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  • Writer's pictureDr Zoe Cross

Diagnosing autism in adults

A client insight

I was diagnosed with autism in my 50s. I don’t remember what led me to want to know more, it was a gradual thing. But when I was told I had autism I cried. It was as though things suddenly made sense and I was OK. I’m part of a club where lots of people are like me. There’s over 1.2 million of us in the UK and 75 million in the world - although I bet there must be way more than that – those who don’t know, realise or have had support. I don’t know if I need to tell anyone particularly but if it becomes useful or relevant I’ll share it happily. I can start looking at my life through this new lens knowing that it makes more sense. I’ll also think about how I can identify some things that make me anxious or uncomfortable and work out how to manage it better. It’s a massive relief for sure.


If you’re an adult considering an autism diagnosis it’s likely that you’ve been facing some challenges or anxiety around a few issues that has prompted you to consider seeking advice.

 

Recognising some of the signs of autism is a good place to start but it’s no substitute for an initial conversation, followed by a full assessment - if that’s right for you. I’m qualified and experienced in taking adults, children and young people through the stages of ASD and ADHD assessment and diagnosis. I do this, as everything, gently and carefully so you’ll be able to share information with me in a relaxed way.

 

What to expect? We’ll start with an initial conversation. This takes around an hour and is free of charge. I’ll let you know what I recommend based on my understanding of our discussion. An assessment isn’t always the next step. If autism is unlikely there is still support and help available, if you choose it. However if an assessment is right for you we can book an appointment where we go through a series of straightforward questions, some non-evasive and more practical exercises and we’ll talk about your history to date including key developmental information. This includes such things as: what you’re good at, what do you enjoy, what dislikes do you have, what are your strengths, what worries you and other useful information. This allows me to create a full picture of you – all in complete confidence of course.

 

What are the symptoms of autism in an adult?

It is different for everyone, but you might be concerned with some of the following:

·       Not feeling as though you belong

·       Not being comfortable with physical touch such as hugging or even making eye contact

·       Not always understanding what people mean, especially with sarcasm or ambiguous speech

·       Possibly being blunt or seeming rude by speaking honestly

·       Having difficulty reading body language, emotions and facial expressions in others

·       Problems making and maintaining close friendships

·       Experiencing emotional outbursts or unregulated emotions

·       Anxiety in social situations

·       Repetitive behaviour

·       Having a preference for solitude

·       Sensory discomfort – sometimes with noise, lights, crowds or specific smells

 

Celebrating autism… What we haven’t listed here are some of the fantastic joys of autism – attention to detail, remarkable creativity, an ability to focus and learn in detail, having excellent recall and memory, the ability to analyse and assess, sort and identify patterns in behaviour and process, hyperlexia (advanced reading skills), a strong sense of justice, being a critical thinker and so much more.

 

Some of the most gifted and incredible societal contributors and influencers with autism include Albert Einstein, Michaelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Elon Musk, Stephen Spielberg, Mozart, Bob Dylan, Lionel Messi, Jane Austen, Bill Gates, Tim Burton – the list goes on – it’s lengthy and seriously impressive.

 

People with autism often display a more individual way of being. They are less likely to follow the crowd and conform. A 2021 study by Cooper et al found that “Pride in difference referred to participants’ views that their differences from non-autistic people were a positive part of their identity. For example, participants were proud that they did not follow the crowd and acted in a way that was true to themselves, which could lead to more progress and diversity of thinking within society.”

 

Why pursue a diagnosis? Considering an autism diagnosis is a profound and often unexpectedly exciting time. It leads to a revelation that helps you to understand yourself, and your place in the world, so much better. You might make sense of more things that you experience – and have experienced in your past. It can lead to many lightbulb moments as you are freshly armed with the clarity that a diagnosis brings.

 

If there are concerns such as social anxiety we can work on strategies that will help you identify, anticipate and manage potential triggers. One of my contacts struggled with public transport to the point of almost leaving her job. We worked out a simple workaround that involved an earlier train, a reserved seat and noise cancelling headphones – the combination alleviated enough of her stress to allow that journey to be manageable. The diagnosis helped with her negotiation at work for an earlier start and finish time too.

 

A diagnosis is for you It’s to help you understand yourself. It’ll allow you to make sense of more aspects of your life. You can share it as far as you want to, if at all. However it helps for those around you to appreciate your neurodiversity, knowing that you see the world slightly differently to them. It can reduce potential confrontation or hurt feelings if you express unfiltered opinions or speak more frankly than your friends and family expect. It can also bring immense peace of mind.

 

If you’d like to start exploring autism as an adult, do get in touch and we can book an initial free hour’s conversation to do a little fact-finding and see where things go.

 

·       Download our guide on Autism in Adults here

·       Visit our autism information hub here

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