Why Seek a Diagnosis?Adults sometimes read, hear information or are told by others about Asperger’s Syndrome and wonder if they might have it. Some believe that the information matches their history and their current situation and, and a result, they diagnosis themselves with Asperger’s. In other cases, professionals who are not experienced in Asperger’s may recommend that a client seek a diagnosis from an expert. In these instances, seeking an official diagnosis is beneficial. A diagnosis is necessary if one wants to apply for certain forms of financial assistance. It is also needed to request reasonable accommodations for employment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
How is an Official Diagnosis Made?There are two basic avenues to diagnosing Asperger’s in adults:
- Psychological testing. Because Asperger’s is related to certain neurological activity in the brain, a certain type of evaluation known as neuropsychological testing is often used to establish whether someone has Asperger’s. The specific areas that are examined and measured in this type of testing include motor and psychomotor skills, memory, executive functions, problem-solving, concept formation, visual-perceptual skills, degree of self-sufficiency in real-life situations, academic achievement (performance in school-like subjects), and personality assessment.
- Clinical Diagnosis. A mental health professional with the credentials and expertise may also make a diagnosis of Asperger’s. Typically, the process involves obtaining a history of the person’s social, emotional, academic and work background; assessing past documentation relevant to possible Asperger’s; and observing how the person relates along certain social/emotional dimensions.
The Process I Use to Diagnosis Asperger’sI have a specific process I follow in assessing and diagnosing Asperger’s:
- First, I ask the person to complete two questionnaires on my website. These are tools to detect whether a person is likely to have Asperger’s. Relying completely on these questionnaires or other self-report measures, however, is not wise as currently there is no single test or groups of tests that conclusively establish the presence of Asperger’s.
- Second, I meet with the person for at least three sessions during which I gather information, ask a series of questions and conduct observations. My focus is on assessing the person’s social and emotional presentation, quality of attachment to family members, development of peer relationships and friendships, capacities for self-awareness, perspective-taking and level of insight into social and behavioral problems, and ability to understand another person’s feelings, intentions and beliefs. I also look for the presence of other problem areas such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
- Third, I review any documentation the person may have, such as previous school and pediatrician reports, medical assessments, work evaluations or other descriptions of the person that could shed light on the question of Asperger’s.
- Based on all the information I have gathered I make a determination of Asperger’s and present my conclusions in a face-to-face meeting with the person.
How is a Diagnosis Useful?The uses of a diagnosis vary quite a bit. Here is a list of some:
- Do a life review. Understand why careers and relationships have or have not been successful.
- Renew or repair relationships affected by Asperger’s.
- Ask for accommodations at work or pursue work that is more fitting.
- Find people who share similar interests.
- Work differently with helping professionals.
- Consider disclosure to family, friends, partner, and/or co-workers.
- Join interest-based groups and strengthen socializing skills.