Welcome to our Blog.
Welcome to our Blog.
There’s been a pretty big movement recently of adults, specifically women, seeking out diagnoses for autism. If you’re in the mental health field (or honestly even just on the internet) you might have noticed this along with a push for mental health support to be more widely discussed and accepted. It’s awesome! When I first saw talk about adults being diagnosed, I cheered from the sidelines! While many Autistic people receive their diagnosis as children, there are plenty of people who don’t; they don’t have access to diagnostic services, it’s not financially feasible for them, there’s a stigma around it that makes it an undesirable pursuit or, if you’re my age or older, there’s a good chance that people just didn’t know enough about autism when you were a kid! (And gosh, we still don’t know enough.) I think the latter applies to me, especially as a woman.
We now know that autism looks different in women and that many Autistic women spend their lives learning to mask their Autistic traits, so much so that, by the time they hit adulthood, they may not even “seem” Autistic. I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of my time with some really cool neurodiverse folks and feel like I know a bit about the traits typically associated with autism, yet when I mentioned own suspicions that I may be on the spectrum to some providers, they brushed me off within 5 minutes of meeting me because I was able to force myself into prolonged eye-contact and I’ve got some decent conversation skills. I think this is just a reminder that many people only associate autism with “deficits” and/or quirks they’ve seen on TV, completely ignoring the fact that autism IS a spectrum and it looks different for everyone. That might be a blogpost for another day…
It wasn’t until my own personal priorities changed that I revisited this curiosity. Now, at 30, as an adult, parent, wife, business owner, college graduate, I’m still learning a lot about the way that my brain works and how that ties into my identity. Not only that, but I finally have the time to learn about myself in that way. Part of that has involved attending therapy on a regular basis, receiving an official diagnosis for anxiety as an adult (something I’d already known about myself). I’ve spent a lot of time learning how childhood trauma has shaped me as an adult, what my own gender identity looks like, what style of parenting resonates with me… one thing that was left unanswered until pursuing an autism diagnosis was “why does my brain work the way it does?”
By that I mean:
Maybe you have the same questions about yourself and don’t feel the need to explore them with a psychologist - that’s okay! I know that self-identifying as Autistic is also the right thing for some folks. I don’t need to list all of the traits that made me pursue a diagnosis, but I will say that it was a combination of challenges (like difficulty maintaining friendships and regulating my own emotions) as well as strengths (like empathy, creativity, and the ability to immerse myself in projects 100%). The bottom line is that I recently received an official autism (and ADHD) diagnosis and while I can’t turn back time and ask my parents (or peers or teachers) to realize I was Autistic as a kid, to understand me better and potentially limit some of the trauma I experienced due to misunderstanding/lack of support, it has already helped me understand myself better. That’s worth a lot to me.
Why am I sharing what seems like such a personal, private experience?
If our goal is to accept and celebrate neurodiversity, we have to be willing to talk about it. Just like the mental health movement’s goal of banishing the stigma around mental health challenges and seeking support for them (whatever that looks like for you), acceptance and understanding begins when we stop hiding these parts of us. Brains work differently and that’s really cool! The world has made a lot of progress when it comes to diversity, inclusion, disabilities, mental health… but there’s still a long, long way to go.
If you’re a parent reading this, maybe my experience means that your own search for a diagnosis for your child, as scary or overwhelming as it might seem at times, can help them gain a deeper understanding of themselves! As long as you seek out providers and diagnosticians that are compassionate, respectful, and knowledgeable, they can make the process safe for you and your family. When it comes to ABA, take the time to learn about the providers you are considering; we are all different, with varied approaches. Would I have benefited from ABA as a child? Honestly, probably not. You’ve likely read the reports of Autistic adults and the ways that ABA wronged or traumatized them as children. Things are changing, though. Providers now consider trauma, assent, autonomy, and the awesomeness of how our brains all work differently. We know better, we do better. We’re pushing for diversity, inclusion, trauma-informed care, autism and mental health understanding and acceptance.
Similarly, if you’re a parent pursuing or wondering about a diagnosis for yourself, I hope that you’re able to learn more about yourself through that process. In my own journey, I’ve wondered if my child will have challenges and superpowers similar to mine. Maybe this process has better equipped me to support her regardless. Maybe your own journey into self-discovery will help you as a parent as well!
With that said, I can only speak for myself; what I’ve written here is my experience with self-exploration and diagnoses as myself, and not any other Austistic folks or folks with ADHD or anxiety. Every Autistic person’s experience is different. If you’re curious about how it fits into the lives of other people, do some digging; there are plenty of online forums where Autistic folks share their stories!