Hands in a heart shape holding an infinity rainbox. Underneath the words Sandra Bell ND Coach
#27 Self-identification is valid

·        Self-identification is valid

·        Pros of self-identification

·        Cons of self-identification

Self-identification is valid

I believe self-identification is valid because we don’t all have the privilege of having access to being officially diagnosed, and/or have the need to be officially diagnosed. I do however deliberately use the term self-identified and not self-diagnosed to be clear that it is a different process. 

I admit my bias though, as the path of self-identification is the one I’ve chosen for myself. And to be fair, I wouldn’t have had that pathway open up to me if I hadn’t been through the full diagnostic process with my kids first. Having been the parent in the process of my kids being officially diagnosed allowed me to understand the criteria that was used, and allowed me to be able to reflect on my own childhood and current challenges/differences as I went through the process for them.

Pros of self-identification

I believe there are many pros of self-identification, some of the key ones are:

·       Backing yourself. Don’t underestimate the value and boost to your self-esteem and self-worth when you declare, even if just to yourself – I’m autistic, or I’m an ADHDer, or I’m dyslexic.

For me, as I’ve shared elsewhere, it was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders, and my inner critic became softer as my awareness of the impact of being autistic had been having on my day to day life without me understanding what it was. I wasn’t a broken neurotypical – I am autistic!

·       Likely to be faster. Part of self-identification being faster is due to the low availability of professionals that can diagnose adults with various neurodivergencies such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia, to name a few.

Even if you do find someone you can see for a diagnosis the process often takes a while, but self-identification can also take a while too. For me, I’ve shared elsewhere my lightbulb moment, but there was a lot building up to that, and that was really just an internal revelation, it was years later that I truly felt I could own it and share my self-identification with others without feeling like there was question mark in my own mind about if it were really true.

I think you need to use multiple sources of information when researching, including professionals and those with lived experience – and critically examine if what they share aligns with what you think and feel, and if not, why not? Are they caught up in an old paradigm of what it means to be autistic or an ADHDer? Or do they have some other demographic that makes their experience too different from yours to be aligned? But if multiple sources all make you question whether you really are autistic or ADHD or dyslexic, then maybe you aren’t or maybe you need to talk it though with a professional.

·       Low cost. I think self-identification is low cost and not no cost, because there is definitely a cost of time. As above it can’t just be from one source or one blog post that you self-identify – that isn’t fair to yourself. The other cost is likely to come from wanting to buy some books, maybe attend paid webinar or conferences to really be able to delve into if the self-identification fits for you.

Cons of self-identification

As with pros there are a number of cons about self-identifying, with some key ones being:

·       You could mis-identify or miss co-occuring conditions. Particularly at the beginning of your self-identifying journey you may not have enough information gathered yet to really know if you are autistic or an ADHDer or even both, or dyslexic or dysgraphic and so on. 

Without the depth of knowledge that a professional has through their experience and knowledge gained from study and seeing clients it may also happen that you miss co-occurring conditions like disassociation disorders or body dysmorphia. A professional may be able to help you work through it all in much less time than scouring the internet and trying to gauge the validity of what people are sharing about each condition separately and if it applies to you.

·       Harder to access supports. Being self-identified does not give you any official status, so if you need to show that you are autistic or ADHD or dyslexic to get reasonable adjustments at school, or university or in the workplace, then going through the process to become officially diagnosed may be worth it for you.

·       May not be able to access medication, if indicated. Particularly for neurobiologically driven neurodivergencies like ADHD, it could be that medication would help you in your day to day, and even more so than supports, you won’t be able to get medication without an official diagnosis.

At the end of the day self-identification doesn’t hurt anyone else, and if like me you can feel it in your entire being, and the knowledge that you are [insert neurodivergency here] brings you peace and a better understanding of yourself and what is best for you, then I say go for it. But if on the other hand, you know you need supports or want to try medication that you’ll only get with an official diagnosis, or you think there might be more to explore that you don’t have the time or inclination to do it all for yourself, then that sounds like it’s time to seek out a professional to help you.

What do you think about self-identification of neurodivergencies?

Thanks for reading.

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Please note all information and strategies shared as part of the blog are for information and educational purposes only and do not constitute advice for any particular individual or circumstances.