Autism diagnostic tools are heavily biased toward childhood assessments. While new tools are being created to assess adults, they are rarely used. Instead, adults are receiving evaluations that were made for children.
I’m breaking down the DSM-5 ASD assessment, so autistic people can prepare for an evaluation. The DSM-5 is not the only autism assessment, but its emphasized traits are present in other tools. We’ll take a look at each criterion and examples of the criteria. (I’m not a licensed professional. DSM-5 info is at CDC.gov.)
• DSM-5 C states that “symptoms must be present in the early developmental period,” “may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities,” and “may be masked by learned strategies in later life.”
• Most DSM-5 evaluations include a survey for a parental figure to fill out. The idea is that this parental figure will remember the childhood of the person seeking a diagnosis and give a clearer picture of how autistic persons traits showed up in early development. Parental figures can also include much older siblings, grandparents, or family members that were present throughout childhood.
• Many autistic people have strained relationships with close family. In the end, autistic people are forced to disclose their diagnostic pursuit to parental figures in order to receive a diagnosis.
• In some cases, a psychologist may permit an autistic person to provide their own account of their childhood traits. This requires self-reflection. We might even ask childhood friends and family for their recollections of our childhood.
• Keep in mind, autistic person traits are often present in the little moments: Twirling nonstop, being called “loud mouth” and teased for talking on-and-on, strict rule following, picky eating, stomach aches, migraines from over stimulation, being a “serious” child, setting up playtime but rarely “playing.”