School

Do I HAVE to do a Thesis in the Master’s Program?

It depends on your program.

When people think of Master’s degrees, they may think “thesis”. Even my university’s commencement page says that a thesis and oral examination are usually required. However, you may not be required to do a thesis. Let’s talk about the Computer Science Master’s program at my university first. Note that my options may be different from your school’s options.

At my university, my major has a thesis option, or non-thesis options. If you pick the non-thesis option, you will either choose to do a project or an internship. I am doing the project option next semester and am currently working on my project proposal as I cannot register for the project class until my proposal gets approved by the program director. Why did I pick the project option? I didn’t want to write. Turns out I still have to write a report on what I did for my project. I have a full-time IT job so I wasn’t going to do the internship option. Some people said I could just have my supervisor sign it off as an “internship”, but I would have to talk about what I did at that job which I would not be allowed to do.

However, at my university, some programs only give you a thesis option. This is the case for Women’s Studies majors. Other majors may also have a thesis or non-thesis option. For the Communication Management program, you will have a thesis or non-thesis option, but your non-thesis options are a graduate project or comprehensive exams. You may have to do clinical work or a practicum if you are in a health-based major or do a showcase of your work in art-based majors.

I have an aunt who got her Master’s degree at a different institution long before I was born. I believe it was a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, but she only had the thesis option. Looking things up, that program has a Capstone now.

To wrap up this kind of short post, no two schools do their programs the same way. What’s required for one program at one school may be different from what another school requires for their program. Just go on the school’s website to tell you your degree requirements.

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The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation: Part 2 (Contacting and Intake)

Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 1 mainly talks about the timeline of noticing different neurodivergent aspects of myself.

I thought it would be much longer before I continued this series, but luckily cancellations exist so I don’t have to wait as long! More on that later.

The last time we talked about my path to an evaluation, my therapist gave me a list of people I could pick. To give a quick recap, these were the following requirements for who made it on the list:

  • The evaluator has an understanding about how AFAB people present differently
  • The neuropsychology center must test adults
  • The neuropsychology center must do autism evaluations

With the list in hand (or email), I started looking at each web site. Any web site that did not explicitly mention autism evaluations were eliminated. After more searching, I came across the one I wanted. Why did I pick this place despite it being so far away? The evaluators tailor the neuropsych evaluation based on what may be suspected. They can add or remove testing based on the reason why you’re seeking an evaluation. I waited to contact the place since my therapist planned to talk with me about things and sent an email during the next therapy session (April 7th). I heard back about 10 minutes later asking about my timeline as there is a bit of a waitlist and we could talk about the logistics of everything. We scheduled a phone call for the next day.

Note to anyone else seeking an evaluation for autism, ADHD, or other neuropsychological conditions: Waitlists are typical, and may be much longer due to the backlog created when Covid shut down many evaluation centers.

April 8 rolls around and finally my phone rings. I checked yesterday’s email to see the phone numbers listed in the signature so I wouldn’t accidentally ignore the phone call. The director of the program that does evaluations called me on her cell phone. We talked and discussed testing options and I went for the autism-focused evaluation instead of the super complete evaluation that tests for everything because the autism-focused test is a lot cheaper ($2500 at this place) compared to the super evaluation (up to $4700 at this place). Prices may vary depending on where you go, and some places will either not accept insurance or give you a “superbill” to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. I was tentatively given summer at the earliest time for an evaluation, maybe as late as September.

But 10 minutes later, I get another phone call finding out that someone canceled and I am getting a much sooner evaluation date! My evaluation day is May 1st, with May 2nd scheduled as well in case my mental stamina required me to take an additional day for testing. Luckily this place tests on the weekends so I don’t have to take off from work. But first, an intake session.

My intake session was on April 20th. It was done in a virtual setting to keep as little people in the office as possible. Especially good since the testing center is on the southern part of my state while I live in the northern part of my state. It’s about an hour and a half drive down there assuming I don’t encounter heavy traffic. So what was my intake like?

Before the actual intake session, I had to fill out the intake forms that people typically fill out when starting at a new therapy place. However, I feel like this place has an excessively long intake form. If I were to fill it out on paper instead of electronically, that would have been a total of 12 pages. This also was not a specific autism evaluation intake form, which I would have preferred. Other evaluation centers may have intake forms specific to what is being evaluated. On the day of my intake session, I discussed with my evaluator about getting tested for autism and went over a history of the issues that made me and my therapist think I am on the spectrum. I was told about what will be happening during my evaluation and that my evaluation will be six hours long. Breaks are given when necessary for the person being evaluated. I’m going to do my absolute best to finish the evaluation in one day so I won’t have to commute over an hour two days in a row. Will I finish my evaluation in one day?

I also shared part one (linked above) of this blog post with my evaluator so she can get a better timeline of when people started noticing things being wrong with me. I don’t know if she’ll look at more of my blog posts, but if she’s looking at this part now, hi. She found it really helpful to get a better understanding of my experiences and I suggest that you have some way to fully explain all of your neurodivergent-related issues. An intake session may not give you enough time and you may forget to include things to talk about during your intake or interview time during the evaluation. However, I got the idea to have some type of report of my personal history from another blogger. It helped the blogger get an autism diagnosis.

Next time on The Path to a Neuropsychological Evaluation (I thought of this in the Dragonball Z narrator voice), I will talk about what was a part of my evaluation. However, I won’t go into detail about what happened in each part because I don’t want to cause a reader to copy me to get the same diagnosis. If an evaluator notices that you prepped ahead of time, they can stop the test and discard all answers.

Rant

Dear Black People (Regarding Covid Vaccinations)

Note: I have disabled comments on this blog post as this is a racial political post. I am writing this as a black person who seems to be the only one to notice this.

I wasn’t going to write this as this is now a neurodivergent-themed blog, but I can no longer stay silent about this.

It seems like I’m the only black person who is getting the Covid vaccine (I got my first Pfizer vaccine on April 16th). I may be a na├»ve person due to what may be autism, but I believe in science and medicine. I know black people who aren’t getting the vaccine due to various stupid reasons.

Saturday Night Live made fun of us black people because the black community doesn’t want to get vaccinated. In reality, many of us are being prevented from getting the vaccine even though we should have in line for priority after first responders due to how our community has been disproportionately affected compared to Asians and white people. It’s no secret that there are institutions that want to eradicate black people for the fact that we exist. Whether we like it or not, our existence is a political act.

Black people are seen as stupid, and refusing to get the vaccine is one reason why we are seen as stupid. Heck, even I think you’re stupid for not wanting to get the vaccine. As I mentioned before, society wants us dead and our existence is seen as a political act. Us getting the vaccine is a great way to rebel against our white supremacist country. Wouldn’t it feel great to perform an act of political rebellion that doesn’t get us arrested or prevent us from having security clearances? This is one way we can do it.

Black Lives Matter. They have always mattered, and Black Lives Still Matter despite people reacting faster to anti-Asian hate despite black people experiencing hate centuries before Asians did. Black Health Matters. This is not up for debate.

Black Lives Matter. Black Health Matters. Black Mental Health Matters.

#StopBlackHate

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Why Autism Awareness is Still Needed

Happy Autism Acceptance Month! The month of April is known as Autism Awareness Month, but many autistic people are advocating for acceptance. Wearing read for acceptance instead of blue for awareness. Plus, Autism Awareness started with Autism Speaks, which is an organization not liked by autistic people, due to many different factors.

Side note: some people refer to Autism Speaks as Autism $peaks since Autism Speaks seems to care more about money than helping autistic people, but I will never use the dollar sign since I may have readers who use screen readers and the screen reader may translate it to “dollar peaks” or “dollar sign peaks”.

Anyways, I have the opinion that there needs to be more awareness about different aspects of autism. People have outdated knowledge of autism, such as “girls can’t be autistic” or “autism is only a childhood condition that goes away when the child becomes an adult”. People also only see the typical presentations of autism, whether it’s due to only knowing autism as it was decades ago or only know the signs that come from research studies with only boys as participants. This is what prevented anyone from noticing my autistic traits and caused my mom to not think I was autistic. I would have been diagnosed years ago if this wasn’t the case. Now I’m waiting for an evaluation.

There are also autism centers that focus on treating or curing people of their autism. Therapies like ABA are considered abusive due to forced compliance training and the use of punishments to discourage unwanted actions. The goal of ABA is to make an autistic person act neurotypical. People even say they wouldn’t treat their dogs this way. Think about it. An autistic person being treated more poorly than a pet. Autism never goes away, despite visits to Defeat Autism Now doctors (if they still exist) or a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Support and accommodations are needed to help thrive in a world that assumes everyone is neurotypical.

There needs to be awareness of the strengths and gifts that come with autism. Too often does society, and even autistic people or families of autistic people, focus too much on the negative aspects of autism. Sure, we should be realistic of the challenges that are faced by autistic people, but we shouldn’t focus so much of the negative aspects that we leave autistic people feeling broken. How can we change society’s perception of autism if we ourselves treat it like a death sentence? Autistic people may have unique insights and ideas regarding their interest that neurotypical people may not notice. A list of possible strengths can be found in the AANE article Asperger Profiles: The Big Picture – Strengths. If people were more aware of the strengths and lost their implicit biases, less people would be afraid to disclose their diagnoses at work. People should be given the tools they need to be successful in school, work, and life.

Why aren’t there more supports and resources for adults? Despite old myths, autistic children grow up into autistic adults, many of whom don’t get diagnosed until they are adults. We may have missed a critical period to learn skills to improve our deficits (I feel like my social skills are getting worse), especially since we often hear “early intervention is the key to success”. However, the early intervention phrase we hear may also highlight the problem that mental health professionals aren’t really aware of the signs. It shouldn’t have taken me 5 therapists to have my social skills problems noticed and it shouldn’t have taken me 6 therapists to have someone notice that I may be on the autism spectrum. Yes, the understanding of autism has been and still is evolving. Many adults on the spectrum get diagnosed because their child is diagnosed. Parents think certain behaviors and anxieties are typical because they exhibited the same behaviors and anxieties. I think my mom is starting to question whether she is on the autism spectrum herself now that I’m getting my autism evaluation (which explains why she never thought anything was wrong with me). My favorite autistic YouTuber Purple Ella was diagnosed when her oldest daughter was diagnosed. With more supports and resources for adults, it wouldn’t be so hard to find an evaluation center that evaluates adults. Adults can play catch up on improving skill deficits.

Make our neurotypical society aware of the ways autistic people have (and can) contribute to society and allow us the chance to succeed.