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!