Autism assessments for adults are not as structured as those for children. The issue with this is that there is not a standard process for adults in BC. Here are somethings to know while preparing for adult assessment.
Sharing your experience
Many adult assessments rely heavily on childhood behaviours and traits, and your assessor may ask you to bring a parent or childhood caregiver, if possible. They can help describe your childhood attributes, sensitivities, and provide any relevant medical information. However, having healthcare professionals dismiss the person going for an assessment or relying on others’ accounts (even if they are family members) is extremely disheartening. We want you to be empowered to do the assessment process on your own. If you feel overwhelmed, let your assessor know you need a short break.
Trust that the assessor believes what you say – you should not need to self-induce a meltdown or shut down for a professional to believe that these impact you.
You may have been previously diagnosed/misdiagnosed with other mental health conditions, so familiarize yourself with what autism can look like in an adult:
Difficulty making conversation
Difficulty making or maintaining close friendships
Discomfort during eye contact
Challenges with regulating emotions
Extreme interest in one topic
Frequent monologues on the same subject or subjects
Hypersensitivity to sounds or smells
Involuntary noises, such as repetitive throat clearing
Difficulty understanding sarcasm or idioms
Lack of inflection when speaking
Limited interest in only a few activities
Preference for solitary activities
Problems reading the emotions of others
Misunderstanding facial expressions and body language
Reliance on daily routines and difficulty dealing with change
The need to arrange items in a specific order (medicalnewstoday.com, 2022).
Making a list of your autistic traits and real-life examples will help you prepare and better express yourself during your assessment.
Finding the right assessor
When seeking out an assessor, do not be afraid to ask questions and find the right fit for your needs.
Will you consider supplemental video or logs in consideration during the assessment?
What should I expect during the assessment?
Ask if the clinic or assessor has experience with assessments for adults and/or intersections (ie: women, LGBTQ+, indigenous informed). It is quite common for medical professionals to have specialties or areas of focus. If the doctor’s office sends you a history and/or symptom questionnaire prior to the appointment, fill it out as completely as possible; providing specific examples where you can. Add any relevant information you feel is important. Make notes regarding what you want to talk about as part of your diagnostic interview, including any questions you have. If you find verbal communication difficult, you can prepare a written summary ahead of time of your autistic signs and behaviours or even prerecord what you want to say ahead of time (musingsofanaspie.com, 2022). If the assessment is causing you stress, try to seek out support for both prior to and after the assessment.
While you wait for your assessment date, learn about available resources to support you both during and after your diagnosis. You may also want to take some online autism assessments. These are not official diagnoses but will help you identify autistic traits and gauge approximately where you are on the spectrum. These include the RAADS-R and theAQ, which can be found at Embrace Autism.
Take care of yourself during this time. Tips on autistic calming strategies can be found here