While autism is typically diagnosed in childhood, many adults who were never diagnosed with autism as children are discovering later in life that they may be on the autism spectrum. Recent data indicates that 2.2% of American adults, or about 1 in 45 people, have autism.
If you are an adult who suspects you may be on the autism spectrum, seeking an autism assessment can be a valuable tool in understanding your neurodivergent traits and how they may impact your life. In this article, I will discuss what an autism assessment can tell you about yourself and why seeking a diagnosis can be an important step in self-discovery and self-acceptance.
What is an Autism Assessment?
An autism assessment is a series of tests and evaluations designed to diagnose or rule out autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Typically, an autism assessment will involve a comprehensive evaluation of your developmental history, including early childhood development, social and communication skills, and any sensory sensitivities or repetitive behaviors.
The assessment I conduct also includes screening questionnaires to evaluate how similar your characteristics are to adults who have been diagnosed with ASD. I also email questions to family members or close friends who can provide insights into your developmental history and current behaviors. Lastly, I would meet with you for three individual sessions, each 50 minutes long. Toward the end of the third session, I present my findings, indicating whether you meet the criteria for ASD, and we discuss those findings.
Overall, an autism assessment aims to evaluate a person’s ability to engage in social interactions and communication, as well as their tendencies toward repetitive behaviors or interests. By assessing these core features of autism, an evaluation can help identify whether a person is on the autism spectrum and provide recommendations for treatment or support.
What Can an Autism Assessment Tell You About Yourself?
For adults who suspect they may be on the autism spectrum, seeking an autism assessment can provide a range of valuable insights about their neurodivergent traits and how they may impact their lives. Here are some key things that an autism assessment can tell you about yourself:
- Whether You Are on the Autism Spectrum: The most obvious thing that an autism assessment can tell you is whether you have Autism Spectrum Disorder. While you may suspect that you are on the spectrum based on your experiences and traits, a formal assessment can provide a definitive diagnosis.
- Your Strengths and Challenges: An autism assessment can also provide valuable insights into your strengths and challenges. For example, many adults on the autism spectrum may have excellent memory, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills, while struggling with social communication, sensory sensitivities, and executive functioning. Understanding these strengths and challenges can help you identify areas where you may need additional support or accommodations, as well as capitalize on your strengths to achieve your goals.
- How Your Neurodivergent Traits Impact Your Life: An autism assessment can also provide valuable insights into how your neurodivergent traits impact your daily life. For example, an assessment may identify specific sensory sensitivities that can cause discomfort or distress in certain environments, or communication challenges that can make it difficult to form and maintain social relationships. By understanding how your neurodivergent traits impact your life, you can develop strategies to manage these challenges and build on your strengths.
- Recommendations for Support or Treatment: Finally, an autism assessment can provide valuable recommendations for support or treatment. Depending on the results of an assessment, a person may be referred to a variety of services, including therapy, medication, or specialized educational or vocational programs. If you are on the autism spectrum, following these recommendations can provide access to the support you need to thrive and achieve your goals.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Autism Spectrum Disorder psychologist in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience.