diagnosis of aspergers in adulthood

Diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome In Adulthood

More adults are being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. More adults are finding out they have Asperger’s in some part likely due to the explosion of information about it on the internet. For some adults, however, they are getting diagnosed with AS after they have a child who gets diagnosed with AS.

An issue that comes up over and over for many adults is why should I bother to seek a diagnosis at my age?

It’s a good and fair question to which there isn’t really any one correct answer or globally compelling reason to seek an official diagnosis.

There are many adults who know that they have Asperger’s Syndrome(AS) inherently after reading information on line or in a book or hearing about the experiences of someone else with Asperger’s. Many do not need or ever seek an official diagnosis.

There is a growing movement within the on-line AS community that supports self-diagnosis based upon peer acknowledgment or validation. This peer acknowledgment and/or validation takes place when an adult who believe they have AS talks (emails, chats) with others who have AS and the commonality of experience becomes irrefutably obvious.

I have experienced both, actually. I have experienced being told I didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome, then an actual diagnosis, and then further to this I have experienced more peer validation from taking to other adult Aspies who mirrored so much of my life experience and how I have felt through it and as the result of it. Should one way of knowing that I have AS be more important than the other? I’m not so sure.

I believe that many people these days are coming to understand many things about themselves via the internet as well as books. However, online one can do much more than just read information. There are email lists, message boards, and places to actually chat that facilitate the coming together of Aspies who might not otherwise ever cross each other’s paths and learn from one another.

If you can seek a diagnosis because you have coverage for the assessment or you can afford to, then of course, it makes perfect sense to do so. If, however, you can’t access services either due to lack of insurance coverage or trained professionals in your area, I believe that what you know about yourself is more often accurate than not.

The reality of seeking out a professional assessment and diagnosis, for women with Asperger’s Syndrome, is even more complicated and difficult than that of men. Most of the diagnostic criteria have been built upon clinician’s experience of making diagnoses primarily of males. Women with Asperger’s do not necessarily present in the same ways that most men do. It is not uncommon that women are misdiagnosed and sent way more often than there male counterparts into the Mental Health System. Mental Health Systems are not designed whatsoever to facilitate the kind of support someone with AS requires.

Coming to the knowledge that one has AS or being diagnosed with it officially in adulthood does present different challenges than those who find out in their childhoods have to face.

Children these days are benefiting from more and more intervention to teach them how to strengthen certain areas where some skills are lacking. They are being “trained” in how to think and behave like Neuro-Typicals. Some people believe this is a positive thing. I’m sure in some ways it can have positive benefits. However, there are many who wonder about the effectiveness of this approach and also feel that by trying to change so much about a youngster with AS there is not the acceptance level for those who are on the autistic spectrum that there needs to be and should be.

There are definitely challenges to being an adult Aspie. Some can be painful or frustrating and isolating for sure. However, while I might wish there were a few more skills I was taught as a child to manage relating, for example, when I was younger, there is a lot about me that I would feel very sad about having had changed. A lot of who I am has been shaped and molded to some degree by the fact that I have AS. Some of that is not as positive as the rest but I strongly believe that the more I find my way in life, my way, the better off I am.

I am glad that I was diagnosed. I am glad that I know and understand and continue to learn more about what having Asperger’s means in my life and in my relating to the world. Knowing this has increased my ability to love myself and accept myself for who I am and to stop comparing myself endlessly and unfavourably to others.

To this end then, knowing that one has AS is useful information and can be very important in terms of helping an adult with AS learn to make necessary adjustments to cope with the rest of the world and to relate to it in ways that make a little more sense to it.

So, seeking a diagnosis regardless of age for any adult is likely worth it. However, there is almost equal value in knowing what you know about yourself. Through sharing your experiences and difficulties with others on line you can truly learn to assess for yourself if you fit the AS profile or not. If you are a female, however, please look for other women with AS to talk to and read up on how AS can look and be different for females.

Knowledge is power and this applies to understanding ourselves better. If you can get formally diagnosed it’s a good idea. Knowing that you have AS and learning to understand that and the way that it impacts your relating, relationships, and overall functioning and way of relating to the world in general is a very valuable thing that can only add to your self-acceptance and self-understanding in time, in ways that will enable you to find more peace and contentment in life.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari 2004 – addition February 2009 – all rights reserved.