Why prepare for an assessment?
If you are yet to start formal diagnosis, it is worth taking the time to consider a few things ahead of the meeting with your diagnostician.
This process can be very long and drawn out, it can also feel quite negative at times. Anything you can do to make the experience easier is worth thinking about.
First things first, with the best will in the world, you will come across people who do not understand Autism and do not know the best route to helping you through this process. So working out for yourself what the most straightforward route to assessment is going to be, is a sensible thing to do. Care paths are not always clearly defined and there is a chance your Doctor will not know exactly what to do with your request.
To help mitigate this, talk to local charities and service providers, they will be far more familiar with the process in your area and could even informally put you in touch with someone locally who has been through the experience recently.
If you can speak to someone who has been through the diagnosis process in your area, it is worth asking for names of clinicians they found helpful (or not) so you can make more informed decisions. And don’t just stop after speaking to just one person, ask several. I found that experiences, even within the same local authority or clinician, could vary quite a bit. So the more information you can get the better. Many people will have had similar struggles themselves and are than willing to share anything they know to help make things easier for the next person.
With the best will in the world, gatekeepers (Doctors, teachers etc.) will at best have a passing knowledge of Autism. If you do not present in the way they have come to believe is representative of Autistic people, there is a good chance inadvertent barriers may be put in your way. Doing a little work ahead of time, can reduce the likelihood of this.
For example, at first glance the young woman with one or two friends, who graduated high school and can hold things together most of the day before collapsing in exhaustion each night, to many Doctors will not look like the stereotypical representation of an Autistic person. So the Doctor will likely need help to see the specific circumstances which are driving your query.
So what are these things we can do ahead of assessment?
In fact there is a lot you can do and in a nutshell it can include:
- Work out your strengths
- Clarify why it is you want to be assessed
- Learn a few buzz words
- Write a developmental history
- Do the on-line tests
- Think about co-occurring conditions
- Investigate who you might be referred to
It maybe you are already part way through the diagnostic process, you may even be out the other side, that doesn’t mean some of the ideas above are no longer useful. The strengths activities in particular can prove invaluable moving forward.
If you found other activities useful in this preparation period, we would love to hear them – the more support we can provide to each other through such a difficult time the better.