Do you know one word that can put a lot of individuals on the spectrum at ease?
It’s not a cure. It’s not a drug. It’s not a “happily ever after” promise. But it is something that will bring relief.
The Secret Word is “Diagnosis”
Have you ever asked a person with vision problems to read a book without their glasses? Imagine that this person was never told that glasses exist? Or that there are vision difficulties in the world?
Imagine that person and his or her parents going through life, then finding out that there is such a thing as nearsightedness and farsightedness. And that there are professionals who can assess this person for vision difficulties.
Then, imagine that person putting on the new pair of glasses! Suddenly, everything makes sense!
There are mixed opinions in the autism community about receiving a diagnosis of autism, but for the most part, individuals with Aspergers are relieved when they find out about autism and aspergers. Finally, all their challenges make sense! And there are ways to get help to live even more successful and productive lives than they are already living. It all comes into focus. And that, my friend, can bring a lot of peace of mind.
I highly recommend a book like Look Me In the Eye so that you can understand what it was like for one individual to find out about his diagnosis later in life.
If you are an adult with Aspergers, or if you are an adult wondering if you may have an autism spectrum condition, you may continue to question whether a diagnosis is worth it.
For you, I am going to recommend this article from Lisa Jo Rudy, over at About.Com.
Here are 10 reasons she lists regarding the benefits of seeking an Asperger Syndrome Diagnosis (this is if you have already gone through some of the preliminary online tests for autism and Aspergers, and the signs point toward that possibility)
1. Asperger Syndrome May Be Getting in the Way of Your Career
2. Asperger Syndrome May Be Getting in the Way of Friendships
3. Asperger Syndrome May Be the Reason You “Obsess” on Certain Topics
4. Asperger Syndrome May Be Cramping Your Social Style
5. Asperger Syndrome May Be Standing in the Way of Romance
6. Asperger Syndrome Could Be the Reason You’re “Mall-Phobic”
7. Asperger Syndrome May Be Making it Harder to Get Through School
8. Asperger Syndrome May Be a Problem in an Important Relationship
9. A Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome May Be the Key to Getting Services You Need
10. A Diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome Can Open New Doors to Friendships and Community
For the rationale behind each of these points, I recommend that you read the article in full.
How is Asperger’s Sydnrome Diagnosed?
For this information, I’m indebted to Dr. Marina Bejamen for her article at Psych Central.
Some key points to keep in mind when speaking about the How of Diagnosis are in order.
First, because autism and Aspergers are complex conditions, and because it’s so important to be aware of a person’s developmental history, it’s very important that the parents be involved during the observation and evaluation process.
Second, the findings from the professional evaluation should be easily understandable, with practical and realistic treatment recommendations.
Third, because many general practitioners still lack awareness of autism spectrum, it’s features, and co-morbid conditions, it’s important that the psychologist or psychiatrist conducting the evaluation be in contact with those professionals, to educate them.
Here is a very general picture of how a professional would go about accurately diagnosing an individual with autism and/or Aspergers.
The psychologist or psychiatrist will obtain a careful and thorough history of the individual’s early development, all the way back to how their mother’s pregnancy went, as well as the family and medical history. Any medical and school records and testing will be pursued and obtained for review. And the professional will be reviewing all of these with the DSM-IV criteria of autism and Asperger’s in mind.
The Psychologist will also conduct a full neuropsychological assessment. The areas covered are too many to describe for this short article, but I will again refer you back to Dr. Benjamen’s article for a full description.
The psychologist will also conduct a full communication assessment. It will go beyond just seeing if a person can speak fluently. Rather, it will examine non-verbal forms of communication, the tone of speech, the pace of speech, and ability to understand non-verbal cues. Special interests and the give and take of conversation would be other areas examined.
There are a number of Aspergers Tests that have become available online. They in no way take the place of a professional evaluation, but they may point out for you whether you or your child may want to pursue a diagnosis.
Wired Magazine has an online aspergers test from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre.
IAutistic.com has an online aspergers test based on the DSM-IV criteria for autism spectrum conditions.
This author compiled a list of online autism/aspergers tests that may be helpful to you.
Here is an autism Aspergers quiz from PsychCentral.com which you may also find helpful.
Finding a Competent Professional for Diagnosis
First, you want to figure out whether to seek a professional who is in-network with your healthcare insurance.
Here’s what I recommend that you do. Take out your healthcare insurance card and flip it over. On the back, there should be a phone number for “behavioral health/mental health/substance abuse”. Now, I know that, most likely, you are not dealing with substance abuse, but the insurance company lumps it all together.
Speak with the healthcare insurance representative and tell him/her that you are pursuing some evaluation and testing for a possible autism/Asperger’s diagnosis.
They will, most likely, give you a list of mental health professionals who specialize in diagnosing autism spectrum conditions.
And you will know what the co-pay and deductible is, and how affordable it is.
Second, you will want to get in touch with the Autism Society of America (if in the United States), Aspergers MAAP-Oasis or to Dr. Tony Attwood’s site (for those of you who live in Australia).
(For those in England or Canada, or in other parts of the world, I apologize for not having had the time to do in-depth research–please offer suggestions of great websites in the comments on this article).
You may find lists of recommended evaluation professionals on these sites. You can then find out whether their names match the names given to you from your insurance company.
If you decide you want to go to a health care professional not on your insurance panel, you can still see them out of network, and your health care insurance will usually pay an out of network portion of the charge. (Unless, of course, you have an HMO).
If you do not have health care insurance, you will want to use your Search Engine (Google, Yahoo, or Bing) to look up the term, “Community Mental Health Services” for agencies who may be able to make an appointment for you to get testing even if you do not have health care insurance.
This note is for parents who have children who are either in pre-school, elementary school, junior high, or high school: Here is a good article from WrightsLaw about some of your rights and options for getting a screening done for your child.
Once you have a diagnosis, it’s important to know about your rights and your child’s rights, especially in terms of Individualized Education Planning. And I highly recommend Michelle Garcia Winner’s materials as aids to incorporating social goals and social intelligence into your child’s plan.
Yes, it does bring peace of mind to have a diagnosis for a condition that can cause a lot of confusion for an individual with Aspergers.
What do you think?
Are there points I have left out?
What are some recommendations of sites you have come across for online Aspergers tests?
What have been some of your experiences with getting an autism or Asperger’s diagnosis?
I’d love to hear from you!