When I was 16 years old, hands flapping rapidly against the arms of the therapy room chair, a psychologist informed me I had Asperger’s Syndrome. I had never even considered it before, I barely knew a thing about autism spectrum disorders, but once I started learning, everything quickly fell into place. But it left me wondering: why was I diagnosed so late? How did no one notice, in all the years I’d been at school, that I was autistic?
The reality is that many autistic people slip under the radar when it comes to diagnosis. Depictions of autism frame those who have it generally white and male, with some patronizing puzzle pieces added in. The media encourages this framing through the overwhelming amount of fictional, white, male, autistic characters (such as in Rain Man, Adam, Mozart and the Whale, Dear John, and others) which become the fixed idea of autism in many people’s minds. Along with that, the medical field has largely focused on the way in which these white boys present their symptoms, and their symptoms end up as the yardstick of the diagnostic criteria.