“I see people with Asperger’s Syndrome as a bright thread in the rich tapestry of life.” – Tony Atwood
You may be overwhelmed at first by a diagnosis of Aspergers. You may be thinking this isn’t me; this can’t possibly be me.
You hear the word Aspergers and all you can think of is someone who recites books from memory or plays complex music after one hearing, someone who is non-verbal, sits alone in a corner and rocks back and forth.
Except none of this has anything to do with Aspergers.
Receiving an Adult Aspergers Diagnosis
Whether you saw an Aspergers psychologist or another mental health professional, you probably were diagnosed with Aspergers because:
- You find it difficult to understand others and express yourself.
- You are often confused by the way other people behave because you’re unable to understand social ways of conduct.
- It’s hard for you to understand the emotions of others and the subtle messages that are sent by facial expressions, eye contact and body language.
- You like routines, and you don’t take well to changes in your routines.
- You have intense, even obsessive, interests or hobbies.
Can This Diagnosis Help?
If your life is going well and you are happy, the diagnosis of Aspergers may not matter much. On the other hand, if you are struggling in life, a diagnosis can provide a way of understanding and learning about challenges you experience that have been inexplicable until now.
A diagnosis may help you find the strategies you need to be more successful in areas that have been difficult. It may help others in your life understand why you are the way you are, and it may help them respond to you differently.
There is a whole community of people who get who you are, how you think, how you feel, a community with whom you can share your experiences.
There are adult Aspergers support groups, online and in-person, that can help you so you don’t have to be isolated and figure everything out for yourself. You can also get help from someone, like an Aspergers psychologist, who understands the needs of those with adult Aspergers.
A diagnosis can provide access to services geared towards your needs and interests, such as mentoring, career development, social programs, therapy, lifestyle coaching and independent living services.
Common Reactions to an Adult Aspergers Diagnosis
Relief: Having a name for something that confused and even ashamed you can provide a way to do something about it and let you move forward with your life. Now you know what you’ve been dealing with for so long.
Anger: Wishing you had known this before so that you hadn’t lost so much time and opportunities for help is a common response to a diagnosis. Some people are angry that they now have to contend with a condition that has obvious disadvantages.
Denial: Wanting to believe your diagnosis is faulty and incorrect is not unusual. There’s nothing outlandish about wanting to believe you don’t have Aspergers. However, persistent denial can prevent you from getting the help and support you deserve.
Are There Disadvantages of a Diagnosis?
Having Aspergers is not exactly fun. People tend to think in stereotypes, and the word Aspergers often conjures up the image of an awkward, quiet, anti-social loner. It’s unfortunate but true.
A diagnosis gives others the ability to pigeonhole someone and make assumptions about the person based on their understanding of the diagnosis rather than what’s true about that condition.
Along with those assumptions go certain unfortunate reactions, like assuming you’re just like everybody else and that you’re only pretending to be different, that you don’t need certain accommodations, or that you’re using Aspergers as an excuse not to follow through with your responsibilities. I’ve seen many of these unfortunate reactions in my practice as an Asperger’s psychologist.
The Road Ahead
Remember, no person is a diagnosis and no diagnosis is a person. Aspergers is just one of your qualities. You have many other characteristics, traits, and features that create who you are. Don’t let adult Aspergers be all that defines you.
Follow your interests. Join clubs or organizations if you want connections. Trust that those connections will increase as you gain more life experience and skills. Remember that you will find people who appreciate you for the wonderful person you are.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt in the heart.” – Helen Keller