By Brett Andersen, PsyD, SSP, ABSNP, NCSP

First, Some History 

First of all, let me define autism.  Prior to 2013, the terms were Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).  Autistic Disorder was looked at as having difficulty with social interaction, communication, and having unusual behaviors (e.g., being abnormally interested in things, always following rules, not flexible with routines, hand flapping, etc.).  Asperger’s Disorder was essentially the same as Autistic Disorder; however, it was viewed as being a mild form of Autistic Disorder.  And PDD-NOS was even a milder form of Autistic Disorder.

So then 2013 happens.  A new manual came out (DSM-5).  The DSM-5 did away with separate diagnostic terms and now just calls it Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  So an individual could have ASD but be really low functioning or really high functioning, and regardless both individuals would be said to have ASD.


So what is ASD?  ASD or autism is a developmental disability generally evident by the age of 3 that impacts a person’s social interaction and communication.  So people do not just get ASD in middle school or high school.  If you did not have ASD before the age of 3 then you likely do not have ASD.

Do You Have ASD?

Likely not.  If you put 54 people your age in a room, likely only 1 person will have ASD.  I say this to normalize things for many of you.  As a psychologist, I need to have good social skills.  But have I ever felt awkward or out of place?  For sure!  Have I misinterpreted a social cue before?  For Sure!  Just ask my high school friends!  But how can you tell if you might?

  • Talk to your parents.  Ask them if your development was different from other young children.  If you have siblings, you may ask them to compare you to them.  Not in terms of who they love more (spoiler alert: they love you equally), but in terms of how you get along with others.  How you socialize with others.  How you interact with others.  For example, do you have trouble figuring out why someone is mad at you?  Do you only have one or very few friends?  Is it hard to make friends?  Do people make comments to you that you are odd or strange?  Do you have trouble making “small talk?”
  • If you are 18 or older, take a free ASD screening test online. PLEASE NOTE that the results will not definitively identify ASD or that you do not have ASD.  But if it comes out that you likely have ASD, then you might want to go to a psychologist for an actual examination by a professional.  Here is a great online screening tool.
  • Go straight to a professional. A psychologist can evaluate and identify whether or not you have ASD.  As someone that evaluates individuals for ASD, my question is always, “What does the diagnosis mean for this person?”  It is not the diagnosis that is the most important, from my perspective, but what we are going to do about it.  For example, many individuals with ASD need accommodations at school (high school, college, etc.) and/or work.  A common symptoms of ASD is being hypersensitive to noise.  So an individual with ASD working in a loud environment may benefit from being able to take breaks at work whenever they need one.  Or a high schooler with ASD may need additional help with learning how to read social cues or interact with peers; school counselors can often times help with that, but they also sometimes want to see an evaluation showing that you actually have a need.

And If You Have ASD?

No problem!  ASD is commonly associated with many strengths!  For example, individuals on the spectrum are typically meticulous.  You likely catch things that most people do not.  You also might be very factual and analytical.  You likely can problem solve and figure out things at a higher level than others, similar to an engineering.  Feel free to Google famous/successful people out there with ASD.  There are plenty!  And there is no doubt you will also be able to become famous and successful too!

Recommended Resources

Here is a great YouTube video on ASD in girls


Autism in Heels

The Spectrum Girl Survival Guide

Odd Girl Out

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women


Dr. Brett Andersen is a Licensed Psychologist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist.  He specializes in child and adolescent evaluations, and is the owner of Andersen Psychological Services.