I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 25. The process was long and overwhelming, but the end result has been absolutely invaluable to my quality of living. Here are three ways that my autism diagnosis has benefited me:
- Accommodations in the workplace (or hospitals, shops, theme parks, etc)
When my daughter was born, the prospect of spending a night on a busy hospital ward filled me with far more dread than the birth itself. Thanks to my autism diagnosis, I was able to have a room all to myself, and my partner was allowed to stay with us the entire time. I would not have been granted either of these things if I told the midwives I was autistic, but had nothing official to back it up. A medical diagnosis also means you are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and can lead to further benefits within wider society.
- To explain and validate yourself to friends and family
‘I think I’m autistic’, you say to your sister/father/schoolfriend/etc. ‘Oh… really?’ they reply with a sceptical little frown. Or, ‘you’re not autistic, lots of people [eat the same thing for breakfast every day/hate wearing socks/feel like the noise of squeaking cutlery might make them snap and burn down the Harvester]’. If you display less conventional autistic traits, or are a heavy masker, or even are surrounded by other un-diagnosed neurodivergents, then your self-diagnosis may not carry the weight it should. But it’s difficult to argue with the professional opinion of a psychologist (though believe me, some will try).
- A better sense of self-identity
I came away from my final assessment genuinely worried that I’d tricked the assessor into giving me a diagnosis. I know many of my fellow neurodivergents will be no strangers to imposter syndrome; and while my diagnosis didn’t make this go away, it is a solid piece of evidence I can lean on when I’m unsure of myself. Many of us have trouble getting the people around us to accept our conditions, but sometimes we ourselves need just as much convincing.
I fully support self-diagnosing, and think it should be enough to garner acceptance from yourself, your loved ones, and society as a whole. But unfortunately, it seldom is; and therefore, having a medical diagnosis to whip out when you need it can make a world of difference.