Saturday, April 30, 2011

Really Long Somewhat Self Indulgent Look into the Possibility of Being on the Spectrum

Ok, so I admit. I kinda raise a doubtful eyebrow when I stumble upon a blog by a self diagnosed adult with ASD. I’m not saying I dismiss them outright, but frankly, I don’t think I give as much weight to their words as, say, a famous mother with 3 kids with a paper trail of medical history and confirmation by a number of different specialists. Or, you know, Temple Grandin. (shrug).

Which I only mention because I was going to say, it’s a little ironic that I’m pretty sure I’m a little autistic.


I always find taking the online surveys a little… hmm. That’s a little unscientific, isn’t it? I mean, as much as I know myself, having a certain perception and then answering somewhat subjective questions about vague subjects can only be so effective. I mean, seriously, Simon Baron Cohen’s test isn’t that much different from some “online personality quiz” I remember from my teenage years. I’m not trying to just be a total hater, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I’m not exactly sure, I’m ignorant about if there is a good way to assess an adult for ASD without relying heavily only on information provided by said adult.

I have to say, I’m pretty okay in life. I don’t uh. Struggle daily.

I don’t have very serious sensory issues, although there are a couple of very specific sounds that incapacitate me. The sound of windbreaker material, nylon, the absolute worst sound in the world- the dreaded trapper keeper notebook being slid across a hard floor… These sounds are pretty easy to avoid, at least (especially now that I’m older and almost never come across trapper keeper notebooks!) but my reaction left such an impression on my parents that when Wylie was diagnosed, and my dad started looking into things, he said to me “I think you’re autistic! Those sounds you couldn’t stand! I never, ever, ever understood it! Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a biological answer to your weirdness?”

Well, Dad. Indeed. Shit.

What I mean is, I am interested in how close to the spectrum I fall, er, not because of something I need now. I don’t necessarily feel I need any sort of treatment at this point (maybe for my forgetfulness and distractibility… and rage… hmmm… but that’s it! Haha).

It’s just I think I spent a lot of time and effort and suffered a lot of heartache and misery looking for answers that I never found. And I gave up and focused on my behavior at one point and my life wasn’t miserable anymore. And then Wylie was born and all the crap I couldn’t achieve for myself because I was so fearful of trying, I suddenly resolved to have the strength to do for Wylie. It’s hard to really understand what I mean by all this without seeing exactly how out of control I was in my earlier years of “adult”hood and how CONFUSED I was as a child.

A memory that has had me puzzled for a very long time- a memory, I admit, probably isn’t as clear as I think it is. I am very aware of the fuzziness of memories and it’s always something to note. I’m talking about kindergarten and first grade, here. It was a private school, and there was one kindergarten class, but for certain activities, we broke up into groups named after animals. We lived in the desert, so names like “Roadrunners” and “Scorpions.” For whatever reason, by some formula I NEVER understood, these groups would change from time to time. I mean, what the hell, one day I would be a roadrunner and the next day I would be a scorpion. Which, okay, so what? Well, the so what is that everybody else knew what group they were supposed to be in.

It was a big deal. I couldn’t figure it out. I was a good student. That’s an understatement- I remember skipping to advanced classes, testing significantly higher than my peers… I could not, for the life of me, figure out what group I was going to be in from activity to activity. I remember being so stressed out about it. Do you know what I DON’T remember? Asking anybody to help me figure it out.

The trait in Wylie that most reminds me of myself is his natural assumption that the best way to work out a problem is by himself, on his own. It is probably because I am so familiar with it that I find it so endearing. I think this is indicative of ASD, in all honestly. I watch the faces of the kids at Wylie’s school and I can read their minds.

“I want that cookie… but there is some sort of obstacle in my way. I will try evasion first and make a swipe for the cookie. Foiled again! Hmm. How frustrating. I think I’ll scream.”

“What is it this thing wants from me? I really want to go into the breakroom, but I am being stopped for no apparent reason. Now I am angry, and I will stiffen my body up and sob.”

I understand the perspective. And the inner dialogue. It’s different when you are not naturally inclined to socialize in order to achieve goals.

Another school incident I still think about, um, quite a lot (jeez, I should learn to let go, lol) is in the 6th grade we had these math problems. Now I am a WHIZ at some math. I love me some math! Not to toot my own horn, but I was definitely smarter at math than most of my peers in the 6th grade. We were trying a new program out that was modeled after some Asian Math programs (I know, a little racist of us, but hey) where there were levels of math problems broken up and students were basically self paced on different leveled worksheets, like level 1-20. I was flying through these worksheets. We (us students) were all graphed on a poster and I was, like, WAY in the lead.

And then I got to one worksheet. I don’t remember the details except it was a triangle and it had missing measurements. You absolutely, 100% needed these measurements to solve the problem. We were NOT provided a ruler.

Everybody flew past me. I was stuck on this problem. Now, in my old age, I realize it was probably okay at any point to ask for help from the teacher. At the time, however, my teacher finally approached me to ask about something traumatic happening at home, because, like I said, I was a math genius, and I suddenly stopped doing my math work. “No, I’m not being beaten,” I said matter of factly. “It’s just that this triangle is missing a measurement.”

“Well,” he said, “Luckily our brains are bigger than Lucy’s” – a reference to the primitive humanoid bones believed to be our first ancestor—“And we can assume this is *this* many inches and this is *that* many inches. Now can you solve it?”

I did solve it. Because I finished it, I got to keep the worksheet and I went and retrieved a ruler. It was not drawn to scale. I am absolutely still annoyed to this day.

So yeah. I have these memories. And they really make me think.


  1. Personally, I'm ok with someone being self-diagnosed. After all, they must have good reason for their belief: nobody's going to say "I'm autistic" on a whim, are they? If they can identify with traits associated with autistic people, that's good enough for me, and I've heard some real insights from self diagnosed autistics.
    My sensory hates are rubber gloves (hate! hate! hate! the squeaky feel) and food that 'squeaks' when you eat it. Don't ask me to explain! Apple peel is an offender, and runner beans. Delicious taste, squeaky texture. Like you say, makes you think...

  2. Haha. Yeah. I don't have a problem with self-diagnosed, I just feel that I'm still kinda inexperienced with ASD and when I am (unscientifically) scanning for (anecdotal) information, people who are self diagnosed only after they are well into adulthood aren't the first anecdotes I try to read. I'm not maliciously dubious, I just think if any group is likely to be less accurate about ASD dx, I think it is this group. Realistically, when we are talking about things like blogs and the net, I suppose accuracy can be all over the place, anyway. And scientifically, even if the anecdotal information was pretty accurate, those anecdotes that I personally stumble across aren't necessarily representitive of the entire ASD population as a whole, so. (Shrug).

    THAT being said, my opinions may change. I am pretty open to persuasions and general changes of heart. I'm starting to lean pretty hard towards thinking that there is a continuing spectrum of not so much typical/atypical ratios but of like highly socialable-language oriented-networkers/highly logical-object oriented-producers with key skills on both sides pretty important to day to day funtioning. If that were true, official diagnosis would be less relevant, anyway.

    It's very interesting and kinda cool to know how alike we are with our offspring, even if our issues aren't the same at all. There's a lot of "alien" and "stranger in a strange land" references to our children- I find it comforting that the differences between us aren't really that stark at all.

  3. I'm just a bit defensive as some of the blogs that have been most helpful to me have been by self diagnosed folk - I'm just sticking up for my blog friends! :)
    Maybe I'm just jealous because I could never work out angles and measurements even when provided with every bit of information!!
    Totally agree that a little bit of self analysis lets us empathise with our kids. As you say, a comforting thought.

  4. Thank you for your input. I'm really completely open to differing ideas, and I certainly do not mean to offend those who have decided to go the self diagnosis route. Even my questioning the usefulness of things like the Aspie Quotient Test of Baron-Cohen's is just that- a question. I really am fond of the scientific method and I realize there are flaws when it comes to self reporting and surveys for gathering info. And just because there are flaws doesn't mean it isn't worthy scientific information. And mostly in this context I'm interested in the limitations of self diagnosis and survey based assessments for my personal suspicions of my own ASD traits. :)