There's no question about it, the majority of Asperger's diagnosis' handed out today go to children. It is also pretty clear that the diagnosis provides access to a lot of ongoing early intervention and is the most successful way of dealing with the problems condition poses.
Some time ago I asked whether or not it made sense to label our children. Although the answers were far from unanimous, the majority seemed to support the label. This was because in most cases, a diagnosis provided obvious benefits.
It's a fairly simple question when aimed at children but it becomes a very different question when aimed at adults. It's difficult to tell whether or not a diagnosis can be useful for an adult who has already become well-established in the world, though not necessarily successful.
A Lack of Obvious Benefits
For a start, the obvious benefits just aren't there. There generally aren't any government handouts for adults with aspergers and revealing your condition to a prospective employer is more likely to hinder rather than help, your chances of success.
In fact, there is an abundance of stories about people who have lost their jobs because of aspergers though many of these relate to the symptoms themselves, rather than individuals "coming out of the closet".
Of course, bringing up the subject of aspergers after you've been berated by your boss for your poor social skills probably does seem like an excuse. It does make sense that some employers would take this the wrong way and terminate ones employment. This is similar to bringing up the subject after you've been accused of a capital crime (see: Martin Bryant or Gary McKinnon).
The other major factor in not getting diagnosed as an adult is cost. It just doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money on a label which isn't necessarily going to provide you with any material benefits. The high cost is probably the main reason for the huge number of "self-diagnosed" aspies out there.
Some people just can't handle labels and it's hardly surprising that one of the first reactions that people have to a diagnosis is depression. I can remember my own depression at the time as a sinking feeling that I wasn't as "unique" as I'd always believed. Instead of being a product of "my internal self", many of my creative and intellectual pursuits were driven by a "syndrome". I was fortunate to be able to move on from my depression easily - after all, I reasoned, it was only a label. I'd been myself before the label. I would be "myself" again afterwards.
Other people however don't have it quite so easy. For them, it's about a genetic weakness or about passing their problems onto their children. People who had difficult childhoods are especially prone to this sort of depression because they feel that it's their fault that history will repeat for their children. In reality of course, it's often more likely to be environmental factors which have the greatest impact on the happiness of children. Provide a happy and supportive home and most children will find happiness regardless of other conditions.
Of course, there are benefits to having a diagnosis, but they're much less tangible. For a start, when you discover that you have aspergers, the diagnosis casts your entire life in a different light. You begin to understand why you never felt like you fitted in. You understand the reasons for your depression, your failed social experiences and your obsessions.
I'm not saying that you can change, in fact, I'm suggesting the opposite. You can however more easily accommodate your weaknesses because in accepting them (and yourself), you can stop living in the shadow of your past "mistakes" and move on.
In my case, I was able to accept that there were very good reasons why I hated social events and I stopped "forcing myself to attend". Sure, I'll still go to some social events but these days I don't feel quite so obligated. There's a reason why I'm not good at them and no amount of practice is going to make that reason disappear entirely.
I've accepted myself the way I am and I feel much better for doing so.