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What to Expect After An Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed

If you or a loved one has recently received an Autism diagnosis, you may feel a mix of emotions. Many of our clients feel a sense of relief after being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), feeling like they finally know a deeper truth about themselves. Their new diagnosis explains so much about their lives and the reasons for their struggles.

Some may feel confused, sad, or upset that they didn’t find out this information sooner. An Autism diagnosis can bring about a range of feelings, questions, and even grief – but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. In this article written by an Autism specialist, we discuss what to expect after your Autism diagnosis and provide some helpful tips for navigating this new chapter in your life.

Understanding Autism

Before we dive into what to expect after your Autism diagnosis, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what Autism is. Autism, sometimes called Asperger’s, is neurological difference that can affect the way individuals perceive and interact with the world and their peers.

More specifically, Autism affects:

  • Social interactions – communication skills and behaviors
  • Executive functioning – planning, organizing, problem-solving, etc.
  • Motor skills – including fine and gross motor skills and coordination
  • Sensory processing – heighten sensitivity or aversion to sensory stimuli

It falls on a spectrum, meaning that it can present differently in each individual and can range from mild to severe.

Autism Diagnostic Criteria

In order to receive an Autism diagnosis, a child, teen, or adult must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Two autistic friends sitting outside using stim toys and laughing at their phones

Autism diagnostic criteria include:

  • Persistent deficits in social communication and interaction
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior
  • Symptoms that are present in early childhood

What to Expect After Your Autism Diagnosis

1. A Range of Emotions

Receiving an Autism diagnosis can bring up a lot of different feelings. The range of emotions after receiving an Autism diagnosis is diverse and can vary from person to person.

Some common emotions autists (autistic people) feel after their diagnosis:

  • Relief
  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Grief
  • Curiosity
  • Reluctant acceptance
  • Sadness
  • Empowerment
  • Isolation
  • Overwhelm
  • Hope
  • Determination
  • Optimism

It’s important to allow yourself to feel any and all of these these emotions and to seek support from loved ones or a therapist if needed. Remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed! That’s a normal part of the Autism diagnosis process.

2. A Sense of Clarity

For many individuals, receiving an Autism diagnosis can bring a sense of clarity and understanding. It can explain why certain behaviors or challenges have been present their whole lives and can provide a roadmap for moving forward.

It’s important to remember that an Autism diagnosis does not define you (or your son, daughter, partner, etc.), but rather provides a better understanding of how to support and accommodate their needs.

3. Learning and Education (the most important first step after diagnosis!)

After you’ve had time to process your emotions and accept the new sense of clarity you feel after your diagnosis, it’s time to take action. The most important first step after getting diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome (aka High-Functioning Autism) is to educate yourself about the diagnosis.

Feeling the urge or pressure to do more – like making big decisions related to your diagnosis – is normal. However, it’s important to slow down. Before rushing to do something, just take a moment to sit with this new information. Take time to just learn about Autism.

Where and how to learn more about Autism after a diagnosis:

  • Reading articles about Autism
  • Following autistic influencers on social media
  • Reading books or workbooks focused on autism
  • Watching YouTube videos related to autism

By educating yourself, you’ll gain a better understanding of what it means to be Autistic and how to navigate this new chapter in your life.

4. A Long-Term Learning Process

An Autism diagnosis is just the beginning of your lifelong learning process.

It’s necessary to educate yourself and your loved ones about Autism and how it may impact daily life. This can include learning about communication strategies, sensory sensitivities, and behavior management techniques. Remember to be patient with yourself and your loved one as you navigate this learning process together.

5. A Shift in Perspective

An ASD diagnosis can also bring about a shift in perspective. It may change the way you view yourself or your loved one, and it may also change the way others view you. It’s important to remember that being autistic does not change who you are. On the contrary, your diagnosis can help you understand who you are a little better.

Finding A Therapist

If you feel you need additional support, look for a therapist near you that understands neurodivergence and autism. Otherwise, they may unconsciously try to put you into a neurodivergent box.

Remember that finding the right therapist is a personal process, and it may take time to find someone who is the right fit for you or your loved one. It’s important to prioritize your comfort, trust, and rapport with the therapist to ensure a positive therapeutic relationship. A neurodivergent therapist can provide a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges and strengths associated with Autism and other neurodivergent conditions. They can offer specialized support and guidance tailored to the specific needs of neurodivergent kids, adults, and adolescents.

Finding a neurodivergent therapist

Why Finding a Neurodivergent Therapist Can Be Beneficial

  1. Shared Experience: A neurodivergent therapist can relate to the experiences and challenges faced by individuals with Autism. They have firsthand knowledge and understanding of the unique aspects of neurodivergent conditions, which can help create a deeper connection and empathy between the therapist and the client.
  2. Specialized Knowledge: Neurodivergent therapists have specialized knowledge and training in working with neurodivergent individuals. They are familiar with the latest research, therapies, and interventions specific to Autism and other neurodivergent conditions. This expertise can ensure that the therapy is tailored to the individual’s needs and goals.
  3. Effective Communication: Neurodivergent individuals may have different communication styles and preferences. A neurodivergent therapist can adapt their communication approach to better suit the client’s needs. They can use visual aids, social stories, or other strategies to enhance understanding and engagement during therapy sessions.
  4. Sensory Considerations: Much of the neurodiverse community experiences have sensory sensitivities or differences. A neurodivergent therapist can create a therapy environment that takes these sensory considerations into account. They can work with the client to develop strategies for managing sensory overload or incorporating sensory supports during therapy sessions.
  5. Advocacy and Support: A neurodivergent therapist can serve as an advocate for their clients, helping them navigate systems and access appropriate resources and accommodations. They can provide guidance on self-advocacy skills and support clients in advocating for their needs in various settings, such as school, work, or social situations.

When searching for a neurodivergent therapist, it can be helpful to inquire about their experience and training in working with neurodivergent individuals. You can also consider seeking recommendations from local Autism support groups or organizations that specialize in neurodiversity.

Sharing Your New Autism Diagnosis

Deciding if and when to share your Autism diagnosis is a personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer. There are many positive factors in sharing your diagnosis. A few are listed below. But know that some people may not support your diagnosis and may offer negative comments like “Everyone thinks they’re Autistic now.” etc.

Sharing your autism diagnosis

To be able to support yourself with these comments, I recommend educating yourself on Autism before sharing with people that may not support you. In educating yourself, you will feel more confident and you will gain confidence in your diagnosis to stand up to these comments.

Factors to Consider When Deciding to Share Your Diagnosis:

  1. Personal Comfort: Consider how comfortable you are with sharing your diagnosis. Some individuals may feel more comfortable being open about their diagnosis, while others may prefer to keep it private.
  2. Support System: Evaluate the support system around you. Sharing your diagnosis with trusted friends, family members, or colleagues can help them better understand your needs and provide support when necessary.
  3. Workplace or School Environment: If you believe that sharing your diagnosis with a teacher or boss will help you receive accommodations or support in your workplace or school, it may be beneficial to disclose your diagnosis. However, it is important to consider the potential impact on your privacy and how disclosing your diagnosis may affect your relationships with colleagues or classmates.
  4. Advocacy Opportunities: Sharing your diagnosis can provide an opportunity for raising awareness and advocating for autistics. By sharing your experiences, you can help educate and inform others and promote understanding and acceptance.
  5. Safety Concerns: In some situations, it may be necessary to disclose your diagnosis for safety reasons. For example, if you require specific accommodations or support during an emergency situation, it may be important to inform relevant individuals about your diagnosis.

Remember, the decision to tell others about your Autism diagnosis is entirely up to you. Take your time, consider your personal circumstances, and do what feels right for you. You can also seek guidance from a therapist or support group for additional insights and advice based on their experience.

Advocating For Yourself

After an Autism diagnosis, it’s important to advocate for yourself or your loved one. This can include advocating for accommodations at school or work, as well as advocating for yourself or your loved one’s needs in social situations. Remember that you are your own best advocate and it’s important to speak up for yourself or your loved one’s needs.

Focus on Strengths

While an Autism diagnosis may bring about challenges, it’s important to focus on strengths as well. Autistic people often have unique strengths and talents, and can thrive if they nurture and celebrate these strengths. This can help boost self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Conclusion

Receiving an Autism diagnosis can bring about a range of emotions and questions, but remember that you’re not alone. By understanding what to expect after an Autism diagnosis and implementing helpful tips for navigating this new chapter in your life, you can better support yourself or your loved one and thrive with Autism. Remember to be patient, seek support, and focus on strengths, and you’ll be well on your way to living a fulfilling Autistic life.

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