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I'm not 100% sure, but I think I have level 1 autism spectrum disorder (formerly called "high-functioning autism" or "Asperger's syndrome"). I have never been diagnosed, and I have never had an appointment with a psychiartist or psychologist for any reason. I want to get a private pilot license at some point, and possibly CPL.

Does possibly having ASD affect this? Will I have to tell the AME that I suspect that I am autistic? Would being diagnosed with ASD be a problem?

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    $\begingroup$ I sometimes get the sense that young people are searching for some condition to latch onto to explain their perceived personality flaws. If you're not 100% sure, and nobody has ever brought it up or made any kind of assessment, and you live a more or less normal life, why are you even bothering with this? Just live and go on with whatever it is you want to do. If you have serious emotional issues that could impact your ability to fly airplanes, it will come out during training. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Mar 28, 2023 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ It isn't just young people, or those supposedly afflicted - grad students, PHD candidates, clinicians, all need to "publish or perish" in order to further their professional progress. They are the ones forever performing new studies, and creating new categories of illness and disorder for people to fret over. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2023 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Just a suggestion, but try shifting the question away from the named thing, (ASD) and ask instead about the specific ways it might manifest itself and whether they might disqualify you. Because the name is nothing more than a label, an administrative fiction, while the symptoms themselves are the things that are real. What is it about you specifically that makes you doubt your ability to perform as a pilot? $\endgroup$ 2 days ago

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ASD is not specifically disqualifying, and is discussed in a Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin here. While it isn't specifically disqualifying, you can expect it to take a large amount of time and money to convince the FAA that you are fit to fly.

If you are diagnosed with ASD, you will have to disclose it to your AME. This will very likely cause your case to be deferred to the AMCD, who will consider the totality of your case. This may result in a relatively quick (less than 1 year) approval. It may also result in a long, expensive process that eventually ends in denial. Or anywhere in between.

Note the airman discussed in the medical bulletin was issued a medical, but his symptoms were light and did not require treatment. If you function well and don't see a reason to see a medical professional, I see no reason you would legally be required to disclose a medical condition that, to the best of your knowledge, you do not have and have never been diagnosed with. And I would advise in general that you do not disclose anything to your AME that you are not required to.

If you are diagnosed or if you choose to disclose that you think you have ASD to your AME, definitely find an AME with experience dealing with cases like yours, and have a consultation before going in for your medical. The FAA will want documentation, and if you start the medical prematurely you will not have time to get these documents before your AME has to send your package to the FAA. This will slow down the process considerably.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! If I do have ASD, the symptoms don't significantly affect my daily life. $\endgroup$
    – user68439
    Mar 28, 2023 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @user68439 The criteria in DSM-IV (the AMCD still uses this supposedly) used to diagnose Asperger's can be found here. In particular "The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." So if it doesn't affect your daily life, you by definition don't have Asperger's, by my reading of the criteria. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Mar 28, 2023 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ Not every neurodivergence is a "disorder," and ASD level 1 is a disorder, identified by needing some support to make it through daily life. In DSM-V clinical symptoms are rated from level 0 to level 3. You can be neurodivergent and still fall within level 0, which is not a disorder and should not lead to a diagnosis of anything. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Mar 28, 2023 at 19:27
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Autism isn't a disease, nor is it a disability in and of itself (even though allistic people's behavior towards autistic people can very well be disabling). It is just a natural variation in human neurology, just like some people are white and others are black.

As such, I wouldn't disclose autism to an AME at all, especially seeing the discrimination that we are so often a victim of.

The FAA doesn't even list autism as a disqualifying factor whatsoever, yet many AMEs ignore that and discriminate against autistic pilots by putting the undue burden of further psychological testing on them.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it the job of the AME to try to ensure that candidates are fit to fly? If there is a question, doesn't it need to be answered before a medical certificate is issued? $\endgroup$
    – RetiredATC
    2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like the bigger issue is that pilot certification bodies need to determine what types of autism, if any, can impact one's ability to be a safe pilot. I have friends with autism that can possibly be safe pilots (I am not qualified to make that evaluation, so I simply use the word "possibly", as I would for most candidates), but I also have friends with autism for whom, unfortunately, the autism would very likely make them unsafe pilots (or vehicle drivers). Of course, the same is true for everything that can impact performance, including age, vision, alcohol/drug use, sleep, & stress. $\endgroup$ 2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ "I wouldn't disclose autism to an AME" I think you may be required to disclose any medical diagnosis, but there is nothing I'm aware of that requires you to seek out a diagnosis for something you weakly suspect you just might have. $\endgroup$ 2 days ago

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