When you are at the beginning of your journey to autism diagnosis—either for yourself or for a family member—it can be difficult to contemplate the path ahead. Add to this the many opinions people may have, the complex needs you may be having to manage, and the many questions you may have about support options and the way forward, and it can seem difficult to know why we encourage early diagnosis.
However, looking at the process from the perspective of the person with autism, who is a key player in the process, it becomes far more clear. While interacting with people with autism who have received diagnoses, the overwhelming sentiment is that receiving a diagnosis brings clarity, knowledge, and relief. Years of feeling ‘off’, struggling to work things out with family and having difficulty at school are suddenly understood, and could have been a lot easier had there been some autism therapy, leading to a better understanding and allowances. Not only this, but doors are opened to local authority support that is inaccessible without this important step, enabling people with autism to thrive.
Without a diagnosis, it can be difficult to find resources to best support the complex needs of a person with autism. It can feel bleak, and the individual may feel helpless and frustrated, knowing that their life could be so much better, and their objectives so much more attainable, if they just took a few more steps. Families with young children who they suspect are on the autistic spectrum can be stuck in a cycle of unmet needs, feeling lost at the lack of understanding, support or provision of services. With diagnoses and autism therapy, there comes more understanding of the best ways to help the family to lead happy, fulfilled lives.
What about the negatives?
That is not to say there are no challenges in diagnosis. Understandably, people may be concerned that by being diagnosed, a label is put on them, that people begin to make assumptions about needs and abilities. This is why those who assist people with autism must be devoted to listening and learning. Furthermore, some people can struggle with the diagnosis, and this is especially true later in life when they feel that their lives could have been so much easier, had the pieces fallen into place sooner for them.
A lesson for autism therapy
In conclusion, listening to those with autism and hearing their stories is important to helping those with autism and their families feel comfortable about themselves, access the support and autism therapy they require, and feel confident in their lives and be able to live them. So, we must do all we can to support families and young people, as well as agencies and providers, to strive for early diagnoses insofar as possible.