Autism Spectrum Disorder

Q: Should I Pursue an Adult Autism Diagnosis?

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face considerable social stigma. As a result, pursuing an autism diagnosis as an adult can feel daunting — and sometimes pointless. Here are five reasons why an autism diagnosis in adulthood is worthwhile — even critical.

Autism Diagnosis for Adults
Autism Diagnosis for Adults

Q: “Is an autism diagnosis for adults pointless if the person has lived with the condition for decades?”

A: In short, no. Even in adulthood, a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can be life changing. Here are five reasons why it’s never too late to pursue an ASD evaluation:

  1. Doctors provide better care when they know whether a patient is on the autism spectrum. An ASD diagnosis may offer insight into their patient’s nutrition and self-care, or let them know if the patient has the ability to call the office with a question. Knowing about an adult patient’s autism also allows doctors to better understand co-morbid symptoms like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insomnia, anxiety, mood disorders, and emotional lability.
  2. Oftentimes, community resources differ for development diagnoses versus mental-health diagnoses. For instance, a patient diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder will be served by the mental health branch of support services. A patient diagnosed with ASD will be served by developmental services. It’s important to know that you’re getting the most appropriate treatment for your condition.
  3. An autism diagnosis can help adults develop appropriate expectations for improvement. People with undiagnosed autism and those who love them can experience shame, blame, and frustration when the undiagnosed individuals struggle to change problematic behavior.
  4. Adults diagnosed with autism benefit from receiving emotional regulation strategies.1 For example, some adults on the autism spectrum struggle to keep calm and centered — some people even demonstrate fight patterns when they get overwhelmed. Meltdowns, outbursts, and extended arguments can all be managed with emotional regulation strategies developed specifically for adults with autism, and relationships improve as a result.
  5. An adult autism diagnosis provides self-knowledge. Individuals with ASD are on a journey to figure out what makes them tick and why they experience the world the way they do. They deserve to be able to communicate that to other people and say, “This is what I need or this is why I have that reaction.”

The following information came from Theresa Regan, Ph.D and her webinar “Could I Be on the Autism Spectrum?” The Adults’ Guide to Pursuing an Accurate ASD Diagnosis. That webinar is available for replay here.

Sources

Scarpa, A., & Reyes, N. Improving Emotion Regulation with CBT in Young Children with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. (2011). https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352465811000063

Updated on January 17, 2020

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