Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht holding a test report.

The upsides of an autism diagnosis

What made you seek an autism diagnosis so late in life?

For my entire life, I hid complex struggles behind the many masks I presented to society. I spent huge amounts of energy trying to pass as neurotypical, and this had a significant impact on my well-being. Getting an autism diagnosis changed things for the better.


Something wrong with me

I used to visit and revisit a dozen times a day what was wrong with me. I could ever not understand me, let alone anyone else.

Why was it easy to make friendships and so hard to keep them? Why did I feel overwhelmed in noisy, crowded shops? Why did I prefer reading to socializing? Why did I say things that upset people, yet I thought were helpful?

What a diagnosis did for me was reduce all those complex questions into a simple answer: I am autistic.

This knowledge helped me in so many different ways.

It allowed others to understand me and made our relationships happier and healthier. And just as importantly, it allowed me to understand both them and myself.


Being misunderstood

For many of us, by the time we reach adulthood, our needs have gone unmet for so long, we invariably end up in burnout or crises. It allowed me to access the help that was helpful. Often the strategies that therapists would suggest would be useful for a non-autistic but only served to make me feel worse.

This changed my views of myself, so that today instead of seeing myself as broken, I see myself as different. Much of what we struggle with comes from misidentification of our needs and differences by ourselves and others. For example, our executive function difficulties can be seen as laziness, our difficulty interpreting social cues as rudeness, our sensory differences as being difficult, or our lack of eye contact as disrespect. And these misunderstandings can cause people to dislike us, ostracize us, and mistreat us.

An illustration on the different self-perceptions of autism.
Credit: Laurène Boglio (edit by Embrace ASD)

Changing perceptions

The autism diagnosis made such a difference to me, that I changed the specialization of my practice to providing autism diagnoses so that other autistics could make better sense of their lives, connect with other autistics, and gain knowledge and coping skills.

Autistics and non-autistics have different perceptions of the world, and these perceptions shape what we think of each other.

People around us and their responses to us influence the way we define ourselves as well as how others see us—good or bad. So the more we can understand each other and the intentions behind the action, the more we can be open to and accepting of each other, and the smaller the gap between how we’re being defined and who we truly are. And if you come to understand who we truly are, you may just discover you end up liking what you previously misunderstood.

Below is a poem I wrote with that sentiment.

A poem I wrote on embracing our autism and our autism diagnosis, called ‘Embrace ASD’. It goes like this: I can embrace who I am—or I can reject who I am. I can see myself having super powers—or I can see myself having symptoms. I can tame my Kryptonites—or I can drown in my challenges. I can cherish my uniqueness—or disown my peculiarities. I can utilize my cognitive abilities—or let my sensitivities overpower me. I can see what is cool about me—or I can loathe who I am. How I choose to perceive myselfaffects my life, other autistic people,and people’s perceptions of autism. Whatever I choose, I will still be autistic. Therefore I choose to embrace my autism, empower myself like a superhero, tame, cherish, utilize, and see what is cool about me.


An illustration of a clipboard with a checklist or assessment.

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
I can offer help! You can find more information here:

Online autism assessments

Burnout, Diagnosis, Late diagnosis, Misunderstanding, Ostracization


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht RP ND is a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, a Canadian leader in trauma and PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research, and she happens to be autistic.

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