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Hello!

Earlier this month I attended Autism Oxford’s latest event headlined by Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett together with additional speakers from the Autism Oxford training team. Every presentation was rich with helpful information and insights whatever your interest and experience with Autism.

Attwood and Garnett presented latest best practice for diagnosing Autism and, in particular, the urgent need for different/new assessments for adults and girls/women as well as disentangling Autism from other conditions that have similar symptoms and presentation. In diagnosis, professionals are looking for patterns and misreading them can lead to misdiagnosis and subsequent difficulties for the individual and their family with challenges they are facing that has led them to seek diagnosis in the first place. The challenge for professionals is teasing out important information to clarify what is Autism and what are other conditions.

Better Assessments Needed for Adults

Tony and Michelle acknowledged that Autism assessments for children are not necessarily right for adults. Over years many adults have masked their autistic traits, meaning the patterns are more difficult to tune into with the traditional tests. Many repress their own identity to fit into the neurotypical world they inhabit. For some only a brain scan will show the extent to which they are using the intellectual part of their brain rather than the intuitive part – the main contributor to emotional and energy exhaustion. They present externally as neurotypical and over time anxiety and depression are common co-occurring conditions, the high cost of not being you a majority of the time. Treating only the co-occurring condition will not deliver an improved experience for the individual so looking beneath these to the core of the issue is so important.

Diagnosis Best Practice

Attwood and Garnett stressed the importance of professionals using multiple and appropriate tests and 360 degrees of information from individual and significant others, including spouse, to reach accurate conclusions. They recommend the RITVO scale for adults (RAADS-R) which looks at how the picture has changed over time – what is true now and when I was young versus only what is true now. ADOS, a common diagnostic, is good for children under 4 years old, which is what it was designed for. It is not sensitive enough for average and above average intellect though it is still often the test of choice for professionals.

Co-occuring Conditions

According to Attwood, most autistic individuals have at least one other co-occurring condition, e.g. Dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, depression, alcoholism and others. Looking for more than one pattern and distinguishing closely related patterns is important so that individuals gain greater and accurate self awareness to ultimately help them access the most beneficial support. Tony asked a psychiatrist in Australia how much training did you have in Autism – one hour!!! Even more illuminating, research conducted by Attwood in Brisbane, Australia found that 50% of patients at an eating disorders clinic and 25% of patients at a gender identity clinic met the criteria for Autism showing that for some, the presenting issue is masking a deeper one that is often getting missed.

Implications for Neurodiverse Relationships

So what is the significance of these latest findings for those of us in neurodiverse relationships?

My reflections are threefold:

  1. If your partner is seeking a diagnosis, ask specific questions of professionals about what assessments they use and make sure they reflect latest best practice for diagnosing Autism.
  2. It is likely you’re living with someone who has a number of conditions, not only Autism and consequently, it’s important to find appropriate partner support for that too.
  3. All of these conditions present their own set of challenges for a partner/spouse – improving and sustaining your own wellbeing (social, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial) and self-care is of paramount importance so that you are well and stay well in spite of challenges you live with day by day – a combination of mutual support and professional support offers the best outcome.

Questions on these latest findings? Call me anytime on 07977 58572 or book a complimentary consultation.

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With love and supportive sparkle…

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Natalie Roberts

Author Natalie Roberts

Natalie Roberts is an award-winning Master Coach and Mentor supporting individuals and couples in neurodiverse relationships in the UK and around the world. She coaches individuals and couples to reverse the impact of unknown neurodiversity and thrive so that they can be true to themselves and feel empowered to make decisions about their present and future that are positive and hopeful.

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