How to diagnose an adult with autism

We go over everything about autism in adults! Learn about the step-by-step process to diagnose an adult with autism.
Cómo diagnosticar a un autista adulto

Table of Contents

What is autism? How to know an adult is autistic? What are the most notable signs of this condition? How to diagnose someone with an autism spectrum disorder? What to do if the diagnosis is positive?

Today we will review all the most important information about your diagnosis in people who are autistic or who think they are.

On the Internet you can find some tests available, but none of them guarantee anything. Below you will know everything you need to verify if an adult is really autistic.

How do you know if someone is autistic?

Surely you are wondering yourself or someone you know is autistic. You may have read something about autism, or seen something in a movie or on television and you think that describes your own experiences.

It is quite common for people with autism to live their lives without a proper diagnosis, always feeling strange and displaced. Many people learn to live their own lives this way, although it can be a difficult task at times. A person with autism can have a partner or have a successful job, while others live in isolation and many everyday things are a real personal battle.

What to do until the diagnosis arrives?

The most important thing at this point is to support the person based on their own apparent needs and not on the diagnosis that has been made. Therefore, whether an individual has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, they can:

  • Apply for social benefits.
  • Receive community care services.

Why is a diagnosis important?

Although for many it may be unnecessary, others may find an accurate evaluation and diagnosis useful to:

  • Help to understand the experience and the certain difficulties that may arise and how to deal with them.
  • Correct a previous wrong diagnosis -such as schizophrenia-, to address it more effectively.
  • Be useful to help access the appropriate services and benefits.
  • Make the necessary and reasonable adjustments at work or school.
  • Join an autistic community.

Although it is not always a diagnosis, some people require an accurate diagnosis to be able to detect experiences in their life that allow them to identify other autistic people.

How is autism diagnosed?

Autism - including Asperger syndrome - can vary greatly from one individual to another, so a standardized diagnosis can be difficult. The formal identification of autism may require a multidisciplinary diagnostic team.

In most cases, the most recommended option is that you visit your family doctor, since he is in charge of referring you to a different health professional, such as a psychologist if you have depression.

Step 1: Talk to your family doctor

Make an appointment at your health center and make sure that the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is the only reason you visit. If you try to mention something else during your appointment, your diagnosis will not be entirely accurate.

Step 2: Present your case

Your head doctor needs a powerful reason to refer you to a diagnosis. You will need to explain the reasons why you think you are autistic and how a diagnosis would help you.

Explain your situation and tell him what you have read about autism. You can share your difficulties with autistic people and ask for a formal evaluation.

The most important thing is that you expose the difficulties that both in your childhood and in your adulthood, you are having with communication, social interactions, sensory difficulties, friendships or employment.

Remember that not all GPs have a deep understanding of autism, so you need to do it as clearly as possible.

Step 3: Get Referred

If your GP agrees with you, we recommend that you ask about social services who have experience in the multidisciplinary diagnosis of autism in adults.

If access to a multidisciplinary team is not possible, you could turn to an individual professional, such as a psychiatrist or an online psychologist who has experience diagnosing autism.

Keep in mind that sometimes finding a professional service with experience diagnosing autism in adults is not an easy task.

Step 4: the diagnostic evaluation

Most adults choose to visit a psychological clinic or multidisciplinary team for their diagnoses.

These professionals may ask you to be accompanied by someone, such as someone who has known you since you were a child, your parents or your siblings. The reason? They can give important information about your childhood.

Remember that this is not a medical exam. You do not need to be physically examined and they will not ask for tests for an analysis.

Each person with autism is different from any other, so for the diagnosis you will go through persistent difficulties in communications, interactions and social restrictions. Your repetitive patterns of behavior, activities or interests will also be analyzed, from your early childhood until those that can limit and impair your daily functioning are clearly defined.

They may use some of the diagnostic tools available, but not a prerequisite. Rather, it is a series of questions about your developmental history from the time you were a child to the present point.

Through this diagnosis they will be able to tell you if they think you are autistic or not. The results may be given to you the same day as the assessment, by phone the day after, or through a written report sent by mail.

This report will present a particular autism profile, such as Asperger's Syndrome or Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome. If you have difficulty understanding it, the professional can help you in the parts that you consider most confusing.

Step 5: What to do after the diagnosis?

Sometimes the diagnosis reveals that the person is not autistic. If you do not agree with this result, you can ask for a second opinion. This means going back to your GP and explaining why you are not satisfied with the previous diagnosis.

If you opt for a second evaluation, keep in mind that the conclusion may be the same as the first time.

In case the diagnosis of autism is favorable, the normal thing is that the questions invade you. How to know more about your condition? How to meet other autistic people? How to access services and support?

Post-diagnosis support is very important, which is why many teams of professionals can offer follow-up services after diagnosis, to answer all your questions. However, not everyone does this.

Support does not start automatically after diagnosis, but having it is more likely to access these services. Not everyone needs support services, so for some people, a diagnosis is all they need.

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