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Sanctuary

Is an adult diagnosis useful? (especially re employment)

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Sanctuary

I first learned about ASD just over ten years ago and have believed ever since that it affects me. Lots of reading (including on this forum), personal analysis and online tests have reinforced this self-diagnosis although of course I could be wrong. I have no doubt that undergoing "official" diagnosis would be enlightening and possibly helpful in other ways but two factors in particular have discouraged me going further.

  1. The delays and other difficulties involved in getting a free diagnosis through the state health system (NHS), or the costs of seeking a private diagnosis.
  2. The possible negative impact in terms of employment of having a diagnosis. For me this is the chief reason why I have been reluctant to take matters further.

Exploring the second point a little more, a diagnosis is supposed to help someone with ASD receive more support at work, or to help them find more appropriate employment. My fear - and that's all it may be rather than grounded in fact - is that unfortunately many employers when aware of a diagnosis will discriminate against those with ASD. This is most likely to happen when applying for jobs as it is very difficult for any applicant to prove that declaring ASD was why they weren't selected for interview, or were then unsuccessful at interview. If someone is already in employment these issues do not apply but there is no guarantee employers will make adjustments and a diagnosis may send a signal to some employers that a worker is "needy" or "difficult" or has limited prospects, e.g. they may be unlikely to be promoted.

However I am also aware that declaring ASD to potential or current employers can be useful. Some employers claim to be "autism-friendly" and may be more ready to support those with ASD. Some claim to offer guaranteed interviews to candidates with ASD meeting the job specification - although whether they have any serious intention of employing them is another matter. If employers know a candidate has ASD they may be able to offer a more supportive interview, e.g. being more aware of how socially anxious an ASD candidate may be on such an occasion. If someone with a diagnosis finds getting or retaining employment difficult in the long-term government agencies may be more supportive than if there is no diagnosis.

I still believe the risks of discrimination / negative judgement outweigh the possibilities of more support but I may be wrong. I'd be interested to know from those diagnosed as adults whether they feel this has helped (or hindered) them in their lives, particularly regarding employment. Some members will have been diagnosed at younger ages and your views on whether the diagnosis has been useful will also be good to hear.   

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Dr-David-Banner

I am maybe in a similar position. The problem for me was by the time I became convinced high functioning autism was a huge factor - I felt the system had already missed the boat. The first G.P. I approached stated my conclusions seemed ridiculous, although he did refer me to a local Asperger support group. This latter organization was sympathetic and supportive. Gradually though autism became one of my main interests and I got very confident in the subject. At least so far as it referred to me. Of course, there is a big problem here: I cannot work in pretty much any routine job. I am physically slow and tend to appear strange to people. When I was employed over a ten year period,  complaints were made. They had to swap me around a lot. The facial recognition issue was also a problem as I couldn't often register people. So, I got left in limbo. Officially I have no diagnosis at all. Moreover nobody knows about my secret. Having said that maybe a few people put two and two together. Somehow though I have major issues putting faith in a system that was never there for me. This is just me personally. I'd have thought surely in school something ought to have been undertaken. Rather than assume some kids are dunces or thick. I will add also I am not totally unemployable. A little support and some understanding would have allowed me to fit in a bit more. 

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Dr-David-Banner

I don't think employers will discriminate against you at all. However I do advise to be careful how you describe your condition. I say that because generally people associate autism with low functioning individuals. Most people don't understand you can be effectively crippled in social interaction while remaining above average I.Q. I would never describe myself as autistic to laymen and outsiders. What I do find is if I were to refer to "difficulties interacting" or something like that, nobody bats an eye-lid. Therefore if you do get a diagnosis and refer to it carefully you should have no discrimination issue. Pretty much most of my employed friends have panic attacks  or depression and anxiety. Moreover, you could go private if you can afford it. The main issue for you is it sounds you need support in your job due to the struggles of your spectrum related symptoms.

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Sanctuary
8 hours ago, Dr-David-Banner said:

I cannot work in pretty much any routine job. I am physically slow and tend to appear strange to people. When I was employed over a ten year period,  complaints were made. They had to swap me around a lot. 

You could almost be describing me! Although I'm qualified for higher level jobs and have done them in the past my recent employment background has been difficult and often it seems the more routine jobs are the only ones I'm considered for. Almost all jobs requiring higher qualifications are looking for (although they would never say so explicitly) someone just out of college or university, or they want someone with past experience in that work, specific work-related qualifications or who can move to other parts of the country. This is a problem many people find themselves in - they may be academically well-qualified and have years of experience (sometimes successful) in certain jobs but once they reach a certain age or leave their previous careers (for whatever reason) their options become more limited.

You're quite right that appropriate jobs are out there, as are more supportive employers, but they need a lot of searching for. You're also right that misconceptions by employers about ASD are a key part of the problem and need to be corrected. Simply stating a diagnosis on an application form or mentioning it without further explanation isn't going to help one's case. The key (whether there is a diagnosis to declare or not) is to frame our position in the most positive way possible - to stress what we can do rather than what we can't, as well as looking for jobs which fit our profile of abilities better - a job that fits us rather than a trying to fit ourselves into what may be an unsuitable job. For example a job which doesn't require many practical skills and which has an individual workload, very specific tasks and lots of structure is better for me and that is probably true for many with ASD. 

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Dr-David-Banner

I wish I could recommend to you more of a success story as inspiration but sadly my employment background is dire. At least I now know it all runs far deeper than my being a failure. In reality it started from infant school and onwards. I was a classic case of high autism to fit Asperger's case studies to the letter - unable to function within a social educational structure. Later that extended to the sphere of employment. "Too slow! Not good enough!". The unique thing is I figured if I was excluded from acceptance as I was, I needed to keep doing something at least. So, I studied maths, electronics and music. I had plenty of time to dedicate to it so I got pretty good in those areas. Amazingly too I started to outperform those who used to see me as slow. Even more weirdly my employment issues took a 180 degree turn as I one day realised I was over qualified and over educated. In many ways it's a nightmare I'd not wish anyone else to go through but I have no answers. No matter how hard I worked to deal with the delays I suffered through autism, I still haven't been able to be accepted as I am - with the contradictions between being high functioning and social impotency. I have though made progress in defusing a lot of anger and frustration. It also gave me confort to discover other people have been similar to me. Many musicians shared a vulnerable, outcast personality. John Lennon did very poorly at school and even Brian Epstein was discharged from the army and bullied out of routine employment. His only job was selling vinyl records in his shop before he became a music manager. When The Beatles ceased touring it was too much for Brain and he was found dead in 1967. In fact a great many musicians died very young. And others just became successful in other ways. 

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