please share with appropriate young people or their loved ones: Getting a diagnosis of autism when you're already in school can be intimidating, whether you are the patient or the parent, but it doesn’t have to be. I am autistic, and despite the challenges it brings to my life, I am a very happy and fulfilled person. My daughter is autistic, too—she is soon to graduate from New York University and is excited to move on to the next chapters of her life. I hope I can help you understand a little about what your autism diagnosis means, as well as what it doesn’t have to mean. Autism symptoms can be subtle in certain people. Additionally, it’s sometimes the case that symptoms do not fully develop until an individual is school age, pre-adolescent or adolescent, when social relationships become increasingly more complex. That might be why doctors didn’t know you have autism until recently. I think the main reason a diagnosis of autism can be scary is the stigma attached to it in our society. I am committed to uncovering autism like ours, autism that can be hard to spot—so hard to spot, in fact, that it frequently goes undiagnosed or can be misdiagnosed. The more people see and hear from people like you and me, the more normal the whole topic will become. I am also committed to educating the world about how autistics have a LOT to offer. Students diagnosed with autism after early childhood usually have academic skills that are in most ways like their peers’, but they also may have exceptional intellectual abilities in one or more areas, or tremendous artistic or musical talent. Having autism essentially means that our brains function differently. In terms of problem solving and analysis, different can be a real asset! You may have heard of “out-of-the-box thinking”—that means creative, innovative thinking that others are not likely to come up with. Someone with autism often has this type of mind. One of my favorite statements is that an autistic person may sometimes miss what others see, but he or she can often see what others miss; I find this very exciting. Other positive traits autistics often hold are a strong sense of honor and a very kind and sincere heart. I’m honestly proud of my autism and the ways it makes me different. While autism has positive sides, it's important to remember that autistic individuals do require support. There’s a very wide range of ways that language and communication, social issues, and sensory sensitivities can all play in. Finally, anxiety can be a small or large factor in different people with autism. It’s important that you and your parents recognize how your autism affects you so that you can live your best life. The way I look at it, that all means it's a very GOOD thing that your autism has been diagnosed, whether you are in Kindergarten or a higher grade, so that you can now begin to understand yourself better.
Lara Schaeffer guides and mentors adults and young adults as they adjust to a new autism diagnosis. A late-diagnosed autistic individual herself, Lara is a Certified Autism Specialist and has 28 years of experience in education.
For more information on Lara Schaeffer please go to her website Exceptional Summit NJ.