I Wish I had a Diagnosis
Rogers Bridge » I Wish I had a Diagnosis
Growing up on the spectrum was challenging for me, but not for the reasons you might expect. It wasn't being labeled as autistic that made things difficult – it was not knowing that I was autistic.
Back when I was a child, autism was not as well-known as it is today, and as a result, I went through my childhood and early adulthood without ever receiving a diagnosis. It wasn't until I was 50 years old and seeking counseling for other reasons that I finally received a diagnosis that helped me understand the challenges I had been facing my whole life.
For me, the biggest challenge of not having a diagnosis was not receiving the support I needed. I struggled with things that most people take for granted – the tags on my clothes, hugs, brushing my hair, and playing with other children.
As a child, when I became overwhelmed, I would cry, scream, kick, and hit – behaviors that made it difficult for me to make friends and left others thinking that I was a "bad kid." I even banged my head against hard objects when I was feeling particularly stressed, leaving scars on my head that I can still feel today. Looking back, now knowing that I have autism, I realize that my behavior was a result of my constant state of fight or flight, which left me overwhelmed and unable to cope with my surroundings.
I was fortunate to have one teacher who believed in me and helped me realize that I was smart and capable and that I was much more than the sum of my challenges. Thanks to her encouragement, I was able to go to college and graduate with top marks. But I can't help but wonder how much more I could have achieved if I had received support for autism earlier on in life.
Now, as a successful adult, I still struggle with certain things, such as loud noises, strong smells, and crowded places. I also have difficulty sleeping and struggle with activities that require coordination, such as riding a bike. While I have come to accept that some things may be out of my reach, I know that there is still so much that I can accomplish.
My childhood experience is why I shared, I wish I had a Diagnosis. Now I advocate for early intervention and diagnosis for autistic individuals so they have the opportunity for better experiences. By identifying autism early on, children can receive the support and therapies they need to learn coping mechanisms and strategies that can help them navigate the challenges of life. Support can include therapy support groups, accommodations in the classroom, and a sense of understanding and validation from others. This kind of support can be life changing.
It is extremely important to recognize that autistic individuals often possess unique strengths and abilities that can be incredibly valuable to society. By celebrating these strengths and embracing neurodiversity, we can create a more inclusive and accepting society that values individuals for who they are, rather than trying to fit them into a narrow mold.
"After working with us for the past year-and-a-half, our son has made astonishing progress in his speech; so much so that he no longer qualifies for intervention." – Kathleen