the DSM. Just like homosexuality was considered a disorder until it was removed from the DSM-II in 1973, it is time to celebrate Autism and other neurodivergence as part of the beauty of human diversity. We will need to wait for the field of psychiatry and psychology to catch up to the times. The new DSM-5-TR (Text Revision) coming out in March 2022 will make no changes to include more neurodiversity-affirming language, and Autism is still considered a disorder. 

One researcher is even calling for subgrouping Autism in to "types," a problematic and ableist suggestion that bases these delineations on how productive, useful, and independent an Autistic person is, as determined by neurotypical "authorities." If an Autistic person is less problematic to neurotypical society, then they are presumably "less Autistic"? This makes no sense and centers neurotypical values, beliefs, and ways of interacting in the world. Guess what? Neurotypical ideals often don't work for neurotypical people either, based on how many stressed out neurotypical clients I see in my office. 

Whether or not you meet the diagnostic criteria for Autism may have nothing to do with whether you are Autistic

So, diagnosis may open up doors to supports, but it may not actually reflect your true, awesome, Autistic self. Maybe you are Autistic, but didn't have those particular mixing sound board dials and sliders turned up high enough to light up the diagnosis (or the evaluator missed it). Or maybe you were masking, hiding your true self, due to a lifetime of being told your true self isn't too welcome in society. Some people have masked for so long that they don't even realize they are doing it, or know what life would be like without the mask. If you do seek an assessment, find a neurodiversity-affirming evaluator. It is important that you feel seen, respected, and treated as a valued human being, not just a diagnosis. 

Regardless of the assessment results, you don't need anyone to tell you whether your music is beautiful.