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  • Writer's pictureDr Neil Drew

Do I have Autism?

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

If you’re reading this you might suspect you have autism, somebody you know does, or you just want to learn more about autism. Whichever it is, I hope this helps you. We live in a world where it’s easier to ask Google a question than it is to ask another human. When you type into Google ‘do I have’… look what comes up in the top hits:

So if you have asked Google this question, you are not alone. When you do search Google for the answer, you will be flooded with articles about autism, questionnaires to complete, and an array of people’s lived experiences. This can be helpful but also overwhelming and well, just confusing. The online questionnaires you complete can be useful to see whether you have traits (I use them with every referral), but they cannot rule in or rule out a diagnosis. Some people score low on the questionnaires but then do meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis (and vice versa). Also, not all of the tests online are standardised and validated with research so the results may be not be reliable.

With regards to reading other people’s stories of autism and their traits, this can be reassuring that you are not alone but again unsettling as your traits will not match. The saying stands; when you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. When you read a list of traits a person experiences, there will be some on there which you do not experience at all. In fact, you might experience the opposite yet still have autism. Some people with autism are hyper-reactive to sensory stimuli whereas others may be hypo-reactive. Some have intense special interests and others do not. Some do not need any friends, others strive for connection and friendship and truly value it. There is no fixed set of ingredients, which is what makes autism so brilliant and interesting. Everyone with autism is different, but everyone with autism has neurodiversity. This means they will experience the world in a different way to somebody that is neurotypical.

This blog won’t give you the answer, but it might lead you in the right direction. I have highlighted below the broad areas that are looked at during a formal diagnostic assessment for autism. Note the term ‘broad’. Some of these areas you might not feel you differ in, that doesn’t mean you do not have autism. This is why clinical interviewing by a professional is required to become aware of these nuances.

The diagnostic criteria (DSM-V) is broken down into two criterions, A and B. A person must show differences in both A and B criterions. These traits must be life-long and occur in multiple contexts. The degree of difference can vary though, as the persons life stressors or environments can impact on this. We also have to account for masking and camouflaging of traits. So you might be able to do all of the below, but the effort it takes is what we're interested in.

Criterion A. Social Communication and Interaction To meet criteria for a diagnosis you must experience significant differences across all 3 of the below domains:

A1. Social-emotional reciprocity (verbal interaction with others, back and forth conversation) A2. Non-verbal interaction (eye contact, facial expressions, body language, speech) A3. Developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships (socialising, friendships) Criterion B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities To meet criteria for diagnosis you must show significant differences in 2 of the following 4 domains: B1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements or speech (stimming, repeating vocalisations) B2. Preference for sameness, rigidity in routine/thinking (liking structure, disliking change) B3. Highly fixated or intense interests (becoming engrossed in your interests) B4. Over or under sensitivity to sensory stimuli (e.g., taste, sound, vision, touch, smell, co-ordination)

Conclusion I said it would be broad… of course, there is a lot more to it than simply going through the above check-list. It is also helpful to explore your history such as your family, education, employment, and mental and physical health. There are many different forms of how a person experiences these areas, which is why an assessment can pick apart all of this and find out how they are uniquely experienced by you. If you resonate with any of this and you want to find out more, you can read more on our assessment page, complete some screening, or get in touch for a free discussion about it all via our contact page.

Thank you for reading

Dr Neil Drew

Clinical Psychologist specialising in Neurodiversity

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