Is a formal diagnosis of ADHD or autism worthwhile?

By Yvonne Kilpatrick, Psychologist & Director


Is a formal diagnosis of ADHD or autism worthwhile? Well, it depends on what you need from the process. If you’re curious about your neurotype but don’t need formal confirmation, it might be enough to do some screening questionnaires and familiarise yourself with the traits and what it means for your way of being in the world. Many people use this approach to satisfy their own questions and may not go on to receive a formal diagnosis. However, there are many benefits of a formal assessment and, because it’s something we love to help clients with, here are our top three!

1. Settle the issue once and for all Formal diagnosis shouldn't be used to gatekeep the identity and community that can be a wonderful part of being autistic or an ADHDer. In reality though, it’s often our own lack of confidence in our neurotype that prevents us joining in with our neurotribe and sharing our lived experience. It made an enormous difference to me as a late-diagnosed autistic to settle the issue once and for all through an assessment with a psychologist. I'd wondered for years and had a growing confidence that this was my neurotype but . . . increasing self-identification didn’t put the issue to rest. I know many others who’ve have had a similar experience: it wasn’t until a formal assessment that they settled their questions about their neurotype once and for all, and felt confident to move forward with it.



2. Accommodations are more accessible We want to see a world where institutions and businesses operate in a way that accommodations are easily accessed or not necessary, and we’re committed to helping bring this about. In the meantime, formal diagnosis is generally the entry point for accessing funding and accommodations. We’ve helped many clients access the support they need at work, school and in tertiary education settings by providing a formal assessment that led to a diagnosis of ADHD or autism (plus other neurotypes such as dyslexia). Of course, the assessment itself is not a guarantee of a diagnosis – sometimes there are other things to explore and that is a useful assessment outcome in itself.

3. Know your strengths A formal assessment should be strengths-based. Not all assessors are trained in this approach, so it is worth investigating. Unfortunately, written documentation often needs to highlight an individual’s limitations in order to support applications for funding and accommodations. The assessment itself though, should consider your strengths and be undertaken from the perspective that the biggest challenges come from being a neurominority in a neurotypical world, not from inherent issues within ADHD and autism. Knowing your strengths is a lifelong journey, but your assessment should contribute to that knowledge. At the very least it should not leave you feeling that you are just a bunch of unfortunate traits, and this is where a strengths-based approach is crucial.


We're excited to help clients understand themselves, access support, and develop a sense of belonging in their neurotribe. We are also excited to be part of the movement to bring better understanding of, and pride in, neurodivergence. If you’d like to discuss your wonderings with a therapist or book a formal assessment, please get in touch via our website, email us at info@amherstpsychology.com.au, or call on (08) 9456 0411.


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