Online Extra: Ask the Author – Now Live

This page is for those who have read Am I Autistic? A Guide to Autism & Asperger’s Self-Diagnosis for Adults and are looking for the Online Author Q & A Section.

As explained in the book – I have 10 years’ professional experience in the career guidance sector and as there seems to be minimal targeted support available for professional autistics (and little support for adult autistics in general), I am adding this ‘Q & A’ section so those with questions about the self-diagnosis process as well as those seeking tips on how autistics can best handle interviews/job applications and working in a ‘non-autistic’ environment can post a question online (in confidence).

I can’t promise I will have all the answers but it might be useful for those who want to talk to a fellow autistic about their experiences of living and working in a non-autistic world.

If you think you may be on the autism spectrum and have any questions about the self-diagnosis process, job-hunting or the workplace, please post your question using the contact form below.

Important Note about Privacy:

If you wish to remain anonymous please do not add any personal information in the fields below (although your Town/Country is required as the answer may vary depending on the cultural environment where you live).

If you are happy to have your name, age, location and job title published then please add them below (your email address will remain confidential).

Regards,

Lydia Andal

QUESTION – November 2017 – Millie

Age: 68

Job Title if Employed: Not provided

Town/Country: Australia

Your Question!

Hi, I was diagnosed in August this year. I had a couple of weeks of feeling angry that I had lived my life not knowing who I was. I then had 3 months of feeling relieved and happy I had received the diagnosis at all. The last few days I have been feeling an overwhelming grief about who I might have been and how my life would have been so different if I had known. I saw my psychologist yesterday, I only see her too talk about Aspergers, not therapy. However she refused to allow me to talk about my grief and now I feel so alone with it. I do not know any Aspies and have found the internet support sites unhelpful as I do not identify as being autistic because I have internalised our cultures negative views and attitudes. I identify as a high functioning Asperger woman.

I need suggestions of resources that can assist me with this overwhelming grief.

Thank you

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Hello Millie,

Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your difficult diagnosis experience. You might not be aware that the grief you are feeling is a common experience of those who receive a late diagnosis (Age 30+), and the alternating mix of elation/grief is shared by many people in your situation.

I appreciate that this knowledge in itself won’t make you feel any better, however finding other people who are going through a similar experience may be very helpful for you.

I’m not sure what sites you have already visited, however there are two I would recommend for you as follows:

Both of these groups should be a supportive place for you to add a post describing your mixed feelings about your diagnosis, or comment on similar posts from others as they come up.

(With the Autistic Women’s Facebook Page it might be helpful to message the admins first asking them if they can do a post on the topic of adult diagnosis on your behalf).

Initially, it might be worth sticking with the topic of mixed feelings about diagnosis, rather than opening up an additional discussion around the difference between ‘autism’ and ‘high functioning autism’ as you describe below. The debate between the different labels of autism is something you might want to discuss in a separate post so as not to confuse the core issue of your grief at not finding out sooner.

I hope you find these tips helpful.

Best Regards,

Lydia

QUESTION – March 2017 – Randy

Age: 56

Job Title if Employed: Horticulture

Town/Country: Not Provided

Your Question!

I took the MMP3 about 4 yrs ago.what result that stuck out to my psychologist was high in schizoid traits. Is there a relationship with aspergers? That’s why I’m interested in aspergers. How are these two conditions differentiated

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Hello Randy,

Thank you for your question.

Firstly, I should add that I personally wouldn’t call autism a ‘condition’, I would call it a difference in brain wiring.

Secondly, if by the MMP3 you are referring to the gene test I’m afraid that is something I am not familiar with.

In answer to your question about any relationship between Schizophrenia and Asperger’s, I can only highlight what I put in my book which is that it is not uncommon for a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in people who are actually autistic, because some psychologists/psychiatrists are unable to tell the difference between schizophrenic traits such as social withdrawal and a seemingly erratic communication style, and that of autism which can also have similar traits – for different reasons.

A key difference is that hallucinations and delusions are a feature of schizophrenia but not autism.

Hope this helps.

Best Regards,

Lydia.

QUESTION – January 2017 – Anonymous

Age: Not Provided

Job Title if Employed: Not Provided

Town/Country: Manchester, England

Your Question!

Dear Lydia,

I came across your book by chance and have found it an enlightened antidote to so much of the information about autism! I am thinking about sharing it with my brother who is intellectually bright and despite social awkwardness and extremely challenging life events he has, to his credit, managed to get through school and university with good grades. He has struggled however on entering the world of work, both in knowing where he fits and what he wants to do.

He is in the early stages of figuring things out and wouldn’t identify as autistic though he would recognise traits. As your book points out the world is hostile to anyone who may be a bit different so this isn’t a neutral process. I was impressed by your ethical stance in the book. It would also be great to be able to access the service you were offering. Do you offer personal career guidance / consultation or know of anyone who does?

Many thanks

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your question – I am glad you connected with the message of the book.

I am currently working on my next book and unable to offer any personal consultations, however you might find the National Careers Service is a useful starting point for your brother as he can talk to an Advisor for some free guidance and tips to help get him thinking about his options.

This link will take you to the main home page for the service, and your brother can talk to an Advisor via webchat, email or telephone here.

Regarding your brother figuring out whether or not he may be on the spectrum, I would recommend your idea of sharing Am I Autistic? with him in an informal/casual way. If he connects with the message of the book and has any career-related questions, then you can encourage him to post a question here and I will answer him directly that way.

I hope this helps, and thank you for your Question!

Best Regards,

Lydia Andal

QUESTION – December 2016 – Clinical Psychologist from England

Age: 51

Job Title if Employed: Clinical Psychologist

Town/Country: North West England

Your Question!

Dear Lydia

Congratulations on a much needed book – I have worked for 10 years in the adult mental health service and have been diagnosing many adults who have ended up in our mental health service.

We don’t provide a dedicated ASD diagnostic service but find regularly patients referred for mental health difficulties have undiagnosed ASD. I too have been unhappy & concerned as a clinician with the pathologising nature of the diagnostic instruments which I use namely the ADI-R and the DISCO and I frankly dislike the ADOS – Having worked many years in identifying ASD I have felt constrained by the tools we are meant to use – I have also been disappointed at the major theories of ASD until recently and have found Peter Vermuelin book on ‘Context ‘ really helpful also your own excellent book which I can now recommend to my patients.

I have never been happy ‘ diagnosing’ people without their full engagement and agreement and your book offers me an opportunity to let my patients decide and contribute to my own assessment and hopefully they will feel more involved and in agreement – if they now don’t agree with my findings and they have read your book I can at least be clear that they know what the issues are.

Many many thanks and keep up the excellent work

[Full Name Provided]

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Thank you for posting this question, which is more of a comment – it is much appreciated.

I am aware you have provided your practice area and full name, and I have removed these to retain your professional confidentiality.

I am so glad that Am I Autistic? will be recommended to your patients, and it is likely I will be in touch with you in the future to follow-up on your above thoughts as I begin work on my future autism-related projects.

Thank you again, for your inspiring message.

Best Regards,

Lydia Andal

QUESTION – September 2016 – Anonymous from Canada

Age: 45

Job Title if Employed: Arts related

Town/Country: Canada

Your Question!

Dear Lydia,

Thank you so much for your book, which I read last month. It was just what I needed, a huge help. My profession is my life, and I identified strongly with the level of discipline and integrity you bring to your work and also that you started out being a musician.

My condition has affected my ability to get ahead in my career. It might have had a positive impact on the quality of my work itself, but certainly a negative affect on my ability to form ties and alliances with people.

People speak positively about my work, but then making social ties always feels very complicated; at best. I would be very interested in learning about some form of career consulting. Thanks…

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Thank you for your kind words mystery Questioner from Canada – a place I have long wanted to visit but not yet managed to get to.

I’m not sure what position you have in the arts, but I would imagine that getting ahead by networking and ‘who you know’ is incredibly important in your sector.

Of course this is the Achilles heel of autism, and something I have struggled with over the years although now I’m in my mid-thirties I am – with much concentrated effort – getting better at making connections with people for work purposes.

This is possible because I work independently and go to various specific events several times a year – for a specific reason and only when I need to. If I had to work in the same office with the same people every day, I would no doubt find it as tiring as I did in my twenties.

I received your follow up questions clarifying that your aim for the above was to see if I could suggest somewhere that you could get some useful career guidance from.

I’m not familiar with where you would go in Canada, but there is a really useful British online tool that I recommend to people in your situation.

It’s called the Prospects Career Planner and it is targeted at Graduates, however the results and information provided is just as applicable for adults considering a career change. It starts with a Quiz and you can take it here.

If you are not keen on taking the Quiz for any reason you can browse through different job profiles grouped by sector here. I like these profiles because they clearly lay out routes for progression from entry level to senior level. Clearly the qualifications will be different in Canada, so it’s best this is used as a starting point for considering your next move.

I should also mention that perhaps it might be worth enrolling on a business networking course – the type that helps you learn to network more effectively. I had a quick look and there is one at York University in Toronto next month which looks very well structured. You can read about it here. I’m not sure if it will be suitable, but it is certainly worth seeing if there is a similar course near you.

I’m glad you found the book helpful and I hope you find the Prospects Planner helpful.

Please ensure you sign up to the mailing list on this site to be notified of my next autism-related book which will be announced early next year. If you’re interested in the arts I’m sure you will find the next book of interest as it covers that sector.

Best Regards,

Lydia

QUESTION – June 2016 – Gary from Australia

Name:  Gary

Age: 38

Job Title if Employed: Programmer

Town/Country: Australia

Your Question!

Hi Lydia,

Thank you for your book.

I’m writing looking for some direction about how to proceed next. Can you recommend any books or authors to help me rebuild my life into the future, now that I suspect that I may be a ‘professional’ and undiagnosed autistic.

I have to emphasise expect. I’m not entirely sure how to interpret the results of the tests… Am I normal, autistic with normal traits, or normal with autistic traits. My spider diagram I completed recently looks mostly ‘average’ on both sides (5 give or take), with a summary that I have autistic and non-autistic traits, whatever that means. Any help on interpreting this or pointers to forums would be greatly appreciated.

Internally, I am screaming in some areas like a need for order, routine, intensely focusing on interests, ‘rocking’ and ‘tapping’ and b&w thinking to name a few. I have been suppressing and avoiding these to some degree for a very long time (20 odd years), forcing myself to adopt other ways that I’m told are more ‘acceptable’ or as I’ve often taken to be ‘less annoying’.

For as many years as I can remember I’ve felt like a square peg forcing myself in to a round society, feeling like I have had to try harder than those around me to survive in society. I’ve been actively looking for my missing ‘puzzle piece’ for over a decade. I’ve seen multiple councillors which ended with me being treated for depression and/or told to ‘change how I think’. It’s only with my 9 year old son being diagnosed Aspergers and eventually stumbling on your book that answers have started coming.

I see many of the past events in my life differently now. I see behaviour patterns and struggles from a different angle and think ‘oh my god’ I do (or did) that. And feel somewhat ashamed for how jobs and relationships have turned out for me.

It has all left me confused. I’m in a bit of a no-mans land. I’m 38 and I am struggling to know who I actually am and how to proceed / map out / think of the next part of my life’s journey.

I have a supportive wife, though I can see how I (and my son) are an emotional drain on her. I already feel that I ask too much of her and its straining our relationship. My parents are anything but supportive. “What’s the cure?”, “it’s just boys” or “life’s just too complicated these days” are standard lines. And I discover too that Aunties and my Grade 3 teacher raised with them the possibility that I might be autistic way back when I was a kid. Grrrrrr.

Anyhow I’ve rambled enough. Thanks again for your excellent book, and I look forward to any tips you may be able to provide.

Regards
Gary.

ANSWER – Lydia Andal

Dear Gary,

Thank you for your question – I am glad you found my book useful.

Here are some tips as requested – I’m not anticipating that my future answers will be as detailed, however as you have raised some excellent, broad questions that I often get asked it makes sense to address them all in one post.

Useful Books

I would recommend ‘Being Autistic’ published by AutAngel, a social enterprise run by autistic people for autistic people. I contributed a chapter and you might find the diverse range of stories and contributions from other autistic men and women useful. You can download ‘Being Autistic’ in PDF form for free or order a printed copy via the AutAngel site here.

‘Neurotribes’ by Steve Silberman is also a good book to read. I’m not sure it will help you rebuild your life as such, but like my book and ‘Being Autistic’, it might give you some confidence that many of the issues you describe are more to do with the way society defines autism and ‘neurological differences’. Essentially, Neurotribes echoes my point that society needs to be more accepting of neurodiversity and different mannerisms such as the rocking, tapping and other traits you mention which cause no harm to anyone.

Aspie Quiz Results

When you talk about your Spider Diagram, I assume you mean your Aspie Quiz results. As such, the key in interpreting the results lay in the specific areas that the chart spikes on. You could try posting your results on wrongplanet.net (a large American forum), hopefully they should have other autistic people on there willing to help you better interpret your results. It might be helpful if you look for an active thread like this one which is discussing the Aspie Quiz first, rather than post a completely new thread if you can.

What I would say is that it is probably not helpful to define yourself as ‘normal’ or autistic as it is society – namely the medical profession – that has decided that autism is always to be defined as abnormal or ‘something that is wrong’. Yet, this is often only the case if you compare autistic traits to dictated ‘social norms’ which have been forced upon autistic people, which we had no say in creating or agreeing and yet are expected to abide by.

If you aren’t sure exactly where you fit on the autism spectrum (if anywhere), that’s fine, it just might be useful to know that to be autistic and okay with that is to be ‘normal’ for many people on the spectrum.

Here are other forum links I found about the Aspie Quiz result – some are recent some are years old, but they include other people’s results, so you might them interesting:

http://www.social-anxiety-community.org/db/showthread.php?p=2175190

http://asperclick.com/topic/3207-aspie-quiz/

http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?t=61235

http://www.psychforums.com/asperger-syndrome/topic52906.html

Autistic Stimming

You might be aware that autistic people with very obvious stimming mannerisms such as hand flapping, rocking, or tapping are more liable to get stressed if they are encouraged to supress these natural expressions of joy, stress, sadness or boredom.

The issue is that – with a few exceptions – the large group that is wider society has decided to enforce its own view on what is ‘normal’ onto the minority group that is autistic people, and in doing so has decided that these and other mannerisms are ‘sad, bad or mad’ which causes more stress for the autistic person who expresses themselves in this way.

I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for your dilemma other than to say that society does seem to be slowly moving towards an understanding of the autistic spectrum and neurological differences. In your case it is important that you find a ‘safe space’ in your home to express yourself at the end of a stressful day, or when you want to relax.

If you are worried about being an ‘emotional drain’ then that is because you have empathy. I can assure you that whilst you are concerned for other people’s feelings then there is hope for your personal relationships in the future. The key is not to neglect your own feelings as they deserve equal importance as you move into this new phase of your life. Posting this question is a good step towards identifying and looking after your own feelings.

Below, I have attached an exercise called ‘How Good are you to Yourself’ which you can download and print out which might help you ensure that you are investing in yourself as well as your family as you move forward with your life.

I’ve also attached an excerise called ‘Identify What You Are Tolerating’ which you might find useful.

How Good Are You To Yourself (PDF)

Identify What You Are Tolerating (PDF)

Past Mistakes

I’m glad that you have started finding the answers to your questions and that you are starting a new phase of your life journey. I have a long list of things where I think ‘I really didn’t make life easy when I said that, or did that’, and as a perfectionist myself I am always aware of any ‘errors’ I might have made previously and tend to make sure I don’t make the same error twice.

However, I am always clear on what is a personal ‘error’ and what is a personal or cultural difference. For example, if someone thinks I am odd because I don’t want to participate in a party game which involves physical contact (because I don’t want others near my personal space), I am very clear that is their issue and not mine.

Conversely, if I were to cause an upset at the party because I said the game was stupid and pointless and anyone who wanted to play it was stupid, then I would accept that would be my error – because it could be viewed as rude to the others who want to play the game.

As a result of my own personal development journey, I am able to leave the past in the past, which is essential if you want to move forward with your life. In your case, carrying around the ‘shame’ that you mention about your previous jobs/relationships is not likely to be healthy or productive and it is important you forgive your younger self as you move forward with your life.

Below, I have attached two exercises that you can download called ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Mistakes’ that I find useful.

Letting Go PDF

Mistakes PDF

Journey Planning

You say you are looking for tips on how to proceed with the next phase of your journey – I would say keep doing what you’re doing as it seems like you are taking lots of steps in the right direction.

Below is an exercise called ‘This Year’s Goals’ which you might find useful to help you with goal-setting.

This Year’s Goals PDF

Your son is very lucky that he has a father who is thoughtful and sensitive to other people’s feelings. Once you have worked through your own journey, in the future you might be able to guide him on his journey too.

Here is a link to an article I thought was useful entitled “10 Things I Wish People Knew About Dating Someone on the Autism Spectrum By Kerry Magro”. I found a link to this article on the excellent ‘Anonymously Autistic’ blog which you can read here.

Whatever you do next – remember a big journey is made up from lots of little steps.

Thank you for taking the time to read my book and post your question.

Best Regards,

Lydia Andal

Author, Am I Autistic? A Guide to Autism & Asperger’s Self-Diagnosis for Adults

Do you have any tips?

If you have anything you would like to contribute to a topic on this page, please use the comments form below. If you would like to post a new question on a new topic, please use the contact form above.

 

Disclaimer:

Whilst the author is a trained and experienced Career Coach, Lydia is not a qualified counsellor and would advise anyone struggling with mental health issues to seek advice from a qualified practitioner on the issue.

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