How do I know if I’m autistic?
There are online screening tests which you can take, which have around 80% accuracy at correctly identifying autism. You can try taking one of these online here. Additionally, you might find it useful to read more about the common traits and signs. The National Autism Society has lots of information here.
I think I might be autistic, how do I get assessed?
Depending on which country you are in, routes to diagnosis may differ. In the first instance you should see your general practitioner or family doctor, they can discuss with you the signs and traits and refer you to see a specialist. This specialist is usually a Psychiatrist. It is important that you go to these meetings well prepared, for example take a list of traits that you have noticed with you. If you struggle to verbalise these then try writing them down or take a support person with you. It is vital that the doctor knows all the details of your experience to make an accurate diagnosis.
I think might child might be autistic, how do I get them assessed?
It is best to speak to your school and request your child gets seen by a SEN coordinator. They will be able to discuss the signs you have noticed. You may also find it useful to talk to your general practitioner or family doctor. An assessment for a child involves multiple different types of professionals and may take some time, and therefore you should be led by your school or healthcare worker.
My doctor won’t diagnose me/my child, what should I do now?
It may be the case that your doctor thinks a different diagnosis would be best. However, it may also be the case that your autistic traits do not present in a typical way, and are therefore missed by clinicians. It is quite normal for children to behave differently at school than at home, where they feel more relaxed, and therefore the school may not see the same signs that you do. You might want to consider recording certain behaviours or traits to show your doctor/school in this case. Everyone has the right to a second (or third or fourth!) opinion, so ask to see a different specialist. It is worth asking other autistic people and parents where they received their diagnosis, as this ensures you are seeing a professional with experience and knowledge in the field. Alternatively you could see a private psychiatrist and be re-assessed that way, however this will cost a lot of money.
I’ve been diagnosed, now how do I get support?
In the first instance you should speak with your assessor and/or doctor on what is available in your area. If you are struggling with mental health difficulties you may find it beneficial to speak to a counsellor or therapist. It is important that this person understands autism well, as how they conduct their session should be adjusted to your needs. Many will offer an initial free session to work out if you are a good fit for each other, this is the perfect time to ask what experience they have and what adjustments they can make. If you are looking for social support then many charities offer peer mentoring and social events for autistic people. If you live in the UK you can contact the National Autism Society here to find out what is available. There are many private Facebook groups available to autistic people now, which are great for social support, and books which provide valuable self-help. For example, ‘The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum’.
I think I’m autistic, but do I have to have a diagnosis?
No, many autistic people now self-diagnose and self-identify. You might find it worthwhile to complete some tests online to check. For example, the Autism Spectrum Quotient is a commonly used screening tool that you can take yourself online here. However, sometimes it may be harder to access support without an official medical diagnosis. If this is something you think you need you might want to consider visiting your doctor to have an assessment (see above).
Can my autistic child be cured of their autism?
Many parents are disappointed when their child is diagnosed as autistic, you may feel that your child will not lead a happy or fulfilling life. However, this is not the case. With the right support and adjustments autistic people can live as satisfying and fulfilling lives as anyone. The real problem which can prevent this is society placing unnecessary standards and criteria on success. Try to avoid seeking ‘cures’ or unhelpful interventions such as ABA, which only serve to teach your child that who they are is not OK. This can have a hugely detrimental effect on their mental health and well being. Instead focus on their strengths and encourage activities and behaviours that they enjoy doing, such as special interests and non-harmful stimming behaviours. You might also find it helpful to speak with autistic adults, which you can speak to in private Facebook groups or on other social media outlets, such as Twitter.
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