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Debunking the Common Myths of an Autism Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be complex and often shrouded in misconceptions. While awareness of autism has increased in recent years, there are still prevalent myths and misunderstandings surrounding its diagnosis. In this blog post, we aim to dispel some of these myths and clarify what an autism diagnosis process truly entails. 

Myth 1: Autism Can Only Be Diagnosed in Childhood

One of the most common misconceptions about autism is that it can only be diagnosed in childhood. While many individuals are diagnosed during childhood, autism can also be identified in adolescence or adulthood. In fact, some individuals may not receive a diagnosis until later in life, especially if their symptoms were not recognised earlier. 

Fact

Autism can be diagnosed at any age, and individuals may present with symptoms that become more apparent over time. It’s never too late to seek an evaluation if you suspect that you or someone you know may be on the autism spectrum.

an adult man on a couch in front of a doctor giving an adult autism diagnosis

Wondering where to get a diagnosis as an Adult? Autism Awareness Australia recommends that you first research health providers in your area who are qualified to do autism assessments. You can find local resources by contacting Autism Connect, a national autism helpline.  

Don’t forget to check out our other blog post, ‘Supporting your child after their adult autism diagnosis‘. 

Myth 2: Autism Is Easy to Diagnose

Another myth is that autism is easy to diagnose based on observable behaviours alone. While certain behaviours may raise suspicion, diagnosing autism requires a comprehensive assessment by qualified professionals.  

This assessment typically involves gathering information from multiple sources, including interviews, observations, and standardised tests. 

Fact

Diagnosing autism requires a thorough evaluation by healthcare professionals trained in autism assessment. It involves considering various factors, such as developmental history, social communication skills, repetitive behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. 

While an ‘assessment’ might seem like a scary word, the truth is that the experience isn’t. It will typically involve three sessions and collecting information from parents, teachers, carers and other key people in the child’s life. The Child Development Service is a Canberra-based service that provides ACT residents free autism assessments for children aged up to 11 years and 11 months. Just remember that you’ll need a referral from a Paediatrician or Psychiatrist. 

a person holding up a notebook with the word autism on it

Myth 3: Autism Is Overdiagnosed

Some people believe that autism is overdiagnosed, leading to unnecessary labelling and stigma. While it’s true that autism awareness has led to more individuals being identified and diagnosed, this does not necessarily mean that autism is being overdiagnosed. 

Fact

When diagnosing autism spectrum disorder, professionals like paediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and speech pathologists use the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edition, Text revision), or DSM-5-TR, produced by the American Psychiatric Association. They follow rigorous assessment protocols to ensure accurate diagnosis.  

Overdiagnosis is unlikely when assessments are conducted by qualified professionals using standardised measures. Autism Awareness states that the real question is perhaps whether ‘…there more children with these disorders or are we just better at diagnosing them?’.  

Food for thought, maybe? 

Myth 4: Girls Can't Have Autism

There is a common misconception that autism primarily affects boys and that girls are less likely to be diagnosed. While it’s true that autism is diagnosed more frequently in boys, this does not mean that girls cannot be autistic. However, girls may present with different symptoms or mask their autistic traits, making diagnosis more challenging. 

Fact

Autism can affect individuals of any gender. According to verywellhealth.com, It’s true that autism traits in girls and women are not always the same as those identified in boys and men. This means that females may not get an autism diagnosis until much later in life—if ever. 

autism in girls, a girl leaning against a window with a grey shirt and brown hair

Autism SA has documented some signs of autism commonly observed in girls and women, and that may account for the lower incidence of autism diagnosis in females. These include: 

  • Masking or camouflaging the challenges presented by the characteristics of autism through a range of strategies 
  • Avoiding or not seeking social interaction 
  • Being seen by others as excessively shy or preferring not to engage with others 
  • They can be seen as extroverts when it comes to their interests and hobbies 
  • An ability to keep emotions under control in social scenarios but prone to becoming upset or distressed at home as a means of release 
  • Seen by others as quirky or a daydreamer 

View the complete list at autismsa.org.au 

It’s essential to recognise and address the unique needs of autistic girls and women. 

Myth 5: Autism Diagnosis Is Always Negative

Some people view autism diagnosis as inherently negative, associating it with limitations and deficits. While autism can present challenges, it’s essential to recognise that autistic individuals also have strengths and unique abilities. Diagnosis can provide a pathway to understanding and accessing appropriate support and resources. 

Fact

An autism diagnosis can be a positive step toward understanding oneself or a loved one better. It can lead to increased self-awareness, acceptance, and access to tailored interventions and accommodations that promote well-being and success. 

n-autism-diagnosis-isnt-always-negative-image of a hand holding an autism infinity badge

According to Alexandra, who received a diagnosis at the age of 25: 

 ‘The one thing l would love for other people to know is that having a diagnosis of autism isn’t a negative thing and that all the stereotypical associations with the condition are not all true. For example, not everyone on the spectrum is an IT genius. We are all “a different brilliant”, and all have our own special interests and are well-versed in a wide range of topics.’ 

Watch Alexandra’s video to learn more about her journey and why she walks for autism, as well as Aspect’s annual fundraiser to support people on the autism spectrum. 

Dispelling the myths and misconceptions about autism diagnosis.

When it comes to an autism diagnosis, we must promote understanding and acceptance within society. By challenging outdated beliefs and providing accurate information, we can all support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families in navigating the diagnostic process with confidence and compassion.  

If you have concerns about autism or seek an evaluation, consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalised guidance and support. 

Ignition Gamers is a family-owned and operated business located in Nicholls, ACT. In fact, our co-founder, Will, is autistic! Together, we’ve created a neurodiverse and inclusive community for autistic or hidden disability individuals with low support needs and a shared interest in video and tabletop gaming. To learn more about our sessions, visit our Sessions Information page or contact us today for a free chat or even a free trial session! We’d love to meet you. 

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