I was diagnosed with autism in middle age.
Here’s how I felt the very moment I saw Autism Spectrum Disorder on the report.
By the time an adult schedules an assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorder, they’re pretty much convinced they’re autistic.
There are certainly exceptions, such as agreeing to undergo an assessment at an employer’s suggestion due to chronic difficulties on the job.
But usually, the individual has spent a lot of time giving this a ton of thought, and arrives at a self-diagnosis first.
There may be differential diagnoses along with the primary self-diagnosis of ASD.
In my case, it was only ASD. I did consider the slight possibility I could also have attention deficit disorder.
I already knew I had a little OCD in my history (it’s fairly easy to self-diagnose obsessive compulsive disorder – come ON, what else could repeatedly checking that the stove is off or the garage door is closed mean?).
For many years I considered the possibility of a personality disorder. I even once considered paranoid personality disorder because – among other reasons – I occasionally wondered if someone could “read into me” when I was holding eye contact with them as they were doing long talking.
One of the things on my bucket list of things to do in life was to undergo a thorough psychological assessment.
I’d always felt that I “had something going on.” I’ve always known that I’d get more than just a diagnosis for anxiety and OCD.
I knew that there was something “bigger” going on. But little did I know that it was autism until sometime in 2021 when somehow, someway, I was led to online content authored by autistic people.
All the pieces began falling together. All the leaves began falling into place. With a few exceptions, Autism Spectrum Disorder described me perfectly.
But the exceptions troubled me.
- I didn’t have meltdowns.
- I didn’t have shutdowns.
- I never had “autistic burnout.” The closest to that was my feeling strained or taxed after social events.
- I could win a staring contest.
- I never had “sensory overwhelm.”
- I’d always had great hand-eye coordination.
- I had superb executive functioning.
I went on a wild goose chase online to locate content that autistic people CAN have good eye contact and don’t always have meltdowns and shutdowns.
I was also concerned about my special interests. I did not have encyclopedic knowledge of any one topic – though I could answer ANY question about treadmill use.
My special interests had never disrupted my ability to function (e.g., neglect eating due to spending so much time with a special interest).
All these doubts lingered with me as the date of the in-person ASD assessment drew nearer.
I had to keep reminding myself about the traits that I did have that screamed autism, such as habitually rocking when seated, an indescribable rush whenever I saw someone’s huge ponytail, difficulty detecting when someone was kidding with me, preference for alone time, inability to express empathy, dislike for small-talk, over-thinking and over-explaining and more.
And then there were the “ancillary” traits such as my 97 percentile on the pattern recognition portion of a nationally standardized test during high school; my synesthesia (hearing color); prolific illustration skills since childhood; music skills in childhood; attention to detail; high resistance to jumping on bandwagons and following the crowd, and disdain for mindlessly adhering to social norms.
A week after the in-person assessment I had a 45-minute teleconference with the examiner.
She said I’d be getting a PDF report a week later, shortly before our final teleconference.
It came 15 minutes before our appointment. I had to keep scrolling to find the part where the diagnosis was.
My heart was racing like a thoroughbred. Then I saw the words: “…is consistent with autism spectrum disorder…”
I kept reading: “…meets the criteria for autism spectrum disorder…”
I read the diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I squealed with delight and gave a fist pump.
Yes, I was ecstatic with my diagnosis of autism! Overjoyed! So happy!
I finally knew why, why, why all my life I’d always felt that I was born in the wrong era – even among the wrong humanoid species.
I am a proud member of “the Club.” I fully embrace my Autistry.
Learning that I’m autistic has NOT influenced my political views. I remain mostly a conservative thinker. I am not “woke.”
So for instance, I find it appalling that there’s a mass trend to normalize obesity. I want to see a normalization of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Like autistic self-advocate Temple Grandin has said, to paraphrase, “Without autistic people we’d all be standing around in caves talking and socializing and not getting any work done.”
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder.