Take-a-Test Tuesday has led to some readers realizing that they too might be on the autism spectrum. Their comments nudged me to start writing about a subject I’ve been meaning to tackle: my Asperger’s “origin story” or how I came to realize that I might be autistic and what happened in the wake of that realization.
As usual, I’m mixing personal narrative with a bit of advice based on what I learned from my experience. I hope that other Autistics and those who think they might be on the spectrum will add to what I have to say here by sharing their own experiences in the comments.
So, you think you might be an aspie or autistic or somewhere on the autism spectrum. Now what?
First, take a deep breath. Relax. Nothing’s changed. You’re the same person you were before you took that test, read that article or had a lightbulb go off while talking to someone about autism.
I remember my first inklings that I might be an aspie. I was listening to an NPR story about David Finch, the author of The Journal of Best Practices. His first hint that he had Asperger’s was an online quiz that his wife asked him to take because she recognized so many aspie traits in him.
As they described the quiz questions, for the first time I realized that Asperger’s Syndrome is more than social awkwardness and that I’m more than painfully shy. The symptoms that stood out most for me were the ones I’d never known were “symptoms” of anything other than my personality: attachment to routine, resistance to change, special interests, a need to be alone. Down the list I went, nodding and thinking yes, yes, yes, ohmygoshyes.
I went in search of the Aspie Quiz and what really blew me away were the specific behavioral questions: Have you been accused of staring? Yes! Do you tend to talk too loudly or too softly? Yes! Do you have difficulty filtering out background noise? Yes!
How had I not seen this before?
I’d heard a similar interview with Finch back in 2009. Interesting, I’d thought at the time, but nothing more. I’d read quite a bit about autism, because I was drawn to the subject. It never occurred to me to ask why. I’d taken the Autism Spectrum Quotient AQ test several times in the past. Every single time I scored above the cutoff for being on the spectrum. Every single time I told myself that it was probably a fluke, or even more improbably, that most people likely scored that high.
For years I’d tiptoed around the subject of autism. Finally, at 42, I was ready to explore the possibility that I was autistic.
Processing your First Contact with Asperger’s or Autism
- Nothing has changed; everything has changed.
- Know that no matter how it feels right now, this can be a positive realization.
- If you’re on the spectrum, learning more about what that means can help you understand yourself better and learn to cope more effectively with the challenges that an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents.
Next Part in the Series: Paths to Realization and Is this Me?