I wasn’t tested for autism until a year and a half ago, when I was 22. The therapist that ran the test only had a master’s degree and, in order for the government to protect you under the Americans With Disabilities Act, you need to be diagnosed with ASD by a licensed physician.
My parents and I had different ideas about what was different about me; they thought I wasn’t trying, and I thought I was depressed. After the therapist told me that I was on the lower end of the autism spectrum, I had to decide what I wanted that to mean.
What do I do now that I know I am on the spectrum? Do I get diagnosed by a licensed physician? How in the world could it help? More important, how might it hinder, particularly when it comes to telling others?
I told my siblings about it for the first time a couple days ago when one of my sisters criticized my behavior at the dinner table. I asked my mom if my siblings knew. She shook her head, so I got up my courage and told them. The shock and dismay was evident, to say the least, but they made it clear they don’t believe me and that they don’t feel like I am disabled or inhibited from participating in society or functioning at work. My other sister even said, “If you are; you’re just barely on the spectrum.”
One of my friends, on the other hand, told me to just go ahead and speak with a licensed physician, get diagnosed, and find out if there is any medication to help. But I’ve already made it this far. I’m about to graduate college with a glorious future unfolding before me, so I don’t understand the point of seeking out medication for it. Like my sisters, I don’t feel like I am disabled or inhibited from participating in society or functioning at work.
However, my friend does have a point. Being diagnosed can help other people understand me. It could help my siblings and parents grasp the reason for my quirks. Personally, knowing about this part of myself helps me see that, regardless of past experience, I can be successful. I have been blessed with crazy, awesome memory skills. My outside-the-box thinking can spawn great ideas that neurotypicals might not have come up with. I have purposely chosen jobs with a social aspect because by breaking out of my bookish comfort zone, I have discovered I’m really good at being personable.
I prefer not to hide. But I want to emphasize this is merely one person’s choice about one person’s life. However you choose to refer to yourself, or even if you choose to live without a diagnosis, it is important to know who you are and how to use your strengths.
(Check out the website of Asperger/Autism Network [AANE] for information about adult diagnosis of ASD at www.aane.org. Another great resource is www.autism-help.org.)