Understanding diagnosis

Understanding Diagnosis

Autism is a natural variation in human neurology, encompassing differences in social communication, sensory processing, and behavior. Embracing a neurodiversity affirming perspective means recognizing and celebrating these differences rather than viewing them as deficits. This approach focuses on acceptance, support, and inclusion for Autistic individuals.


The neurodiversity affirming perspective values the unique strengths and qualities of Autistic individuals. It shifts the narrative from “curing” Autism to understanding and supporting neurodiversity. This approach promotes respect, acceptance, and the provision of appropriate accommodations to help Autistic individuals thrive.


Learning you are Autistic can be a pivotal moment for many, providing clarity and validation. It opens doors to essential supports, services, and accommodations that can significantly enhance an individual’s quality of life. Identification also fosters a deeper understanding of oneself, leading to increased self-acceptance.


Diagnostic Process from a Neurodiversity Affirming Perspective

Initial Observations: Questions about developmental differences may arise from parents, caregivers, teachers, or the individuals themselves. A neuroaffirming approach ensures these questions are met with empathy and without stigma.

Comprehensive Assessment: A specialist such as a psychiatrist, paediatrician, clinical psychologist, or a team of general psychologist and speech pathologist conducts a thorough evaluation, focusing on both strengths and challenges. This assessment should be strengths-based, highlighting the individual’s capabilities and unique qualities.

Collaborative Approach: The diagnostic process should involve collaboration between the individual, their family, and professionals. The insights and experiences of the Autistic individual are central to this process.

Respectful Tools: Using assessment tools that respect and validate neurodivergent experiences is crucial. While flexibility in applying standard diagnostic criteria is limited due to professional standards, many professionals are opting for assessment tools that affirm one’s experiences rather than address deficits, such as the MIGDAS-2. These tools can be used in the interview process to emphasize the individual narrative.

Affirming Identity: Sharing the identification should be done with care and sensitivity. It’s essential to provide clear information, emphasising that the identification helps in understanding and supporting the individual better.

Post-Identification Support

Personalised Support Plans: Developing individualised support plans that focus on strengths, preferences, and needs is crucial. These plans should be adaptable, evolving as the individual grows and their circumstances change.

Self-Advocacy: Encouraging self-advocacy and providing tools for Autistic individuals to understand and articulate their needs is essential. Empowering individuals to make informed decisions is a core component of a neurodiversity affirming approach.

Community and Peer Support: Connecting with other Autistic individuals and neurodiverse communities provides invaluable support. These communities offer a sense of belonging and understanding that is profoundly affirming.

Education for Families and Professionals: Educating families, educators, and professionals about neurodiversity and neurodiversity affirming practices fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment.

Being Newly Diagnosed as Autistic

Learning you are Autistic can be a validating experience, often described as “coming home” to oneself. However, it can also bring about a period of adjustment and self-reflection. It’s common to feel a mix of emotions as you navigate this new understanding of yourself.

Navigating Relationships

Post-identification, relationships may shift as you reassess dynamics with family, friends, and colleagues. Some may lack understanding due to stereotypes and misinformation about Autism. It’s important to approach these changes with patience and seek out supportive and informed communities.

Seeking Support and Accommodations

Depending on your needs, you might explore various supports and accommodations to help you thrive. In Australia, for instance, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can provide funding for necessary supports. However, it’s equally valid to take your time to process this new information and determine what feels right for you.

Discovering Your Autistic Identity

Even if you’ve been identified recently, you’ve always been Autistic. This new understanding can lead to profound self-discovery and reassessment of past experiences. Learning about Autism and connecting with other Autistic individuals can provide valuable insights and foster self-acceptance.

Disclosing Your Autistic Identity

Deciding whether to disclose your identification is a personal choice. Reactions from others can vary, and it’s important to prepare for a range of responses. Surround yourself with supportive people and resources to help navigate these conversations confidently.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Many newly identified Autistic individuals experience imposter syndrome, doubting their identification or feeling “not Autistic enough.” Remember, Autism is a spectrum, and everyone’s experience is unique. Embrace your identity and recognize that you are valid just as you are.

Why a Neurodiversity Affirming Perspective?

Adopting a neurodiversity affirming perspective in the identification and support of Autistic individuals promotes acceptance, respect, and understanding. It shifts the focus from trying to “fix” Autistic traits to celebrating and accommodating neurodiversity. By embracing this approach, we can create a more inclusive society that values the unique contributions of every individual, regardless of their neurological makeup.