By Daniel Quin,
While a lot of work has been done in recent years to try to reduce the stigma associated with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it does, unfortunately, persist.
One clue to the reason for this possibly lies in the very name of the condition: the word “disorder” has less than positive connotations.
When I’m working with a child or adolescent with ASD, one of my goals is to help replace that stigma with a realistic understanding of someone on this spectrum can be; identifying potential strengths that are anything but disorderly.
Someone with ASD will often display superior attention to detail, persistence, and a heightened ability to understand technical information.
And how often are we told that people with ASD lack empathy, or don’t like other people? It’s a widespread negative stereotype. And it’s untrue.
People with ASD may well need to learn to identify and understand social cues, such as body language, emotion, and social norms, all of which tend to come more easily to “neurotypical” people.
But these skills can be developed. In fact, one of the things I find most satisfying about working as a psychologist in this area is seeing how people can adjust and master these skills, overcoming the distress caused when social interactions don’t go as well as planned.
Diagnosis of ASD is an involved process that includes multiple health professionals. Generally, parents or teachers first notice unusual patterns of behaviour in early childhood. The first step towards diagnosis involves a GP referral to a pediatrician. Multi-disciplinary assessment is likely to include a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and/or a psychologist.