Paths to Realization
As an adult, there are a few common ways that you might realize you’re on the spectrum:
- your child is diagnosed with ASD and in the process of learning more about autism, you recognize autistic traits in yourself
- someone in your life reads or hears about Asperger’s or autism and tells you that they see a lot of ASD traits in you
- you hear or read about Asperger’s or autism in the media and recognize yourself in the description of ASD traits
- you take one of the online ASD tests and get a result that says you are “likely an aspie” or “likely autistic”
Your reaction to this first contact with Asperger’s or autism might be “I kind of knew that” or it might be “bullshit!”
For many years, I dismissed my AQ scores. I was convinced that everyone who took the test got a score that said they were likely autistic. Wouldn’t everyone answer the way I did if they were being honest? Completely irrational, yes, but I wasn’t ready to accept what was staring me in the face.
Then came the Finch story on NPR. When it was over, I Googled “Asperger’s tests” and came upon the Aspie Quiz. My score was way above the cutoff for Asperger’s. I took it again, answering more conservatively. Still above the cutoff.
I sat there at my desk for long minutes. Could it be possible that I’ve been autistic all my life and not known it? That’s a stunning realization–one that would require me to reframe everything I thought I knew about myself and everything I’d assumed I knew about autism.
I’ve always known that I’m different. I’ve been labeled shy, weird, introverted, geeky. But what if I wasn’t just weird? What if this thing called Asperger’s explained everything about me that was different?
That was an exciting thought. If it was true, it gave me a whole new way of thinking about my life.
Embracing Your Realization
- Relax. Breathe.
- Take some time to think about what being on the spectrum might mean to you.
- Retake the AQ or Aspie Quiz as many times as you need to.
- Make a list of traits that you see in yourself, including specific examples if you find it helpful.
- Reassure yourself that you aren’t making this up.
Is This Me?
I didn’t do anything with my realization right away. It was a lot to process. I kept coming back to the possibility that I was imagining it.
Late the next day, during a long drive home with The Scientist, I brought up my suspicion that I might be an aspie. His reaction was guarded. He listened, agreed with much of what I said, then reassured me that he loves me exactly the way I am. It was a good discussion, but he didn’t sound convinced. I needed more data to back up my hypothesis.
Back at home that night, I showed him some things online, including Rudy Simone’s list of Female Asperger Syndrome Traits. He read through the list, nodding at many of the traits, just as I had, looking a little more convinced of my hypothesis with each “hit.”
In the days that followed, I searched the internet for more information about Asperger’s and found frustratingly little that applied to adults. I felt like I needed a more comprehensive resource, something that would give me a better picture of Asperger’s than the sometimes conflicting bits and pieces I was collecting online. (Sadly I hadn’t yet discovered autistic bloggers.)
Determined to find information about Asperger’s in adults, I scoured the reviews at Amazon.com and settled on The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Having now read a good portion of the books available on ASD, this is the still one book I’d recommend if you’re looking for an accessible, reasonably comprehensive starting place.
Diving into the book immediately after it arrived on my doorstep, I spent hours underlining and annotating it. I read passages aloud to The Scientist. I made notes and looked up things like executive function and special interests online. Most of all, I just kept saying to myself, “This is me. I’m an aspie.”
Somehow, it had taken me 42 years to recognize it.
Gathering Information to Support your Realization
- Research Asperger’s Syndrome and autism.
- Read about how autistic traits appear in adults.
- Read about the differences between AS in men and women.
- Read personal narratives written by aspies and autistic individuals (scroll down the linked page for a list of ASD bloggers)
- When you feel ready, find a trusted person in your life who can give you an objective assessment of which traits they see in you.
Coming next: ASD as a Sensemaking Narrative