I get a lot of emails, and a lot of them tend to have very similar questions in, so I thought I would put this together so that you can get my advice or opinion quickly, since it takes me a long time to reply to an email. Also, if you could read through so you know what not to email me about, since there are things I'd rather just answer here, or things that I'm not comfortable discussing, or not qualified to do.
Asperclick is a great place to get advice quickly, and is probably more useful than just my advice alone. I read all of my emails, and I appreciate them all, but it’s not easy to reply to them and it quickly becomes overwhelming for me.
Here is a link to a list of resources I put together, which are useful for times of need when you require immediate support.
Can we be email ‘pen pals’?
I try to answer all my mail, but it’s not realistic for me to be in regular contact, and it would be unfair for me to let you think that we can be friends. I just can’t reply frequently enough to all the people who email asking me this, and it’s hard to keep track of so many things on a personal friend kind of level.
If I tell you about myself, can you tell me if I have Asperger Syndrome?
I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis, and it’s not my place to give out advice regarding something like this, especially not in place of an expert. The best I can do is help you with what to expect from an assessment – a lot of the time, this is all I can say: it’s wildly different depending on who you’re seeing; I’ve seen an array of professionals and it’s awkward each time, mostly because each one requires you to start at the beginning, so you tend to feel like you have to repeat yourself, and in the end, it starts to feel like it’s all just rehearsed. I don’t personally think it’s a good idea to ‘research’ symptoms or signs or traits of Autism or Asperger’s before your appointment, because if you have it, you have it, and it’s not going to be a case of having to reel off all the things that you relate to from the Autistic Spectrum. Experts are experts and they’ll know if you’re doing that, and it could result in not getting a diagnosis, or getting the wrong diagnosis (or being told that you don’t have anything ‘wrong’ with you, but that you’re trying really hard to have something).
Just be honest, be yourself and don’t try put up a front like you might do at work or at school; there’s no need to act ‘normal’ – if anything, it will be unhelpful. Answer all the questions honestly with the answers and feelings that you have immediately, don’t overthink it and try to link it to something which you know is typically ‘Aspie’. If there’s something which you particularly struggle with – whether you know it’s a trait or not – but it hasn’t come up in the interview by the end, just ask if you can tell them about it because it’s something which affects you a lot.
If you genuinely feel that it’s been an unsuccessful assessment, for whatever reason, maybe you didn’t feel like they understood you, you can always try and get a second opinion or a third etc., however, if you keep getting told that you aren’t on the Autistic Spectrum, then just think about what you are trying to achieve by getting a diagnosis – as an adult, there’s not a huge amount that will come from it, other than clarity (but if you’re already ‘sure’ that you are on the spectrum, then you should already have that clarity). As a child or teenager, or someone still in education, then yes, there is help available sometimes, and it might only be accessible with a diagnosis, so by all means, continue on that path.
It took a long time for my diagnosis – and I wasn’t really pushing for it, I was just pushing for help in general, for the things I was struggling with and the problems that was causing at school – but I didn’t initiate any of it, it was recommended by my school and my GP that I see a psychiatrist. Not everything, in every situation, needs a label.
Should I keep my Asperger’s a secret? How can I tell people about it?
I don’t know you or your family the way I know myself and mine, so I can’t tell you what to do, I can only tell you what I did. For me, I explained it to my family – it didn’t cross my mind not to, to be honest. As for friends, I don’t have many – but when I started a new school at 16 years old, I did tell everyone, but I just kept it casual, I didn’t really go into a lot of detail. I feel like I like to briefly mention it, so that people are aware, and then if we run into problems later down the line, I can bring it back up and it won’t be the first time they’re hearing about it, so they can’t accuse me of using it as an excuse in that situation.
Basically, if you know people won’t understand, then don’t tell them. If you don’t have a reason to tell people and you don’t want to, don’t tell them. If it’s potentially going to be important, like for a job, then share it with them, but just make sure they’re correctly informed, and not left to research it on their own. Bottom line; these people were fine with you before, nothing has changed (since you’ve been on the spectrum forever) so they shouldn’t change their attitude towards you – if they do, then maybe they weren’t the best people to be around in the first place.
Can you help me out with my project?
If you give me all the information and are specific about what you need from me, then I will have a better idea about whether I can help or not. As I have quite a lot of things running of my own, it’s hard to find the time to commit to long projects which require a lot of time from me. It’s also hard to help if you’re not sure where you want the project to go and you need me to help figure that out. I love helping, but I just don’t have the time to commit to everything. There are certain things which are easier to commit to, like presentations at groups, or a video for a documentary – but check here for information on that before you email.
I’m worried about my child’s future, do you have any advice?
It’s hard to give advice when I don’t know you personally; if you’re worrying a lot, try not to let your child see that, because you don’t want them to ever feel like they’re under pressure or letting you down. They’re likely doing their best, and that’s more than good enough. Make sure that you always make it clear that they can talk to you about anything – and make sure to prompt conversations so that if they forget that they can talk to you, you give them plenty of opportunities.
Pushing them a bit outside of their comfort zone, a bit at a time, is something you can try, to gradually get them used to new things – things which they’ll need to get used to for when they’re grown up. Even though it seems harsh, allowing them to give in to their anxieties and fears, will only result in them being frustrating with themselves when they’re older and they can’t bring themselves to do things which other people their age can do. I was always pushed to do things, but when I gave in to things, I started to get annoyed that I was unable. If it gets to that stage, remind them of the things they can do, that they’re good at and point out that other people won’t be able to do those things, and that everyone has different strengths. Help them find a path in life based on their strengths.
Never just assume there is only one way to do something – be unconventional if you have to, as long as you find a way to get to their goals and dreams. (For example, getting qualifications at set ages isn’t always the only way to do things, even though it’s the most ‘popular’).
I don’t want to talk to my therapist about this, can I talk to you instead?
I can’t offer you the support that you might need, and certainly not quickly enough. I’m just one person, with her own struggles and battles – it’s not fair to put pressure on me to be your support in times of need. I don’t want to be/shouldn’t be the person that needs to respond immediately if you are feeling down, suicidal or are self-harming; it’s not practical and it’s not fair on either of us. So, unfortunately, if it’s something that you don’t want to talk about to your therapist then they’re probably exactly the person you should be telling, and I encourage you to do so as soon as possible.
I’m having relationship problems, can you help?
Whilst I am in a relationship, it’s not something I feel comfortable giving advice about. I’ve only ever been in this relationship, and it took a long time to happen; I don’t have any experience in dating and not being able to find the right person – I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend at the time we started going out, and I’d not been interested before. I think that getting the opinion of a lot of people would be better than getting my opinion, so I’d suggest the relationship section of my forum.