I was diagnosed with ASD when I was 18. Before that and for most of my childhood, I thought I just had ADHD and a mild receptive and expressive language disorder. For many years I knew something was different about me, but I didn’t know what. When I compared myself to other kids at school and my siblings, I wasn’t the same. I’ve always been very sensitive and had extreme emotional reactions. I didn’t like loud noises, balloons, fireworks, and fire. I had trouble making eye contact with people. It was hard for me to express myself when talking and writing. I had difficulty in social situations and making friends. I struggled in school and needed help. When I looked around at my peers nobody seemed to have those same struggles that I was having. The treatment that I was getting for ADHD was helpful, but I still didn’t feel 100%. Medication, therapy, and an IEP with accommodations helped me to succeed and get through school. After a crisis situation in 12th grade, my therapist at the time suggested that I get tested for Aspergers/ ASD. A few weeks later I was diagnosed. Getting diagnosed was like fitting the missing puzzle piece into the puzzle. A lot of things from my past started to make sense and I realized that I probably have had this for my whole life. It took some time, doing a lot of research and deep thinking about it, and it’s now a part of my identity. I wish I had been diagnosed early on in life because I would have known why I was different and gotten better tools to deal with it. It also would have been part of my identity back then and it would have been easier to accept as a part of me. Research has proven that this is true.
According to the article, “Personal Identity After an Autism Diagnosis: Relationships With Self-Esteem, Mental-Wellbeing, and Diagnostic Timing”, Social Identity Theory states that a person’s self-concept is made up of social and personal identities. With autism, personal autistic identity is made up of a person’s own specific interests and values as an autistic person, that they think contribute to their uniqueness and individuality. Autistic social identity involves perceived similarities or shared characteristics with other autistic people. First, the study investigated relationships between personal autistic identity and diagnostic timing, specifically the age and recency of diagnosis, to understand how receiving a late diagnosis relates to personal identity development processes. Second, this study investigated the relationship between autistic personal identity and psychological health (self-esteem and well-being). The researchers hypothesized that (1), a younger age of diagnoses and greater time lapsed since diagnoses would relate to a more positive autistic personal identity and (2) a more positive autistic personal identity would relate to higher levels of self-esteem and well-being. The researchers found that with a greater number of years since diagnosis, the participant reported less exclusion/ dissatisfaction with being autistic. They found that there was more autism pride and autism pride predicted higher self-esteem. They also found that more dissatisfaction with autistic personal identity predicted lower self-esteem. The researchers also proved that when someone is diagnosed with autism as an adult they go through an emotional process that requires making changes into their self-concept/ identity.
This research supports the feeling that I had as a young adult getting diagnosed with ASD and the processes that I went through to accept the diagnosis and for it to become part of my identity. I think getting diagnosed at a younger age gives more time for tools and treatment, but also to assimilate it into your identity and accept it as part of your whole person without thinking so much about it. I think that with the increasing awareness and acceptance of Autism, that having it as part of your identity could be looked at as a normal part.
Corden, K., Brewer, R., & Cage, E. (2021). Personal identity after an autism diagnosis: Relationships with self-esteem, mental wellbeing, and diagnostic timing. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 699335.