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To My Doctor, From Your Autistic Patient

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Dear Doctor,

This sounds silly, and you might wonder why I am grateful for something so insignificant, but I want to thank you for treating me like an adult. Thank you for treating me with respect and for not talking down to me. Why is this even noteworthy? Let me give some context.

I am an adult on the autism spectrum, and I’ve always had a phobia of doctors, needles and really any medical procedure. This means when I do come into the office, even for something minor like a blood draw, I am on edge and not always the best version of myself. With my autism comes a set of social challenges like lack of eye contact and difficulty identifying specific feelings, physical or emotional. It means I have a hard time pinpointing and describing any symptoms I may be experiencing. To many doctors, I might appear to not really even need care because my descriptions and answers to questions may be vague. My lack of eye contact and body movements may seem “off” to you. What many medical professionals have failed to see is that I really am trying to cooperate.

Today when you explained that a blood draw was needed, I panicked. I wiggled in my seat, trying hard to still sit upright and began to cry, saying how I really didn’t want to do that. You paused and waited for me to finish. You said, “I understand that you don’t want to, and you’re an adult, and if you truly don’t want that, it’s your choice.” That threw me off, and I listened as you explained the benefits of getting the procedure done and the risks of avoiding it. You gave me time to not only process the information you’d given me, but also time for me to make a choice.

For the first time in my adult life, I was treated like a real adult by my doctor. You gave the information to me in a way I could not only understand, but in a way so I could make an informed choice for myself.

In my past experiences, medical professionals will often ask me a question while looking at whoever accompanied me to the appointment in hopes of possibly getting a faster, clearer answer to the question, without even giving me a chance to answer for myself. If I request more information on something, I have been frequently brushed off and not given the information in a way I can understand, or given sufficient time to process it, or even given the right to make choices about my care.

Thank you for speaking to me professionally, giving me time to process information and for helping me make informed choices relating to my health.

Getty photo by Monkey Business Images.

Originally published: October 28, 2019
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