You Are Getting Very Sleepy

Note: The annual Autism Positivity flashblog is being held again this April 30th. Visit the website to find out how you can participate.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been getting ready to move. That’s meant making lots of phone calls to change over utilities and insurance and such. And packing. Lots of packing. Of course packing also means deciding what to keep and what to toss and what to donate, plus a good amount of organizing and reorganizing. Because, you know, it’s important that my entire file cabinet go into the box in the best possible order, with not a single scrap of unnecessary paper cluttering up my system.

I’m happy to say that nearly everything on my list is done. Which is good, because the moving truck arrives in less than forty-eight hours. I’d also like to say it all got done smoothly and according to plan, but that would be a lie.

You see, I have this thing that happens when an anxiety-inducing event is imminent: I suddenly feel very very sleepy. I don’t just mean that I feel a little tired–I mean I feel 2 AM tired.

Mostly it happens before social events. The Scientist will be busily showering and shaving and choosing an outfit and I’ll be calculating down to the minute how late I can start getting ready.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take me long to make myself presentable. That means I can safely put off getting ready until the last ten minutes before we need to get out the door. Any sooner and I’ll be all ready to go while simultaneously wanting to lie down on the couch  and take a quick nap.

The strange thing is, even when it’s happening, I know the tired feeling is an illusion. It’s my brain trying to get my body to play enabler, to somehow avoid the anxiety-inducing event. Some people get butterflies in their stomach or a need to pace. I get a sudden urge to hibernate in a blanket fort for a week or two.

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So in addition to all of the usual chaos of getting ready to move, I’ve been trying to outsmart the sleepy feeling. Not surprisingly, actually sleeping doesn’t work. In most cases, it isn’t even an option because the thing I need to do is both imminent and time sensitive. But even with most of the moving tasks, where I could grab a nap and then do them later, there is no actual sleeping to be had. Because if I lie down, all I’m thinking about is the task I should be doing. So then I’m both sleepy and annoyed with myself for procrastinating.

It helps a bit to think of the feeling as something other than sleepy–to call what it really is, which is some sort of defensive withdrawal. When I look at it that way, I understand intellectually that I don’t need or want to sleep. I also know from experience that the best “cure” is to do the anxiety-producing thing. Often, I simply need to get started and the feeling clears.

To get the stuff on my moving list done, I used a lot of the same tricks I use to manage my executive function deficits: lists, rewards, schedules, telling myself that I just have to call one insurance company instead of all three or pack up a box of clothes, which is easy, rather a box of dishes, which is harder. Once I get on the phone or haul out the packing materials and tape and boxes, it’s much easier to just keep going. It’s the getting started–getting past that initial wall of do not want–that’s the real trick.

Addendum

When I told The Scientist that I planned to write about this topic, he suggested that I also write about, “the way you yawn when you’re bored during a conversation.” My yawning habit (for lack of a better description) has long been a source of annoyance for both of us. The Scientist assumed I was bored but not telling him; I was flummoxed whenever he brought it up because I usually wasn’t  feeling bored when it happened.

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Coincidentally, a New Yorker article about the science of yawning popped up on my Tumblr dashboard within hours of the The Scientist’s suggestion. Buried beneath a lot of other more complicated theories is the suggestion that in addition to yawning when we’re bored, tired or hungry, we sometimes yawn when we’re anxious. That makes sense to me. Yawning definitely helps me clear my head and it gives my nervous system a poke, both of which help me stay focused. Coincidentally, that’s a pretty accurate description of the effects of stimming too.

These days I mostly catch myself before I yawn during important conversations. When that familiar feeling creeps up, I get up to pace or intentionally engage in a stim that has the same effect as yawning. But it was interesting to learn that there are all sorts of theories about yawning and they aren’t all centered around boredom or fatigue.

Addendum to the Addendum

The article I linked to above also mentions that autistic people are less likely to be contagious yawners. I’m curious whether autistic readers think this is true? I’m very susceptible to contagious yawning, to the point that I yawn when my dog yawns. In fact, I’ve been yawning pretty much constantly while researching, writing and proofreading the last two sections of this post.

 

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Taking the SPD Checklist

This week’s test is more of an inventory of traits than a quantitative test. The SPD checklist is intended to help identify areas of atypical sensory processing, including hyposensitivity, hypersensitivity and sensory seeking.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a stand alone diagnosis, however, there is substantial overlap between SPD and the atypical sensory processing that autistic people experience. In fact, now that sensory sensitivities are included in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for autism, we may start to see fewer kids getting diagnosed with SPD plus an alphabet soup of other conditions. Because the odds are really high that a kid with concurrent diagnoses of SPD, ADHD, and ODD is really just an autistic kid in disguise. But that’s a rant for another day. . .

I’ve written quite a bit about atypical sensory processing, so I’m going to get right to taking this week’s test.

Taking the Test

There several online versions of the SPD Checklist. The one I’m linking to for this post has a couple of nice features: it’s (mostly) worded as an adult checklist, it’s printable so you can complete it on paper, and the links at the top of the page allow you to filter the questions by type, in the event that you want to focus on just one area of sensory processing.

To get started, go to the SPD Checklist webpage. This a “paper and pencil test”, so your options are: print it out and sharpen your pencil, create a tally sheet to add up your scores, or copy/paste into a word processing application.

Edited to add: Anna very kindly made us a spreadsheet that totals up the scores for each section: SPD Checklist

To take the test, read each item and numerically score it as follows:

0 – Never (not at all)

1 – Rarely (a little)

2 – Sometimes (moderately)

3 – Often (quite a lot)

4 – Always (severe)

I assigned words to the scale to help me better understand how to use the numerical scores. The instructions also say that you can score an item as P for “previously experienced but no longer present” however there is no explanation of to interpret P numerically.

Interpreting the Results

The checklist has 138 total items, for a total possible score ranging from 0 to 552. There are no guidelines available for interpreting the numeric scores and I think that’s because this checklist is meant to be a qualitative guide to a person’s sensory processing rather than an indication of a diagnostic threshold. Of course, I still couldn’t resist adding up my numerical scores.

The items on the checklist are divided into 8 categories:

General Modulation (scoring range: 0 – 36): The 9 items in this category are broad and were some of the hardest to answer because they felt so vague. I scored 22.

Over-Responsiveness (0 – 100): The 25 items here cover hypersensitivity to sensory stimulus, with a heavy emphasis on tactile and auditory sensitivities. I scored a 61, with the highest scores on tactile and general environmental items and the lowest on vestibular and taste items.  No surprise there–I’m tactile defensive, easily overloaded by stimulating environments and a vestibular/proprioceptive/taste sensory seeker.

Under-Responsiveness (0 – 36): These 9 items cover hyposensitivity, mostly in the interoceptive category. I scored 13, with high scores on the interoceptive items and low scores on the rest.

Sensory Seeking (0 – 80): The 20 items in this category measure tendencies to intentionally seek out strong sensory experiences. I scored 48 + 1 P (knuckle cracking, which I did habitually as a teenager and have stopped doing). Most of my high scoring items are in the proprioceptive, vestibular and taste categories.

Sensory Discrimination (0-104): These 26 items relate to our ability to filter sensory information. I scored 42. This feels like the weakest area of the checklist. I know from experience that I have significant difficulty filtering sensory information but the items in this section didn’t accurately capture the difficulties I have. Difficulty licking an ice cream cone neatly? Not something I encounter on a daily basis.

Sensory Based Motor Abilities (0 -80): The 20 items in this category are related to fine and gross motor skills and would probably be more accurately described as such. I scored 41. Most of my high scores were in the area of fine motor skills.

Social and Emotional (0 – 88): I would classify this entire category as secondary traits because I think they’re more a product of having sensory sensitivities than “symptoms” of SPD. Also, this is where the line between autism and SPD becomes really fuzzy. There isn’t a single item among the 22 here that isn’t also an autistic trait or is strongly present in many autistic people. I scored 48, mostly due to high scores on the social and resistance to change items.

Internal Regulation (0 -28): This is another weak section. Difficulties with interoception are common in people with atypical sensory processing and the 7 items here were clearly written by someone who doesn’t experience interoceptive weirdness. I scored 17, with moderate scores on everything, simply because the questions are worded so vaguely. More questions with more specific traits would create a better picture of a respondent’s interoceptive issues. For example, “do you not realize that you need to use the bathroom if you are engaged in an interesting activity” or “do you sometimes forget to eat until you are feeling weak, dizzy or nauseous from hunger” would be much easier to answer than the current “under sensitive or over sensitive” wording.

Overall score (0 – 552): For what it’s worth, I scored 292 out of a possible 552. The overall score seems useless because, like an IQ score, it’s an aggregate of a set of disparate subscores.

The best approach is probably to look at the categories we score especially high or low on, and then drill down into the subsets of high/low scores within each category. For example, within the over responsiveness, under responsiveness and sensory seeking categories, there were clear patterns in my answers that identify which areas I’m hypo- and hypersensitive in.

This test also suffers at times from imprecise wording, making some of the questions hard to answer. I had no idea how to score “hates to be barefoot or hates to wear shoes/socks” because I prefer being barefoot and generally dislike shoes and socks, expect in situations where being barefoot would be painful. So is that 4 for disliking shoes and socks or a 0 for loving to be barefoot or what? Seems like a completely useless question. Same for “love to touch and be touched, have to touch everything.” Anyone who is simultaneously tactile seeking and tactile defensive knows that those are three completely different things.

The Bottom Line

The SPD checklist would benefit from the input of people who experience sensory sensitivities. A few of the questions felt unanswerable and some of the others could use refinement. However, completing the checklist can help someone with atypical sensory processing identify which areas they have the most challenges in. For those new to the concept of atypical sensory processing, it can also be a good introduction to the potential ways that atypical sensory processing affects our daily lives.

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Note: Take a Test Tuesday will be on hiatus for a while after today. I’m moving and not sure how long it will take for me to get settled in. Also, I’ve run out of test ideas again. If anyone has ideas for other tests that might be, let me know in the comments and I’ll start rebuilding a queue.

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Honoring Our Choices

The final post in the autistic motherhood series is posted at Autism Women’s Network: Autistic Motherhood: Honoring Our Personal Choices

It was a challenging one to write. My original thought was “I’ll write about the decision to have or not have children as an autistic woman.”  Which turns out to be an incredibly personal and complex topic. You’d think I would have seen that coming, right?

Ultimately, what I concluded, is that each woman’s choice when it comes to parenthood is the best choice for her and each person’s situation is unique. There is no “decision” in the broad conceptual sense, just many individual decisions made for countless reasons and sometimes not for any particular reason at all. I hope that comes across in the article, because I very much want it to be respectful of our choices and of the circumstances that are unique to parenting as a disabled person.

A Postscript to the Series

There’s also something that I wanted to address at some point in this series–something that’s been on mind for months as I’ve been writing about motherhood–but I never found a way to say that I felt comfortable with. Since I’m among friends here, I’m going to just throw it out there as food for thought and hope for the best.  Continue reading

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Taking the Synesthesia Battery

Before I get started, I want to thank ndsenseandsex for mentioning The Synesthesia Battery on Tumblr and inspiring this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post.

Even more importantly, I need to preface this by saying that I don’t have synesthesia. The background information for this test is based strictly on research and will probably be quite short. I know there are regular readers who are synesthetes. Perhaps they’ll provide us with some firsthand accounts of their experiences. Finally, if I’ve gotten anything here wrong, please tell me and I’ll edit as needed.

Okay, on with the test . . .

Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is automatically and involuntarily triggered by input to a different sensory channel. For example, watching a video of moving dots triggers an auditory sensory response or smelling a particular scent evokes a visual response, such a as a specific color.

There are a couple of key characteristics of synesthesia that differentiate it from simple sensory associations. Synesthesia “concurrents”–the atypical sensory responses that accompanies the typical sensory responses–are:

  • involuntary
  • consistent
  • automatic

This means that a certain type of sensory input always triggers the exact same concurrent response, whether you are consciously expecting it or not, and that’s been the case for as long as you’ve been a synesthete (usually since birth, except occasionally in the case of head injuries or drug-induced neurological changes).

There are many different types of synesthesia. Some people experience only one type of synesthesia and others experience multiple types. Some of the more common forms include:

  • numbers or letters are associated with colors
  • people (or the scents of individuals) are associated with colors
  • visual movement patterns are associated with sounds
  • sounds are associated with colors or other visuals
  • visual sights (other than food) are associated with tastes
  • pain is associated with colors

Synesthesia isn’t an autism trait, but anecdotally, there seems to be a high rate of synesthetes among people on the spectrum. Like autism, it also tends to run in families.

Taking the Synesthesia Battery

The test website has two components: a short pretest you can take to screen for synesthesia and a longer battery that tests for various forms of synesthesia. To take the test, start here. The 7-question screening pretest is optional. If you have no idea whether you might have synesthesia, it’s a quick way to get a better idea.

If you experience synesthesia and want to take the more comprehensive Synesthesia Battery, you’ll be asked to register by giving an email address. The site says that results will be anonymously added to a research database and  that emails are kept private and never shared.

If you don’t want to register and take the Battery but are curious about what it consists of, there is a demo page with some screen shots and demo versions of the various parts of the test.

After registering and consenting to be part of the study, you’re asked to provide some demographic information. On the same page, you’ll be presented with a list of various types of synesthesia, with short descriptions of each, and asked to indicate which ones you experience. Based on which types of synesthesia you report experiencing, you’ll be served up a series of short tests.

There are both interactive and question/answer tests. Each of the interactive tests lasts about 10 minutes. The interactive  tests present a number of trials in which you’re asked to identify the concurrent for an item that is presented. For example, what color does M evoke or what color is this musical note associated with. The same “input” is repeated multiple times, testing how consistent your concurrents are.

The length of your test will depend on the number of tests that you’re given. You can stop at any time and come back to finish later by using the account you created when registering.

The Results

I didn’t take any complete any tests because I don’t experience synesthesia and didn’t want to contribute useless data to the study. I’m looking forward to hearing about any results that you all want to share with us.

There are samples of a synesthete’s results page and a non-synesthete’s results page that you can take a look at to see how they compare.

The Bottom Line

There are quite a few synesthesia questionnaires available online, but the interactivity of this test adds a measure of objectivity that is hard to achieve with multiple choice questions alone. Obviously it’s impossible to test for certain kinds of synesthesia online, since our computers can’t produce scents or replicate all of the possible forms of sensory input that trigger certain kinds of synesthesia, but this test is similar to the ones used to test for synesthesia in clinical settings.

 

Creating Autistic Spaces

I don’t have a comment policy on my blog. Why? Probably because if I did, I’d have to enforce it and that seems like a lot of work. What I have instead is a guiding principle: this blog is autistic safe space.

A safe space is a place–physical or virtual–in which harassment, hatred or violence against a group is not tolerated. Some safe spaces try to be universally safe, with a goal that no one will be made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome based on race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability. While I think that’s a wonderful ideal to aim for, that’s not what I’m doing here.

This is specifically autistic safe space. That means that I’m specifically vigilant about comments that promote hatred, stigma or violence against autistic people. How is that different from safe space in general?

Well for one thing, some people are going to feel unwelcome. For example, people who want to come here and complain about how miserable the autistic person in their life makes them? Unwelcome. People who want sympathy and a gold star for putting up with an autistic partner? Unwelcome. People who talk about the autistic person in their life in a demeaning or dehumanizing way? Unwelcome.

Autistic safe space means that autistic people can (hopefully) read the posts and comments here without having to worry about encountering hateful or demeaning speech. It also means that autistic communication styles are respected and we can talk about the hard things without worrying about someone making fun of us or using our words against us.

Sometimes things get a little messy in the comments, but I do my best to keep everyone on the safe side of honest, engaged discussion.

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Other Kinds of Spaces

I think of autistic safe space as a kind of middle ground, between autistic friendly space and autistic space. There isn’t necessarily a clear definition of each of the three, but for the sake of helping people new to these concepts understand them better, I’ll take a stab at describing them.

Autistic friendly space tends to be predominantly allistic space which has been modified to make it more welcoming to autistic people. For example, sensory friendly film showings or an event that features flapping instead of clapping, is held in a hall without fluorescent lighting, requests attendees to be fragrance-free, provides communication badges, has a quiet area and does not allow flash photography.

An autistic person isn’t necessarily going to feel totally comfortable in autistic friendly spaces, but there are considerably more accommodations made than in the typical public space.

An autistic safe space takes the concept of autistic friendly space one step further, putting the autistic person’s needs first. Often safe space has a greater emphasis on safety with regard to identity and expression whereas friendly space has a greater emphasis on disability accommodations.

Online, autistic safe spaces are very much about safe speech. In person, the concept is extended to physical expression, meaning that things like stimming and atypical communication are welcomed and accepted rather than simply tolerated. Safe spaces are often a place to explore difficult topics and push at boundaries without the fear of rejection or humiliation.

Autistic safe spaces can be mixed spaces, but are generally autistic led. Sometimes this works out really well, with people of different neurologies sharing experiences and learning from each other. And sometimes it turns into a disaster. I’ve seen both cases firsthand and, ironically, when things go wrong in a safe space, people can be hurt badly. Much more so, it seems, than when things go wrong in typical public spaces.

Finally, there is autistic space. I was going to define autistic space as one in which all participants are on the spectrum, but then I realized that my home is autistic space. It’s a place where I feel completely comfortable to be myself and where my communication style is honored. It’s a place where I have minimal sensory distraction. A place where I know what to expect.

Perhaps autistic space is a cultural construct rather than something that is created strictly by the neurology of the participants. And that feels like an idea that’s too large to get into in the final lines of a post, so I’m going to set it aside for another day.

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Interpreting the Heider-Simmel Animation

For this week’s test, it’s important that you know nothing about the test so you’ll have to take it and then read about it. First, watch this short silent animation (1:30) of some geometric shapes:

Now write a brief description of what happened in the animation. If you need to rewatch the video to refresh your memory of the details, you can. Just don’t read anything about the video before you finish writing your description.

Done? Okay, now it’s safe to read on.

Continue reading

Do The Thing!

Yesterday morning, The Scientist and I unexpectedly had to Do A Thing that neither of us had ever done before. For some reason–probably because I’m an eternal optimist–I volunteered to go into the town hall to find out how to Do The Thing while The Scientist waited outside with our dog.

Right inside the door there was a Help Desk so I approached the woman seated behind it and said, “There’s an office where I can Do This Thing here, right?” and she said, “Yes but, here let me spend ten minutes explaining five different excuses why you can’t actually Do That Complicated Version Of The Thing here and will have to drive to a nearby town to Do The Thing.”

That sounded inconvenient but I was so focused on Doing The Thing that I took the Post-it note with the address of The Other Place To Do The Thing and figured it was an unplanned hour lost from my day, but if that was what it took, fine.

Outside, I explained about the ten minute conversation with the five different excuses to The Scientist who said, “Grumble grumble grumble” and, instead of admiring my informative yellow Post-it note, immediately went inside.

Sensing that confrontation was afoot, I walked the dog around the parking lot, still clutching the Post-it note.

Sometime later–but certainly less time later than the hour it would have taken me to follow The Lady of the Five Excuses’s directions–The Scientist emerged from the town hall and told me that The Thing was done because, in fact, it was possible to Do The Thing there.

Fine. Awesome. Great job.

Not really.

I had mixed feelings about his ability to Do The Thing, especially after I’d just been told by the same person that “no, absolutely, definitely, certainly not possible to Do The Thing here.”

The Scientist was clearly having his own mixed feelings. We decided to grab a coffee and talk over our giant stew of feelings because that’s what married people do and that’s especially what we do.

What Happened?

Sitting in Starbucks, we proceeded to dissect our contrasting experiences. I felt a bit like Watson to The Scientist’s Holmes as he explained how he’d managed to Do The Thing.

He told me that while he’d been waiting outside for me, a town employee walked by and The Scientist said, “Hey, do you know how I can Do The Thing” and the guy said, “Sure, there’s an office in the basement. It’s not my My Thing but there will be someone in The Thing Doing Office who can help you.”

That explained a lot. I’d taken the woman at her word because she’d told me that The Thing Doing Office couldn’t help me when I’d specifically asked. Clearly, she didn’t want to be bothered interfacing between me and The Thing Doing Office when she could just send me away and go back to reading ‘Divergent’ instead.

Which is no surprise. This happens all the time, right?

But here’s what is surprising: the way The Scientist and I viewed what had happened.

To me, having to go to another office to Do The Thing was inconvenient but I was so focused on Doing The Thing that I didn’t think beyond, “This is a little annoying.” I took the information I’d been given at face value because I had no other contradicting information to weigh it against. The social nuances of the situation–especially that the other person’s objectives might be different from mine–didn’t occur to me in the moment.

To The Scientist, the woman was a bully who was taking advantage of my lack of information and trying to make less work for herself by turning us into Someone Else’s Problem. As he recounted his conversation with The Lady of the Five Excuses, I noticed that many of the details he included pertained to the subtext of the conversation.

The things that rarely occur to me on the fly. The things that I can usually pick out later, after much analysis of a situation. The things that I was only starting to realize as we compared our experiences. In other words, the pragmatic (rather than the literal) use of language.

I was so focused on getting my goal accomplished–on using language as a tool to gain factual information–that I didn’t question the motives of the person I was asking to help me.

The Scientist, with the added assurance that he’d gained from his conversation with the town employee, did.

And that, in part, was the difference between our interactions with The Lady of the Five Excuses. When I Do Something New, I usually research it first. If I’d had time to prepare to Do The Thing in advance, I would have gone online to read about Thing Policy and Procedure. I would have Made a Plan, complete with a script. When The Lady of the Five Excuses gave me her song and dance routine, I would have known she wasn’t being straight with me and called her on it, backed up by an encyclopedic knowledge of Thing Policy and Procedure.

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The Scientist, on the other hand, isn’t much of a researcher when it comes to minor interactions. For him, the casual chat with the town employee plus his ability to read the social nuances of a situation–It’s 8 AM and The Lady of the Five Excuses doesn’t want to deal with your complicated problem–are enough information for him to go on. When you factor in his in-tact pragmatic language skills, he’s doing a lot more on-the-fly interpretation and adjustment during a typical interaction than I am.

Not Usually This Naive

At least I’d like to think so. But I am literal. I see Help Desk and assume help will be forthcoming. And I’m goal oriented. I want to Do The Thing. A person says “Here’s how to Do The Thing” and my brain just goes straight to “Yes! Let’s Do The Thing now!”

There’s also this: I usually make up for with facts what I lack in pragmatic language skills.

If I know that I’m going into an unfamiliar situation, I go armed with plenty of background information. Then I run a continuous comparison of the information I’m receiving against my known facts. I also rely heavily on pattern recognition–people who are lying tend to fit one of a few predictable patterns.

Maybe my bullshit detection program wasn’t running in high gear. I’m usually pretty good at detecting when someone is trying to put one over on me. And at pushing back. Hard if necessary. This was a low stakes situation, though. Spending an additional hour doing something isn’t a very high cost.

If I hadn’t had The Scientist’s experience with the exact same person to compare my own experience against, I would have been inconvenienced by Doing The Thing in the Less Convenient Place, but I wouldn’t have thought beyond that. The social implications were secondary to Getting The Thing Done on that particular day.

A year or more ago, I might have felt a need to justify my thinking to The Scientist and he might have felt the same. It was a startling reminder of how much has changed in the past year to sit there in Starbucks with him, enjoying our coffee and marveling at how differently we see the world and how, as long as we’re each happy with the way we see things, that’s just fine.

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Taking the Aspergers Quiz

I discovered a new Aspergers quiz that wasn’t around (AFAIK) when I did the original Take a Test Tuesday series. At first I was excited because it says that it was created by an MD who is on the spectrum and the range and wording of the questions looked good at first glance.

Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to like about it. I’m hesitant to link to the site because of the way it talks about Aspergers. Lots of pathologizing language and functioning labels and pandering to the search engines along with some blatant misinformation. It’s also visually overwhelming and loaded with ads.

Consider yourself forewarned if you want to check it out anyway.

The Aspergers Quiz

The Aspergers Quiz website says that the quiz was created by Dr. Logan Cook from the University of Michigan. My Google-fu failed to turn up any further information about Dr. Cook or any research the quiz might have been based on, so I’m assuming that it’s based solely on the creator’s anecdotal evidence or personal experience. If that’s the case, it’s the only AS “screening” quiz that I’ve reviewed here that isn’t based on any sort of statistical analysis at all.

The site states upfront that it’s an informational quiz and not diagnostic, which is good. But it also presents the results in terms of a “percentage chance you might have Asperger’s”, which in the absence of any underlying statistical testing, is completely baseless. Answering a screening quiz 75% positive is totally different from having a 75% chance of having a condition. It’s great that there’s a disclaimer at the top of the page, but giving a specific percentage result at the end of quiz without disclosing how that percentage was arrived at is irresponsible.  Continue reading

Unpacking Asperger: Autistic Gaze

After finally reading both Hans Asperger’s and Leo Kanner’s original papers on autism, I’ve decided to do a new series looking at their original ideas and how those ideas evolved into today’s perception of autism. I’m calling the series Unpacking Asperger because the topics I’ve outlined are mostly drawn from Asperger’s paper with some contrasting concepts from Kanner’s work.

Let’s kick things off by unpacking the origins of commonly held beliefs about why autistic people often don’t make eye contact.

Both men wrote a great deal about atypical gaze patterns in autistic children. Kanner believed that autistic children deliberately avoided looking at people, but often fixated on looking at objects. Asperger, on the other hand, observed that “autistic children do not look with a firmly fixed glance at anything, but rather, seem to perceive mainly with their peripheral field of vision.” He went on to say that contrary to their appearance of being detached or absent, the children he studied often perceived and processed a great deal of information about the people and things around them.

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While the differences between the two men’s theories about gaze may seem insignificant, they actually point to two distinct ways of thinking about autism. Kanner’s emphasis on the deliberate avoidance of looking at people frames the atypical autistic gaze as an issue of deliberate social withdrawal.  Continue reading

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Taking the Personality and Emotion Test

Those of you who didn’t like the flashing photos in the last two tests will be relieved to know that this week’s test is a series of multiple choice questions. The Personality and Emotion test at Test My Brain looks at three areas:

  • how frequently you experience negative emotions like fear, worry, anger, frustration, and self-consciousness

  • how sensory seeking you are

  • how much you enjoy social interaction

Their working hypothesis is that people who score higher on the second two will score lower on the first. In other words, if you enjoy sensory and/or social aspects of life, you are less likely to experience high levels of negative emotions. I like the inclusion of sensory elements in this test. I’m not “social seeking” but I’m highly sensory seeking. In fact, much of what I find enjoyable about life falls under the heading of sensory input. It’s nice to see that acknowledged as valid, alongside the more traditionally valued social interaction.

I want to talk some more about the individual sections when I share my scores, so let’s take the test first.

TAKING THE TEST

The test takes 10 to 15 minutes. To start, go to testmybrain.org and click on the Go! button next to the “Personality and Emotion” test.

You’ll be asked to make your browser window large. I kept mine the size I normally use and it worked fine. The next screen is a simplified informed consent form. You’ll be told what the research is being used for and asked to consent (agree). The next screen collects some anonymous demographic information.  Continue reading