I will be turning 27 this September and I only recently discovered I have Autism. I struggled a lot when I was younger, but I made eye contact and was able to speak fine so I was just dismissed as “weird”. Even meeting with a psychiatrist for diagnosis left doubt, as I was just below a “threshold” for official diagnosis. If I had known what I do now, things would have been different, and so I am writing this to provide resources for those who may be wondering about themselves or someone they care about.
This isn’t meant to be a diagnosis tool, but the more you know about yourself the easier a professional will be able to give you a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately there aren’t exactly blood tests or any guaranteed testing for things like Autism. Much of my diagnosis experience was being asked questions, and then taking some written and verbal tests that were finding patterns or memorizing things. A lot of the questions I was asked I didn’t know the answer to, or I was just unsure because I didn’t really know what we’d be looking for before I arrived.
I scored one single point below the “threshold” of Autism. When I was asked if I had sensory issues, I said no. I never considered that some of my behaviors or dislikes could be related to Autism, like how I don’t like the feeling of fuzzy blankets, or how turtle necks and long sleeves make me feel claustrophobic. The more I learned from other people with Autism, the more I realized what “sensory issues” even were.
It took months and months of television, tiktoks, and articles for me to start piecing these things together. What’s worse, I learned that there has been a lot of ableism in the medical field regarding Autism, and often it is misdiagnosed as ADHD. Did you know that Asperger’s is actually a term created by Hans Asperger, a Nazi doctor, for separate the “functioning” Autistics from the “non-functioning”?
The mental health landscape is a scary place with lots of misinformation. A lot of times doctors are biased and won’t provide the most accurate information. It’s a very fine line of learning from those with similar experiences, and trusting the right medical professionals. That is why I wanted to share Embrace-autism.com, “founded and autistically researched by Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht MSc RP ND & Eva Silvertant B.Des”. This site provides extensive information and research, as well as possibly the most comprehensive Autism testing tools.
Now, I don’t want to just drop a much better resource than me and leave, so I will say one of the most eye opening pieces of information was that we’ve been using the “Autism is a spectrum” saying all wrong. A spectrum is a variety of things making one whole, not a gradient of “how far on the scale are you”. Autism presents differently in people because it’s comprised of Language, Motor Skills, Sensory, Perception, and Executive Functioning. C.L. Lynch breaks down this social concept wonderfully in her article “Autism is a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think. This infographic was also incredibly helpful.
I hope these tools help people as much as they helped me. No one should spend their lives feeling like an outsider and being unsure why. In reality my life hasn’t changed at all since making this discovery, but at the same time everything is different. Just knowing why I am the way I am, knowing why I might struggle with communication, it’s all helped me navigate my daily life and my relationships. My quality of life and relationships have improved and I am happier than ever. Sometimes knowing yourself is half the battle, and I hope everyone else’s battles just got at least a little easier.