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The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation: Part 1 (Timeline, Waiting, and Referral)

Hey everyone. We are now that the point of my neurodivergent discovery journey where we start finding out what neurodivergent condition(s) I have. Here’s an approximate timeline of when things became a problem in the eyes of other people.

2001: In third grade, I started speech therapy due to a rapid speaking pace and pausing in weird spots when talking. I also had problems completing classwork as quickly as other people and having a messy desk. I used workarounds to finish reading after that was noted and I was able to keep a clean desk. I usually (even to this day) end up not talking when I get called on and don’t know the answer. I almost got a note sent home for that in music class during pull-out group piano lessons with someone who is not the main music teacher. That experience left me silently crying because I didn’t want to get in trouble at school or home.

9 years old: I started skin picking due to what I would later learn is dermatillomania. Years later, my mom would punish me for it to shame me into stopping. She told me I was the only person in the world with this problem and blamed me for getting my friend to start skin picking too (she was originally picking her hair). It wasn’t until my current therapist when I learned that I may be doing it for fidgeting purposes and that many of her neurodivergent patients also pick their skin. I still skin pick to this day.

Middle school: Reading class was always hard for me, not because I couldn’t read, but I have difficulties answering questions based on what I read. I was moved to a lower reading class for eighth grade.

10th grade: Mom informed me that my social skills are not up to par because I didn’t say hi to this one guy when we were getting measured for our class rings (which I only wore 5 times my entire life). Later that school year, mom thought I was bothering a friend during the Tri-M Music Honor Society induction reception, so she had me sit down with her. That was very embarrassing as it felt like I was publicly in time out. When creating my schedule for 11th grade, I was asked to move down to college prep English from Honors English.

11th Grade: Pre-calculus and chemistry were hard. Then again, my math teacher was often absent to take care of a sick mother. My dad tried to have me only use the computer for fun for only up to two hours after getting home to help bring my grades up, but that failed. That should have keyed them in that something was wrong. The English class I was in was taught by a teacher who also teaches students whose reading level is 2 to 4 years below grade level, so I didn’t like that we had to do the county library’s reading program. I had already stopped finishing with reading the books I had to for English class and since I didn’t read for fun, I wrote down random manga for the reading program.

University: I struggled during my freshman and junior years. Full story in this blog post. A guy I liked at the time pointed out my eye contact issues during my freshman year. This is the first time this was brought up.

2014: A therapist noticed I wasn’t making eye contact and had me make eye contact. I wonder why she didn’t start suspecting things.

2015: I had to get a job as a software developer because I couldn’t find any other IT jobs. I never wanted to be a developer. It was hard and someone who is diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities asked me if I had any learning disabilities because it seems like I did. I lost that job in 2016 and started with a new company in October 2016.

2017: After some struggles at work as a developer, I talked to my doctor and was told I have very mild ADHD based on a questionnaire. I made a blog post about it, but I will delete it if the diagnosis was wrong. (More on that later)

2018: I got kicked off a project due to lack of Java knowledge. I feel like my neurodivergence was a big part of it (I heard there was a racism issue too), and I was considering pursuing legal action for not accepting my disability. I started realizing that being a developer isn’t for me. The disABILITIES forum section of Disboards helped me gain modern-day knowledge of autism later this year.

2019: An incident at work due to my (lack of) social skills and appropriateness almost cost me my job. My sexual orientation saved me from it, likely. This is when I seriously started considering that I’m on the autism spectrum. My test engineering lead said I think differently. However, this has helped me become a successful test engineer. I also started therapy again to try it one more time.

2020: The pieces are starting to come together. I lost one therapist due to her daytime job at the hospital causing things to become overwhelming for her time-wise. I got a new therapist who on the first visit noticed my social skills problems. After a comment she made, I felt like she hinted that I may be on the autism spectrum. She got a new daytime job that required her to relocate, so I lost her after only 4 sessions. Due to losing two therapists in the same year, I changed therapy places later in 2020 for stability. I know 2020 sucked for everyone, but I feel like Covid allowed me to find a new therapy place that treated things other than anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. My current therapist noticed in the first visit that I’m neurodivergent. However, the neuropsychologists that my therapist typically refers people to were still closed. The waiting game begins. I also discovered YouTuber Purple Ella, who was diagnosed with ADHD and autism due to having two autistic kids and one with both ADHD and autism. I also started learning about how girls present with ADHD and autism differently and that some autistic women were misdiagnosed with ADHD (could this be my case?)

2021: I finally had the time to read books “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone who now goes by the name Artemisia Xene and “Divergent Mind” by Jenara Nerenberg. “Aspergirls” almost completely captured my experience as a woman with undiagnosed autism. We have ruled out Borderline Personality Disorder as a diagnosis (I made some mental health blog posts where I said I felt like I have BPD, which some autistic women get misdiagnosed with this before getting a proper diagnosis). Last month, I found out that neuropsychological centers are starting to open. My therapist picked neuropsychology centers based on the following criteria:

  • The evaluator has an understanding of how girls and women present differently. Women are often undiagnosed until they are adults because autism and ADHD studies focus on male presentation. Women may have learned to hide their symptoms to be socially accepted or may have spent a lot of time studying neurotypical people to pretend to be like them.
  • The neuropsychology center must test adults. Fun fact: Autistic people grow up. Autism was thought to only occur in childhood and the kids would grow out of it. Therefore, there are very few resources for adults to seek help and evaluations. The authors of the books I read are self-diagnosed autistic women. Artemisia could not find anyone who could evaluate her or believe her and many adults choose to not seek a diagnosis due to their age. learning ways to cope, or finding that there would be no added benefit to a diagnosis.
  • The neuropsychology center must do autism evaluations. I was looking for centers months ago and found one that explicitly said they don’t do autism evaluations. I’ve been living for 28 years without a proper diagnosis and I can’t slip through the cracks again. I want to get the proper help I need and find accommodations that can help me at work.

Now that I have a list of referrals, my therapist and I will discuss this next week and I can start the next phase.

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