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  • Writer's pictureWill Dempsey

Knowing When and Where to Get Tested For Autism as an Adult

Oftentimes, the hardest part of solving a problem is acknowledging it’s there. As a therapist, I often see people who dismiss their own pain and discomfort out of hand. Sometimes, their struggles are related to anxiety or their identity; other times, it’s something they can’t quite put into language.

It could be a general sense that social interaction doesn’t come as easily for them as it does for others. There’s friction with romantic partners and family members around communication. Social events that should be cause for celebration bring intense anxiety. What’s worse, there doesn’t seem to be any clear reason for it.

In today’s article, we’ll explore what it means to be an adult with autism — when to test, and where to get tested.

Signs of Autism in Adults

Autism is notoriously difficult to diagnose. It’s often seen in combination with other neurological differences, such as ADHD. Additionally, because autism is a spectrum, the symptoms can vary wildly in both type and intensity. People with autism experience the world differently — but there’s no one-size-fits-all description for how they experience it.

Moreover, adults with autism often develop masking and coping techniques that allow them to conform to the social expectations of others at their own expense.

Here are some questions to consider if you’re wondering whether or not you might have autism:

  • Do you struggle with small talk and surface conversations?

  • Are you uncertain about how to behave in social situations?

  • Is it difficult to make and maintain new friendships?

  • Do you find certain environments particularly stressful or soothing?

  • Is communication with loved ones, particularly about emotion, challenging for you?

  • Have you found that you need strict routines and structures to manage tasks?

  • How often do you feel you must hide your true self to fit in?

Getting Tested

The testing process for autism involves a series of screening interviews tailored to explore your developmental history and childhood, and the challenges you may be dealing with in your day-to-day life.

Most autism diagnoses begin with a self-report questionnaire such as the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Test (available here). With the AQ test, a score of 0 - 25 points shows limited signs of autism, whereas a score higher than 25 or higher may warrant further investigation by contacting a qualified therapist or medical professional.

Comprehensive Diagnostic

Developmental History

A comprehensive diagnostic begins with an interview to gather information on your developmental history; this may include questions about your childhood, as well as your experiences with family members and in school. Often, adults with autism learn to mask over time. Looking back, there are often signs that were missed by the people in their lives.

Structured Interviews

After taking a developmental history, the next step is a structured interview exploring the challenges in your day-to-day life. Here, we aim to understand how autism might impact your work and home life. In particular, the interviews will focus on areas where undiagnosed autism may be causing friction, frustration, or discomfort. Because it is sometimes difficult to judge ourselves clearly, this process may require getting feedback from others in your life: family members, coworkers, romantic partners, etc.

Getting Tested

Autism in real life rarely looks like it does in the movie. Most undiagnosed adults with autism are high-functioning. They have developed masking and coping mechanisms that help them manage their symptoms. Coping mechanisms like these come with a cost. Often, adults with undiagnosed autism have a hard time advocating for themselves. Accordingly, they may put themselves in unsafe situations and have difficulty setting boundaries.

Schedule an Appointment

Getting a diagnosis is a crucial first step in understanding how your brain works, how you can communicate, and how you can feel more comfortable with the wider world. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about autism assessment or anxiety therapy.

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