Autism Awareness: Make It Personal
Do people with autism have a greater quality of life if they are aware of their diagnosis?
New research published in the April 11, 2022 issue of Autism seems to indicate that the answer is “yes.”
In a University of Portsmouth study of 78 autistic university students, the research team reported that there was a heightened quality of life and well-being later for those who learned they were autistic earlier (i.e., pre-adulthood), although even learning one is autistic in adulthood was linked to more positive emotions compared to not being told about one’s diagnosis.
According to University of Portsmouth Psychology Lecturer Dr. Steven Kapp, who himself was diagnosed with autism at age 13 and informed of the diagnosis, the general consensus on telling someone they have autism seems to be, “the sooner the better.” In fact, the students in the survey expressed that they thought it was better for parents to tell children they are autism (rather than wait until they are adults) “in ways that help them understand and feel good about who they are.”
“Our study shows that it is probably best to tell people they are autism as soon as possible in a balanced, personal, and developmentally appropriate way,” says Kapp. “Learning one is autistic can be empowering because it helps people understand themselves and also helps them connect with other people like them.”
Research published on adults with autism in the September 4, 2021 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders uncovered similar findings. Adults diagnosed with autism earlier in life had better quality of life outcomes compared those diagnosed later, both in terms of social success and mental health. As with even earlier research published in the February 2020 edition of Autism, adults who received a diagnosis of autism “express relief, improved social strategies self-acceptance, and a formation of an autistic identity helped by connection to autistic peers.”
If your child or teen has been diagnosed with autism, you may want to read the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community’s guide on “Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism.”
Wendy Burt-Thomas writes about the brain, mental health and parenting.
Check out the original research: