Most everyone knows or knows of someone who is on the Autism spectrum. Healthcare providers see an explosion of Autism diagnoses in their practices. Children as young as two-years-old are being referred for formal Autism diagnostic workups. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan developed specialty clinics statewide just to handle the influx of children suspected of being Autistic.
What about the older child or young adult whose quirkiness never led to a formal Autism diagnostic workup. Are these individuals “quirky” or are they truly Autistic?
There is actually a difference between people who are “quirky” and people who are Autistic. The quirky child or person is usually very intelligent but lacks the social awareness or graces to fit well into their peer group. They may have a friend or two, usually someone who shares their quirky interests or sense of humor. Their outlook on life may be cynical, but is usually well grounded in reality and can even be seen as insightful, if a bit extreme. When does quirkiness merge into a diagnosis of Autism? Is there a way to know the difference?
These are not just theoretical questions, but are issues seen day to day in Autism diagnostic settings. There are definitely ways for experienced Autism diagnosticians to know the difference. While some cases may be subtle, looking for the right features helps the diagnostician make the correct call. This is especially true in older children or young adults, when some of the more glaring differences have softened owing to social maturation and experience. Older children and young adults with Autism have learned to lessen or soften their Autistic features.
Taking a comprehensive personal history, using collateral history from parents or relatives, and meticulously deciphering the clues which are the hallmark features of Autism allow the correct diagnosis to be made. Invariably, parents, older children, and young adults find comfort and hope when making the right diagnosis. They finally know.
Dr. Bloom can be reached for Autism related consultations at [email protected]
Author: William Bloom, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychologist, Clinical Director - Explain Mind Psychological Testing Services
*This blog was created with the help of Anton Babushkin