Autism spectrum disorder covers a wide range of people with a variety of social and learning disabilities and some of the hardest to diagnose are those with high IQs. Some slip through the cracks and make it all the way to adulthood without knowing they have a type of high-functioning autism called Asperger's syndrome. Like for musician David Noll, the diagnosis often comes with a sense of relief.
"[I spent] my life hearing 'what's wrong with you?' 'why can't you do this?' 'you ought to be able to do that,'" said Noll.
Noll, 57, said he always knew he was different, but a year ago everything changed.
"I lived 57 years know there was something different about me which I translated into there's something wrong with me," said Noll of his struggle to find a diagnosis.
Noll has Asperger's syndrome, a high functioning form of autism that has a variety of characteristics like poor social skills and an inability to keep lasting relationships.
"Problems in relating to other people, understanding social cues and emotions," added Dr. Katherine Loveland, Ph.D., professor and autism researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
Dr. Loveland says she sees patients like David more and more.
"There are actually a lot more people out there with Asperger's than we realize. In fact, there are many of them who are employed, have families...are doing pretty well in life, but are having some persistent problems," said Dr. Loveland.
Autism Support Alliance Senior Coordinator at Family & Youth in Lake Charles, Shantele Guidry says the diagnosis is just the beginning.
"We're trying to focus on the quality of life. We're focusing on social skills training and hygiene and health, employment, vocation issues, housing issues," said Guidry.
Services that have drastically helped kids and young adults like Dillon Chaddick, 20, function better in society.
"Especially since it let's you know that you're not alone," said Chaddick about the group therapy sessions at Family & Youth.
"He started with the high school group and from that point we've just seen progress," explained Guidry.
Diagnosed at age 15, Chaddick now has a job and is also studying to be paralegal.
"You can go for a long time not knowing why people react differently to you," said Chaddick of his struggle for acceptance.
Back in Houston, Noll continues to play guitar and write music including a piece called "Sarah's Song" about Asperger's syndrome.
"Your awakening to the realization of your autism...it changes everything. It changes the whole way you see the world," said Noll.
He called the experience a big relief and said that the diagnosis gives him a whole knew outlook on life.