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Diagnosis – Adults

I think I have Asperger Syndrome. I’m wondering…

Q:  What are the common traits and characteristics of someone with Asperger Syndrome?

A:  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychological Association categorizes Asperger Syndrome as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). All ASDs share the following three major characteristics: (1) problems with communication or language, (2) poor social skills, and (3) a restricted range of interest and/or repetitive behaviours.


Q:  Does Asperger Syndrome (AS) affect a person’s intelligence and/or cognitive functioning?

A:   The DSM-IV criterion for Asperger Syndrome excludes those with a cognitive delay from the diagnosis. Although no cognitive delay will be present, individuals with Asperger Syndrome can demonstrate significant differences among skills and intellectual strengths, which can be quite confusing. However, it is not uncommon for someone with Asperger Syndrome to have superior abilities in some areas and significant deficits in others.


Q:  Could other family members also have Asperger Syndrome or another related neurological disorder?

A: Yes! Asperger Syndrome, as well as other ASDs, is believed to have a genetic basis. This means that other family members across generations may present similar symptoms or have a diagnosis within the family of ASDs. If you know or suspect that there is a history of ASDs or Asperger Syndrome in your family this can be an indicator that your suspicions may be right and it may be helpful to mention that to your doctor if you decide to pursue a diagnosis.


I’m considering getting diagnosed. I need to know…



Q:  How do I go about getting a diagnosis?

A:  The first thing to do is visit your family doctor.  You can then ask for a referral from a GP or family doctor to a specialist in the field. You can also investigate local mental health agencies to see if they provide diagnostic assessment for Asperger Syndrome. On our website, we also provide a searchable resource directory that includes a  list of private practitioners that can perform diagnostic assessments.


Q:  What can I expect my family doctor to know about Asperger Syndrome?

A:  Your family doctor may not have heard of Asperger Syndrome, although they may know about related disorders such as Autism. You can bring some of the material about Asperger Syndrome from our website to your next appointment to help your doctor understand more about your concerns, help you find a diagnosis or any other Asperger Syndrome related issues that may arise.


Q:   Do I have to pay for a diagnosis?

A:  Getting a diagnosis can be done privately or it can be covered by OHIP. The reason some people choose to get a private diagnosis is that there is a shortage of covered medical professionals who diagnose Asperger Syndrome and as such there is often a significant wait to get diagnosed.


Q:  What are the types of professionals that can diagnose Asperger Syndrome?

A:   A formal diagnosis can only be given by medical doctors (i.e. GP’s, pediatricians, psychiatrists) and psychologists. Some people choose to have a social worker, speech and language pathologist or another related professional provide an assessment that will allow them to give their opinion on the likelihood that someone has Asperger Syndrom. These opinions cannot substitute a clinical diagnosis but can help determine whether seeking one would be worthwhile. Click here to find practitioners in your area.


The process of finding a diagnosis is long and hard. While I’m waiting I want to consider…


Q:  I’ve already come this far. Why would a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome be important for me as an adult?

A: It is not always necessary for an adult to seek a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. However, some of the reasons one should seeks a diagnosis for Asperger Syndrome in adulthood include: (1) access to new and more appropriate services, (2) previous diagnoses that may be less useful or inclusive can be discarded, and (3) getting a diagnosis can provide relief, comfort and clarity for someone who has been trying to find the reason why they’ve always felt different from others.


Q: What can I do while I wait to be seen for a diagnosis?

A:  The easiest thing to access while waiting for a diagnosis is literature on Asperger Syndrome. There are a growing number of books and workbooks that focus on many issues related to Asperger Syndrome.  They cover topics from the broad to the specific and some also include activities for gaining insight into yourself and how Asperger Syndrome affects you. Another option is to try and find organizations or programs that will not require you to have a formal diagnosis to receive services. Attending workshops about Asperger Syndrome is another great way to learn more about how you can find support, both pre and post diagnosis. You can begin your search for agencies, programs and readings on our website.


Q:  What can I expect from the assessment process?

A:  The assessment process can vary and will depend on the person performing it as well as the individual being assessed.  Depending on their experience with Asperger Syndrome, some doctors may feel less confident than others to make a diagnosis immediately, while others will feel very confident to identify and diagnose Asperger Syndrome much sooner. The assessment process can involve interview(s) and questionnaire(s). The assessor will want to know about developmental milestones and the concerning traits or characteristics being presented. Questionnaires or standardized tests can be given to assess things like intelligence or language abilities. Although there are limited professionals who perform Asperger Syndrome assessment for adults, they can be easier to diagnose as their developmental challenges have been present for much longer, making them more evident.


Q: What do I need to do prior to my assessment?

A:  If you’ve had any previous assessments, either bring them with you or mail them beforehand to the doctor who will be doing your assessment for Asperger Syndrome. It’s also useful to begin collecting records and thinking about the challenges you’ve had at various stages of your life. You can make a chronological list of events, paying careful attention to moments that triggered any concern or were particularly troubling for you. You can also make a list of the current characteristics, behaviours, challenges or other problems that are concerning you. Finally, write down any questions you want to ask the doctor. If you don’t know what to ask, try doing a bit of reading on Asperger Syndrome. Some of the things you read may trigger questions as they relate to your experiences.


I’m getting myself assessed. While I’m there I want to know…


Q:  What do I need to do to access this information for other professionals who work with me or may work with me in the future?

A:  The more information you can provide to professionals who work with you in your treatment, the better equipped they will be to help meet your specific needs. However, due to privacy laws it is required that you provide consent when two professionals who work with you discuss any aspect of your diagnosis or treatment. Special consent forms must be signed that will specify who is allowed to speak to whom and what information they are allowed to share. If you have any clinical or support workers with whom you would like to share your assessment results, let the diagnostician know and ask for the proper consent forms.


Q:  What can I do if I do not do well in testing situations?

A: There are many reasons individuals with Asperger Syndrome do not handle testing situations well. These include: (1) sensory distractions, (2) heightened anxiety, (3) inability to focus, and (4) difficulty processing what they are being asked to do. Be sure to tell the person doing the assessment of any concerns you have and share with them any strategies you think may help in such situations.  A good assessment should contain the opinion of the diagnostician regarding the congruency between the results and your abilities.


I’ve been assessed and have now been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. The first things I want to know are…


Q:  What should I do if I don’t agree with the doctor’s diagnosis?

A: Getting a second opinion is your right. Most doctors will encourage you to do so if that is what you wish to do.


Q:  Should I have other assessments done after the diagnosis?

A:It really depends on the benefit it would have for you and your treatment. Extra assessments can sometimes be beneficial for gathering more specific information about your needs; however they can also be overwhelming and overburden you with information. Getting further assessments can also delay the commencement of active treatment. When considering additional assessments it is important to consider what purpose they have and how they could benefit your treatment plan.


Q: Do I need to tell others about my diagnosis, and if so, who?

A:  It is not necessary for you to tell anyone about your diagnosis, however it is strongly recommended that you disclose it to all professionals involved in your life. This includes teachers, doctors, social workers, therapists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and any other professionals working with you. Those who are not significantly impaired by Asperger Syndrome may not have to tell other individuals involved in their lives, however knowing about the diagnosis can help people have a better understanding of the individual with Asperger Syndrome and improve upon their interactions with them.

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