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 ūüė¶
  • 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.

Out of Anxiety Meds & Body Dysmorphia

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I’ve had a rough few days. I think the main problem is that I’ve been out of my anxiety meds for a while because Buspirone is on national back-order for some reason, and my pharmacy doesn’t know when/if they will get it back in. I contacted my psychiatrist today to ask him to prescribe something else, hopefully he will do so soon. I was going to try to just hang on until my appointment with him at the end of the month, but I am having some real anxiety issues cropping up without my meds.

For one thing, I’ve been having some body dysmorphia issues, which happens now and then. I’ve heard that issues like these are common among high-functioning autistic people. I’m not trans or anything like that. I don’t want to be a man. But, for some reason, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve always felt kind of uncomfortable in my own body. I’m not sure why. I don’t think I’m extremely ugly or anything like that, but it is like there is some kind of disconnect in my brain when I look in the mirror. I feel like my body looks wrong somehow or like it isn’t the body I should have. It is hard to explain.

I think part of it has to do with always feeling unfeminine. Like I said, I don’t want to be a man, but I’ve always felt like I’m not very good at being a woman either lol. I feel like a tomboy, I always have, yet sometimes when I look in the mirror I look more like a woman than I feel. It is weird. I also have always wished I was thinner, more flat-chested, and athletic-looking overall, but my genes just don’t cooperate with me. It is funny to me when I hear women saying they want bigger boobs. I’m always like “why would anyone want that?”, but I know everyone has their own insecurities, and some people obviously have different ones than I do.

Thoughts on Growing Up With Autism

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This post will contain a collection of short journal entries I wrote recently about what it was like emotionally to grow up with autism. These thoughts specifically dealt with bullying and (for me) the most confusing time of adolescence, which was middle school and the beginning of high school. By the last couple years of high school I had figured some things out and learned how to “pretend” to fit in a bit better, even though deep down I still felt like an oddball.

Here goes:

I hated always being the butt of the joke – even among friends. I was naive. I was gullible. I was trusting. Too many times I was set up for humiliation or embarrassment.

In an effort to avoid this embarrassment, I quit trusting anyone. I quit taking anyone at their word. I became suspicious. I struggled to identify sarcasm, so I started assuming ALL was sarcasm unless I knew someone well enough to tell the difference. 

Due to this struggle with recognizing sarcasm, how many “mean” comments did I take to heart that were meant in jest? How many cruel words that cut me to the core, were never even meant to be cruel? When boys would say they liked me and I would take it as them mocking me and choose to ignore them or laugh at their “joke”, did I instead end up hurting their feelings in an effort to save my own?¬†

Bullied for my weight during middle school, accused of having a lack of “feeling” or frustrating others who thought I didn’t care about anything because I suffered from selective mutism under stress, constantly feeling reminded that I wasn’t “feminine” enough – this was much of my teenage experience.¬†¬†

The common thread throughout was that I unknowingly made myself a target for abuse. The way I dressed. The way I talked. The way I acted. I was so desperate for acceptance and approval, but I reached for them in ways that were socially unacceptable to those around me and ended up only painting the bulls-eye larger on myself.  

Love for My Fellow Autistic and Bipolar Peeps!

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I just want to take a moment today to say that I love and cherish those in the autistic and bipolar communities. I know I may be extremely biased, but I find other autistic and bipolar people to be some of the most honest, creative, caring, and talented people around. I don’t want to bash neurotypicals or everyday “ordinary” people, but I often find them boring compared to others who share my abnormal brain neurologically or chemically.

I feel like no one can truly understand me or the struggles I deal with on a daily basis unless they share some of those issues. I am grateful when those outside of my reality try to understand what I go through and have empathy for myself and others like me, but some things have to be experienced to be fully understood. Here’s a special THANK YOU to all of you who make me feel less alone in this alien world!

Fan Q&A: Favorite Musicians, Autism and Romance, Suicidal Thoughts

Hello! Today I’m sharing my most recent fan Q&A video from my YouTube vlog. In it I discuss my favorite musicians besides Michael Jackson and Nirvana, whether I believe having high-functioning autism makes it harder to have a romantic relationship, and exactly what kind of suicidal thoughts I have had in the past and why I hope people get help if they themselves are struggling with thoughts like that. If any of you have a question for me you would like answered in a future video, please ask in the comments section of this post or the video itself!

So…6 Days in the Hospital: What I Learned

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Hello everyone! Well, yesterday I finally got to go home after spending 6 days in the hospital. Spending any time in the hospital isn’t the most pleasant way to spend time, so 6 days there certainly isn’t a party. However, some good did come out of the experience. For one thing, the original problem (horrible side affects and adverse reactions from prescription medicines) was solved….at least I hope so. I only say that I hope so because too often in the past I thought that a medication change was beneficial, only to develop an intolerance, allergy, or a Lollapalooza of side effects later.

Another good thing is that I really felt like I opened up and made some friends while hospitalized. After moping around the first day or two and even getting enraged because I couldn’t go home yet, I finally sucked it up and started coming out of my room to hang out with the other sickies. I met quite a few others, who, like me, were struggling with the results of pharmaceutical persuasion. Others were walking around slower than molasses, giving me the impression they were not currently inhabiting their physical form. Turns out I was wrong about at least one of those cases though. Who would have guessed that the guy who left me wondering if he was mildly or even moderately retarded was actually a highly educated and trained research engineer for the United States Air Force? Here I was thinking he was a few french fries short of a Happy Meal, when he is actually helping design and produce bombers.

Another positive? I found a doctor who seems almost a little TOO interested in Aspergians lol. As he declared himself (in similar words at least), “pretty much every great advancement in human history is due to autists”. I’m not sure about the actual historical accuracy of that statement, but can’t say there isn’t some kind of truth hiding in there. Apparently we neurologically diverse humanoids are pretty fascinating creatures to some out there.

A few other brief things I learned:

*Apparently you don’t insult Axl Rose. I don’t care though, the guy always seemed like an asshole (just ask his ex-bandmates).

*Having your own room can make all the difference when you are autistic and forced to live in a crazy sensory environment.

*It is foolish to pick up bugs when you don’t know what they are. The suckers might deliver a wallop of a sting!

*Sometimes the smallest act of kindness, like giving up something you want because someone else wants it even more, can make all the difference in the world to someone.

*Just saying that you like manga is enough for some people to love you!

*Nurses are often the true heroes of healthcare.

Job hunting with autism in a non-autistic world

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I’m currently searching for a part-time job. I do make some money off my writing and art, but let’s face it, it can be hard to make a living off those things alone. I hope someday to do so, but right now we need some extra money. However, hunting for a job isn’t easy for me. First off, I have some health problems. I can’t work long hours, especially if I need to be on my feet for long (due to severe Plantar Fasciitis) and¬†I can’t lift much of anything that is heavy, which has ruled out many jobs. Add to that, the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and the job market is awfully slim.

Although Asperger’s doesn’t make me unable to work, it does cause some real issues. First off, I have social anxiety which can become overwhelming if I work a job with too much forced socialization. Secondly, although I have¬†a great eye for detail (a¬†gift from having¬†high-functioning autism), I am not very good at multitasking. In fact, it can¬†cause a lot of anxiety if I have to do too much at once all the time. I also need a job that is relatively predictable every day. Too much change in environment or job duties can actually induce panic attacks, which isn’t at all uncommon among those with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Then of course you have the problems with job interviews. First off, do I be totally honest about my physical problems and the¬†issues caused by autism? If I do, I know it may ruin my chances of a job. I hate to think someone wouldn’t hire me just because I have health problems and¬†was born a little different than everyone else, but I know it happens all the time. They may not say that is the reason, but¬†they can still choose not to¬†deal with the restrictions I have. Also, interviews are hell for people who¬†feel socially awkward and nervous to begin with.¬†Often, I can’t tell what someone thinks of me when they first meet me unless they directly tell me, so I often sit there the whole time wondering if I am bombing the interview or if I am doing ok. I am naturally bluntly honest, which can be an issue too.

All of this stress and confusion really makes me wish there were job placement services to help people with high-functioning autism. Unfortunately, almost all of the services around here require that you have a low IQ, which I do not have. In fact, my IQ is quite a bit above average, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with issues from the autism. Overall, job hunting feels like an alien world to me. One I just don’t get and¬†will probably always¬†have to “fake it to make it”. Unfortunately, I’m not good at faking things for long.