Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.
In speaking with thousands of people each year, our staff are often told, “You’re the first person who understands!” Whether you are an Autistic adult, a family member, or a professional serving the autism community, we hope this page can help inform and guide you on your journey. We are here to offer information, support, guidance, and community.
If you have questions about your next steps, would like to connect with us, or are in need of more specific information or perhaps facing more complex issues, please get in touch via our Contact Us page.
Below you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions along with corresponding links to find more information, services, and programs. For FAQs about participation in groups and events, please visit our Groups & Events FAQs page.
AANE has made the decision to use the terms “autism” and “Autistic” in our communications moving forward. Many people continue to refer to themselves and their loved ones using the terms “Asperger’s,” “Aspie,” and other similar words. AANE respects each individual’s decision to use the language that best describes them and their loved ones.
What is autism?
Autism is a neurotype. A neurotype is the type of brain you have. An Autistic neurotype is a collection of neurodevelopmental differences that impact the processing of information, communication, social preferences, executive functioning, regulation (sensory, attentional, emotional), and learning style.
Though people with an Autistic neurotype may have some shared experiences and characteristics, each person’s experience is unique. AANE hopes to share common Autistic experiences to increase awareness and help individuals identify their unique strengths and challenges. We also hope individuals will build an understanding of and gain access to the environments that leverage their strengths, minimize overwhelming situations, and lead to a more balanced life. Visit our Autism Basics page to learn more.
What is the difference between autism and neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that describes the vast diversity of human brain function. Under the neurodiversity umbrella are many different variations, including ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, and others. Autism is one type of neurodiversity. Visit our Autism Basics page to learn more.
Should I get a diagnosis?
For some people, seeking a medical autism diagnosis is important. A medical diagnosis can be required to access certain services for a child or access government supports and benefits.
Many people do not seek a medical diagnosis and instead explore self-diagnosis. There are many reasons why someone would not pursue a medical diagnosis. Those seeking a formal diagnosis can wait for months to years for a diagnostic assessment, and costs associated with an assessment can be significant.
Many professionals who diagnose lack training in neurodiversity-affirming care and use diagnostic tools that do not take into account varied Autistic experiences. In addition to costs, and extended wait lists, diagnostic assessments can fall short in recognizing individuals of color, women, and trans and gender-diverse people. Visit our Diagnosis page to learn more.
How do I get a diagnosis and what is involved?
If you or your loved one are seeking a medical autism diagnosis, you will need to find a diagnostician: a professional who can conduct a diagnostic assessment. To receive a medical diagnosis, a diagnostic assessment must be completed and facilitated by a medical or mental health professional.
You may want to connect with your social network, primary care provider, pediatrician, and/or school district to gather names of providers who can complete diagnostic assessments. Be sure to check with your health insurance provider that recommended diagnosticians accept your health insurance. Wait times, costs, and limitations of assessment are all potential challenges you may encounter seeking a medical diagnosis. Visit our Diagnosis page to learn more.
How do I navigate a world that is not always autism-friendly?
Navigating a world that is not set up for Autistic and similarly Neurodivergent individuals is deeply challenging and often exhausting. Many people find that they need to “mask” or hide their authentic Autistic characteristics in order to stay safe and avoid discrimination, bullying, and exclusion.
At AANE, we aim to provide a safe and supportive community for you to “unmask” and participate in as your authentic self. Finding places where you can live authentically as yourself can be critically important living in a society that can be deeply unwelcoming. Here are some ways to connect with the AANE community: Support Groups, Social Groups and Activities
How do we support the wellbeing of Autistic individuals?
At AANE, all of our services and programs aim to support the well-being of Autistic individuals and their families. We offer information, community and support to Autistic teens and adults, family members of Autistic individuals of all ages, and professionals working with the Autism community. Learn more about our Programs and Services.
What mental health diagnoses and other neurodiversities are associated with autism?
Many individuals who are Autistic also identify with one or more other types of neurodiversity, such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia or Dyscalculia. As many as 73-81% of Autistic adults are diagnosed with a mental health concern*. Autistic individuals may experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating-related concerns such as Avoidant Restrictive Feeding Intake Disorder (ARFID)**.
How do I find the appropriate therapist or mental health provider?
Finding an ideal mental health provider is challenging. You may be looking for a prover who (1) takes your health insurance, (2) offers therapy in the way you prefer (i.e., virtually or in-person), (3) is licensed to provide care where you live, (4) understands autism, and (5) that makes you feel connected and safe. This can be really difficult! It may mean that you will need to meet with more than one provider to find someone that you feel is the right fit for you. This can be a very discouraging process, and finding a mental health provider who is right can be essential to provide insight, gain a greater understanding of yourself, and help you work through challenges. Ask your social network, medical providers, and school professionals for recommendations.
How do I find an autism informed provider?
Some mental health providers share on their website or online listings that they identify as Autistic and/or neurodivergent. Others publicize that they provide neurodiversity-affirming care, are certified in certain areas, and have taken courses in autism and/or neurodiversity. This can be helpful, but sometimes the most helpful information gathering tool is to meet with a potential provider and ask them specific questions. You might ask:
● What is your understanding of neurodiversity?
● How would you describe your style?
● What are your values as a therapist?
Then share any accommodations you would prefer and things you know are helpful to you and gauge their responsiveness.
How do Autistic people find and maintain relationships?
Finding friends and a partner can present both opportunities and challenges for Autistic individuals. Social interactions and relationships may require additional effort and consideration due to variations in communication, sensory sensitivities, and social understanding. It is important to recognize that every relationship is unique to each person, and there is no universal approach that works for everyone.
Some Autistic individuals may discover companionship and romantic partnerships with others who are also Autistic or Neurodivergent, while others may form fulfilling relationships with neurotypical individuals. The key is to remain patient, engage in open communication, and pursue relationships that bring both happiness and support to one’s overall well-being. If social interactions prove to be difficult, it may be helpful to reach out for guidance from therapists, support groups, or online resources that cater to the specific needs of Autistic individuals looking to build meaningful relationships. Find ways to connect with the AANE community on our Group Services page.
How can educators help Autistic children and teens?
Educators play a crucial role in the growth and achievement of Autistic children and teenagers. To effectively support their Autistic students, educators can employ various strategies. One important approach is to collaborate with parents, special education professionals, and other relevant parties to develop personalized plans outlining specific accommodations, modifications, and goals for each student. Additionally, educators should strive to become familiar with the characteristics and needs associated with autism. This understanding helps create an environment that is more empathetic and supportive. It is important to recognize that each student may have their own unique learning style, and educators should provide a range of instructional approaches to cater to diverse learning preferences. It is also beneficial to embrace and celebrate neurodiversity in the classroom, fostering an atmosphere where differences are respected and valued. By creating an inclusive, understanding, and accommodating classroom environment, educators can greatly contribute to the educational and personal development of their Autistic students. Learn more on our Education page.
What educational supports are Autistic students entitled to?
Autistic students are entitled to a range of educational supports to ensure they receive an appropriate and inclusive education. These supports may vary depending on the student’s needs, the education system in their country, and applicable laws. The specific supports can vary based on regional laws, policies, and the resources of their educational institution. It’s important for parents and guardians to collaborate with educators, school administrators, and special education professionals to develop a comprehensive plan that meets the individual needs of the student. Legal frameworks such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States or similar laws in other countries help ensure that eligible students receive the necessary supports for their education. Learn more on our Education page.
How do I find and maintain work?
Finding and maintaining employment can be a fulfilling and important aspect of an Autistic individual’s life. However, it can also present unique challenges due to differences in communication, social interaction, sensory sensitivities, and other factors. Every individual’s journey is unique, and finding the right job and workplace fit may take time. Patience, persistence, and self-awareness are key. Many organizations value diversity and are actively working to create inclusive work environments where Autistic individuals and others can thrive. Learn more in our section on Employment.
What are some autism friendly jobs?
Autism-friendly jobs are those that take into consideration the strengths and challenges commonly associated with autism. These jobs often involve tasks that align with the individual’s skills and interests while providing a supportive and inclusive work environment. It’s important to note that while these jobs can be autism-friendly for many individuals, preferences and strengths can vary widely among Autistic individuals. Additionally, job satisfaction often depends on the specific work environment, company culture, and the individual’s personal interests and skills. It’s recommended that individuals explore careers that align with their unique strengths and preferences while also considering potential accommodations that may support their success in the workplace. Learn more in our section on Employment.
How do I support my Autistic employees?
Supporting Autistic employees in the workplace requires a commitment to creating an inclusive and accommodating environment that recognizes their strengths and needs. Some strategies to effectively support your Autistic employees include:
● providing training for all staff about autism, neurodiversity, and inclusion
● fostering an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their needs, challenges, and accommodations
● working with employees to identify the accommodations that would best support their success
● providing clear and structured job expectations, tasks, and processes
● offering flexibility in work hours, remote work options, or the ability to adjust tasks as needed
● giving regular feedback and support to help the employee excel in their role
● recognizing and celebrating their strengths and accomplishments
Each individual is unique, and the best approach may vary based on the employee’s preferences and needs. Creating an inclusive workplace benefits not only the autistic employee but the entire team by fostering diversity, understanding, and collaboration. Learn more in our section on Employment.
How and when do I disclose an autism diagnosis?
Making the decision to disclose an autism diagnosis is solely the choice of the individual. There are pros and potential cons of disclosing that individuals weigh before making the decision to disclose or not. Exploring the goal of disclosure may also be an important process. Considering what you are hoping to get out of disclosure, such as an accommodation at work or at school, or greater mutual understanding between a partner or friend may impact what you choose to share. Depending on the goal and the context, you may choose to disclose to a boss, co-worker, teacher or professor, classmate, family member or friend, and you may not share everything with that person. Learn more on our Self-Advocacy & Disclosure page.
What are the pros and cons of disclosing?
Disclosure can lead to greater mutual understanding and access to needed supports and accommodations. However, there are risks associated with disclosure, including further discrimination and misunderstanding. It is always the individual’s choice whether they want to disclose or not. AANE can help you think through the pros and cons of disclosure. Learn more on our Disclosure / Self-Advocacy page or contact us for a free call or consultation.
Do I need an official diagnosis to disclose?
You do not need a medical diagnosis to disclose. Sometimes a medical diagnosis is needed to gain access to formal accommodations at school and at work. If this is not required, individuals may choose to disclose only the support need they have and what accommodation would help them get that need met. For instance, someone might share, “I need a space with minimal distractions to get my work done.” Or someone might choose to share their diagnosis, their support need and the accommodation that would help them: “I am Autistic and I need a space with minimal distractions to get my work done.” Learn more on our Disclosure / Self-Advocacy page.
What kind of benefits are Autistic adults entitled to?
There are state and federal programs that Autistic individuals may be eligible for that can help with housing, employment, healthcare, continued education, and more. Learn more Government Funding & Benefits page.
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