By Scott Allen, Psy.D. and William Schroeder, LPC
If you’ve landed on this page, you’re likely grappling with questions about your cognitive and psychological traits—specifically, whether you might be neurodivergent. Maybe someone suggestested testing and you have been wondering do you need a psychological assessment for ADHD or Autism? In this process you’re probably reflecting on past experiences, social difficulties, or academic struggles you’ve had. Maybe you managed to go unnoticed in your early school years, developing coping strategies to manage your challenges. Perhaps you had difficulty focusing on prolonged tasks at home and did most of your schoolwork during class or lunch breaks. You might notice that these old coping mechanisms aren’t as effective as they used to be, or that life’s escalating demands have exceeded your capabilities. Perhaps you’re often mentally drained, or even physically so, after long work sessions or social activities. If any of these resonate with you, you’re likely seeking answers, possibly prompted by the influx of neurodiversity content on social media or after taking one of the many online screeners for conditions like autism or ADHD.
The question remains: Do you need a psychological assessment for ADHD or Autism? The answer is far from straightforward.
The Role of Psychological Assessments
As a clinical psychologist with expertise in assessments, I often employ a data-driven approach to validate findings in both research and clinical settings. The process involves narrowing down the scope from a broad overview to specific concerns. For example, when a patient comes in suspecting they may have ADHD, I initially explore various areas of their life, including medical history and past traumas, before honing in on attention and focus issues. Most often, the data obtained from assessments validate the suspicions patients have when they first walk into my office. This is hardly surprising. With the internet providing ample information on diagnostic criteria, many people arrive well-informed, guided by credible online screeners.
Diagnosis: A Double-Edged Sword
Although conventional wisdom—and my training—suggests that a formal assessment is necessary to support a diagnosis, the truth is nuanced and highly individual. Traditionally, conditions like ADHD and autism have been approached through a strictly medical lens, often stigmatizing them as disorders. However, the neurodiversity movement has significantly shifted this perspective. These conditions are increasingly understood as variations within the broad spectrum of human cognition and behavior, with each contributing uniquely to the collective human experience.
However, there’s a catch. Formal diagnosis can be a significant barrier for many, often requiring financial resources and access to qualified professionals. Moreover, the process of diagnosis itself is sometimes seen as an ableist practice, particularly when the clinicians making the diagnoses are not neurodivergent themselves. Consequently, self-identification as neurodivergent is gaining acceptance, both within and outside the medical community.
The Complexities of Self-Identification and Formal Assessment
Four paragraphs in, you might have noticed that I haven’t yet directly answered the primary question—do you need an assessment? While the answer might seem like a straightforward “yes” or “no,” the reality is much more layered. If you’ve read about autism, for example, and see yourself reflected in the descriptions, then that identification alone could be valuable for your self-understanding and personal growth. The same goes for recognizing your coping strategies for attention difficulties, which could mean that you may not need further assessment.
However, assessments can offer significant benefits. Over the years, the diagnostic criteria for conditions like autism and ADHD have evolved. Today’s guidelines might label adults as diagnosable, even when past criteria would not. I’ve heard from many adults who were told during their childhood that they would “grow out of it,” or that their symptoms weren’t severe enough for a diagnostic evaluation. The hidden emotional toll of “masking” or appearing “normal” is often underestimated by parents and educators. For adults questioning their neurological profiles, assessments can offer a comprehensive view of their experiences, helping them meet established criteria through structured data and personal interviews. This often leads to a sense of validation, and a more compassionate view of oneself.
Practical Benefits of Assessment
One of the practical advantages of assessments is that they generate concrete data. This can be particularly useful for advocating for oneself in different life settings. For instance, if the assessment identifies a working memory issue, you could request written information to supplement verbal instructions.
For some individuals, a formal diagnosis is crucial for securing necessary accommodations in academic or workplace settings. Official documentation may be required for support programs, vocational rehabilitation, and financial aid. It’s also needed for any medical or medication-based interventions.
The Transformational Power of Assessment
In my practice, I often see patients experiencing transformative “aha” moments during their assessments. These evaluations enable people to reframe their self-perception, discard labels of laziness or incapability, and replace them with actionable insights. They create a roadmap for future aspirations, identifying support systems to achieve these goals. The journey of self-discovery is usually the first step toward meaningful change, and as a clinician, it’s a process I find immensely rewarding to facilitate.
Psychological assessments inherently provide a wealth of data that can be beneficial for both understanding one’s past and planning for the future. At Just Mind, we adopt a neuro-affirming, strengths-based approach to assessments. Our practice is geared toward embracing the unique abilities, values, and aptitudes of each individual. We aim to destigmatize conditions like autism and ADHD, viewing them as essential facets of human diversity.
Our assessments are comprehensive and involve detailed interviews, validated tools, easy-to-understand reports, and thorough feedback sessions. If you’re considering an assessment, or have questions about our process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Client Care Team. We are here to guide you through every step, answer any queries you may have, and help you schedule your assessment at a convenient time.
Should you Choose Just Mind for Your Assessment?
We understand that taking the step to seek a formal assessment can be both empowering and daunting. That’s why we prioritize a comfortable, empathetic, and non-judgmental environment for all our clients. Our assessments not only help to identify or rule out specific neurodivergencies like autism or ADHD but also offer you an invaluable, in-depth understanding of yourself. This understanding enables you to work with your unique cognitive and emotional landscape rather than against it, enhancing your quality of life in myriad ways. The first step can be a meeting with our Director of Neurodiversity Services to help you to consider options. Our assessments are very in depth and give you detailed feedback with actionable options and Dr. Scott Allen has over 20 years of experience in this specialization.
If you later choose to do therapy following your assessment, our team of qualified clinicians is trained to recognize the multi-faceted nature of neurodivergence. We go beyond just symptom-checking; we consider your lived experiences, your individual coping mechanisms, and the environmental factors that could be affecting your mental health. Our strengths-based approach ensures that you walk away with not just a diagnosis, but also a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs and aspirations.
Accessibility and Inclusivity
We also understand that access to quality psychological services can be a privilege. At Just Mind, we aim to make our services as accessible as possible to a broad demographic. Financial plans, sliding scale options, and a commitment to timely service are just a few ways we are striving to make psychological assessments a viable option for everyone who needs one.
The Final Word
In a world that is just beginning to recognize the importance of neurodiversity, understanding oneself becomes more crucial than ever. It’s not merely about a label or a diagnosis; it’s about embarking on a fulfilling journey of self-discovery that can fundamentally transform your relationships, your work, and your sense of self. The nuances and complexities involved in identifying as neurodivergent cannot be overstated, and while the internet and self-reflection offer valuable tools for initial self-diagnosis, a formal assessment provides an additional, data-driven layer of understanding.
So, do you need a formal psychological assessment? The answer is, indeed, nuanced. But if you’re seeking validation, a deeper understanding of yourself, or access to accommodations and supports that could make your daily life more manageable, an assessment can be an incredibly valuable tool. It could also give you protections and assistive resources in school or the workplace, should you need them.
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