Reaction to Diagnosis

I don’t know if it is the same at any age

I have not looked at any studies, but I participate in several autism based groups online. Ideas stated here have for the most part been formed on my own experience with encountering autism, and reported experiences from adults in online groups I belong to.
Each person’s experiences and perceptions will of course be different.

I think it might be a bit more difficult to shift gears as we age. Autism is known to cause rigid thinking. We older autistic folk have had plenty of practice at forming rigid ideas by the time we reach our 60’s.
Is late diagnosis of autism more shocking to those of us who are elderly? I suspect that it is.

As older adults, we have overcome or adapted to many struggles alone.
We have spent a lifetime believing we are “normal” but also believing we are somehow different, incompetent, selfish, bad, wrong, stupid, useless, thoughtless, inept, uncaring, rude, intrusive, hateful, and on and on… a litany of fixed ideas in our older and less flexible brains, learned in our earlier life and more or less accepted as inner truths because we did not know about autism. We have set ideas about ourselves and others and how the world as we see it works.

We may have wondered why we struggled, but learning at last,( although it is sometimes a relief), that autism is the answer, we may suddenly find ourselves scrambling to find a new platform to view our innermost selves.

It is as if the ground we have stood upon for so many years is crumbling.

The foundations of the house we built our ideas on is being torn down.

We will need time to replace these with ideas about our selves and how our diagnosis of autism makes everything different.

Many older people report feeling shocked at first, even though they knew, deep inside that somehow they were ‘different’.
Knowing about autism changes all of the concepts and precepts we may have held about ourselves and our world.
Knowing that we have been wrong in the way we understood almost everything in our worlds, well, that is a lot to digest!


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Let me insert a warning here. Your autism is hugely important to you, but it will be of little consequence to most all of the people around you. They will be likely to react by passing off the information of your self discovery lightly, and assuring you that they still love you etc. .
They will be likely to make ignorant statements about “everybody being a bit autistic” or they will deny it… never mind, don’t argue. Don’t take these things personally. Your diagnosis will mean the world to you, but as in all things, most people will not be able to understand and since it doesn’t affect them personally, most will simply not be very interested. That’s OK. It does not mean they do not care about you, they simply don’t see the significance of your discovery. But they will see the results as you work though your new understanding of your self!


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Learning about our autism is a shock in the way that a sudden loss is… but this is loss of self identity.

Most people newly diagnosed with autism report going through the stages of grief. Shock, denial, bargaining,sadness, anger, acceptance. All appear and disappear, in any order, in rapid transition or slowly over days and sometimes years.
Do not be surprised at your emotional responses to finally learning you are “on the spectrum”.

My major reaction on figuring out I have autism/am autistic was relief. I knew there was something different about me, but had not a clue as to the nature of my struggles or why I seemed to have so many difficulties with things that others seemed to find easy.
I have been grieving in an ongoing way for years, but now I have an answer for that too. I have been sad for the loss of opportunities and things that ‘might have been’. I have regretted so many incidents of the past where I made bad decisions, misunderstood motives, misjudged so many people or situations. I have been angry over many of those things too. Nobody knew!
Feeling cheated of an ordinary life (whatever that is!) and wishing I had known or simply not been given autism as my share in life, feeling extraordinary relief and curiosity on learning how I was different and why… all going round and round inside me.
I bet you will feel similar things and a whole range of emotional turmoil. It is like being engulfed and having to learn to swim. Not a piddly little word, but one with great meaning and consequences “autism”.


Newly diagnosed with autism means loads of emotional homework, lots of looking for new ways to interact with one’s world, and new understanding of so many painful things from the past.
Please give yourself time to process all the new information, the new ways of looking at life and others, the new things you learn about yourself.
It took a lifetime to learn all the ideas that now are being shaken and tested from new perspectives.

Many new ideas will take the place of some old “stinkin’ thinkin’ “. , Many old ideas will be discarded, pains will be dug up and revisited from new perspectives.
I like to say I am a work in progress. My growth in understanding of my world, my self, and everything that applies to these things has been phenomenal. It has been the most exciting thing, freeing, uplifting, a sort of fresh start in a new and better world, to learn of my autism and to learn how to live better through my better understanding of how autism has touched every part of my world for the previous 65 years before I knew, before I began to understand so many answers I found when I found out about autism.


It is my deep hope that the medical community and those learning about autism to apply to professional practices today will be able to help not only children and families dealing with autism, but will be able to diagnose and explain their autism to old people just like me, but who remain still undiscovered and struggling with their Autism without knowing.

Autism diagnosis for an Old Lady

My next attempt at getting a professional diagnosis is less than a week away.

I find myself very nervous, on edge, near tears sometime.

Summer is always busy and I have a lot to do. Maybe being busy is good because it keeps me from fretting, something I am very (very) good at!

I trust this doctor, and he has many years experience with autistic people. My husband will come with this time. We have been given a “homework” sheet to fill out and have been cautioned not to discuss it with each other. I think the Dr wants to compare our observations. Dr will also spend time interviewing my spouse. This was something that I was told would take place during my first “assessement” but which never happened… anxious about that too.

Almost everything I want to do from here onward depends on a positive diagnosis, and I have no idea what will happen if he gives me another diagnosis (schizoid has been suggested, but I disbelieve that).

Everything I have read about autism seems to fit my childhood experiences, my personal life experiences, and my work experiences.

I am no stranger to other diagnoses as there are others with those in our family… and our daughter experienced multiple diagnoses over the years until they ‘got it right’.

I do intensive research on any subject which interests me, and neurological brain disorders (mental illness and other associated conditions) has been one of my areas of study.

If this Dr says I am not autistic I will be devastated emotionally because I already identify as autistic and I know it will upset my self image… which already happened with the first “assessment”.

I am so concerned that many older adults are being missed, and misdiagnosed as having other mental/neurological conditions. Particularly women, who are likely to be diagnosed as one in 143 cases, as opposed to one in about 50 in males.

Women simply show our autism differently, or are more adept at hiding our struggles.

So many doctors here in the USA have no understanding of autism, even neurologists and psychologists . I hope by gaining credibility with a professional diagnosis that I can further interest in late diagnosis of adults.

The ironic thing to me is that so many of the professionals we are depending on for diagnosis and self understanding are mostly not trained to understand us and give those very diagnoses.

Finding direction

When I began learning about autism, I simply felt a huge relief to finally understand so much of my past, how it happened and why. In looking at events from the past, mostly unsuccessful interactions with other people, which caused emotional and sometimes physical pain, fear, and frustration, I was able to see how autism prevented me from understanding them, and them from understanding me. That was incredibly overwhelming, changing my understanding of everything in my world, and shifting it to a new perspective. I am still taking “baby steps” in my understanding and am continually amazed at how deeply entwined autism features are in all of my life, every part!

I have decided that for those of us who are older,( lets just draw an arbitrary line at chronological age 60), it is much more difficult. Many, if not most of us, have had no idea about our autism and have lived our lives as social outcasts, believing that what was happening to us was somehow our fault. We were faulty because we didn’t ‘get it’ and couldn’t do things that seemed to come so easily to others. We have been the nerds, the weirdos, the socially unacceptable geeks, the “odd ducks” and often also the brilliant and quirky genius sitting at the back of the room and coming up with solutions to problems that escape others. We have often been mocked, bullied, ostracized, belittled, and we carry the pain of not knowing why with us. Depression is frequently experienced by autistic folk, is it any wonder why? Anxiety seems almost universal among autistic people. If I kept doing things wrong, and being punished or criticized, but never knowing how to fix what I am told is wrong, is it any wonder I am ( we are) anxious? I am going to record my thoughts, feelings, and struggles as I go forward from self discovery of my autism, to trying to find somebody who will recognize the true diagnosis of the old lady with autism.

It would not matter to me if I stayed with self diagnosis, because I am quite satisfied with understanding within myself, and finally knowing the answer to almost every one of those “why” questions I had for most of my life. Here is the thing, though. I wish with all my heart that others who are still struggling and hurting deeply because they do not have the secret word: autism…. could be helped. In society today, one’s credibility depends on documentation… you must be certified by others… to drive a car, to act in many professions ( physician, lawyer, weather forecaster, engineer, ok- you get it) . If I want to be my best as an advocate for autistic people who are undiscovered and hurting needlessly, I can’t go out in the public sphere and say “Listen to me, I think I might have autism, and I want to tell you about it.” can I? You can imagine the response, can’t you? But if I say, ” I am autistic, I have been diagnosed as autistic, and I might be able to tell you a few things about it” I have that credibility… the socially acknowledged experts have pronounced me autistic. I have a certificate! No rolled eyes, no sighs, snickers, and shaking heads, it is there, proven; I have that paper that gives me credibility. My search for credibility has begun. This is an ongoing story.