by Cat, autistic adult guest blogger
I was in college when I first received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. There wasn’t a whole lot that it seemed this could do for me at that point — I was out of primary and secondary school where a more accurate IEP might have made a difference, and the college didn’t have specific accommodations for ASD — and yet at the same time, it was incredibly helpful to have, just for myself. Being able to read up on the diagnosis gave me a better understanding of myself, and let me know that for someone on the autism spectrum, I was normal, and doing well in many areas.
Having this diagnosis also gave me another way of interacting with the world — of finding other people online who related to this part of my life and who could share their experiences, commiserate with mine, and trade tips on managing life.
The process of receiving a diagnosis as an adult can be difficult. I had had other diagnoses in the past, which didn’t cover the whole picture, but which I was accustomed to. It’s not easy to reformat your identity when you’ve been carrying a whole different set of labels for fifteen years, or twenty. It’s not all unmixed relief.
If the face of autism had been different when I was a child, I might have grown up with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. I first self-diagnosed with autism around second grade, after reading an article in Reader’s Digest, back during a time when autism was seen as presenting with a more rigid set of signs, among them, being non- or low-verbal, and having a low IQ and an intolerance for touch. After accepting that I “couldn’t be autistic” (because I was verbal, intelligent, and showed affection) it was difficult to later find that I was. However, the greater self-understanding and the sense of community both helped as I came to embrace what makes me, me. I wouldn’t want anyone else’s brain. It took me a long time to learn just what made mine what it is, and it’s a part of me that’s worth knowing.