I met with a 27-year-old gentleman today who, like many I have met with in the past, was absolutely terrified to move forward with testing to learn whether or not he, in fact, has Autism. In this one hour meeting, I wonder how can I begin to share with him the lifetime of knowledge I have in this area. How, in this same hour, can I begin to understand the lifetime of experiences he has had that has brought him to this place? The place of considering an evaluation and the place of uncertainty about the process, a place of fear. How do I make the most of this precious meeting time? After all, he has taken a bold step just to call my office, schedule an appointment, and meet with me. Can I adequality communicate the respect I have for him, the struggles he’s faced, the questions he’s longed to have answered. How can I take these precious moments and help him to shift his fear?
I wish nothing more than to join him in this place and empower him to take steps, however challenging they may be, in whatever direction that will genuinely support him as he moves towards his personal goals. I understand the fear and hesitation. It is entirely natural to feel uncertain about undergoing this evaluation process. In an effort to support others who are considering their own Autism Evaluation choice, let me give a few thinking points.
1. What’s Your Motivation?
Literally, what is your expected outcome? For some, it is a necessary obstacle that, once obtained permits much needed support (i.e., vocational rehabilitation services). In that case, it may just be part of a much larger paper trail leading to support. Others hope to have peace of mind. Autism, for some, has been assumed or unknown for so long this bit on information may help to bring closure of sorts. There is no such thing as a bad motivation as long as it’s genuine. There is a benefit in better understanding your own motives so that you can better assess the reasonableness of your expected outcomes.
2. What’s your hesitation?
Is it financial, because that may be a reasonable factor? Finding a provider that conducts assessments is not an easy task, finding one that takes insurance can be impossible.
Do you understand the specific steps to an evaluation process? If you feel uncertain due to experiencing a novel and complex activity, there are ways to remediate this discomfort. Talk to an evaluator, understand the components of the evaluation process, how long each step takes, and you may find this to be less of a stressor.
Do you have stigmas do you have associated with Autism? If so, explore that, where are these perceptions you’ve developed? Did you assign these thoughts and perspectives about ASD as a child? To what extent are your thoughts accurate? Spend some time on this one, reach out to some folks in web-based forums. There are lots of perfectly “normal” people out there with ASD who would be more than willing to share their stories. Most people realize they’ve been holding on to some inaccurate biases that they picked up along the way. Remember, if you do have ASD, social perceptions may not be your strong suit, you may have adapted to some faulty thinking along the way, and this can be easy to fix. The first step is to recognize that you have some underlying assumptions that need to be checked for accuracy.
3. What if I do not have ASD?
Because individuals with high-functioning Autism may have less need for support and services, they often go undiagnosed for longer because they lack the urgency found in more impaired types of Autism differences. Just as the choice to disclose and Autism diagnosis is a personal and private decision, so is the option to disclose results that do not confirm the diagnosis. It’s actually quite odd to boldly proclaim and inform the public of the absence of any disability or learning difference, this fear is likely unfounded and rooted someplace else. Explore that “what if,” but understand that the decision to undergo testing does not actually change anything other than your understanding of what may or may not be.
Lastly, this is a short list and intended to be nothing more than a guide of where to start your processing. Find a trusted friend, a family member, or expert and sort through any thoughts that have you stuck. Ultimately, this is a personal choice, and it is yours to make, gather facts, check your beliefs for accuracy, and confidently make the choice that is best for you in this season. If you are reading this and you want to share your Diagnosis story, I’d love to hear. God Bless.