What’s the advantage of getting formally tested for Autism? My Psychologist pretty much just offhand diagnosed me with Aspergers, though I’ve know I had AS for longer than that. Anyway, since my family and I already know, is there any reason I should formally test for it?
I can’t tell you whether it’s a good idea for you or not.
There are several reasons that I think it may be worth considering.
One is that external validation might matter to you more than you think it does. I knew I was autistic before I was diagnosed; diagnosis still mattered to me a lot more than I expected it to matter.
One way is that it can matter is in your relationships with other people. If you want to talk about being autistic, being professionally diagnosed is likely to be helpful. That definitely made a big difference for me.
Another way that autism testing can be helpful is that it can involve testing for other things as well. That’s worthwhile partly because it’s possible that another diagnosis fits you better than autism (that happens sometimes), and also because it’s not at all uncommon for autistic people to have additional cognitive or physical issues.
Testing can give you information about cognitive and neurological strengths and weaknesses beyond a one-line diagnosis. It can also tell you about other conditions you might have. For instance, testing can sometimes tell you:
- If you also have ADHD
- If you’re having motor skills problems, and what kind
- Whether your memory is typical
- Whether you’re having reading comprehension problems
- And various other things potentially worth knowing
All of that can be overlooked if you’re doing ok in school or if people are already attributing everything to one diagnosis. It’s good to know where you stand and what your cognitive strengths and weaknesses are. Testing isn’t always helpful for that kind of thing, but it definitely can be sometimes.
Testing can help you to get accommodations. For instance, if you have difficulty with handwriting and your testing documents that, it can get you the legal right to use a computer for writing tasks and tests in school and university. That applies to a lot of other things too. If there are supports or accommodations that you need and aren’t getting, testing might help you to get them.
This is also true if you’re in high school now and planning to go to college soon, even if all your support needs are being met in high school without documentation. You can’t assume that will continue to be the case in college without documentation – they may well require it, and it will be easier to get what you need if you already have proof.
One thing to consider if you are under 18 (or even under 21), is that diagnosis is often taken more seriously if you were diagnosed as a minor. This can affect access to services and support if you turn out to need help later in life. (It won’t necessarily make you eligible for help even if you really need it, but it does make it somewhat more likely.)
Formal diagnosis also can sometimes open up the possibility of trying psychiatric medication to manage some symptoms. This can also be a downside to diagnosis if it might mean that someone will make you take medication you don’t want to take. Some medication can be really helpful for some people; it can be a really bad idea for other people.
Another downside to consider is that having a diagnosis closes off some options and complicates others. For instance, autism, ADHD, and psychiatric conditions are disqualifying for US military service, even in noncombatant roles. Some other jobs or programs you might want to apply to might ask if you have any disabilities or mental health conditions (sometimes this is illegal; sometimes it isn’t). If you have a diagnosis, you will have to either lie or disclose. That can complicate some things.
Another downside is that getting diagnosed with autism might result in people trying to make you go to behavior therapy or social skills groups. If you’re an adult, it will probably be reasonably easy to avoid doing this. If you’re a minor, people might be somewhat more likely to succeed in making you go to bad therapy. (Although that might happen anyway even without a diagnosis.)
It also might become harder to get doctors to take physical symptoms seriously. Sometimes diagnostic overshadowing means that everything gets attributed to autism even when it isn’t.
That said, I think all and all, the advantages to diagnosis outweigh the disadvantages for most people, particularly most younger people.
tl;dr Overall, I think that if you’re autistic or suspect you might be, pursuing formal diagnosis is usually a good idea. That said, it’s a very personal choice and your milage may vary. Scroll up for some reasoning.