Autism – Pros & Cons of Early Diagnosis

Have you ever thought about the pros and cons of getting an early autism diagnosis? As someone who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism in their late 20’s, I’ve thought about it quite a bit. I thought I would share a few of the pros and cons I’ve considered, but please be aware that these are my personal opinions and come from someone diagnosed with aspergers, so they may not apply to all situations or forms of autism. By the way, when I say “early autism diagnosis” what I generally mean is someone who is diagnosed in childhood, so they grow up knowing they have the condition and with access to services for the condition, as opposed to people who are diagnosed as adults and had to make it through childhood “blindly” in a sense.

Pros

  • Getting a childhood diagnosis opens up a world of support services and other helpful aids to you and your family. From school services to counseling and help with understanding social situations, the information and guidance offered can be immeasurable.
  • You understand from a young age what struggles you are dealing with. You have insight into where you likely have weaknesses and where you may need to work extra hard to succeed.
  • Your family, friends, and teachers understand your sensory issues and give you more leeway in how you react. In other words, you won’t get punished for being terrified of the sound of balloons popping and overreacting by yelling and crying, like I did in 4th grade 😦
  • A diagnosis of aspergers or high-functioning autism allows you to understand why you may feel so different from your peers. Growing up, I always felt like I was different, REALLY different, especially once I hit middle school and all my friends were into boys, makeup, clothes, and their social lives, and I couldn’t care less about any of it. It would have been nice to have known why I felt like such a misfit. To know that it wasn’t anything wrong with me, it was just the way I was made.

Cons

  • Being labeled with a disability from a young age can have a disheartening effect on a child. If the parents, teachers, and other adults around the child aren’t careful, the child can start to feel like they are “broken” or that they can’t do things that the “normal” kids can do. The worse cases of this I’ve seen personally are where the parents make excuses for their kids to the point that the kids never really have to work at anything. That isn’t good for anyone.
  • I wish it weren’t true, but being publicly labeled with autism can cause you to be bullied, mistreated, or left out by the other kids. I believe this is slowly improving, but we still have a long way to go. My husband is a special education teacher, and kids with special needs are still often isolated and can still be victims of social mockery. Unfortunately, it is somewhat human nature to exclude the “others” or the “outsiders”. We really need to work on that as a species.
  • Perhaps one of the best (and hardest) parts of growing up without a diagnosis is that you must learn to adapt. No one makes excuses for you. No one makes exceptions for you. No one medicates your problems away. I had to learn self-control, coping strategies, adaptive behaviors, and come up with creative ways to make life work. Was it hard? Hell yes! Was it good for me overall? Undoubtedly. It made me stronger and more able to cope with the stresses of the real world, which isn’t nearly as kind as school. With an early diagnosis, I would have missed out on those character building struggles.

So there are a few of my personal views on pros/cons of getting an early autism diagnosis. If you have any pros/cons of your own to share or want to share your opinion, please comment below! I would love to hear from you!

Autistic Bath Towel Sensory Issues

So here is a sneak peek into what it is like to live with autism and sensory integration issues. Recently we bought some new bath towels because some of our old ones are in pretty bad shape. I love the bright new royal and navy blue towels we bought, but I can’t stand to use them yet. Why? They aren’t coarse enough yet.

You see, if I use a towel that is fluffy and soft, my body doesn’t like the feel of it, and even worse, I never feel like it is drying me – even though it is. It makes the whole bathing experience feel incomplete and messed up. I have to use the old, ragged towels until the new towels have been used by my husband and washed enough times that they lose their fluffy softness, so I can stand the feel of the fibers against my skin after a bath.

It probably sounds minor to you, but it is hard for me to see those beautiful new towels and know that I can’t use them or it will drive me crazy. I don’t want to use the faded, ugly ones, but they do provide a superior drying experience. Ugh, I know – first world autistic problems, right? But it is annoying.

My First Weighted Blanket

This is the blanket I got. The pink is soothing too 🙂

I got my first weighted blanket today, and I have to say, I am loving it! It really is comforting and helpful to anxiety. It makes the chronic muscle aches of fibromyalgia feel a bit better too. I started with a 10 pound blanket, because I could barely lift the 15 or 20 pound ones without throwing my back out lol. Plus, I have always been one that likes a lighter touch rather than a super heavy touch, even with massage and things like that.

I think the 10 pound blanket will be perfect for anxiety attacks, but I might get a little lighter one (6 pound maybe) for daily use, just to sit around with while I work and such. These blankets might really be a game changer for me though! I can feel it already!

If you have anxiety or chronic pain, you might want to look into them if you haven’t already! Of course, they are great for autism too, which was another plus for me. I would also recommend the ones that come with the sherpa fleece covers! They are so soft and cozy!!!

Transparent vs Whiny

This morning I woke up thinking about my online reputation and what I would like it to be. When others read my poetry and personal blog posts (especially the ones having to do with mental illness, autism, or chronic pain/chronic illness) the things I strive to represent are honesty, openness, relatable vulnerability, realistic hope when possible, comforting solidarity, the healing power of sharing our pain, and the courage and inspiration to keep going, even when things feel hopeless.

However, since I myself struggle from mental illness and chronic pain, being transparent and honest means that often my viewpoint comes across as dark and bleak. I don’t try to hide that or tone it down when it happens, because to me, that is part of being honest and vulnerable enough to share what the experience of dealing with those issues is like on a daily basis. Putting a happy face on it would be lying.

My only worry is that sometimes the reality of dealing with daily mental and physical pain is that you can start to sound whiny. Part of me says, “well, of course, you are going to sound whiny now and then if you are in pain all the time! No shit!”, but for some reason our culture makes whining out to be such a negative thing that most of us want to avoid that look at all costs.

Maybe we as readers and audiences have to decide rather we really want full honesty and openness (even if it includes some whining and negativity) or if we pretend to want the truth, but in reality just want a short, scrubbed clean, feel good version of life. I know which I prefer, but I guess everyone has to decide for themselves.

Covid Masks – What’s Your Experience?

The whole covid mask thing has been a struggle for me. Probably for several reasons:

#1 – I have bad asthma, especially in hot weather and wearing a mask makes it much worse. Sometimes to the point that I have to escape a store or building immediately so I can breathe again before I have a full-out asthma attack (masks are required in buildings in our county).

#2 – I’m autistic. I have sensory issues galore and masks drive me crazy. I don’t like the feel of them and for me, I never really adjust. Of all the kinds of masks I’ve tried, the only ones I can even kind of stand are the surgeon ones, but even those bug me, and I can only bear them for a short time.

#3 – I have a little piggy nose, so I can’t keep a mask up, it is always slipping below my nose. It has gotten to the point that sometimes I quit pulling it up because it will just slip down again in 2 seconds, and it is easier to breathe with my nose uncovered anyway.

#4 – Anxiety. I think this plays into the asthma and the sensory issues thing. The more my asthma and sensory issues worsen, the more my anxiety kicks in, till the point where I’m not even sure if I’m having trouble breathing because of the mask and asthma, or because of the anxiety.

At this point, I pretty much just try to do outdoor activities or if I do have to go to a store or something, I get in and out as quickly as possible. Thank God I don’t have to work at a business. I don’t know how I would survive.

So what has your experience with masks been? Do they bother you? Did you adjust and get used to them? Are they required where you live? Do you have any of the same issues I have with them?

Holidays, Routine Changes, and Anxiety

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Been feeling stressed. I don’t know if it is because I am autistic or just part of my personality, but even the smallest changes to my routine tend to throw me off and cause a lot of anxiety…and the holidays seem to be filled with those kinds of routine manglers.

For instance, tonight I have a friend’s Yule party to go to and tomorrow I am supposed to meet my mom for an early Christmas dinner/present exchange. Part of me is looking forward to these events and even wants to go, but part of me is stressed out and just wants to go back to bed and hide under the covers until the weekend is over.

All the anxiety takes a physical toll too. It turns my tummy into a wreck and brings on headaches that can easily slip into migraines if I’m not careful. The anxiety last night about the events this weekend was so bad that it did give me a migraine, so I had to take my migraine prescription. Hoping that won’t happen again.

I often tend to think depression is worse than anxiety because its symptoms are more obvious and immediate, but I think I underestimate the compounding ability of high anxiety.

Stressful Week So Far

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This week has been stressful. I’m not sure if I’m just overreacting to things because I’m autistic and hypersensitive to everything (especially changes in routine), or if this would even throw many normal people off their game, but since Monday:

  • I had to wait hours at the BMV to renew my driver’s license and then sweat it out when they weren’t sure if my two forms of address verification were acceptable. (Thank God they ended up accepting them in the end so I didn’t have to do the whole process over again.)
  • Our electricity went out Monday night (along with 3,000 other homes and businesses in the area, eventually they did get it restored.)
  • My husband’s birthday was on Monday and I ended up going to 4 different stores looking for a birthday balloon for him because everyone was out 😦
  • My psychiatrist appointment got moved up today from 3pm to 2pm which meant I had to alert my husband who drives me. He then had to check to see if the school could get a substitute teacher in earlier to relieve him so he could take me.
  • I almost got kicked off Instagram again (I got warnings again but luckily they haven’t kicked me off yet. I think I may have discovered the issue. I have used an app to track unfollowers and I think that might be what they were picking up on as a “3rd party”. So, I’m just not going to use that app right now.)

Obsessive Dark Fantasizing

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The last few days have been rough. I’ve been dealing with dark, obsessive thoughts that I know aren’t healthy for me to dwell on. Dark thoughts of restlessness, dark thoughts of jealousy and resentment, dark thoughts about relationships and craving attention, and dark thoughts about life and death. Craving attention might not sound like such a bad thing, but the negative part is some of the twisted ways my brain comes up with to get it. Luckily, I don’t act on these dark thoughts, so I must have a good amount of self-control, but the obsessiveness of the thought patterns bother me.

I feel a little bit like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at times (which I actually reread recently for the first time since childhood). There is a really good side to me, but there is definitely a dark side as well, and when that dark side becomes obsessive and stuck in a groove, the intensity of my thoughts and emotions can become a bit frightening to myself.

I’m not entirely sure what causes these bouts of dark fantasizing. The ocd? The C-PTSD? Mood disorder? The anxious/avoidant attachment style I developed from a dysfunctional family system?

Today I’ve been trying to stay busy in an attempt to distract myself and it has helped some, but my brain is like a boomerang that just keeps circling back around to the same place again and again. It is exhausting to be honest.