“I think my husband has Asperger’s, where can we get a diagnosis”?

Why seek a diagnosis as an adult?
There are many reasons to seek a diagnosis of ASD as an adult. Often those seeking a diagnosis have a child with ASD and have suspected for a long time that something is not quite right with themselves or their partner.

A diagnosis can help put things in perspective and enable the adult with ASD to gain support to overcome difficulties, particularly when the person is having problems with issues such as unemployment, substance abuse or relationships. Adult females with ASD may be referred for or seek a diagnosis after experiencing mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health issues for many years.

Characteristics of Adults with ASD/Asperger’s

  • May have average or above average intelligence
  • Hardworking and focused in some areas
  • Passionate
  • Either very disorganised or completely neat
  • Often wear similar clothing day after day regardless of fashion
  • Have difficulty managing money or be very controlling of spending to the point of discomfort
  • Have problems with rage or may express no emotions at all/shut down
  • Either have very little interest in sexual intimacy or their partner or may have an overly high sex drive
  • Poor eye contact
  • May be physically clumsy, poorly coordinated or awkward
  • Not understand the actions or emotions of their partner
  • Can be often blunt or perceived as rude
  • Very knowledgeable in fields related to their interest but have poor skills in other areas
  • Display very rigid thinking
  • Sensitive to noise/ light/touch/smell
  • Forgetful or unaware of the significance of important dates or events – i.e. their spouse’s birthday, but have an infinite memory for numbers or facts- for example the model number of the DVD player
  • Poor planning and organising skills –i.e. day to day tasks, organising children, meals or shopping
  • Unpredictable behaviour including intense mood swings or outbursts for no obvious or apparent reason
  • Problems with alcohol/substance abuse
  • Problems retaining employment
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Can be perceived as physically or emotionally cold towards their children
  • Can be overbearing or obsessive towards their spouse/partner or children
  • Have obsessive interests or obsessions that take up a lot of the family’s financial resources, space or time
  • Prone to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, self-harm (particularly in undiagnosed women with ASD)

Where to seek a diagnosis?

Who assesses adults?
To seek an adult diagnosis you need a referral from a GP to a psychiatrist or psychologist. There are a number of psychologists or psychiatrists in the Barwon area who are familiar with diagnosing adults with ASD.

Funding
The Australian federal government may provide funding through Medicare under chronic illness and mental health care plans. Appointments may be either bulk billed or reclaimed through Medicare. However, there is a substantial “gap” payment for a diagnosis.

Additional help
Counselling and support is available for the person with the diagnosis and also for other family members, whether privately, through a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a counsellor.  This can be funded as part of a mental health care plan, or through public counselling services, through the statewide Family Relationships Support for Carers Program or through Carers Victoria.

It may be wise to see a counsellor once a diagnosis is given to help resolve feelings and define issues that may need to be worked out.

Other supports for adults with ASD are minimal but are available.  Adults with ASD are generally eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  Check their website to see when your area will be receiving this scheme.  There are many online support groups and message boards for people with ASD which can help make sense of what a newly diagnosed person may be experiencing.

After diagnosis
A diagnosis of ASD won’t solve any problems, but it may help make sense of what is going on. Problems with relationships, employment, substance abuse, finance or family issues need to be dealt with as separate issues, with the diagnosis providing the context for how the problem is dealt with and which strategies used.

Given the person has been diagnosed with ASD they may need to be specifically taught how to communicate with their partner in a respectful and meaningful way. A diagnosis will also give other family members something to take into consideration- not as an excuse for behaviour but as a possible reason. Abusive or exploitative behaviour is never acceptable and should be treated as such.

After diagnosis some people will be in denial and may not tell anyone. Others may want to share their news; this is a decision that is up to the individual. They are certainly under no obligation to disclose their diagnosis to anyone, including employers.
Diagnosis and disclosure can have a big impact on a person’s self-esteem and self-image. It is important the person seeks some counselling or support to cope.

Further information

There are many websites about ASD and adults including:

There are also many books available on this topic including:

  • The Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome, Tony Attwood
  • Aspergers from the Inside Out, Michael John Carley.
  • Aspergers in Love- Couple Relationships and Family Affairs, Maxine Aston
  • Coming Out Asperger, Diagnosis, Disclosure and Self-confidence, Dinah Murray