I'm new here, and came to this website because I've got some questions.
In September last year my depression relapsed again for the third time in three years. I went to my GP and she referred me for psychological assessment. At the assessment the psychologist referred me for therapy for my depression and anxiety but also referred me for an adult autism assessment. I thought nothing of the latter until the letter came through offering an appointment.
I attended the autism assessment this morning, and won't learn the outcome for a couple of weeks. But I don't know what a diagnosis (or non-diagnosis) is going to mean, and how it can help. I know I think differently to other people and struggle with some aspects of social interaction, but I work full time, I've got a mortgage on my own house, and I've learned to cope with being social. I'm 43, I'm just not sure how it's going to help make a difference either way.
Sounds like quite a sensible psychologist. Autism (especially mild versions) often comes with anxiety and depression, so it's probably a good idea to figure out if that is the cause of it (for example stress caused by spending a lot of energy to fit in). Some common therapeutic approaches against depression and anxiety also don't seem to work particularly well with autistic people (I'm not basing this on studies, just on experiences people have written about). So if you are autistic they may have to adapt their approaches somewhat and recognise that there are things that can't be changed, so rather than trying to make you change them anyway they would perhaps focus on coming up with ways to better deal with them. I hope that would be a possible conclusion anyway, because it seems a lot of counselling is rather inflexible and if you don't respond well to the one-fits-all approach then it is seen as your fault because you don't cooperate, presumably because you don't want to get better.
So I guess if you get diagnosed with autism not much is going to change otherwise but perhaps that therapy for depression and anxiety has a better chance to really help you and you (and possibly others) may start to understand a thing or two about yourself.
Hi, thanks for your reply. Having read some information about autism on this website and forum I am finding quite a lot of synergy with my own experience. My full time job involves working with people and I'm usually falling asleep in the car on the way home, let alone when I actually get home. While I am university educated I have a long history of not living up to the expectations of education professionals and teachers, particularly with regard to self directed study (such as writing the masters degree dissertation I'm supposed to be writing but have still yet to start). And I have been in capabilities (pre-disciplinary for low performance) at work more times than I care to mention.
I had to take time off from work to attend the assessment yesterday and I was honest with my line manager over the purpose of the assessment. She wasn't hostile but she didn't show a lot of understanding. She asked how a diagnosis would make any difference, and I had to admit that I didn't know.
From an employment perspective, a formal diagnosis will enable you to ask for reasonable adjustments to help with your work (www.equalityhumanrights.com/.../employment-workplace-adjustments).
There are also benefits to a formal diagnosis which you have not considered. For example, when I needed weekly blood tests the system was first come, first served (a terrible system for someone with Asperger's). I mentioned to my care co-ordinator the anxiety this was causing and she suggested I mention I have Asperger's and ask for a time slot. I spoke with the phlebotomy department's receptionist and, whilst she could not allocate me a time slot, she arranged for me to be seen straight away each week (this was almost the same as a time slot as I reached the department at the same time each week).
Hi, if you get diagnosed then you should be offered a few counselling sessions with someone specialising in ASD, so that may be a good opportunity to figure out if there is anything in your workplace that could be made working better for you with some relatively small changes (the reasonable adjustments caretwo mentioned). That would be positive for both you and your line manager because it may make you more productive. If your job requires a lot of working with people than to stop this may not really be reasonable (unless it is a large company where they could offer you a totally different job) but for example things that cause distraction could be reduced or you could have some guaranteed "people-free" time every day when nobody is supposed to interrupt you if you also need to do that sort of work.
Regarding the master thesis the benefit could be quite big because the risk of having requests turned down would be a lot lower, but I guess it will come a bit late for this, you probably need to submit sooner, isn't it? Your problem isn't a specific ASD problem though, but struggling to see the bigger picture and to organise oneself are not helping. Do you think you can discuss this with your supervisor? You could ask for them to help you with breaking things down into smaller bits. Come up with a framework together. They will probably ask you to do that yourself first and then discuss it with them. If so, instead of trying to get it perfect and potentially getting stuck I would suggest writing down what comes to mind quickly and then discuss it with the supervisor because you may come up with that "perfect" framework much more easily when being guided a bit. Maybe ask them then to request drafts of those smaller bits, one by one. You need to be a bit proactive there or some will think you ask for being spoon-fed. It is definitely something I would do for my master student (even without it being requested if I noticed that she struggles to get started). It is so much easier for a supervisor to have that bigger picture, I think any master student is allowed to need that help. Also if you do it for the first time it seems like this really big thing, like a massive ball and you just can't find any corner where you could grab it.Personally I would suggest starting with the easiest bits, describing the methods for example (if your work is of that sort), because this is what you have done, so you only need to write it down. Things do get easier when you are not sitting in front of an empty page anymore, especially if there is a framework to fill in. When writing papers I try to finish the day with a sentence I know how I'm going to continue from there for a few more sentences, that helps with getting started the next day. And don't worry about fine-tuning, you can do this later or when you have a bit a bad day because revising something that's already there is a lot easier than writing it from scratch.
Good luck, hope both your boss and masters supervisor have the understanding for that!
Hi, unfortunately that link didn’t work for me. What sort of things would count as reasonable adjustments?
Apologies, I did not notice that the bracket and full stop had been included in the link. The link is:https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/employment-workplace-adjustments
I have tested the above link and it works. I have also corrected the original link.
Hi Graham, when I realised I was autistic, last May, I knew straight away that I wanted a formal diagnosis. I felt I needed it, not so much to prove the diagnosis but to confirm it, especially when I’m telling other people. It also became apparent to me that it was actually a necessity as I have been out of work now for several years. I have tried doing part time jobs that I thought I could handle, but it turned out that I couldn’t. I think I’ve been ‘passing’ for so long now that I can’t do it anymore and to be honest, neither do I want to. Now I am beginning to understand the situation better, I am able to make plans to create an income in a way that suits me, although at present, I just need time to process the diagnosis and steady myself. Deciding to get a diagnosis is such a personal thing and I don’t think I really thought about it too much or what the benefits would be but I’m realising that the biggest benefit to me, seems to be that I feel like I’ve been given ‘permission’ to finally be me. For me, this is life changing, it’s forcing me to really think about what it is I need and want in life and what I can give, without burning out and falling into depression and burnout. As I’m working that out, I can ask for the help I need and the formal diagnosis is supporting that and it is preventing me from falling back into what I’m good at or rather what I’ve done, what I’m used to, which is social worker/mental health practitioner, because even though I’m good at the job, as in, I’m good at working with the clients, the rest of the job is just too much for me. I’m working towards self employment/business owner as a metaphysician but I’m going to need support to make that happen as well as a good understanding or a better understanding of what is my ‘autism’ and what is me, so I can work with it and focus my attention on the positive aspects instead of trying to make myself fit into a box that wasn’t designed for me. I trust you will come to the right decision for you.
Having thought about this a lot over the last week, I would really like to receive a diagnosis now. I can recognise that a lot of issues that I seem to have could have autism as their root cause. I do suffer a lot with anxiety and depression, and traditional forms of therapy don't appear to work with me. I offend easily and get told often that I am rude to people, when I am trying my best to be polite. I really struggle to talk in groups. And I get so tired particularly after days when I have had a lot of interaction with other people.
I'm really hoping now that I get this diagnosis in just over a week's time. In a way it's not that important for me, the self realisation is enough for me, that a lot of my problems stem from autism. However my employers and my current university may require a formal diagnosis before they will make reasonable adjustments for me.
When it comes to reasonable adjustments such as giving you more time than other students get then it's properly true, you will need a formal diagnosis, but when it comes to other things like helping you more to get started with your thesis then I don't think you need a diagnosis really, you need an understanding supervisor... Generally understanding, I mean, of the fact that every student is different. When you do your first degree there are lots of students and you can't really expect that everybody gets treated with a lot of consideration of their needs (unless someone has a diagnosis of some sort), so things will work best for those that are "normal" and less well for others. But a master student is a bit like your child (when you are the supervisor, I mean). You want them to succeed and while you can't and don't want to do the work for them it is certainly possible to accommodate their needs much more because you are only dealing with one student. Some supervisors are good at that and feel some responsibility, others less so, hope you are lucky with yours. I'd think telling them what you think would help you has a better chance of getting you somewhere because for one thing your supervisor may struggle to guess it correctly but perhaps more importantly, if you are active then it shows you are taking responsibility for your work, you are not waiting to be spoon-fed, you have identified that there are issues and you show that you really want to do something about them. I think if you can come up with things that would make it easier for you then it is definitely worth trying to get them. Of course they can reject it, but if you don't ask for it it may look like you don't care. Goof luck!
I have booked an appointment with my supervisor on 1st December. He doesn’t seem to think it surprising that I haven’t started writing the dissertation yet and it’s due in on 19th January! I have also asked for a letter from my line manager so that I can apply for mitigating circumstances and hopefully get an extension on the hand-in date.