Autism is not just for children and while we have many diagnosed adults within the AsIAm Community we do receive requests from many more asking about getting an adult diagnosis. In the last few decades our understanding of autism has advanced far beyond its original definition.
Dr. Leo Kanner, who first coined the term in 1943, primarily saw it as a childhood psychosis. We now know this to be untrue; in fact the very first child Kanner diagnosed, Donald Triplett, is still alive today! Increasing numbers of adults are now seeking a diagnosis. However, this manner of thinking persists and many GPs may hesitate to grant a referral to someone over the age of 18. Nevertheless, it is worth persisting to receive a diagnosis.
Why should I get an autism diagnosis as an adult?
Many autistic adults, especially women, can be misdiagnosed with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or BPD. As a result, the prescribed medications and therapies are usually inaffective, which will lead to further feelings of frustration and poor self-worth. Undiagnosed autistic adults may have spent time in a CAMHS unit due to these misdiagnoses.
In some cases, undiagnosed autistic adults may turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a coping strategy. In fact, some people may only notice their autistic traits after entering a rehabilitation programme.
Therefore, although autism is not a mental illness, poor understanding of autistic traits and uninformed to treatment can cause significant distress to an autistic adult’s wellbeing. With this in mind, an adult autism diagnosis often comes as a relief.
How can a diagnosis help me?
A formal diagnosis is not merely a label. Assessment and diagnosis opens many doors for the following reasons:
Aoife Dooley (pictured above) was diagnosed at the age of 27. She commented “It’s like you’re constantly looking for an answer you don’t know the question to…When you get a diagnosis as an adult it’s bizarre because everything and nothing changes at the same time. You’re still you, but now you have the tools to understand who you are and how you work.
How do I find a diagnosis?
The typical route for getting diagnosed is to visit your GP and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, preferably one with experience of diagnosing autism.
However, accessing an adult diagnosis through the public health system is virtually impossible so many people will go to a private consultant.
Three practitioners who do provide adult assessment and diagnosis of autism are:
Dr. Davida Hartman Adult Autism, email@example.com
Dr. Emer Bowman Dublin Well Woman Centre, 67, Pembroke Road , Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. T: +353 (01) 668-1108
Dr Rita Honan & Associates, 7 Cope Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland. T: +353 (01) 896-3906 E: firstname.lastname@example.org