Official autism diagnosis?

I’m going for am “official” autism diagnosis soon and I was wondering if you knew what to expect…

realsocialskills said:

I have some sense of things that might happen, but I can’t totally tell you what to expect. The diagnostic tests that doctors and psychologists use varies a lot from person to person. They also have a large range of different attitudes, and what they will think and what they will do is somewhat unpredictable.

Some things that are fairly standard:

They will probably interview you about your various attributes and impairments. They will probably ask about most, if not all of these things:

  • If you’re in school, they will probably ask you what you’re having trouble with
  • If you work and you’re not in school, they will probably ask what you’re having trouble with at work
  • They will probably also ask what you had trouble with at school as a child
  • Whether you have (or ever had) narrow intense special interests (and possibly what they are)
  • How old you were when you started talking (and other questions about developmental history. But they will almost certainly ask about speech specifically, since it used to be the difference between a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome)
  • Whether or not you have empathy and/or can understand how other people are feeling
  • Your ability to understand other people’s body language
  • Whether you have friends, and how hard or easy it is for you to make friends
  • Your motor skills
  • Your ability to tolerate noise
  • Your ability to hold still
  • Whether or not anyone’s ever suggested that you have a particular condition

They will probably want outside information about your development:

  • They will likely ask to talk to your parents (not all doctors insist on this, but most of them will probably ask)
  • If you have allies who knew you as a young child, it might be helpful to offer them as people for the diagnostician to talk to
  • If you have school records that document related issues, it’s useful to show them. They may or may not ask, but they will probably find them relevant if you offer (I had IEPs, speech therapy records, OT records, and records of the reasons that teachers referred me for various things as a child.)

If you’re already being treated by a doctor for a mental health or neurological problem, they may want to speak with the doctor you’re already seeing.

They will do various tests. The exact tests they do vary, but may include:

  • Questionnaires that screen for mental health issues (probably depression and anxiety)
  • This may include the MMPI-2, a very long yes/no test that screens for various things. (It has validity issues with people with disabilities - eg: it’s not great at distinguishing between preoccupation with ailments as a mental health symptom and as a result of actual illness, or between cognitive problems and mental illness)
  • Multiple choice questions about autism related things such as Simon Baron Cohen’s EQ/SQ (some if not all of which will be based at least partly on offensive stereotypes.)
  • Tests of your ability to understand body language and tones of voice (by listening to recordings and/or looking at pictures and identifying emotions)
  • The ADOS , an autism-specific test that is supposed to test your social abilities, among other things
  • IQ testing (which will involve things like testing your vocabulary, your ability to detect patterns in cards and pictures, your ability to remember stories, and a few other things)
  • ADHD testing or other attention-related tests
  • Memory testing
  • Motor skills testing (eg: picking up and placing pegs, connecting dots, copying a figure)

During all of the tests, including those not directly related to autism, they will probably observe other potentially relevant things, eg:

  • Whether you’re dressed in a way considered socially appropriate for someone your age
  • Your hygiene on the day you’re tested
  • Whether and how often you make eye contact
  • Whether or not you’re making the socially expected facial expressions (eg: my diagnostic reports says that I have reduced facial expressions)
  • Whether and how you’re stimming
  • Whether you’re doing anything else unusual (eg: if you bring a stuffed animal or sing songs or repeat scripts)

I don’t really know how to predict which tests they will use, how they will interpret the results, or how they will treat you.

Does anyone else want to weigh in? What do you know about autism diagnosis that might be useful to someone about to go through that process?