Most of us have heard the saying that no two people with Autism are alike. A comprehensive cognitive assessment is an individualised process, it enables you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Cognitive tests assess your concentration, memory, organisation, reasoning, problem-solving, decision making and higher level cognitive capabilities. It helps to determine whether there are any other underlying issues e.g. ADHD. Identification is important because it allows you to identify where you may need support.
I received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome approximately three years ago. When I pursued my Asperger/Autism diagnosis it was never suggested to me that I could undergo further testing to see how this condition uniquely affects me. I assume this is because it is usually children who undergo testing for early intervention and supports. I am a little too old for early intervention, so my reasons for pursuing an assessment was to ascertain whether or not I had ADHD (inattentive type). My personal history (my recollections, school report cards, GP notes, and observations by others) showed that I had issues with attention throughout schooling. However, no interventions took place to rectify this issue with attention. I assume this was partly due to not being disruptive in class (i.e. ADHD – hyperactive type). Perhaps teachers assumed it wasn’t such a big deal and I would grow out of it or they just weren’t educated in such matters, who knows. Nevertheless, this lack of anything perpetuated my struggles throughout schooling and beyond.
I can say that another added complexity for me is emotional dysregulation (aka central nervous system dysregulation). I have a history of depression and anxiety, due to complex family and social history. This ‘complex-trauma’ can cause emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation also goes hand-in-hand with autism. Symptoms of central nervous system dysregulation from trauma or anxiety can create similar problems with organisation and attention as conditions like ADHD, or it may add further complexities to underlying cognitive issues (e.g. ADHD).
During my first university degree, my grades went down at the height of my anxiety and depression. I worked through some of those issues on my own before and as I was completing another degree. For this latter degree, I was able to achieve an award of academic excellence. This was in spite of still experiencing issues with fatigue, concentration and brain fog. So, to outsiders, it is easy to think that it was my mood disorder that impacted my ability to focus and excel. I know it wasn’t the whole picture, as I still experience issues with organisation, concentration and decision making even though I no longer have clinical depression or anxiety as bad I had about eight years ago.
In my experience, I have found that professionals tend to consider presenting issues above all other considerations or possibilities. This creates unwittingly creates barriers. From their point of view, Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. In these circumstances, you need to persevere with what you know is best for you even when the professional is walking down the garden path. If you find yourself having an emotional response to the situation then step back and give yourself a moment to consider the consequences of having an emotional reaction. Strong emotional reactions tend to put people off, especially when it causes their stress response to go off. So, despite what professionals may say just pursue the testing anyway to rule out whether or not you have an underlying cognitive condition.
The comprehensive cognitive test usually goes for a number of hours. You are given numerous tests in Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Numerical Reasoning among other things. The outcome of my cognitive assessment was that it identified that I have sensory processing disorder. It also revealed that there is a big discrepancy between my intellect (gifted range) and working memory capacity (below average). This discrepancy is called twice exceptional (i.e. gifted with a disability). And it accounts for my lifelong frustrations and challenges with everything. These challenges of mine are not solely due to mood and anxiety disorders.
This process of investigation has brought up feelings of hurt and injustice. Hurt because I have been hard on myself due to my failings (some failings that were outside of my control) and that due to my strengths masking my disabilities I never received support.
The outcome of all this, I have to put thought into whether I wish to pursue the ‘treatment?’ program which is neurofeedback.
Thanks for reading!
Have you had a cognitive assessment or considered having one?
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