When I was growing up the United States, much less the state of Virginia, I was still learning what autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was. It was the mid-90’s, and my mom was reading several books to understand what it was I could have had. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at ten years old. This is my autism diagnosis story.
When I was in fifth grade, my mom made me read this book called “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals” by Tony Atwood. It was insightful and pointed out what was different about me. The prologue was something that made sense to me initially. While everything was in detail, my eyes lit up like the fireworks on the Fourth of July. The lightbulb in my brain started clicking as the gears and whistles finally started making sense of what was initially going on internally. Everything that I thought was “wrong” about myself was just a different set up module than most other people tended to get. What this means is that I don’t think or function like a “neurotypical” person would. It was like a eureka moment for me at that point.
I went for my initial diagnosis with someone who claimed to know everything about autism. My parents and I went to the psychologist, and it ended up being a horrible experience. It was very awkward and too short to be considered an official diagnosis. The weirdest faux pas that they did was when we were leaving the room, the doctor put their arm around my shoulder. I was internally cringing at the unfamiliar, and uncomfortable feeling. Chances are that most of the world has experienced this kind of thing in their lives.
A couple months later, my parents were still searching for someone who would be willing to diagnose me properly. We found a new psychologist who helped my parents and me to understand the challenges that were ahead of us. He was with us every step of the way, from IEP meetings to other meetings that my parents had with the school. I didn’t know this until years later. School was something I found a sense of joy and discomfort in. The diagnostic process for this service was three days at an hour or two at a time. It was strange for me as I wasn’t used to being tested for anything in the sense of psychological at that time.
I wouldn’t get diagnosed with anything else until a bit later and then when I hit adulthood. Those are irrelevant. However, I will say that being autistic has its upsides and downsides. The one downside that can also be an upside is that autism usually doesn’t come on its own. There are usually other diagnoses that come along with it. I will say at least one of the other things I was diagnosed with ended up being Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It doesn’t help that autism is a comorbid situation for any person, this means that a person with autism is more likely to be diagnosed with something on top of the autism diagnosis.
Being diagnosed is important to help you better understand how to improve yourself. For me it was. It doesn’t matter how old you are when that happens, even if the average age of the diagnosis is around two years old. I was ten years old when I got mine. I have friends who were older than me when they got their diagnoses. When it comes to getting these done, make sure you’re finding the person that is as in depth as you want them to be. Learn how to help yourself and find what works for you.
Author, Teal C. You can read more of her/their previous post here
CA Human Services is a statewide non-profit organization that advocates for, enables, and creates change for Virginians with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder. Our Adult Programs guide and coach individuals to navigate and transition smoothly from their family home to independent living such as an apartment, college dorm, or co-living situation.