GOOD AGE FOR A DIAGNOSIS

As of right now, we are in late July of 2019. It seems to me like more and more people are being diagnosed with Autism or some kind of a disability. Why? Is it because Autism is more in the public eye now than it was 25+ years ago? I was diagnosed when I was 7 years old. My girlfriend, Allie, was diagnosed when she was 18. I get that Autism is more common in boys than in girls (4.5x more common to be exact). So it sort of makes sense that I was diagnosed earlier than Allie.

So is it better or more beneficial to be “officially” diagnosed earlier or later in life? That’s up for debate. I myself still can’t decide between which I’d prefer. Here’s my logic. If you tell a kid my age (7 or younger) that they have Autism, they’ll probably be scratching their heads going “That’s a big word. What does that mean?” But it gave me 21 years to come to terms with my diagnosis and how it impacts me. But if you were to tell me today, July 24, 2019, as a 28 year old I have Autism, everything would kind of fall into place and click. “Oh, ok. That’s why I act the way I act!” But I would have been in the dark as to why I felt so “off” or “different” for 28 years.

From what I can remember, my parents never formally explained my diagnosis. I sort of figured it out for myself. I remember growing up, being called retarded. I am ashamed to admit this, but I myself used that word towards other kids and situations when I was young…before I knew the impact that word had. So I was in Middle School. A bully called me retarded and I looked it up on a computer. All these “symptoms” of Autism came up. That was the moment I realized “This is me and that word isn’t nice.”

So it was from that point on that I started to stand up for myself. I became a semi-advocate. Or at least, started to stick up for myself. I don’t know when the appropriate age or situation to tell someone they are on the Spectrum. It will vary for all people. I can’t talk for everyone on the Spectrum, even though that’s kind of what is expected of me here in Baltimore. I cannot tell you when the “right time” to tell someone they have Autism is. For me, I always had that feeling I was “weird”, “off” and “different”. I still feel that way from time to time.

I said this before, but to me, it is fielder’s choice as to when to tell your kid they are on the Spectrum. It’s the same with telling your kid Santa isn’t real (sorry kids!) or about the birds and the bees. It’s going to vary depending on the comfort zone/level of the parents or caretakers. Some parents never tell their Autistic kids they have Autism. It’s almost like they are ashamed of the diagnosis. That’s not fair to the individual who lives it.
I think people are afraid their kid will be bullied or face hardships if they tell them they are on the Spectrum or have a disability. Listen, that’s part of being human. We all face hardships, disabled or not. It’s a part of life.

I think it’s harder for the parents/caretakers to come to terms with the diagnosis than the individual. I am here to tell you that Autism is not a death sentence. You’re not going to die from an Autism diagnosis. Yes, I am aware people on the Spectrum have shorter life expectancies, but we are capable of living full, fulfilling lives. I have yet to hear this sentence from a medical professional: “I’m sorry, Mr. Whalen. You have Autism and have 2 weeks to live.” Has anyone ever heard that from a diagnosis of Autism? I doubt it.

There have been news stories of horrific things happening to people on the Spectrum. People think they can take advantage of Autistic people. We are human beings. Golden Rule, people! Treat others the way you want to be treated.
People also want so badly to “cure” their kids of this “problem” that is Autism. Be it marijuana, CBD oil, shock therapy, or bleach enemas. Yes, sadly those last two are real things. Well, there is no cure for Autism. There are things that can help almost alleviate the symptoms, such as CBD oil and medicinal marijuana, but it’s temporary. That stuff wears off. As for bleach enemas? That is fatal!

Autism, to me, is not a problem. The stigma and ignorance surrounding it is. Yes, there will be hardships for all involved, but Autistic people are just that…people! We are living, breathing human beings just like the rest of you “normal” ignorant people. Where’s the logic? “Well I’d rather my child be dead than have Autism.” What the holy fuck people?! Autism, again, is NOT a death sentence! It’s just a different way of life. At least, that’s what it is to me.

So that’s it from me. Sorry about the tangent. What do you think of the age and circumstances for telling someone they are Autistic? As always, feel free to comment and thanks for listening!

-Tom

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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