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"My wife suspects that I have Asperger Syndrome..."

Question

My wife suspects that I have Asperger Syndrome. I often wonder the same thing. She's been pushing me to seek a diagnosis. How exactly do they diagnose an adult who may (or may not) have this disorder? And is it ever too late to seek a diagnosis (I’m 32-years-old!)?

Answer

It is never too late for you to increase self-awareness in order to capitalize on strengths and work around areas of challenge. Knowing about Aspergers gives you an explanation, not an excuse, for why your life has taken the twists and turns that it has. What you do with this information at the age of 32 is a personal decision, but it is still very important information to have.

When adults come in for a diagnosis, the therapist usually begins the exam with an IQ test. Since Aspergers adults have normal or above normal IQs, this is a good place to start. The therapist also administers an assessment of adaptive skills which tests the client’s ability to manage complex social situations.

Aspergers doesn't suddenly show up when you're 32, so most young people with true Aspergers showed symptoms throughout their childhood. Thus, if a parent is available, a parent interview called the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI) is administered. The therapist will be looking at current functioning and early history to get a sense of the client’s skills in social, communication and behavior domains. If parents aren't available, the therapist may ask the client to recall their childhood, asking such questions like “What hobbies did you have?” … “Did you have a lot of friends?” … Where you bullied as a child?” … “What did you enjoy doing?” …etc.

The therapist may also administer the ADOS Module IV (i.e., the autism diagnostic observation schedule; module four is for high-functioning, verbal adults). Along with the ADI, it allows the therapist to look carefully at social and communication skills and behavior. The tests look at such questions as:
  • Are you interested in the others people’s thoughts and feelings?
  • Can you have a reciprocal social conversation?
  • Do you demonstrate insight into relationships?
  • Do you have odd or over-focused interests?
  • Do you use appropriate non-verbal gestures and facial expressions?

The test allows the therapist to attach a grade in each domain to determine whether the client meets the criteria for Aspergers.

It's not unusual for a client to come in expecting the diagnosis of Aspergers and to leave with a different diagnosis. Distinguishing between social phobias or shyness and actual impairment with Aspergers can be very tough for a layperson. Other disorders, such as OCD or social anxiety can sometimes look like Aspergers. If the therapist picks up on these other disorders, he/she can recommend appropriate therapy and/or medication.

A diagnosis is primarily used to drive treatment decisions and to make it easier for clinicians to communicate with each other. But in many cases, it can also be an enormous comfort to the adult and his family. As long as a person with Aspergers feels like he is being blamed or criticized for something he doesn’t even understand, he can only be defensive or bewildered. When the people around him feel offended or disrespected, he can only get exasperated, argue, or write them off. But when the thing that makes a relationship difficult is named and understood, it becomes a problem that can be worked on together. That shift can change everything.

Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples 


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Always knew inside but didn't get diagnosis til 52! Definitely helps explain all the train wrecks of my life, but don't know if it will prevent future ones yet. I'm going forward with hope that "knowledge is power" and wishing for the power to find a way to live happily in the mostly NT world. I would encourage you to get a diagnosis, though for adults it's frustrating trying to find someone to do this unless you live in a progressive area. Good luck!
•    Anonymous said... I also have trouble making eye contact, but I'm getting better each day as I practice more and more. Whenever I get asked to stare someone in the eye, that's when it gets awkward I find.
•    Anonymous said... I was diagnosed late at age 48. The diagnosis helped to explain a lot of my inner feelings(shy/withdrawn/living in one's own world/almost obsession with certain 'specific' subjects that did particular appeal to me)/outward behaviors(not given to socializing much/not understanding why I'm so damn awkward in public/avoiding parties like it was the plague...-(due to too much over-stimulation)- like I just cannot 'fit in'?!). it gave me the 'why' I do what I do; whereas before I never really quite understood what made me think/feel/act/behave so 'different'; and, now, I feel it all makes perfect sense, and, finally, I know why. This was/is a great big relief; as I feel we all wish to both know/understand ourselves more...and, why we relate to others like we do. For example, When somebody asks me why I'm NOT inclined to go stare them directly in the eyes; I can now-a-days say it's because I suffer from Asperger's; but, that still doesn't mean I cannot 'try' and look them in the eye; some AS people through doing sufficient practice have been able to overcome this. That's why I say 'labels should never ever limit you; because we as human beings are totally and completely limitless, instead; we constantly develop/change/grow.' The person who I was yesterday; might not be the same person who I am today; and, tomorrow, I might have changed yet again.
•    Anonymous said... Like any other disability, you can't manage what you don't know you have. Getting diagnosed allows you to start learning how to adapt to this neuro-typical world. You'll definitely gain a better understanding of yourself, and why you see the world so differently than other folks.
•    Anonymous said... my husband was diagnosed age 60yrs old,never too late,both daughters have it too,best thing ever ,hubby glad he got diagnosed too,we understand each other more now,
•    Anonymous said... My husband wasn't diagnosed till late 30's and it helped make everything fall into place and things started to make sense in certain areas and ways for him. It saved our marriage ! I said to him you either have Aspergers or you are one self centred prick! It could help you both in numerous ways!

Please post your comment below…

4 comments:

  1. In Seattle we were told that they don't give adult diagnosis. They figure if you have survived this long, then no need for diagnosis. There are people that can provide treatment/ therapy for "Asperigan" traits.. At least that is what my husband has been told. We were told it is more important that children receive the diagnosis so they gave access to Services. My 6 yr old has Aspergers & my husband has been told he is too, but they can't provide the diagnosis. He is seeing someone who specializes in adult Aspergers

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  2. I was aged 48 before I got diagnosed as suffering from AS/Asperger's Syndrome. I recall reading up about the symptoms at a mental health conditions site on the net; I found that I identified with nearly all that was mentioned there; maybe, 80+%! Eventually, I plucked up sufficient inner courage to go visit my local G.P. doctor, asking them to refer me for a possible diagnosis. I went to see the 'mental health' assessment doctor for around 3 times...1 hour long session per week; and, at the end of these sessions my diagnosis was confirmed 'officially' speaking. Next, they sent me to a group session to go and meet with other AS individuals; so we could discuss and understand our own disorder more. It was interesting meeting others with AS. However, quite honestly, AS tends to affect everyone slightly differently; as some symptoms can be very highly pronounced...whilst other symptoms may be virtually non-existent in others/-etc.; thus, each AS individual tends to be somewhat 'unique' to themselves. Has my own AS diagnosis helped? I guess, in some ways it did, in that it explains a lot about the way I tend to feel/act both internally/externally; it's due to a, quite clearly, 'recognized' condition...and, not just something springing out of mere air. I feel I know and understand myself a lot more now; and, there are reason for why I do what I do; think like I think; and, do often feel odd/like I don't fit in; am a total outsider; tend to follow my own 'special' interests. However, with all that said and done; I should like to add that we as human beings are, really and truly, without any clear 'limits'; so, I don't believe that anybody should be entirely confined for all the rest of their lives to fitting in with some smug 'label'. Even people who do suffer from depression do vary a lot in range...from mild to severe depression(suicidal); and, they too can experience happiness and being 'up', sometimes. Thus, any strict label is, indeed, limiting; we as human beings...who are constantly capable of growing and developing ourselves...are far more than is any 'official' label can say. So, ultimately, the way I feel about it is...a part of me is AS/another part is just 'normal'. There are days when I tend to 'live inside of my own world', keeping myself largely to myself, much preferring to be alone; and, there are days when I go and happily socialize just like any 'normal' person does, instead. In the end, I'm not a over-simplistic label; instead, I'm just a very 'complex' human being. ;-) GOOD LUCK with getting your own diagnosis. Oh, I should add, they didn't prescribe for me any drugs/or, counselling; so, in that sense, at least, my life didn't change. I don't know if there are AS people who have to take drugs/counselling to support their condition? Also, one other thing, there is a thing called having 'co-morbid conditions'; where more than one 'mental health' condition exists together in the 'one' same person. So, you could have say AS + BiPolar/-etc. -(I heard BiPolar people often need to take drugs.)- Like I said, already, every AS person is 'different' from the next to some more or less degree; and, nobody is exactly the same. That's why it's good to get yourself 'officially' diagnosed; so you can understand exactly where it is that you stand...am I either this/or, that...???

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  3. I am an autism mom and an ASD specialist. I commonly assess adults for Aspergers. I can help you find someone who will do the evaluation (I can only see clients in Iowa and Florida.) I have found that the diagnosis really helps clarify and explain not only to yourself but also to others (spouse, boss, friends, family) and a thorough eval will identify strengths to use as you work on the challenges that go along with an ASD.

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  4. I was diagnosed in my late 40s. I had always had trouble with social interactions and was a very anxious child. Bullied at school and as an adult worked so much better on my own. I suffered from and still have high anxiety levels and it was this that prompted my diagnosis. First I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder . On one of visits to psych the replacement on the day felt I probably was on the autism spectrum. Two more psychs and a psychologists and I was diagnosed. I saw an OT for some fairly significant sensory issues which still plague me. Getting the diagnosis allowed me to breath. I was able to make sense of why I had no friends was useless at social outings never really understood if people were mad at me. I could also take a step back from horrible sensory situations like crowded shopping malls. Now I pick and choose where I will go socially. I don't feel so " obliged" to put myself through stuff. I have some difficult things going on in my life so save my anixety energy for them. Others needed the diagnosis more than I did. They needed to label me. I have a son a nephew and niece with autism too. Hurts that they may have it from my genes.

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