An Official Diagnosis: How Important Is It?


I suspect that my 20-year-old son (still living at home) may have Aspergers. Should he get an official diagnosis – or is it better to not know so he doesn’t get labeled?


A lot will depend on how well your son is functioning in daily life. If he is not experiencing any major problems in relationships or employment, it may not be important to get an actual diagnosis of Aspergers (high functioning autism). However, an official diagnosis is necessary if he needs to apply for social benefits at some point (e.g., Social Security Disability, Vocational Rehabilitation). Note that the diagnosis of Aspergers alone will not qualify him for services. He will also need to be diagnosed with some disabling co-morbid condition that affects his ability to function in the work or home environment.

Despite the fact that functioning in a “normal” world can be very difficult for Aspies, a diagnosis of Aspergers does not mean the individual is unable to learn to function, especially if he is fortunate enough to have people in his life that provide the support he needs.

Getting an official diagnosis can be useful if your son needs accommodations in order to perform tasks, or deal with the environment, in an employment situation. Such accommodations may include alternative ways of communicating, a more isolated space, breaks, etc.

On the other hand, if your son is having considerable difficulty with relationships, especially with regards to understanding other’s perspectives, then investigating whether or not he has Aspergers may be important. He may need to (a) explore what it is he expects and needs from relationships and (b) learn how to advocate for what he wants in a non-demanding manner. If he decides to seek help in this regard, he should be sure that the diagnostician has experience with -- and is accepting of -- Aspergers differences.

Who should you contact?

Psychologists or neuropsychologists will arrive at a diagnosis through testing. This can be helpful if your son is looking for more information on areas of learning strength and differences. A neuropsychologist looks at neurological and psychological issues. This type of assessment can provide helpful information, but only if the psychologist or neuropsychologist is familiar with neurological differences associated with Aspergers. Otherwise, the report is not likely to provide an accurate picture of your son that he can relate to and use.

A psychiatrist will often diagnose the client after getting a history and talking with you and your son (or others who know your son). A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication that may be helpful in dealing with comorbid conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.).

The choice should always be left up to your son as to whether or not he wants to try medication. Medication can have side effects he will need to be aware of. Be aware that psychotropic medications (e.g., antidepressants) ) must never be stopped suddenly, and long-term use can sometimes result in a form of tics. Your son always has the choice of trying natural supplements that have a similar influence on brain chemistry. Unfortunately the manufacturers of supplements are unregulated, so his doctor probably won’t support their use, and his insurance is not going to cover their cost.


•    Anonymous said... Defo best for a diagnosis my son is 14,& only got a diagnosis this yr it makes a huge difference opens doors for then & gives them lots of support iv learnt that it can be a lonely life for them out with the family without the help & support xx
•    Anonymous said... Get a diagnosis so he can deal with it in adult life.
•    Anonymous said... He could apply for an rdsp if he has a diagnosis. The savings of that could help him later in life if he needs it.
Knowing might make him more open to meeting other like him, and take workshops and join groups.
•    Anonymous said... I dont know what to do. My 7 year old was diagnosed with aspergers in january of this year. He is a holy terror, disrespectful, a bully, its never his fault we have tried talking to him, explaining things to him, grounding him, nothing works. I dont know where to turn. He is destroying his life, his brothers and our whole family. It breaks my heart to see him struggling so much. Help please
•    Anonymous said... My daughter was a lot younger (11) when she was diagnosed, but it was such a relief for her. Kids with Asperger's know they are different. I think it helps to know why and that there are many others out there who are like them. My daughter considers Asperger's a special club to which only unique individuals belong and even goes to a social group with other autistic teens (most of whom are high functioning like her).
•    Anonymous said... NEED HELP! I have a 25 yr. old aspie daughter who lives with me at home, does not have a job, has a driver's license but is afraid to go out on the highway, gets social security disability but doesn't give me any money for room and board, now has a drinking problem. Its 11 am on a Saturday morning and she is already drunk. She is spiteful. I have a full time job and work all day M-F and when I get home she has helped herself to my personal belongings in my bedroom. We have tried counseling but that never works. I am a single mom. Her dad can't handle her. I can't handle her. I don't know what else to do besides get a restraining order and have her removed from my home.
•    Anonymous said... Since he is an adult I would yalk to him about it. Since our son's diagnosis, my son is more confident and understands why he's a little different and can make adjustments. He also has gifts he understands better.
*    Anonymous said... I lived with aspergers for 47 yrs. There have been so many things I could have understood better and adapted my life better after had I known from the start. I didn't get my diagnosis until 3 yrs ago. There have been much pain that could have been avoided. Getting answers to all the "why's" are so important, and there are many.
*    Anonymous said... My son is almost 20. He was diagnosed earlier this year and refuses to accept it. I am very supportive but its draining. He was misdiagnosed 10yrs ago. Didn't get the right help...medicated when he shouldn't have been. He's happier off them...but he was failed by the doctors in many ways...didn't get support at school and didnt finish. Now he sits in his room and plays Xbox...has friends online and one from school he sees 2 to 3 times a year. All I want is for him to try and accept it and others to understand and not be so judgemental!

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Anonymous said...

if you know he will recievve services through the state to care for him...if not, you wont...

Anonymous said...

its better he knows so he can understand himself

Anonymous said...

My advice is to read all you can learn all you want shut the book & continue with your lives. At 14 years old my daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers during many years of assessments & diagnostics I came to realise that I may too have Aspergers, but ïm married have children, hold a full time job managing 30 people, so with a little understanding & a lot of patience a 'normal' life can be had. Good luck with your decision x

Anonymous said...

Learn all you can about the disorder and then follow your instincts...it can be overwhelming..there will be those times when you get conflicting advise.

Anonymous said...

i hate this whole "fear of labeling" thing. don't you want your son to not be discriminated against for the simple fact of people not understanding WHY he is different? i have a friend who is 42, recently diagnosed and that diagnosis is the only thing that saved him from being fired from his job of 10 years...that he is EXCEPTIONALLY skilled at. he was being reprimanded for his interpersonal "issues". i KNEW he had aspergers (as does my son). he went from almost fired to promoted. once HR UNDERSTOOD why he had problems in the areas he does. not to mention that RELIEF for him, personally. he has felt "broken" his whole life and not understood why. i strongly suggest getting a proper diagnosis, looking into occupational therapy and facilitating the best life possible for your son.

Anonymous said...

At 20 years of age it would be important to permit him autonomy- to identify himself - or not. This can be handled through a therapist familiar with ASD - as a 3rd person outside of the parents will be more neutral. A therapist can also provide family therapy and help facilitate services too. This frees the parents for their important role of supporting their son holistically and unconditionally w/o being the target of anger or frustration or "bad guy" in the process of emotions that may arise. Following up with the services of a life coach may also help. good luck and blessings for success.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I would find out. The more we can learn about ourselves the better. And he will have a family some day and will need tools to cope with that. Don't shy away from anything. And as far as labelling goes?? Everyone is labelled somehow, whether u may be blonde, male, female, fat, thin, rich, poor. Never be ashamed. It brings strength. Good luck and god speak. Xx

Anonymous said...

i am 41 and have aspergers, trust me the worst thing you can do is get them officicially disgnosed. its a label for life and makes it VERY DIFFICULT to find a job. i have been medically signed of for the last 5 years because my doctor, who is very understanding, could see how depressing it was for me going to multiple job interviews and getting no where at all.

Anonymous said...

I was officially diagnosed at 32 and did it mainly for acknowledgement that I wasn't just a 'freak' I have found it too be useful though as I have been able to use it to explain better to people why I cannot do somethings or why they are more difficult for me or for a little extra help or support such as my uni tutor doesn't expect me to attend the group tutorials (I'm studying from home)

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