I do not know why it took me so many years to fall out of the tree and consider the possibility that I have a score above the Asperger’s Syndrome (now collapsed into autism) threshold. But in the spring or summer of 2011 I saw an online Asperger’s Quotient Assessment and thought “I should take that.” And I scored 34, which put me two points above the threshold (in other words, I have the score of a high functioning autistic, aka Aspie, or “not a neurotypical“).
I was a self-diagnosed Aspie. And frankly, it was a serious relief. I had a name for my life of experience being different, by which I mean, wondering why everyone else (neurotypicals) seemed to think (given what they said) so curiously. I posted my score on FB, and emailed my parents, my brother, my ex-wife, and my kids. My dad, who loves this sort of self-testing, emailed back that he, too, scored a 34. Somewhere around 15 of my FB friends also took the test and posted their score as a comment, most of whom reported a score above 32. But one friend commented that anybody could get whatever score they wanted to on that test, by which meant that if one had a sense for the characteristics of Aspies it was terribly easy to figure out what to answer to lower or raise your score. He is, of course, correct. So I decided that I should get officially diagnosed.
To my surprise, this proved a bit of a challenge, and frankly it was hardly on the top of my To Do List. So I wasn’t able to secure an appointment until March of this year. I was given the following battery of tests:
Autism Spectrum Quotient (ASQ)
Empathy Quotient (EQ)
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Module 4 (ADOS)
My ASQ score was 35 (32+ is considered autistic), but I scored 20 on the EQ, which is a full 10 points below the 30 point threshold. The report did not provide a numeric value for my ADOS Module 4, but concluded that “he exceeded the cutoff for the Social Interaction Total score, but was below the autism spectrum cut-off for Communication and the overall total score.” For the Ritvo I scored 98, and a “RAADS-R score of 65 or greater is consistent with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.” I will let you draw your own conclusions, but these scores confirmed my self-identification as an Aspie.
Those of you who know me might be thinking: “But you seem so normal” (for another Aspie’s post on that topic, see here). I have two responses.
1. If I you could experience the unfiltered stream of thoughts that run through my brain you would not say that.
2. I am very dubious that the scales that are used to conceptualize and measure autism will still be in use in 25 years: I do not think it is unidimensional, and that we will come be able to better classify different types of autism in the future.
More specifically, and probably more helpfully, you might be thinking of classic autistic tendencies represented in popular media, such as an absence of eye contact, and thinking that I do not seem like that. Yes. But the issue is that these representations are not terribly representative of everyone who is an Aspie (hence point #2). For example, my self test score on Simon Baron-Cohen’s Reading the Mind in the Eyes test is 29. A score of less than 22 is considered indicative of autism, a score of 22-30 is the normal range, and in Appendix 1 of the book in which he published the test, Baron-Cohen writes “If you scored over 30 you are very accurate at decoding a person’s facial expression around their eyes.” So I am well above average at that task.
Why post all this? The primary reason is so that I can refer to it in later posts. I have this idea of (1) venting about what it can be like interacting with all y’all neurotypicals, and (2) trying to help you neurotypicals make some sense of us Aspies. To that end, here’s my first tip: stand-up comics whose jokes make fun of “normal social behavior” might well be Aspies.