I decided to get formally assessed for autism myself. Having been misdiagnosed in the past, it was very important to me that we get it right. So before I agreed to be assessed by a professional I needed to assess him to see if he was the right person to asses me. The following list was complied by asking in both gifted groups and autistic groups. I then ranked the questions in order of most importance to me so that if we ran out of time, the most important questions would have already been asked. With a 30 minute appointment there is 2 minutes per question to discuss, with 2 bonus questions if there was time left over.
- Which is better when it comes to a person and autism: person first or identity first language?
- On average, how many autistics do you see/diagnose a month?
- Not looking for the official DSM-V definition, how do you personally describe autism?
- How do you define giftedness? b) Does giftedness equate with high achieving?
- How do you differentiate the overlapping characteristics of giftedness and ASD? b) What about 2E?
- What are the differences between diagnosing autism in a child verses and adult?
- What about the different ways autism presents in females vs. males?
- What do you think of the Social Model of disability vs. the Medical Model?
- What do you know of the Neurodiversity movement? b) Can you name a prominent official, non-historical autistic other than Temple Grandin? ie. not Tesla because we can’t know for sure. c) Have you read either NeruoTribes or In A Different Key and what do you think of them?
- As a professional, do you believe autistics can know their own minds?
- How does one differentiate between social nuance difficulties related to ASD and introversion/social anxiety/overthinking?
- What sorts of things would make you think I was not autistic? (ie. eye-contact or empathy stereotypes) What sort of things would make you think I am?
- What is a diagnosis in terms of purpose and function?
- How often do you encounter someone seeking an ASD diagnosis, rather than you being the one to bring it up?
- I have difficulty with 1-3 scales and inaccuracy frustration drives me to indecision panic. Can I take the assessments home and do them there ahead of time, or does that invalidate the results?
- BONUS QUESTION: Assuming all psychologist and psychiatrists are required to undergo their own session of counseling, what is the doctor’s diagnosis and are they willing to share it?
- DOUBLE JEOPARDY: What is normal like? If the sensory experience that is my normal is “more” than what is typical, does that mean the NT’s experience is muted and duller compared to mine?
The appointment went very differently than I expected, and sometimes the conversation sparked by one question ended up revealing the answer to another question. I was very surprised to learn that the PhD physiologist I was interviewing knew very little about the neurodiversity community, history, or culture. In fact, beyond the DMS definition and how to score tests, he could not expand much upon the topic of autism at all. It was disconcerting to be the most knowledgeable on the topic in the room. I had feared I would encounter someone with prejudices and a negative, deficit focused opinion on autism. I never expected to encounter someone with so little experience, despite his many more years of education and experience. But I decided that I was willing to be assessed by him because when I mentioned something that he had not heard of, he asked questions and wrote things down to learn more about them later. When his answer was, “I don’t know” or “I’ve never heard of that,” and it was the answer quite a bit of the time, he was not embarrassed, nor angry that he had to admit that. He did it openly and honestly with no ego in the way; only a genuine willingness to learn. I was very discombobulated and it took me a while after the appointment to finally find the words. I was completely unaccustomed to being treated with the respect and equality I encountered in that room, both from professionals in that profession and from individuals of his generation. (I’m guessing he was in his 60’s, which makes his willingness to learn all the more amazing.) I decided I am willing to be assessed by him. He has no bad habit thinking, like thinking I couldn’t be on the spectrum and make eye contact. I’m his first person who came to him asking to officially confirm that they’re on the spectrum. I’ve got another 3 months or so before we can do the assessment. I don’t think the result is going to surprise either one of us.