For years, many people mistakenly believed that autism could only affect young children. The classic and stereotypical image of an autistic person was a small toddler boy that seemed to be ”lost in their own world”.
Thankfully because of the efforts of autistic self-advocates and their allies, we now understand that autism can occur across all genders, socio-economic statuses, races and of course, ages. Late or adult diagnosis is becoming more common as awareness and understanding of autism improves.
If you are reading this, you may wonder; could you be autistic?
Before we explain the routes to assessment and diagnosis, it is worth considering the potential positives and negatives of an autism diagnosis. A diagnosis is a very personal thing, and you may find that you experience some, none or all of the following.
Potential positives of an adult autism diagnosis:
- Increased understanding and acceptance of your unique neuropathy. Many adult diagnosed later in life feel relief that they now have an explanation for their way of thinking, understanding and being. ”I’m not broken, I’m autistic.”
- Family, partners, friends and other people may develop a better understanding and awareness
- A sense of belonging to a community; an official diagnosis can empower some people to seek out other autistics
- Enhanced insight into your own abilities, strengths and challenges. Most autism assessments will provide a report that outlines areas that are strong, and others that a person may benefit from support in. ”Instead of spending my life wondering why I don’t measure up to others, I focused on what I was good at.”
- In some cases an autism diagnosis can alter previous diagnoses, including mental health disorders or help a person understand their co-morbid conditions
- Understanding your autism diagnosis can help you to access appropriate supports in education, employment and in health provision. ”I was able to find a therapist that understands autism; it has made a huge difference for me.”
Potential negatives of an adult autism diagnosis:
- It is nearly impossible to get a public autism assessment so a private autism diagnosis can be prohibitively costly; not everyone can afford a private assessment and there are currently no grants or assistance to help with costs. Private autism assessments can cost between €800 – €1200
- The assessment process can be challenging and emotionally draining; many report feeling partronised or infantalised by the use of assessment tools designed for children or exhausted by having to detail their experience to strangers
- Some people report experiencing harassment, discrimination and even the termination of their jobs after disclosing their diagnosis in the workplace. Note: employment equality legislation prohibits dismissal based on any of the 9 grounds for discrimination: gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, religious belief, race, sexual orientation or membership of the Traveller community
- Some autistic people view the assessment and diagnosis procedure as unnecessary and that a person is autistic whether or not they have a professional confirm it. ”Why do I need an expensive piece of paper from a stranger to confirm what I already know?”
Regardless of the positives and negatives, a diagnosis is personal and under no circumstances should a person be forced to disclose their diagnosis in education, in the workplace or in any other scenario.
Autism Assessments as an Adult:
- It is very difficult to access an autism assessment as an adult through the public health service
- If you think that you may be autistic and are considering an assessment, speak to you GP and ask for a referral to a Psychiatrist or a Clinical Psychologist
- Many health professionals do not have specific autism training or may not be qualified to assess autism; consider contacting your local autistic groups or online forums to ask for recommendations for professionals who are experienced in diagnosing autism
- It may be possible to request an autism assessment from your mental health or psychiatric care team
You can search for a psychologist in your city or county by using the ”Find a Psychologist” search on The Psychologist Society of Ireland website.