Updated: Nov 8
What is ASD and Why is it Hard to Detect in Adults?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex and diverse condition that affects how people perceive, communicate, and interact with the world. ASD can manifest in different ways in different people, and some may not even realize that they have it. This is especially true for females, who are often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and for those who learn to hide or suppress their autistic traits to fit in with society.
However, living with undetected ASD can have serious consequences for one’s mental health and well-being. Many adults with ASD struggle with feeling alienated, misunderstood, or somehow defective in their daily lives. They may also experience stress, anxiety, depression, or burnout from trying to conform to social norms that are not compatible with their natural inclinations. They may miss out on the opportunity to embrace their unique strengths and challenges and to find support and acceptance from others who share their experiences.
Getting a professional diagnosis of ASD can be very difficult for adults. Many adults face long waiting lists, high costs, or a lack of access to qualified professionals who can evaluate them for ASD. Some may also face stigma or discrimination from their families, friends, or employers if they seek a diagnosis. These barriers prevent many adults from finding out if they have ASD, while the prevalence of ASD continues to rise in the population.
How Does Lara Schaeffer Guide Adults Through Self-Assessment for ASD?
That is why Lara Schaeffer, an autistic teacher and mentor, has created a new service to help adults discover their ASD through guided self-assessment. Lara Schaeffer has a personal and professional background in ASD, having been diagnosed herself at the age of 47 after going through grade school, college, graduate school, and two marriages without knowing she was autistic. She also has a mother, a sister, and a daughter who are all on the spectrum. She has 28 years of experience in teaching and interacting with students, parents, and colleagues, as well as a heightened perception and emotional empathy that her ASD has gifted her with.
Lara Schaeffer uses her expertise and insight to guide adults who suspect they have ASD through a comprehensive and informed self-assessment process. She employs widely used and well-regarded screening tools and evaluative processes that professionals use. She also helps clients explore their personal history, behaviors, preferences, challenges, and strengths that may indicate ASD. She helps clients come to their conclusions about whether or not they have ASD and provides them with resources and support to cope with their findings.
What Are The Benefits of Discovering Your ASD As An Adult?
Not everyone needs or wants a professional diagnosis for ASD, and some simply seek clarity and confidence about their own identity and needs. Many adults who have used her service have reported improved mental health and quality of life after discovering their ASD. They have also reported feeling more empowered and validated in their autistic identity and more connected and supported by the autistic community.
Lara Schaeffer’s mission is to help more adults discover their ASD earlier and more easily so that they can start living happier and more fulfilling lives. She believes that ASD is not a disorder but a difference that should be celebrated and respected. She hopes that by helping more adults discover their ASD, she can also help raise awareness and acceptance of ASD in society.
If you are interested in Lara Schaeffer’s service, you can visit her website, Autism-Discovery.com. There, you can find more information about her background, her approach, her fees, and her testimonials. You can also contact her directly through email or phone to book a session or ask any questions. Societal awareness of autism is increasing rapidly, which has brought an expanded knowledge of the varying presentations that autism can take in different people. These realizations include the u
nderstanding that many more females are autistic than had previously been thought, and that both male and female autistics mask or camouflage their symptoms and do not appear much (if at all) different from those who are not autistic.
Yet adult assessment for autism has been a challenge to obtain in America since before the Covid pandemic
began in early 2020; the landscape is even more bleak for adults world-wide (with some exceptions in the U.K, Australia, and Canada). Both my own autism diagnosis experience in 2019, and the personal data from others internationally which I’ve gathered in the last six months, confirm the obstacles to adult autism assessment.
At the same time, undiagnosed autism poses extreme personal and social challenges to those affected. In addition to feeling not only out of place and unaccepted, but worse yet, simply WRONG in their daily existence, those with undiagnosed autism often distort their natural tendencies in or
der to mask, camouflage, and otherwise cover up qualities, behaviors, and natural reactions to their experience of their environment. These efforts are at best only partially effective, and regardless, lead to emotional exhaustion and crises of identity.
Long waiting lists for assessment appointments as well as fees which are often inaccessible are preventing many adults from determining whether or not they are autistic (while rates of autism diagnosis which have steadily risen in the last three decades imply that many may hav
e been overlooked as children). If autism is not identified, major underlying sources of challenges will continue both unseen and unaddressed, and individuals miss out on the opportunity to understand their differences and how those diff
erences affect them.
In response to these multi-faceted obstacles, I have opened up my services and now guide adults in informed self-assessment for autism. Guiding clients through widely used and well regarded evaluative processes and many of the same screening tools professionals use, I help those who wonder about their own relationship with autism come to a personal understanding of whether or not they are autistic.
The improved mental health and quality of life which has accompanied so many autistic adults’ realizations of their truth is what motivates me in this work. Ideally, unidentified autism can be recognized earlier and more adult autistics can begin healing and can start to enjoy lives of happiness and fulfillment.