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  • Writer's picturePatty Laushman

Pros and Cons of an Adult Autism Diagnosis

Updated: Jun 5

By Patty Laushman


I speak with many adults who suspect they are on the autism spectrum. Often their child has been recently diagnosed, and they can relate to the challenges that resulted in the diagnosis, or they may have read something about autism that really resonated with them. They often ask themselves if it makes sense to pursue a formal diagnosis or not.

stick figure resting on a sign board that displays arrows pointing in opposite directions, illustration of a brain inside a bulb at the center. On the right side of the image, there is a shadow of an autistic person along with a sketch of a brain.

In this blog post I will discuss the pros and cons of an adult autism diagnosis to help you decide if it's worth it, but let’s start with labels in general.


Are Labels Bad?

Labels are often seen as negative, but they can also have positive impacts. A label is simply a name or category given to someone or something that can help us understand it better.


Labeling people who are autistic with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can help others understand them better, and more importantly, it can help them better understand themselves. Labels can also inform which treatments and interventions can help if someone is struggling, leading to an increase in quality of life.


It is important to remember, however, that just because someone has a label, it does not mean that they are automatically defined by that label.


Pros of an Adult Autism Diagnosis

Let's take a closer look at some of the benefits of receiving an autism diagnosis.


picture of brain of neurodivergent individual

Normalizes Your Experiences

Being neurodivergent can be pretty tough. You may have spent a good part of your life wondering why you feel different, believe that you're doing things wrong, or wonder why you can’t do things others expect you to do and seem to do so easily. You might feel like you're often the odd one out and that nobody really understands you.


Receiving an autism diagnosis can actually be a really good thing in this case. It can help you to understand yourself better, and it can also help to normalize your experiences. When you know that there are other people out there who are just like you, it can make you feel less alone in the world.


And when you know that your experiences are actually part of a larger neurological condition and even a culture and community, it can help you to feel less "crazy" or "weird."


Gives You a Better Locus of Control and Sense of Personal Understanding

a woman on the autism spectrum lost in thought, contemplating the idea of receiving a diagnosis.

Another benefit of receiving an autism diagnosis is that it gives you a better locus of control or sense of agency over your life. Having a label can lead to self-understanding, which can lead to self-acceptance, which can lead to self-advocacy, and this is how you create your best life!


Many adults who receive a diagnosis like autism spectrum disorder or ADHD later in life of things often feel shocked at first. But then they go through a process of reevaluating their entire lives in light of this new filter and ultimately feel a sense of peace because they suddenly understand why things were the way they were.


This newfound understanding can lead to increased confidence in asserting one's needs and asking for accommodations. So if you're struggling with making sense of your life and you really are autistic, an autism diagnosis might just be the thing that brings you some much-needed clarity.


Can Improve the Quality of Your Relationships

autistic couple holding hands

One of the most significant benefits is that it can improve the quality of your relationships. With an autism diagnosis, you will finally have an explanation for why you have always felt and acted "different."


The people in your life may finally understand why you do (or don’t do) what you do, and they can better accommodate what you need. With this newfound knowledge, you can also seek coaching from an autism-informed couples counselor or coach on how to improve your relationships.


Leads to More Effective Interventions or Support

Once you have a diagnosis of autism, you can learn more about how autism impacts you individually and start finding autism-informed medical and mental health providers who can provide more effective care, which will have a directly positive impact on your quality of life. That said, even if you only suspect you are on the spectrum or have self-diagnosed, you can start looking for autism-informed providers.


An autism life coach, AuDHD coach, or ADHD coach can also be an amazing addition to your team. The coaches here at Thrive Autism Coaching will work collaboratively with you to identify goals related to areas of life in which you are struggling, such as relationships, employment, burnout, executive functioning, college, and independent living. Then we collaborate to create and execute a plan for achieving those goals by leveraging your strengths and mitigate the obstacles in your path.


autistic woman sitting and writing in front of laptop, with a autistic man behind, talking on the phone and looking for employers

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, and autism is a qualifying diagnosis. You may benefit from more teleworking or written instructions or a meeting agenda in advance. Asking for and receiving accommodations on the job can literally be the difference between success or failure in a career.


A diagnosis also empowers you to look for employers who are neurodiversity friendly, increasing your chances of success. Many large employers, recognizing the unique and valuable strengths of autistic people, are starting neurodiversity initiatives to create interview processes and on-the-job supports to attract and retain this type of talent.


Gives You a Clearer Sense of Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Limitations

An autism diagnosis can give you a clearer sense of your unique strength and weakness profile. For instance, if you are diagnosed with autism, you may realize that you are better at visual tasks than verbal ones. This can help you to create a life that enables you to leverage your strengths as much as possible and provide you with a greater sense of self-worth.


Additionally, an autism diagnosis can also help you to understand why certain things may be more difficult for you than others. For example, you may have difficulty with social interactions or sensory overload. But once you understand your limitations, you can work on developing strategies to either overcome or accommodate them.


Improves Ability to Advocate For Yourself and Others

neurodiverse adult explaining his diagnosis to others

One benefit of receiving an autism diagnosis is it can improve your ability to advocate for yourself and others. When you know why you do the things you do, it's much easier to explain them to other people and insist on what you need to thrive.


And when you're able to explain your condition to other people, they're more likely to be understanding and accommodating. So, if you've been struggling to advocate for yourself or others with autism, a diagnosis can be a valuable tool.


Provides Peace of Mind

Receiving an autism diagnosis can be a huge relief for many people. For years, they may have struggled to understand why they feel different from other people and why they have trouble with social interactions, communication, and sensory issues. An autism diagnosis can provide them with an explanation for their difficulties and help them figure out what they need to improve their quality of life.


Cons of an Adult Autism Diagnosis

That said, there are a few things that people should know about assessment and diagnosis before they dive in head first.


It Can Be Expensive and Time-Consuming

us dollars as payment for autism assessment and diagnosis

The first potential downside is that it can be costly. Not only do you have to pay for the assessments themselves, but you also have to pay for the professional's time to go over the results with you. This often runs into the thousands of dollars, although if there is a university nearby, they sometimes have low-cost assessments.


In addition, assessment and diagnosis can be time-consuming. You will often wait for months on a waitlist, and then once you get assessed, you have to wait for the results.


Others May Reject Your Diagnosis

 autistic woman standing in an aisle, appearing to feel rejected or excluded.

If you end up with a formal diagnosis, rather than be curious about autism, some of the people in your life may not believe you are autistic. This can be painful when that person is a family member or close friend.


Also, despite years of autism awareness campaigns, only a small percentage of people actually understand autism. If you tell someone you are autistic, they may say that you can’t be autistic because you can talk or make eye contact based on their lack of understanding. This can be very frustrating to have to educate the people around you about what autism actually is.


In addition, labels can also create erroneous expectations and even lead to discrimination. People who expect someone with autism to behave in a certain way may inadvertently reinforce negative behaviors. They may also withhold opportunities, such as relationships, job offers, or career promotions, even where this type of discrimination is against the law.


You May Experience Conflicting Emotions

 autistic adult leaning on a glass surface covered in rainwater, displaying conflicting emotions.

The process of being diagnosed with autism can be a very emotional process. Individuals may go through a range of conflicting emotions, from relief to sadness to anger that no one figured it out sooner.


Second, the label itself can be a source of stress and anxiety. People who qualify for labels often feel different or broken. And this can cause problems with self-esteem, self-concept, and a sense of ability to affect one's life. An autism-informed therapist or autism life coach can help instill a sense of agency.


Correct or Incorrect Diagnosis

Any diagnosis comes with the potential for a false positive or negative. The same is true for the assessment and diagnosis of autism, especially since professionals qualified to diagnose adult autism are hard to find, and there is not agreement yet among professionals on which instruments should be used to diagnose autism in adults.


There is also the possibility when you go through an assessment that you will correctly be told that you are not on the spectrum. Because the characteristics of people who are gifted, autistic, AuDHD, or ADHD have so much overlap, some adults will pursue an autism diagnosis to find out they are not autistic but “only” have ADHD or are "only" gifted.


Conclusion

Deciding whether to seek an adult autism diagnosis is a deeply personal choice that carries both potential benefits and challenges. Understanding oneself more deeply can unlock a path to self-acceptance, improved relationships, and more tailored support. It allows for a reevaluation of past experiences and fosters a greater sense of belonging to a community with similar experiences.


Yet, it's essential to acknowledge the emotional, financial, and social costs that may accompany this newfound knowledge. Whether you opt for a formal diagnosis or not, the most important thing is to find understanding and support that enhances your quality of life.


If you're considering this step, remember that you're not alone, and there are resources and people ready to support you, including professionals like those here at Thrive Autism Coaching. If you are struggling, a diagnosis is not required to work with one of our coaches, and we offer a complimentary consultation so you can explore whether this could be a fit for you.


Ultimately, whatever path you choose, our hope for you is that it leads you toward a greater understanding and acceptance of yourself and a fuller, more satisfying life.

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