Mozart and the Whale
February 3, 2010 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Aspergerfilter: My girlfriend's 8 year old son has aspergers. Upon observing him, I think I might as well.

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost a year now and I've been living with her for 8 months. During this time I've learned a lot about Aspergers and how her son's brain operates.

I'd made mention to my gf several times "wow I acted just like that when I was a kid" or "those are the same exact mannerisms I had as a child."

One night my gf's son had a giant meltdown that resulted into fatalistic talk and screaming that he was never going to have wife and kids (for some reason, he fixates on that a lot). He said he was weird and quirky and no one likes him. My gf pointed out that I was weird and quirky (it's an ongoing light-hearted joke) and that we were dating. He asked if maybe I had Aspergers too.

I just brushed off the notion saying "no, of course not." until I started thinking. My gf's son fixates on things (to the point you have to scream at him to get his attention), can't empathize, can't read facial expressions, starts talking to someone and doesn't know where to stop, walks on tip toes, , has to label everything, wildly imaginative, the ability to recognize patterns, gets fatalistic and uber talented in some areas but struggles in others.

I am pretty much the same way however growing up, my family dismissed all these things (they would act as if nothing was wrong and yell at me when I'd do something that was not in the handbook of "model child.")

I took a two online tests for adult Aspergers and I scored pretty high on them. The feelings and realizations I've had lately are the ones Bruce Willis has at the end of Sixth Sense...I had no idea.

I have no ties to my family, in fact I rarely speak to them at all but their emotional hold on me is great when I think "wow maybe I do have aspergers" all I can see in my mind's eye is my dad dismissing it like he has done on anything I've ever felt. But for once, things make total sense to me and while I would not like to parade around the community with a shirt on that said "Hey Look at me! I'm an Aspie!" It would be nice to "label" some of my quirkiness and attribute it to something. I've always known I was different than other people (especially when I was a child) and most of my friends who are close to me would quickly describe me as "quirky, eccentric and that I think differently than most people."

on a side note...getting the privilege to interact with my gf's son has been good therapy for me. It's almost like I get to work with my innerchild (and I've been pretty involved with him because I know kids with Aspergers are candidates for suicide. Which is an also telltale sign for me because in my teens and 20's I struggled immensely with that - another thing my parents dismissed and acted as nothing was ever wrong).

So without an official doctor's note...what would you gather about where I am on the Aspergers scale. Would this be something I've had and never know or am I just projecting? (if projecting is the right word)
posted by Hands of Manos to Human Relations (49 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think the only answer anyone can give you is to see a professional. I don't understand how some internet tests, confirmation bias (fitting your actions to the syndrome) and strangers on the internet can give you anything worthwhile.
posted by Hiker at 7:43 AM on February 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think Hiker nails it. The evidence you present seems suggestive enough for it to be worth seeking a diagnosis if you feel like you want one, but even if we were all doctors, we still couldn't diagnose you online.
posted by Zed at 7:49 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: Hiker,

Maybe I should have prefaced that. I don't really feel the need, at this age, to see a professional when they would (possibly) give me the same tests and answers I could find on the internet and/or like minded people. If it were something affecting my relationship and/or career...then I'd do it but that's not the case.

Also, on a side note, I have bare minimum insurance and forking out money has not been a luxury of mine at the moment...so unless this was affecting my quality of life, I'd prefer to hear from like minded people.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2010


I agree that we can't diagnose you over the internet. You're going to have to get a professional opinion.

But you know what we can tell you to do? Go talk to your girlfriend's son, and tell him that you've been thinking about what he said, and that you don't know, but think that you might have Asperger's, too. It will do him a world of good to know that you took his question seriously, and to know that someone who's succeeded in having a loving, romantic relationship might be dealing with the same things he is.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:51 AM on February 3, 2010 [19 favorites]


Response by poster: Zed and Hiker,

I understand where you are coming from and you make a valid point. I know there are some face to face tests I could do. But once again, it's more a "quality of life" issue. My quirkiness is not affecting anything other than I can highly identify with my gf's son.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:51 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: ocherdraco,

We've talked about it on a few times. I even have the game "Set" that we play (the pattern recognition game). It's the only game I can school people on...all other games I'm terrible at. I watch my gf's son just tear his sister to shreds with Set whereas she's the one who generally excels at games.

I've told him on many occasions our brains work the same.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:53 AM on February 3, 2010


In that case, I think the furthest you can go is to say "I might have Asperger's" and leave it at that. You could actually use that to improve your quality of life, by creating a closer relationship with your girlfriend's son over your shared traits and your possible Asperger's. It would increase his quality of life, too.

(Which is not to say that you don't already have a good relationship with him; rather, this is just an opportunity to build an even stronger one.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:54 AM on February 3, 2010


Best answer: Go to a neurologist or a psychiatrist if it really bothers you. They'll give you and the kid a proper diagnosis, which pretty much needs to be done in person.

Otherwise, I wouldn't worry so much about the diagnosis. It's mostly only good for helping to explain to employers/professors/insurance companies what your special needs are, and maybe understanding yourself a bit better. It's basically a collection of traits, which you may not even really want to change, and if you do, there's no real drug to treat Asperger's, and AFAIK, therapy only treats the symptoms (ie poor eye contact, social skills). Thus, you could go to a therapist without the diagnosis and still get the help you want.

I say this as a person with shadows of Asperger's traits and as the older brother of an autistic person.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: (oh, I forgot...I have been tested for ADHD)
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2010


I agree wholeheartedly with ocherdracho. This might be a great opportunity for healing for you. It's possible that you do have Asperger's and being a role model for your girlfriend's son could be healing for the both of you.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: Mccarty - that is fantastic. "shadows of Asperger's traits"
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: runningwithscissors,

I think it's been good for him. His dad, while loving, is very pragmatic and rigid with him (he's mentioned before it's just a maturity thing...and while that's possibly true, he's been professional diagnosed).

I've tended to be open with him and listen to what's on his brain. Communication is hard at times because he'll just zone out. But once I can get him away from the computer and/or tv, we tend to connect pretty well.
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:59 AM on February 3, 2010


Go talk to your girlfriend's son, and tell him that you've been thinking about what he said, and that you don't know, but think that you might have Asperger's, too.

I'm sorry, I think that is terrible advice. Honestly, it gets on my nerves a little to read people on the internet decide they must have Asperger's just because they're quirky and unique. It is so much more than that- it is a real medical condition, and it makes your whole life hard. I know a grown woman who has it, and she struggles a lot. I don't think it would be fair to suggest to a little boy that his life could turn out like yours when, A, you don't know if you Asperger's, and B, you know that he does.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 AM on February 3, 2010 [19 favorites]


Response by poster: ThePinkSuperhero,

you did read that I did not say "hey look at me, I have aspergers because I took a test!" right? That's why I've inquired here. Also if you look through my responses I have told him "our brains work the same" and that I can identify with him. I never said I had the same thing as him.

I'm a grown man and I struggle a lot. It's only been in my mid 30's that I've finally gotten a handle on things. And my life is hard..socially and mentally...it's jut that I've made modifications to make life easier on me.

And I hope that my gf's boy's life DOES NOT turn out like mine. Yes, my mid 30's are great...but my teen and 20's were just awful (not to mention highly suicidal).
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:05 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I should have prefaced that. I don't really feel the need, at this age, to see a professional when they would (possibly) give me the same tests and answers I could find on the internet and/or like minded people. If it were something affecting my relationship and/or career...then I'd do it but that's not the case.

I would consider the fact that you have no ties to your family and a self-diagnosed history of candidacy for suicide to be affecting your relationships, career and life. I'm not trying to over-emphasize what Asperger's is or how helpful treatment is but I think you ought to spend some time thinking about whether or not your history of "differentness" and the struggles it's presented you are likely never to bother you again. Best of luck!
posted by Hiker at 8:06 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't really feel the need, at this age, to see a professional when they would (possibly) give me the same tests and answers I could find on the internet and/or like minded people.

Yeah, OK. This is complete bullshit. A professional is going to treat you like the internet? Like 'like-minded people'? See a professional if you think something's wrong.

From the sounds of it, you're projecting. I know someone with a hefty case of Aspergers - it's not just quirkiness. Don't try to label your perceived uniqueness with something medical. Just don't do it. Lots of teens have very depressive episodes, but it doesn't mean you have something clinical.

Trust me, you wouldn't want Aspergers.

Judging by the fact that you already have a girlfriend and see something wrong in yourself and show a hefty amount of empathy for your girlfriend's son leads me to believe that you're pretty OK. Most of the time someone with a serious, debilitating case of Aspergers will be unable to function normally on basic levels. They can't function in a relationship, can't be social, can't stray from a routine and have a terribly difficult time with change of any kind - so much so that it's paralyzing and devastating when change does come.

Conversely, just because you see similarities in yourself and someone with Aspergers doesn't mean you have it too. People with Aspergers are people, too, and often do things without the filter of social inhibition. We identify with that, largely because your inner life can be quite similar to how someone with Aspergers lives their outer life.

See someone if you must.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:11 AM on February 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many medical professionals now think Asperger's is not a useful diagnosis -- they instead diagnose people within the austism spectrum. Asperger's has just come to be so loosely defined, and if often defined different by different doctors. Because of this looseness in diagnosis, it's probably the single most over-self-diagnosed condition out there, because, if you dig around enough, you'll find somebody's description of Asperger's that fits your behavior. Additionally, for some, Asperger's is seen as being sort of cool, because it's associated with geniuses, and because it medicalizes what, for them, is probably simple immaturity or behavior problems.

If you really think you have behavior that is consistent with behavior on the autism spectrum, get diagnosed. There is a lot of misinformation about autism out there, and without consulting a medical professional, you might be exposed to some of it, or unwittingly pass some of it along, which helps nobody.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:12 AM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it could be quite a powerful experience for this boy to hear that you are learning about yourself from him. You could tell him that you see a lot of yourself in him, and you remember how you had a hard time growing up, just like him (but I would not mention the awfulness of your teens and twenties), and that you think you might be able to improve yourself by learning to do some of the same things that he is struggling with. Perhaps you could team-up when it comes to... whatever he (and you) need to work on most -- leaning facial expressions, eye contact, etc.

If he has a sense that you two are in this together, maybe it will give him more confidence to master those skills that he is struggling with.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:19 AM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rock Steady has said what I was trying to say, but much better. The Asperger's (whether you have it or not, or whether Asperger's as such exists or not) was not the point of my suggestion: the fact that you are learning about yourself because of him is.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:22 AM on February 3, 2010


I have a friend who describes himself as "probably on the Asperger's spectrum." He has spent a fair amount of time teaching himself how to cope. Most people describe him as having slight different social skills, but not in a major way. Great guy & good friend.

I think you'd enjoy reading Temple Grandin's books. Spend some time on the web looking for strategies to cope w/ Aspergers symptoms. You're smart, you've recognized some personal traits you want to address, and that's the first step. A good therapist is a big help, but personal growth doesn't necessarily require a therapist. AstroZ. is correct that there's a lot of useless crap out there, but if you use recognized medical health sites, and university sites, and common sense, I think you can navigate your way to useful info.

Your community probably has some income-based sliding scale assistance. Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Plan(EAP) with a few free sessions. I think you might need some help getting beyond your family issues. They may be harder to self-identify and self-treat.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2010


Don't let the issue of forking out money be a bar from seeking professional help if you feel you need it (which you say you don't, but I'm just saying if at some point you do). Your profile says you live in Atlanta and there seem to be a lot of not-super-costly counseling options available in Fulton County.

On another note, if you have had strong suicidal ideation at any time in your life (even if it was years ago) and have never talked to anyone (professionally, I mean) about it, I'd strongly suggest doing it (even if you don't think you need to).
posted by blucevalo at 8:40 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: Thanks Hiker,

I appreciate that. I spent most of my teens being the socially awkward kid who was picked on, made fun of, was uber sensitive and didn't have much of a filter (socially, mentally, etc). All through my 20's, I was in therapy and counseling. And as I said, I was (and attempted) suicide.

In my 30's, I learned if I made modifications to things, I could conquer it...since I've made mods...life (social, mentally) has been manageable when the chips are down.
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2010


Best answer: What Astro Zombie said about the spectrum. But even "spectrum" is too linear. Also, I'm going to disagree with (almost) everyone about professionals and diagnosis. Yes, professionals know more than the internets, but they don't know all that much more. These diagnoses are treated as having the accuracy of diagnoses of, say, TB, but they're just not science at this point. There's a lot of controversy about them too and there are those diagnosed "on the spectrum" who reject how the medical establishment views them. See, for example Aspies For Freedom. I used to know more about this (I was researching it when I had my son tested) but I've forgotten a lot since then. Like the OP, I've learned much about myself from my son, and I've also learned that our society needlessly pathologizes those of us whose consciousness may differ from the norm.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:49 AM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: jimmythefish - I understand and get what you are saying. There are high and low forms of autism as you know. My gf's son operates on a high level but is still diagnosed with autism. I'm not looking for a "Yay feel sorry for me!" it's just mainly been something that might have confirmed some issues in my past. Also there are many people with aspergers who have relationships...I never said "god I have a serious debilitating form of autism."

astro-zombie. Well I'm no genius...highly creative and talented in art...but no genius (I can barely do any forms of math at all). And I'm not looking for the cool hip factor of "hey I'm in the genius club" or anything. As stated, it's more just trying to put "why was I this way growing up." I guess the thing is...I never "got it" like those around me did starting from child to young adult. Of course, I'm sure there are many people who feel like they don't "have it."

rock steady - that's generally what I do with him. I'll say "you know, that's exactly what I did when I was your age..." I could be wrong as I have no kids of my own, but I figure that's a helluva lot better than "OMFG WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU???" (which is what I got growing up)

theora - I've read Temple's books...once again, there were many, many things I identified with her. In fact, when I read her "Thinking in Pictures" book - I sat and wept because it affected me so much.

bluecevalo - I need to fix that. I live in Birmingham now. I'm sure I could see a therapist here...I've been to counseling many times... most counselors have said "ADHD" and "well you're just different...and that's a good thing" and I've talked about suicide to counselors and feel that I've got a healthy perspective on life. Or at least the tools to deal with it when the chips are down.
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:55 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: Obscure Reference - you pretty much summed up how I feel about doc's. From what I've read and heard (which could be true or not), Doctor's are infamous for misdiagnosis or don't know much more than what's not already on the internets.

And besides, there's been a few professionals I've been to that have said "you need to take ____ pill to alter the way you think!" And on their desk they have a mug of the same pill they are pushing.
posted by Hands of Manos at 8:58 AM on February 3, 2010


Hands of Manos -- glad to hear that you've gotten help when you've felt the need to and that all is good now ..... I was just concerned based on what you'd written in your initial post. Best wishes!
posted by blucevalo at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2010


It wasn't my intention to suggest that you're looking for some sort of genius or hipness factor -- just that there are those who do, and they are often responsible for a lot of misinformation online, so you have to be cautious about what you read out there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: bluecevalo - I gave the reader's digest version as to not get long winded. I realize I should have put that in. But yes, my mid 30's are pretty okay these days (and plus, like I said, working with my gf's boy has done wonders for me in learning about my own self)

Astro Zombie - oh good. And I'm sorry if that sounded knee jerk. I guess that's something I dealt with as a kid "dad, I think my leg is broken...see how it's bent outwards and the bone is sticking out?" and the response was "oh you're just looking for attention." So I was a little sensitive to the words "hip factor"

And I approach all information with skepticism until I've cross referenced and found as much proof as I can get.
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2010


1. You may appear on the autism/aspergers spectrum. No one here can tell you that. We've established that.
2. You may also be experiencing hindsight bias - meaning in this case you have passed enough time since childhood and you are now attributing past behavior to a current, readily-available diagnosis.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:47 AM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: Nanuk,

Sounds plausible enough. And you are correct, childhood was a few decades back so I could be doing that.

I'm not ruling anything out. Whether I have it or not, my main focus is that I can identify with him and be someone loving in his life that will sit and listen to what he's got going on in that noggin of his.
posted by Hands of Manos at 9:49 AM on February 3, 2010


I say this as a person who does research on the autism spectrum through the lens of developmental social neuroscience: so far as I understand it, there is a great deal of variability even in the brains of people with similar clinically diagnosed 'places' along the spectrum, and while there may be some discernible patterns of neural activity for folks at the opposite 'poles' of the spectrum, even then there's no hard and fast rule. I think as our science progresses, we'll realize that the enormous variability in the way human brains work will render some of the current labels outmoded, and while we might see consistent hypoactivity in some regions associated with models (I feel that I should stress that these are models) of what is alternatively referred to as the social brain, the mentalizing network, or areas associated with mental state attribution, we're still not at a place where we can make any kind of cut and dried distinction at a neural level.

If your 'symptoms' are not maladaptive, and don't cause you problems, then you don't have a 'disorder.' If you believe that your mind works in a way that is similar to this kid's, you don't need a label to identify with him and help him learn how to cope the way you did.

If you'd like to learn more, one neat avenue that is ripe for exploration is the role of Von Economo neurons (though ole Constantine called them corkscrew cells) in the anterior insua and anterior cingulate cortex.

ASD as a Developmental Disorder: A Suggested Neural Underpinning
is a neat blog post about the potential role of VENs in autism spectrum disorders, written by the father of an autistic child (who appears to be a neuroscientist, given his familiarity with the literature, though I think he prefers to remain anonymous).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:16 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: thanks solipsophistocracy
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:21 AM on February 3, 2010


Mod note: few comments removed - please be constructive not snarky. OP please don't reply to every comment. thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on February 3, 2010


I work in this area professionally and I have personal experience as well.
There are 2 issues:
1. determining a diagnosis or not
2. moving forward in your life

These can be somewhat distinct.
I do NOT agree that with the idea that you can just figure it out for yourself by reading on the internet.

So, if you are interested in finding out about a diagnosis you must go to an MD or psychologist. There are likely ways to do this without a lot of money.

But the question is, why do you want to know? If you determine that you are in fact on the Autism Spectrum in some form or another, or you find out other aspects about yourself personally, what would you do with this information? This brings you to number 2.

There is tons of info and resources to be accessed which might be interesting for you in moving forward in your life. Most of it can be accessed without a diagnosis.

Therefore:
1. If you want a diagnosis confirmation go to an MD, psychologist or neuropsychologist
2. If you want to move forward with issues, then you can go ahead assuming you already have a diagnosis.
3. You could also use the diagnostic information as useful to moving forward in your life.

Feel free to memail me if you want specific info.
posted by kch at 11:51 AM on February 3, 2010


Yeah, you might have AS and you might not. So what?

I mean, what would diagnosis (professional or online) give you?

I was diagnosed a couple of years ago (professionally, not internet) and that diagnosis did nothing for me other than give me a general direction, a somewhat less-nebulous possible explanation for doing some of the things I do and why I think the way I do.

AS is like the Lyme Disease of this decade; it's almost cool or trendy to have that diagnosis. But it isn't either. It sucks. Really does. It's not a cool-kid club for the outcasts and it is certainly not carte blanche to be the "wacky neighbour" type. Half of the people asking are the "kooky IT types" that I think are secretly just wanting to belong to a club and be in a clique. Besides that it doesn't actually mean anything; no two of us are alike. Just like neurotypicals. I've met a few other "Aspies" (really don't like that term) and I couldn't stand them. Some of them were really fucked up, and others were so "normal" that I didn't understand why they thought they were different to neruotypicals.

Now I did read the entire post and I know you're not attention-whoring. Looks like you're just trying to figure yourself out, which is absolutely commendable and something I wish more people did. This absolutely isn't meant to be an insult or attack.

Diagnosis is not a magic bullet, it is not a crutch, it is not a get out of jail free card, it is not an excuse and it is not important. My advice to you, and everyone who's ever made a post here wondering if they are on the spectrum is this: Go to places like wrongplanet.net (AskMe is riddled with online resources and I can't be bothered to look for them) and poke around. Read the stories, investigate some of the coping mechanisms and see what works for you. Apply as applicable. If the methods and stories help you, there you go. You don't need to be labelled.
posted by geckoinpdx at 12:01 PM on February 3, 2010


You might check out the Wrong Planet forums. It's a website for people on the spectrum--instead of parents of people on the spectrum--and is full of all sorts of interesting information. Also Ask an Aspie is a good site although it's an archive at this point, not a running site.

My mom works with severely autistic, non-verbal kids and teaches them to talk. We talk about two things a lot that might be relevant to you.

First, she has a theory that a lot of people have a touch of something that in its full-blown form is considered a handicap or a mental illness, but in its lightest form is considered within the bounds of normal human experience. This makes sense to me personally, because I know all sorts of people, for example, who are just the tiniest bit OCD, or the tiniest bit Aspie-ish. I think what she's really getting at is that there might be a spectrum for all sorts of things, and that the spectrum itself is often a lot wider than people allow for.

Secondly, she works mainly with really little kids--4 and 5 mostly--but she's kept working with one boy as he's grown up. He's 20 now. When he was little, doctors told his parents that they should just institutionalize him, but he now works in the mail room of a local college, takes the bus to work, and lives on his own in a residential center.

The point of that anecdote is that autistic people, and people on the spectrum, grow and change and adapt too, but at least in America, a lot of people seem to forget that autism isn't a childhood disease, and that autistic kids don't just disappear when they hit puberty. I think, although I could be wrong, that this is one of the problems with trying to get diagnosed as an adult, because the diagnostic criteria are aimed at little kids, and don't take into account the fact that some adult Aspies have learned how to control, or hide, some of their most Aspie-ish habits. Even if you're not trying to get diagnosed, those assumptions about what an autistic person (i.e. autistic kid) looks like can make it difficult to explain your suspicions about how and why your brain works like it does to people who have only known you as an adult.

I also think if reading stuff by people with Asperger's helps you organize your brain better, and sheds some light on habits of thought you've had your whole life, then there's no harm in it regardless of whether you're diagnosable or not.
posted by colfax at 12:23 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I personally think that the Asbergers / Autism diagnosis is handed out a bit often these days for something that lacks a clear physical definition (as far as brain function goes - like solipsophistocracy says). It's great that you can relate to this kid, but try not to focus on the label of Asbergers. In a few years we may know more about brain function and you may find out that you actually don't have any disorder, rather you are simply a normal person who is better at creative endevors than math and who spiral into depression as a result of slightly neglectful parents. Basically, your hardships don't necessarily make you have a medical disorder. Maybe you are relating to the son more because of the hardships he is facing than his medical disorder.

An unnerving story: When I was little a neighborhood lady babysat me. she had a son that was a few years yonger than myself who could not speak and would often grunt and furiously drum his fingers on things. He used to watch videos and there would be one part that would set him off and he would rewind teh video over and over watching the same part. As a child he had developed normally then slipped into this state. He was diagnosed with autism - until one day a scan showed that part of his brain collapsed for no known reason. It just seemed like his condition was such a mystery that the medical establishment slapped on an autism label...
posted by WeekendJen at 12:34 PM on February 3, 2010


Best answer: Hmm. Unlike some of the people here, I don't think diagnosing yourself is inherently bad, or harmful, or useless, or disrespectful. Here's why:

1.It's not a laboratory test so even if you did see a professional your diagnosis would be in question.
2. You're in an "up" phase of your life, confident in your success and adaptability.
3. You are not diagnosing yourself as a defense or an excuse.
4. It will help you accept that you did not deserve the treatment you got from your parents.
5. You are not seeking medication or harmful treatment.
6. You do not want to divert resources from people who need them.
7. You're looking at this from a place of empathy and a desire to help and connect.

Do more researchon behavioral interventions for autism spectrum disorders. I think it would fascinate you--you might recognize some of the tactics and coping mechanisms that they suggest, because you've already figured them out on your own!

By the way, professionals don't get an autism detector installed when they get their PhD...


This wouldn't be projection, by the way. Projection is when you take unacceptable feelings/thoughts and attribute them to others.
posted by kathrineg at 12:34 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Unlike some of the people here, I don't think diagnosing yourself is inherently bad, or harmful, or useless, or disrespectful.

I don't think that diagnosing yourself is any of those things either. I just think it's inaccurate. As in, so inaccurate there's no point in doing it.

I mean, when I read these diagnosis criteria they're sufficiently imprecise that I can interpret the criteria in such a manner that I would meet them, or so that I would not meet them. I sometimes miss non-verbal social interaction cues, such as eye contact, facial expression and body posture - so whether I meet that criteria or not depends on whether my deficiency is 'marked'.

When the experimenter can so easily choose the results of the experiment, it's easy to see how confirmation bias could be expected - particularly when the experimenter is also the subject and has a substantial emotional investments in the experiment's results.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:29 PM on February 3, 2010


It's not really an experiment, but I think I know what you mean. Of course I question the need for perfect accuracy when a misdiagnosis would be relatively benign, for the reasons I listed above. I also question the value of hiring a professional at signifigant expense to the OP.

Many psych diagnoses are made primarily or solely on the basis of self-reports or questionnaires.

In one disorder, ADHD, docs recommend that the client and another person close to them fill out the questionnaire. They also check school records, if possible, to get multiple perspectives on one person's behavior over time.

Hands of Manos, maybe involving people besides yourself would make you feel more confident that your self-diagnosis is accurate? Of course, be open-minded to their disagreement and concerns.

Weekendjen, that disorder sounds familiar--sounds like one of 5 disorders that are lumped together under the autism umbrella although in that disorder the brain shrinks overall
posted by kathrineg at 2:10 PM on February 3, 2010


By the way I'm an amateur who works with an autistic child full time not a mental health professional.
posted by kathrineg at 2:19 PM on February 3, 2010


You may or may not have an Asperger's diagnosis.

Your parents sucked. THEY are responsible for their alienation and rejection of you, which had everything to do with THEM. I get a very strong sense that you were almost relieved when you discovered that you may have been struggling with Asperger's and, "well now it all makes sense, see? I wasn't a bad kid, I had a real disorder" You weren't a bad kid, but your parents were bad parents, and you were certainly struggling because of them. Asperger's is a separate issue.

A diagnosis, from a certain point of view, validates your parents because it provides a rationalization, however unflattering, for their behavior and maybe they just didn't know any better. I am concerned that if results are Asperger's negative you will therefore conclude that you were an unlovable, flawed, strange child, that there is something wrong with YOU.

This topic isn't close to me or anything.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2010


I didn't mean to imply that diagnosis is useless or any of the other things said upthread, I said unimportant for a reason. If it's because of the things that katherineg mentioned then certainly it's worthwhile. What I was trying to get across is that a lot of people think that getting diagnosed is a critical achievement. It isn't. You don't need a piece of paper to let you associate with like-minded individuals and learn from their experience or try to sort out your own past. I just mean that actual diagnosis itself is not important. The only difference between the day before and the day after I was diagnosed was to tell me that I was broken in a medically-recognised way. I didn't magically become "normal" overnight and I wasn't visited by an owl with a scroll in its beak inviting me to a secret fraternity.

If you want to get diagnosed, have at it! I would never discourage anyone from trying to improve themselves or looking for answers. But do it for you, because you want it and not because you think it's required. There is no secret fraternity :)
posted by geckoinpdx at 3:49 PM on February 3, 2010


Another autism research professional checking in here. most of what I would say has been said, but I will offer one more voice for a professional diagnosis vs. internet test diagnosis not being at all comparable. I score very high on the ASQ and most other Asperger's tests you'll find online. I'm socially awkward and introverted as hell, a bit more fixated on number patterns than most people probably are, other odds and ends that ratchet my scores way up high. But I absolutely do not have Asperger's. I work with a lot of researchers and staff who do diagnosis every day, I know how to do some diagnostic tests for autism myself, and I absolutely do not meet diagnostic criteria. There are a lot of ways to be geeky and socially inept without being on the spectrum.

Autism diagnosis is more of an art than a science, and to do it right you rely not only on the person's self-report but on observation of their behavior, and in-depth interviews with family members about developmental history and their observations of current behavior.

I wouldn't even begin to say whether you'd qualify for a diagnosis based on what you've said here, and have no idea whether your life situation is such that having a diagnosis would improve things for you in any way. But if you decide that it would, a real professional diagnosis would be in order. If you're concerned about things being in your medical history, you could go the research route - a good research program will give you a diagnosis that likely will not go into your records (though you'd of course need to verify that with the program) and it will be up to you whether to take that diagnosis and use it in any way in your daily life, or just tuck it away into a file drawer and never think about it again. Depending on the program it may be an issue that you aren't in touch with your parents, since one of the measures that's required for a gold-standard autism diagnosis is an in-depth parent interview. But you will likely find some programs that don't require that or will make an exception for you.
posted by Stacey at 4:38 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hands of Manos, a few things:

1- did you mean your girlfriend's son is "wildly imaginative" or was that a mistake and you meant to type unimaginative? Because people with Asperger's are not imaginative. They are literal, concrete thinkers. Lack of ability to engage in imaginative play is actually one of the diagnostic "signs" of Asperger's. (you can look these up on dozens of websites)

2- if you're so lacking in empathy and ability to relate socially, how the hell did you manage to form a live-in relationship with somebody and have a close relationship with her son, too?

3- you can talk about diagnoses in terms of "traits" if the whole pattern isn't there. A person can have e.g. "borderline personality TRAITS" without "qualifying" for the whole big diagnosis.

4- These symptoms, or "traits", or whatever, can be thought of as defensive -- ways you developed to handle what sounds like a very problemmatic and disturbing childhood. It's not really going to be helpful to stick a label on them at this point. People sometimes like to think of themselves as "neuro's" because it's a way of separating themselves from what seems ot be "wrong" with them. It's physical, you can say, rather than a function of your "youness". Another poster put it well up there, about how if you have this neurological "thing" then your parents are absolved of screwing you up.

I think it's more helpful to think that we all develop certain strategies to try to manage all the crap we're faced with in our lives. You have your strategies for shutting down, which is what "autism" looks like, too. Nobody really knows what causes this stuff. Doing MRIs and finding stuff really doesn't solve the problem either, because --- correlation does not imply causation.

Even if there's neurological "stuff" "in there", well you know that experience influences neurological development, so you can never determine a direct cause.

I agree that this seems to be a good experience for you, to have this relationship with your girlfriend's son -- and sounds as if it can be of great benefit to him, too.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:55 PM on February 3, 2010


I just wanted to say that imagination and autism are not mutually exclusive. Children on the spectrum don't pretend in a developmentally normal way, but they do make--what I can only describe as imaginative leaps from reality to something that isn't reality--or at least they sometimes perceive things so differently that we don't get the logic behind their reality.

Again, just my experience with a child who does pretend to be a lion or a cow. Who knows how much of that is scripting...he definitely doesn't create social scenarios with toys or pretend that they're real. So instead of a toy train making noises and going somewhere, the wheels and noises are interesting for what they are, and not as a representation of a real train.
posted by kathrineg at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2010


Response by poster: thanks for everything guys. this has been a good discussion to get some perspective on things.

I've emailed some of you privately on this notion to further discuss.
posted by Hands of Manos at 6:12 AM on February 4, 2010


There are a lot of yahoo groups about aspergers. Some of them are open to people who are not diagnosed but want to explore.

http://groups.yahoo.com/search?query=adult-aspergers
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2010


You might have an additional reason seek a diagnosis if you and your girlfriend decide to have children of your own...I think you would want try to deal with whatever issues _your_ kids may have in a better way than your parents did with yours. (Not to exonerate oblivious/neglectful parents, but there is a mitigating circumstance: they had no clue about Asperger's and couldn't have known how to respond. I hadn't _heard_ of Asperger's until I was well into middle age, and yes, I could probably get diagnosed with it. I looked into it for the sake of the next generation because I wouldn't want them to go through some of the same things I did. When I was your girlfriend's kid's age, I had been diagnosed with darn near everything else!)
posted by bunky at 12:01 AM on February 7, 2010


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