ASD: would you rather have realised earlier or later in life

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At what point in life do you wish you definitively realised you had autism? (through diagnosis?)
At birth (I'm not sure if this is possible yet, but putting it in there for the sake of argument) 17%  17%  [ 3 ]
Around primary school 50%  50%  [ 9 ]
Around secondary school 6%  6%  [ 1 ]
Around tertiary institution 6%  6%  [ 1 ]
Before starting work 11%  11%  [ 2 ]
Mid-career 6%  6%  [ 1 ]
Late career 6%  6%  [ 1 ]
Retirement 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 18

CloudSea
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05 Jan 2024, 6:23 am

Hi guys,

(trigger warning - post touches on a breakdown and strained familial relationship)

I hope you had a Christmas/NY period with more highs than lows! (mixed emotions in mine).

Not sure if someone has posted this question before but I'm curious as to your answers :D .

Regardless of whether you were diagnosed with autism later or earlier, or ever diagnosed at all, at what part in your life do you kinda wish you definitively knew you were autistic?

I myself was diagnosed later in life (at 46) and part of me wishes it was spotted earlier. My teachers would possibly have been more understanding. And possibly my very NT sister (with whom I now share an at-times painful and complicated relationship). And it would possibly have saved myself and my parents a lot of heartache (not to mention a breakdown for me) when I had to leave secondary teaching because, let's face it, I just couldn't relate to most teenagers and vice versa. (Having said that, even if I knew the diagnosis and its correlation with just not fitting in at most high schools as a teacher OR a student, would I have been bloody-minded and forged on with the teaching degree anyway?? )

(Can I qualify that I do know autistic secondary teachers who are doing a decent job. So obviously there are also other factors at play here. But I will maintain that, at least in my case, my autism did me few favours in a mainstream high school context. I was okay in gifted and talented streams to a degree, but...)

To play devil's advocate, not knowing I was autistic for so many years allowed me to develop my self-image outside of the "mould" of autism. Now that I realise I'm autistic, I'm finding that it's somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have to actively fight against letting it define what I can and cannot do. If I'd known I was autistic earlier in life, would I have travelled for long periods overseas by myself, as I did? And knowing my diagnosis, would others have even tried to talk me out of it, as opposed to being encouraging, which they were? I may never know.

Just a few initial thoughts.

So please step up and cast your votes, folks. I'd love to hear why you voted the way you did in the comments, too. And when you were actually diagnosed, in contrast to your wish (if you have been).

Take care.


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DuckHairback
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05 Jan 2024, 6:34 am

That's a thoughtful analysis.

I think I'm split on this one. I spent a lot of time being hard on myself for what i saw as personal failings.i think having some sort of framework for understanding myself earlier in life could have been beneficial.

Growing up knowing you're different but not knowing why isn't great.

But I'm also lazy and maybe i wouldn't have pushed myself to do some of the things i have done if I'd had an autism diagnosis.

It's hard to know. On balance i think I'm more in the rather had known earlier camp.


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Edna3362
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05 Jan 2024, 6:41 am

I honestly do not know.

My ideal time would probably between;
Late childhood at earliest -- around after the time when I realized I was different and started seeking explanations and answers for it -- else, I'd use the label as some sort of happy excuse to not try anything or spent developing around the resentfulness over for that as soon as something went wrong...
To early teenage years at latest, in which before my worst years -- else, I may not survive any longer than that for not having any answer, explanation sooner and sees everything in pointlessness that I'm the problem that needed to be removed.

In which, a barely 7 year window. Between ages 8-15, not sooner or later.

My realization came at late childhood though without a name of what it is, the official diagnosis happened right before my worst years. It's likely the best timing I got -- and it's likely because I don't have a lot of choice.


Rather, I'd rather be a child who knows what neurodivergence is, knew that classic autism is not the only kind of autism that exists, likely in this era or later.
Or, that my parents knew it sooner than that, or at least be a little more mature than they were at that time and did not or at least stopped treating me as if I'm a crappy NT as soon as they realize I'm not even an NT.
They themselves, while loving and tolerant, are not fit parents for ND children, especially when they're younger and have tons of issues themselves.


And there's just something off about me, somewhere in my head or heart, that autism cannot explain -- whatever it is, it's the reason for this unwanted emotionality, filled with rage of unknown source, that autism itself did not trigger nor caused by it -- nor did the knowledge or realization that I'm different; it predates that, younger than age 4, in which I struggle with it for as long as I can remember; and that no other online accounts of other autistic could match it's description.

It's the reason why my ideal window of time of me knowing is so narrow... And that the ideal time itself is relatively crappy still.

Whatever it is, it's likely in the preverbal stages.
Maybe, I'd wish I knew at birth -- before whatever this is 'happened' -- at the same time, so do my parents and everyone around me knew better.


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MatchboxVagabond
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05 Jan 2024, 8:03 am

It's kind of a hard call because there are genuine reasons why knowing at any of these stages could be better. But, for me, I think college is about the right time. I might have missed out on a few opportunities with the diagnosis, but if we're just talking about realization and identification, then it's definitely right. I don't think that I missed out on much in high school by virtue of playing football and getting far more socializing than I cared for through that and my summer job.



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05 Jan 2024, 10:13 am

I voted for mid career.

Earlier I was not mature enough to handle being diagnosed with a condition that said you can’t do this and you can’t do that. As a child in the 60s it might have meant being put in a horrific institution and my mom ostracized as a “refrigerator mother” and told to remove all evidence I ever existed.

Once I was mature enough it would have really helped to know my weaknesses and strengths. The latter part was my fault. In my late 30s I had enough information that it was possible but I had the attitude that seeing a “shrink” was something 1. Really crazy people did, 2. Rich people with too much time on their hands did, 3. it’s more of a women’s thing to do.


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05 Jan 2024, 10:32 am

I think it was really important that I found out exactly when I did. Not knowing for almost fifty years, shaped me into the person that I am and I think that is really good. It would have been easier if I had known sooner but it might not necessarily have been better.


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05 Jan 2024, 1:22 pm

Age 41.

That would be at a point where I had reached professional success (partner in the New York City office of a large national law firm) but 2-3 years before my ex-wife left me due in part to behaviors and actions on my part which she believed were intentional or self-centered or thoughtless when they were in fact related to my autism. She and I both agree that if we had known I was autistic we might have been able to make it work, and I could have avoided the ten year spiral into depression that resulted in my losing everything and hitting rock bottom. No earlier because I would have been very anxious and self conscious of my behaviors in the dog eat dog environment of large law firm practice, and, awareness and attitudes about autism being what they were 20+ years ago, I'd have been further in the closet than I already am. My firm knows I am an advocate for autistic adults and work with an autism services organization, and sometimes I joke about "my ASD" or "my ASD behavior."



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05 Jan 2024, 1:27 pm

I wish that my parents would have told me when I was 10 or 11. Those were the most challenging years of my life and I thought that there was something terribly wrong with me. If I could go back in time, I'd ask my parents at the age of 10 and do the things that would have pleased them.


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05 Jan 2024, 1:33 pm

I was torn between Late Career and Retirement.

I think it would be best to find out after you have established yourself. After you have built your career, resume, and credentials. And made some solid friends. In other words, I think it would be best to find out after you have already defined yourself rather than risk it defining you.

I retired at 56 and found out I was Autistic when I was 64 (and did not suspect it before that).

The good part about finding out after I retired was the Autism label was just some interesting trivia about me and had very little opportunity to interfere with my career and early retirement.

On the other hand...my first hint to learn about Autism came when my then 88-year old Dad observed similarities between young me and a young boy suspected of being Autistic. The COVID Pandemic came about a year after Dad saw that kid and only a couple of years before Dad passed away. The world cut it close on giving me the hint...within a few years the ingredients for that hint would've been gone.


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05 Jan 2024, 1:37 pm

Much earlier.


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05 Jan 2024, 1:59 pm

I was diagnosed at 30. It would’ve been helpful to know when I was a lot younger for a variety of reasons. My family might’ve been more understanding, and I might’ve gotten more support.


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05 Jan 2024, 2:08 pm

I was diagnosed, aged 28.

My life has improved a lot since diagnosis, for many reasons, including being able to legitimately cite a disability to various people as a reason for support/and or adjustments.

I wish it would have been earlier, but it is what it is.



MatchboxVagabond
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05 Jan 2024, 5:21 pm

TwilightPrincess wrote:
I was diagnosed at 30. It would’ve been helpful to know when I was a lot younger for a variety of reasons. My family might’ve been more understanding, and I might’ve gotten more support.

That's a good point, I wonder how much different people's answers would be based on different assumptions about support.



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05 Jan 2024, 5:39 pm

Probably at the age of 9 or 10, when I started slipping academically. I'm assuming they'd have offered good interventions.



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06 Jan 2024, 1:02 pm

ToughDiamond wrote:
Probably at the age of 9 or 10, when I started slipping academically. I'm assuming they'd have offered good interventions.
I am curious though because of your age. Do you think that good interventions existed when you were a child? I am in my late fifties and I also wonder if I would have been a child during the time that they were still putting people like us in asylums and forgetting we existed.


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06 Jan 2024, 7:18 pm

skibum wrote:
ToughDiamond wrote:
Probably at the age of 9 or 10, when I started slipping academically. I'm assuming they'd have offered good interventions.
I am curious though because of your age. Do you think that good interventions existed when you were a child? I am in my late fifties and I also wonder if I would have been a child during the time that they were still putting people like us in asylums and forgetting we existed.

Well, the diagnosis itself didn't really exist when I was 10 years old (1963). Asperger had written about the condition back in 1944 but it didn't take off till the 1990s, way after I'd left school.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4725185/

I was assuming that if the diagnosis had been possible in 1963, so would the information we have today about the condition, and that I wouldn't have been thrown into an asylum. What actually happened was that there was no attempt to diagnose me with anything, or to intervene except in the usual way - i.e. punishment for failure to comply with demands and for clowning about - which didn't do much good. But as luck would have it, I realised I was heading towards a lifetime of poverty, and found independent ways of mastering the work and passing the exams.