Category Archives: Asperger’s Tests

Taking the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale Test

The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale Test is a measure of the degree of social phobia that a person experiences. Autistic individuals often have a social anxiety disorder diagnosis so I thought it would be interesting to see how we score on this test.

Before taking the test, I think it’s important to differentiate between autistic social anxiety and social phobia. Social phobia, the set of experiences on which a social anxiety disorder is based, is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. Generally the fear has to interfere with a person’s ability to work, attend school or generally function on a daily basis for it to rise to the level of a phobia.

A key feature of social anxiety disorder is that the anxiety experienced is irrational. For example, a person might become very anxious about going to work because they’re afraid that their boss will reprimand them in front of others even though they’re generally good at their job and their boss usually gives criticism to employees in private. In addition to the emotions associated with anxiety (fear, nervousness, dread), the person experiences strong physical sensations, like nausea, racing heart rate, sweating, and/or shortness of breath, in anticipation of the feared situation.

For a long time, I thought that I experienced social anxiety. Until I started reading about the experiences of others and discovered that my issues with social interaction are atypical for nonautistic people, but also atypical for those with social phobia.

Here’s how my social, um, issues manifest:

  • Realize that a social event is coming up in a few days.
  • Develop a background sense of dread.
  • Become increasingly irritable, withdrawn, restless and avoidant.
  • Resolve to go anyhow.
  • Get ready for the event way too early then sit around in my fancy clothes waiting for the precisely calculated minute at which I need to leave the house so as not to arrive too early or too late.
  • Forget five minutes after I arrive how much I dreaded the event or even why.
  • Stumble through the event with my usual atypical mix of being socially awkward, overly informative and very interested in anything on the periphery of the event.
  • Leave at the earliest opportunity.

I guess what I have is more social dread than social phobia. Which makes me curious how I’ll score on this test.

(This is not to say that no autistic people experience social phobia or that I don’t have specific fears around certain social situations, just that I don’t experience the more broadly defined social anxiety like I’d always assumed.)

Taking the Test

An online version of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale Test is available here.

There are 24 situations presented, which are rated in two categories: fear and avoidance. You’re asked to rate each situation based on your experiences in the past week and to imagine how you’d react to the situation if it is one that you don’t usually experience.

For fear, the choices are: none, mild, moderate and severe. For avoidance, they are: never, occasionally, often and usually. If you don’t choose an option, it will default to none or never, so be sure you’ve made a choice for each to get an accurate score.

The test will take 3 – 10 minutes to complete, depending on how much you need to think about each answer.

Scoring the Test

You’ll receive a two part score, with one score for fear and one for avoidance, as well as an overall rating of your level of social anxiety.

My score was: 23(fear) + 17(avoidance) = 40

You do not suffer from social anxiety.

(For reference, a total score of 55 is the cutoff for social phobia.)

I found the two factor set-up of the test really helpful because it allowed me to say that I avoid something but not out of fear or that I fear something but generally do it anyhow. For example, I rated “fear of speaking in front of others” as severe but only avoid it occasionally. Returning an item is something that I don’t like doing, but I’ve never avoided taking something back for refund because the incentive of getting my money back for an item that I don’t need is pretty high. Public speaking is something that I’ll do when I have to, but it makes me incredibly nervous. On the other hand, “giving a party” got both “severe” on fear and “often” on avoidance.

Things like “resisting a high pressure” salesperson fall into “often” on avoidance but “mild” on fear. It’s one of those situations that I avoid because I just find them annoying (being observed when working) or a waste of time (small group activities, ack!), not because I fear them.

Thinking about each activity in terms of “how much do I dislike/fear this thing?” and “how does that feeling impact my daily functioning?” was helpful in identifying areas that I should probably work on (high fear/high avoidance items).

One potential problem for those of us on the spectrum, however, is that our social fears may not be irrational. For example, we might fear making phone calls to strangers because of difficulties with language pragmatics that make it hard to conduct phone conversations successfully. So even if our fears don’t fit the irrational aspect of social phobia, we could end up with a high social anxiety score. I think that in a clinical setting, if a therapist is using this scale with an autistic person as a screening instrument, items with high fear/avoidance scores should be interrogated more thoroughly for the underlying reasons to avoid misdiagnosis.

The Bottom Line

The situations presented cover a broad range of social situations in a way that makes it possible to separately identify feelings of anxiety and how much those feelings affect your actions, making it a practical way to identify general levels of social anxiety and specific anxiety-inducing situations.


Taking the RAADS-14

The RAADS-14 is a shortened version of the 80-question RAADS-R autism screening test. The 14-question RAADS-14 is intended to be a quick screening tool for clinicians, much like the AQ-10.

Unlike the AQ-10, however, the RAADS-14 is positioned by its creators for use in outpatient psychiatric screening. The validation study for the RAADS-14 was conducted on people who had a pre-existing diagnosis of autism, ADHD, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, borderline personality disorder, or mood disorder.

The goal of the study appears to be positioning the RAADS-14 as a front line tool for differentiating between autism and other psychiatric diagnoses whose traits might make an autism diagnosis in adults more difficult.

As with other shortened versions of screening instruments, the creators attempted to choose questions representative of the lengthier test. A pilot version was created by Swedish researchers using 18 questions distributed proportionately across the 4 domains of the RAADS-R (language, social relatedness, sensory-motor and circumscribed interests). After testing, four questions were dropped because they failed to accurately discriminate between autism and other psychiatric diagnoses.

The resulting 14 questions are organized into 3 domains: mentalizing deficits, sensory reactivity, and social anxiety. You can see which questions belong to which domain here. Honestly, the way these categories are named feels like a step backwards. The domains for the RAADS-R have fairly generic names while these new domains feel judgmental in a negative way.  Continue reading Taking the RAADS-14

Taking the Aspie Quiz (Version 3)

The Aspie Quiz was recently updated to Final Version 3, which is a major update, so I thought it would be a good idea to retake it. Much of what’s changed is behind the scenes refinement of the test items and won’t be evident to the average test taker. If you’re new to the Aspie Quiz, you might want to read my original write up for more background. This post will focus primarily on what’s new.

If you’ve taken the Aspie Quiz before, you’ll likely notice that there are some new questions and that the wording of the test result has changed. Previously, test takers received Neurotypical and Aspie scores; currently the scores are presented as Neurotypical and Neurodiverse, with an outcome of “likely neurotypical”, “likely neurodiverse” or a mix of the two.

In the context of the test, the term neurodiverse includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia (and perhaps OCD and Tourettes). However, the test still appears to be primarily a test for autistic traits. This is reflected in the statement that:

The goal of this test is to check for neurodiverse / neurotypical traits in adults. The neurodiversity classification can be used to give a reliable indication of autism spectrum traits prior to eventual diagnosis.

If you want to read more in detail about the development of the Aspie Quiz and what has changed over time, Leif Ekblad has published a paper detailing his research and a detailed history of the quiz. Of particular interest is the comparison of the AQ and Aspie Quiz scores, particularly for women. As many of us who’ve taken both have noticed, the AQ has a strong gender bias and the Aspie Quiz is more gender neutral. Anecdotally, the Aspie Quiz has always appeared to be a better predictor of whether someone is on the spectrum and that is addressed in the paper as well.

There are some aspects of the paper that I found problematic, but I’ll leave that to others to critique and focus here on the test itself. Before I do that, however, there is one sentence in the paper that jumped out at me that I want to share:

The idea that neurodiversity/autistic traits lie on the extreme end of a normal distribution is not supported by Aspie Quiz, rather the neurodiversity traits seem to have its own normal distribution overlapping the normal distribution of typical traits.

For those who have wondered why they receive two scores on this test, I think the above quote sums it up nicely. It’s also a good response to the oft-repeated fallacy that “everyone is on the spectrum” or “everyone is a little autistic.”

Taking the Test

To take the Aspie Quiz, start here. You have the choice to login/register or to proceed directly to the test. If you choose the former, you’ll be contributing to the test developer’s research regarding the stability of test scores over time (assuming you take the test more than once).

Once you’ve proceeded to the start of the test, you’ll first be asked some demographic questions. The information you share is used in the development of the test and has no impact on your scoring.

The test itself is 128 questions, answered on a Likert scale. The choices are: don’t know, no/never, a little, yes/often. The test will take about 20 minutes, so be sure you have enough time to finish it before starting.

Scoring the Test

At the end of the test, you’ll get neurodiverse and neurotypical scores, along with a “likely” prediction. Here are mine:

  • Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 156 of 200
  • Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 54 of 200
  • You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)

You’ll also get a nice spider web graphic and the option to download a PDF with more details, which I highly recommend doing. The PDF contains detailed information about which questions count toward which aspect of your score and includes some background information that may be helpful in interpreting your scores in each category.


On the previous version of the test, I scored:

  • Your Aspie score: 170 of 200
  • Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 32 of 200
  • You are very likely an Aspie

Since the last time I took the quiz, there are quite a few new questions and in particular a batch of new questions about sexuality and relationships. Given that I scored so high in Neurotypical attachment (i.e. sexuality) and relatively low in the social and contact on the neurodiverse side, I suspect the relationship and sexuality questions are the biggest factors in shifting my scores toward neurotypical.

Some of the questions in those areas were hard to answer accurately because they’re worded as if the test taker is seeking a romantic relationship or interested in dating, an assumption that doesn’t apply to either those in a monogamous relationship or those who are aromantic or asexual.

Although the quiz avoids gender bias, a few of the questions are biased in the direction of heterosexuality or presumption of asexuality as a non-neurotypical “preference”. More careful wording of some of the new relationship/sexuality questions to encompass both LGBTQ test takers and those in monogamous relationships would help mitigate some of this problem.

But I also think that the role of romantic and sexual preferences in the test outcome would benefit from a different approach. It’s stereotypical and ableist to assume that neurotypical people are sexual and neurodiverse people are not. The neurodiverse people that I know are distributed over a wide spectrum of sexuality and sexual preferences, from asexual to hypersexual and everything in between, just like the neurotypical people that I know.

Looking at the Attachment category questions in the PDF, all of the Neurotypical Attachment traits are related to sex. The Neurodiverse Attachment traits, on the other hand, are questionable in their relevance to attachment versus things like language pragmatics and learning social skills through rules. Surely neurotypical people are interested in aspects of attachment other than sex. More importantly, it’s disappointing to see a test of neurodiversity ascribing typical autistic social traits to “attachment disorder.”

Overall the new questions are much like those of the earlier version that I took: a mix of the highly relatable with the expected, plus a few that I have trouble tying back to any known autistic traits.

I was amused by “Do you have a need to confess?” because I’m so bad at lying or concealing things from people and inevitably feel the need to spill my guts at the drop of a hat. There were a few perplexing ones, including the one about walking behind people and the one about examining people’s hair. (And I still don’t get the slowly flowing water question – though I suspect it identifies people who are visual stimmers in general.) I wasn’t sure how to interpret the “afraid in safe situations” question. Maybe it’s meant to reveal phobias or irrational anxiety?

Finally, the “criticism, correction, direction” question is repeated twice with slightly different wording (possibly as a check question).

The Bottom Line

Of all the online tests I’ve evaluated, the Aspie Quiz has always felt like the most accurate in overall scoring and the most comprehensive in variety of questions and that’s still the case. I’ll be curious to see how re-takers feel about their scores and what direction, if any, scores have shifted in.


Taking the Stroop Test

I took the Stroop test as part of my ASD evaluation and I’ve seen it recently on a list of online autism evaluation tests. While not strictly an autism test, it is often part of the test battery that is given at neuropsychological evaluations for autism.

The format of the Stroop test that I took during my evaluation was:

  • verbally reading a list of color words (blue, red, green) printed in black ink
  • verbally stating the color of a series of Xs printed in blue, red or green ink
  • verbally reading a list of color words that were printed in colored ink (i.e. RED printed in blue ink or RED printed in red ink)

The Stroop test is a test of executive function. Our brain’s natural tendency is to read words that we’re presented with; noticing the color of the ink the word is printed in is a secondary priority. The Stroop test asks us to inhibit our first instinct (reading the word) in favor of stating the color of the ink. Doing so draws heavily upon the executive functions of inhibition and attention.

Because autistic people typically have impaired executive function, we often score below average on the Stroop test. The time taken to complete the test is also seen as a measure of cognitive processing speed, another area where autistic individuals will typically have a below average result.

There are quite a few other conditions that also cause cognitive “interference” on this test, resulting in below average scores, including ADHD, dementia, brain damage, depression, schizophrenia and addiction. While the results of the Stroop test can give you some insight into your executive function abilities, it’s not strictly related to being or not being autistic.

Taking the Test

You can take a mini version of the Stroop test here.  The test site is ugly and has lots of ads that you’ll have to ignore. Read the instructions in the center of the page and click the green button when you’re ready to begin. The test has 20 items and will take a couple of minutes to complete. You’ll receive your scores on the final screen of the test.

Scoring the Test

The reason I called this a mini version of the Stroop test is because it has only 20 trials. The version of the test I took at my evaluation had 300 trials across the 3 different types of tasks, with each set of 100 having a 45-second time limit.

The online version presents 15 incongruent (ink color and word do not match) and 5 congruent (ink color and word match) trials. It then gives you a score showing your congruent and incongruent results, with number correct and the average processing time for each. Generally, most people respond more quickly the congruent pairs than the incongruent pairs.

Here are my scores for the online version:

  • Congruent: 5 Correct, avg response time: 11.78 seconds
  • Incongruent: 15 Correct, avg response time: 10.20 seconds

(Admittedly I have an advantage because I was familiar with the test format and I think my scores reflect that.)

And here are my scores for the paper version (raw score, followed by percentile – in both cases higher is better):

  • Word (color words/black ink): 82, 12th percentile
  • Color (Xs/3 ink colors): 91, 27th percentile
  • Color-Word (color words/3 ink colors): 110, 75th percentile
  • Interference (calculated from other scores): 121, 92nd percentile

If you look at both sets of scores, you’ll see that I’m better at the incongruent tasks. I got higher scores on the Color-Word and Interference scores for the paper test and had a faster average response time for the incongruent pairs on the online test.

When I saw my scores from the paper test, I was shocked by how poorly I did on the first two tasks, which felt effortless when I was taking them. I have no explanation for the disparity in my performance, except that maybe when a task is more difficult, I pay closer attention and therefore do well on it. I had a similar outcome on another “easy version-hard version” test during my evaluation which supports this supposition but there may be another explanation that has gotten by me.

The Bottom Line

How useful is the online Stroop test? I think it’s more valuable as a curiosity satisfier than an actual measure of cognitive processing. First, it doesn’t have the “priming” tasks of reading the words in black ink and naming the colors of the Xs, which create performance patterns in the brain, supposedly making the color-word task more difficult.

Second, there is no overall time limit so the test taker doesn’t feel pressured to rush through as many items as possible to complete the test in the allotted time. The response time score compensates for this a bit, but there’s no mention at the beginning of the test that one is being timed.

Finally, the number of items is too few to cause the cognitive fatigue that makes the paper test challenging.

Social Communication Survey

Take a Test Tuesday and our surveys are back! I had hoped to get them up and running sooner, but it’s been a hectic month. Better late than never?

This week’s questions are related to social communication. You can answer here in the comments or anonymously at Survey Monkey. Everyone who identifies as on the spectrum is welcome to participate.

Go forth and ruminate . . .


1. Do you have difficulty understanding non-verbal communication with humans, but have the ability to tune into animal non-verbal communication really well?

2. Do you often take things literally as an adult or is this something you did as a child but learned not to as an adult? If you understand figurative language now, are you still aware of the literal meaning first?

3. Are simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions often difficult for you to answer? Do you seem to need to give more detail than others?

4. Do you usually need social information to be expressed in very clear, explicit, direct and concrete language or are you able to understand indirect communication due to learning the rules like a second language?

5. Do you find many idioms, metaphors and sayings confusing or illogical? If you understand them, do they still distract you when people use them? Do you use idioms yourself?

6. Do you tend to consider things outside of their wider context before you think of them as part of the whole? E.g. first considering something someone has said at ‘face value’ before remembering that person’s life situation; or considering the instructions written on a notice as words alone before considering the cues from the environment or people around it.

7. Do you find it difficult to prioritise? Or difficult to quickly make decisions? Does this affect your ability to resolve ‘ambiguous’ social communication or ambiguous instructions?

8. Do you often need to know the reason why the information is needed before you can answer a question? Or do you need to ask several clarifying questions before you can give a simple answer?

9. Do you have physical or vocal tics where you move part of your body involuntarily, have to exert effort to not do this in public and need to do it a lot more later on if you spend time suppressing them. For example, if you tend to click your tongue or twitch your nose but try not to do this around other people, do you have to do it a lot more when you’re next alone?


Social Interaction Survey

This week’s questions are all about general social interaction (next week is social communication). Some of these questions might hit a little close to home for some of us  because they touch on trust and vulnerability. Please don’t feel pressured to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable.

If you prefer to answer anonymously, you can do so at Survey Monkey.

1. Have you dated knowing you had Aspergers/Autism? If so, when and how did you disclose? How did that turn out?  How did you go about getting someone to date you?

2. How often do you like to go out? Do you prefer to do stuff alone? Do you find it difficult to motivate yourself to go out sometimes?

3. Do you talk a lot to people? A lot of books go on about how Aspies can talk the hind leg off a donkey about their pet topics  but I don’t have the desire to really talk to people.

4. For people diagnosed as an adult, do you have a changed perception of how others see you? for example how friendly/outgoing/confident you seem to them.

5. Do you see yourself as vulnerable because of ASD? Are you more likely to be persuaded to do something or taken advantage of than most other people might? Has your perception of this changed with age?

6. Trusting other people – over the years I have learnt that I am very poor at reading peoples intentions and have been taken advantage of. I have adjusted to this by needing to understand what is happening and needing to be able to logically join up what someone does and says into a consistent picture – or I don’t trust them. How do other people manage this?

7. Do you ever feel like you’re living on a different scale of time from other people? For example, do you hear about a new TV show and only watch it years later because it just didn’t seem urgent?

8. My therapist explained that extroverts gain energy from others and introverts gain energy from being alone, and that autistic people can be either or anywhere in between. She also said there are challenges for extrovert autistics because of the social difficulties making it hard to achieve needed social interaction. (more details) Thinking about it in these terms, where would you place yourself on a continuum from introvert to extrovert? Is this different from how you would think of yourself using the terms in a broader sense, and is this different from how others see you?


How We Experience the World Survey

I was stumped for a title on this one. The questions all center around various ways we experience the world around us, but they’re about as loosely related as you can get and still say there’s a theme.

If you want to answer anonymously, you can do so at Survey Monkey.


1. Is the fascination with certain topics usually a life-long one, persistent over many years, or subject to change ?

2. What are your special interests and on what scale do you engage in them?

3. What effect does alcohol have on you, particularly on your executive function or stimming?

4.  I’m wondering if sitting all crossed-up in chairs is an ASD ‘thing.’ (i.e. do you do this?)

5. Do you have some very specific memories? Such as “ah-ha!” moments that you can draw up much more clearly than most memories, involving not only a picture but feelings, perhaps sounds and smells etc. as well and the image is VERY clear whereas most memories are a thought.

6. Do you sometimes attribute feelings to inanimate objects? Do you feel like certain objects ‘want to’ be interacted with or will feel bad if you don’t use them? Do you explain some of your quirks in this way, for example thinking that street furniture or certain textures want to be touched/felt, rather than you want to touch them? Or does it feel this way but you translate it when talking to others?

7. Does arousal influence you in an autism-specific way? As in: Do you overload easily when aroused? Does arousal influence, for example, your verbal reasoning skills than you feel would be “normal”? Do you stim when aroused? (for clarification: the questioner described this question as being “personal” so I think they are referring to sexual arousal, but answer in whatever way is comfortable for you)

8. Do you have difficulty with sequencing – working out the order in which you need to do things – for example if you were preparing an unfamiliar meal with several elements, would you have difficulty balancing them all without explicit planning and measurement in advance? Do you often realise you’ve done things in the wrong order or in a very inefficient way?

9. Is your primary fantasy ‘stopping’? In school, I used to fantasize about spontaneously dropping unconscious. As an adult, I fantasize about leaving the social system entirely. more details here

10. We often hear about autistic children wandering off. Did you wander? Did you “disappear” frequently to the point that was upsetting to your family (or teachers?) Why did you wander off? What do you remember about it? Now that you are an adult do you still wander? Do you disappear (perhaps during sensory overload) without telling anyone that you need to remove yourself at this time? more details here

Learning Differences/Disabilities Survey

We’re going to kick off a round of 4 (or maybe 5) Tuesday surveys (yay!) with a set of questions about specific learning differences (UK term) or learning disabilities (US term). All of these questions are by Quarries and Corridors and I have rather selfishly scheduled them first because I’ve been experiencing so many things mentioned here lately and want to hear about your experiences with them. But not worries – I’ll make sure everyone’s questions are included over the next few weeks.

The questions are detailed, so feel free to answer as few or as many as you want with as much or little detail as you like.

You can answer here in a comment or you can answer anonymously at Survey Monkey. (If at all possible, it would be great if you can answer here. There ended up being hundreds of anonymous answers to bring over from Survey Monkey last time which is awesome but also a lot  of work, y’all.)

Learning Differences/Disabilities Questions

1. As well as an autistic spectrum condition do you also have a specific learning difference (aka US English ‘learning disability’) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, nonverbal learning disability, ADHD etc? Even if you don’t have a diagnosed/labelled SpLD, do you have cognitive traits commonly associated with SpLDs like slow processing speed, below average spelling, fragile working memory, poor concentration etc?

2. Are you actually unusually good at any of the above? For example unusually fast reading speed, learned to read early, extremely good at spelling, usually good short term memory, extremely good spacial reasoning, adept at doing things efficiently without conscious planning, excellent concentration regardless of interest level etc?  Continue reading Learning Differences/Disabilities Survey

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 (recommend that you save it to your computer or make a copy before using it)

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.


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.

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.