Diagnosis and the solipsistic conundrum

Solipsism is the idea that only the self can be known. It is impossible to know the world through the eyes of another. What you see as red, I may see as your blue. Objective reality is that which we have all agreed on, based on discussion of our own subjective realities. How then is it reasonable that diagnostic criteria is built upon the expertise of those who are not autistic.

I know what you are going to say; diagnostic criteria are based on observation of autistic people. My response to that would be that you can observe my behaviour without having any knowledge of why I am behaving that way.

So if it is true that only the self can be known with absolute certainty, would it not make sense that autistic people themselves be involved in the creation of diagnostic criteria? For as long as I have been advocating for autistics, I have been very aware that female/AFAB, BIPOC, and other multiply marginalised people have a different experience of what it is to be autistic than the white, male, children that the diagnostic criteria is based on.

Should we not be giving a voice to all autistic experience, and building an objective diagnostic criteria out of the subjective experiences of #AllAutistics?

Currently, many are denied the privilege of a formal diagnosis because they do not meet an outdated stereotype. The people who designed the diagnostic criteria did so through observation of outward behaviour, and very little is considered about the inner workings of the autistic mind.

I myself was denied diagnosis throughout my childhood because of these stereotypes, and as an adult, I was denied diagnosis because I was an addict and “autistic people can’t be addicts” according to many of the professionals who worked with me. I was privileged to receive a diagnosis at age 26, 7 months after achieving sobriety.

We are all experts on our own inner-selves. When diagnostic criteria begins to reflect that self-expertise, I believe we will see more people receive a diagnosis and access the support they need. We live in a world where (of diagnosed autistics) the suicide rate is nine times higher than the general population, can you imagine what that statistic must look like for the countless undiagnosed autistics among us?

As a community, we must continue to document our experiences, and share them with as many professionals as possible. The nature of self-advocacy is that we do not just benefit ourselves, but those who come after us also. It’s 2020, and the time for the stereotypes of the past is gone. Now is the time for all of us to be heard, and not just the few identified by ancient criteria.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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