Do You Have Asperger’s?

Probably, yes. Just asking the question, “do I have Asperger’s?” is a strong indicator you’re on the autistic spectrum in our opinion. You’ve obviously done some reading or been talking to people about it already. You’ve probably identified some typical autistic traits in your own behaviour (or you wouldn’t be asking the question). You might have read blog posts and articles by diagnosed aspies, and found yourself saying, “I do that…” or “that’s exactly how I feel,” or “this explains everything.”

You are no doubt asking the “do I have Asperger’s?” question because you need to convince someone that you’re autistic. In that case, self-diagnosis is not enough “proof” for many people or organsiations: government, health services, schools, and many other (but not all) official organisations are unable (or unwilling) to accept you as “autistic”, without a formal diagnosis. Friends and family might have a hard time (and give you a hard time) accepting your self-diagnosis; They don’t believe you are sufficiently qualified to make the judgement (whereas in my opinion, you are the best person to make that judgement); or, you might not accept your own judgement.

There is nothing wrong with wanting, or needing, a formal diagnosis, even if the only person you need to convince is yourself. There are many more articles on this site to help with understanding the process, and deciding if it’s the choice you want to make. I would also encourage you to join one or more online autism-group, talk to other autistic people, and read some more. You might decide you want a formal diagnosis in the end, or you might decide you’re happy with your own assessment. Both are okay.

Having said all this, some autistic people, or parents/carers of autistic people, will reject you if you’re not as “bad” as them/their child, or don’t have a formal diagnosis. So please know, at Life on the Spectrum, closely identifying with other autistic people is enough to count as autistic. You and your self-diagnosis are welcome here.

©Leigh Forbes

Related Content
» It’s Okay to Want a Diagnosis!”
» Think You Might Have Asperger’s?
» Asperger’s in Women
» Symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome (from an aspie perspective)
» The Triad of Impairments
» Diagnosis Stories
» Information about Online Tests
How do I get a diagnosis? (from the UK’s National Autistic Society)
The NHS Constistution (UK)


Dear Teachers…

Some years ago, I entrusted my only son, my firstborn and my friend, to another woman. Let’s call her Mrs D. She was the first teacher I had encountered as a parent, and I had no idea what to expect. I knew teachers deserved respect, and I determined I would not be a “problem parent” like my mother. I would let Mrs D get on with her job without interfering.

It was a small school – part of what attracted me to it, only three class teachers, plus classroom assistants, and a headmistress: all women, most in their late forties or fifties. Motherly, I thought, if not grandmotherly. How nice for the small boy; he never knew a grandmother. I needn’t worry about a thing.

He loved his first two weeks, appearing beside my bed dressed in his uniform at 7am every morning. He bounded out of class at the end of each day, full of what he’d been doing and the fun he’d been having. After a couple of weeks, the novelty began to wear off, but I’d prepared for that, and chivvied him along, asking him every day what was the best thing that happened. By Christmas, he was answering “lunchtime”. Then he started talking about being “bored”, and being “told off” at lot. Next I heard he’d been kept in at break time for “not completing his work”. He’s five, I thought, not fifteen. I spoke to Mrs D, but she said he had to finish his work. I shrugged it off. What did I know about class discipline? But more and more things began to niggle me: he started calling himself “useless”, and saying his work was “rubbish”. Then, at the end of his second term, he came out with “I hate school”. This was enough to break my heart, and I began to worry. Perhaps I should go into school and say something. But I didn’t want to cause a scene. I didn’t want my child to suffer because he had a “problem parent”. Hell, I knew how that felt.

So, distressed, I watched from the sidelines as Mrs D spent three years destroying my son’s confidence. She taught him phonics, maths, and phrases like “what’s the point?” I, the child of my own aspie mother (who never gave a second thought to marching into school and making my life hell by proxy), was torn. I didn’t know what to do.

Mrs M, whose class he moved into next, was a good teacher. A nice woman too. I liked her. The small boy liked her. But still there was something missing; he would come home saying he kept getting told off, but didn’t know why. I spoke to the SENCO about autism – her reply? “I’ve seen a lot of children with autism, and I can assure you, your son’s not one of them”. I had no answer. I’d only been recently diagnosed myself, and I didn’t want to cause a fuss. So nothing changed. Meanwhile, I watched while Mrs D began to destroy the small girl’s confidence too, and with my even smaller girl due to start the following autumn, I knew I had to do something.

After facing up to the agonies of a change I didn’t have to make, I got the smaller girl on to the reception-class intake-list for another school, and her sister (desperate to stay together) won a place on that basis. Mrs M persuaded me to leave the small boy with her; he’d grown up with his classmates, she said. They all knew his little ways (not that he’s autistic or anything). He was “doing well”. I gave in. I always was a sucker for guilt-trip tactics.

The girls flourished at the new school, and within a term it became obvious my son needed to be there too. I reconsidered Mrs M’s remark about him having grown up with his classmates… but actually he’d been through toddler group and preschool with the kids at his sisters’ school – he would have friends to welcome him. It could be done. To minimise the disruption, I wanted to leave it until the end of the academic year, but a place became available after Easter, and I had to jump. Stressful? I can’t begin to tell you!

He had seven terms at that school, and although we had little dips and bumps along the way, the two teachers who taught him gave him the confidence to aspire, to be himself. And by validating his autism, accepting him, and managing his issues without needing to apportion blame, they gave me the confidence to stick up for him. He’s now approaching the end of his first term at secondary school (where the SENCO said his autism was so obvious she didn’t need him to have a diagnosis to be on the special-needs register), and is continuing to develop his self-reliance, his responsibility, his confidence.

So, to Miss P and Mr R, I want to thank you. Between you, you rescued my son from a pit of academic despair and managed to prepare him for secondary school in only two years. It brings tears to my eyes to think of the change you worked on him. The work you gave him was harder, the challenges greater, yet in those two years, he often came home from school enthusing about what “a great day” he’d had. You inspired him to learn – which is all a parent can ask. You also took on his autism with a fearless calm. His oddness was not a problem for you, and you spoke gently to me about any issues there were. You didn’t make me feel like I was making it all up; you helped me to help him. As a result of all this, he is not only coping at secondary school, he’s doing well. And I sincerely thank you for that.

©Leigh Forbes


Online Tests for Asperger’s syndrome

Having once been through the agonies of wondering if I were “aspie enough,” I’ve written a brief article about online tests, in particular the Rdos test. I’ve included a number of Rdos graphs to illustrate how varied results can be, even amongst formally diagnosed aspies. I’ve also included a neurotypical graph, to show just how different it looks on the same scale!

The page is here: Online Tests.

So, Did You Grow Out of It?

I have, seriously, been asked this question. We were talking about the 2010 film The Social Network, and commenting on facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s various aspie-type traits. I’d mentioned how I’d been “just like him” when I was younger (only without the genius), and that’s when my friend said, “So, did you grow out of it?”

At the time, I just muttered, “no.” I didn’t know what else to say; when faced with such ignorance (however well-meaning), I was speechless.

So, here are some answers (those I give, and those I wish I could give) to the responses I get to saying I have Asperger’s:

You? YOU have Asperger’s?
Yep.

Are you sure?
Yep.

But… have you actually been diagnosed? By a proper doctor?
Yep. This one.

Don’t you think you should get a second opinion?
Nope.

Oh, you mean Ass Burgers. Ha ha ha!
Har har har.

But only boys get Asperger’s syndrome…
Now you’re going to tell me all about someone you know whose son who has Asperger’s syndrome.

But you’re not actually autistic
Let me guess. You’ve seen Rain Man.

Well, it is a spectrum…
I know. You’ve seen Rain Man.

You obviously don’t have it very badly…
You wouldn’t last five minutes inside my head.

You must be very high functioning…
Yes, I can talk.

But you seem so normal…
Yep. Should have been an actor.

So, did you grow out of it?
Nope.

It’s only a label…
It’s better than all the other labels I’ve been plastered with all my life.

You’re still you…
No I’m not; I no longer carry the weight of failure everywhere I go.

It doesn’t need to change anything…
Oh yes it does.

You’re not actually ill though.
Do you need me to be?

Okay, so you have a disability, but you’re not actually disabled by it, are you?
How long have you got?

It won’t affect you long term though…
Hahahahahaha!

I know people mean well, but seriously. Why do they feel the need to try and make it better, usually by questioning the validity of my diagnosis and telling me everything they know about autism? You’d never say, “Oh, you have cancer? Are you sure you saw a proper doctor?” And go on to explain all about your aunt’s colostomy and her resulting irrigation-problems. Would you?

It would be much nicer if people would give credence to what I’d just told them, and resisted the urge to tell me all about the nephew of a friend who has Asperger’s (and how he freaks out at fireworks and likes to line up his toys), and everything else they’ve ever seen on the news or read in the paper. And then not tell me how unlike that I am.

Praise me for coping so well if you like and, if you really want to have a conversation about it, please don’t tell me what it’s like to have autism. Try asking me instead.

Hello, my name’s Leigh, and I’m an…

 
I’m an aspie. There, I said it.

It was on the 16th November 2010, at 1.05pm, when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
I cried.
It was a life-changing moment, but also a (albeit, harrowing) confirmation of a long-held suspicion, and not a surprise.

It has been a surprise for many others, though – those who don’t know me. “Well, it is a spectrum,” they say. “You obviously don’t have it very badly.”

They wouldn’t last five minutes inside my head.

From the age of three I’ve known I was different, and that I didn’t want to be. As I grew up, I studied body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and everything else that goes along with ‘being normal’. I convinced myself that if I just worked at it hard enough, I could be like everyone else. I got quite good, didn’t I?

The trouble is, the more skilled I became at pretending (which is all it could ever be), the more people expected me to behave ‘normally’. As I mastered increasingly subtle ways of interacting (you lot have no idea how complex a conversation is, and on how many levels), it became harder and harder for me to keep up. I became exhausted. Long term, chronically tired. Which is why I finally had to know.

Knowing is good, of course – it has to be – but, remembering that I’ve dedicated my whole life to being accepted into your world, having the door slammed and locked in my face is… well, it’s been a bit upsetting.

It took me two weeks to stop crying. I went through denial, bargaining, anger… I raged at everyone: the people at my school/university, for making my life hell – peers and staff alike (note to VJ: You bullied the autistic kid. How big d’you feel now?); my parents, for their attempts to correct me with ‘discipline'; and everyone else around me for having what I wanted. I’m through that now. You’re fine. (Please scratch anything I said/wrote to the contrary in recent weeks. Thanks.)

I’m calmer now, and can forgive myself for so many things: I’m not a failure; I’m not a crybaby; I’m not a fusspot; I’m not rude or uncaring, a stubborn little madam, or any one of a myriad of confidence-destroying labels. I’m an aspie.

Learning all about what makes an aspie is like a homecoming, and reading Tony Attwood’s Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, is like reading a Haynes manual for Being Me. I wish I’d read it thirty years ago. I wish my parents and teachers had read it… Anyway, I’ve decided. I’d rather be a happy aspie, than an miserable impostor.

So when I talk to much, don’t get your jokes, object to being teased, want the music turned down, wander off by myself, or whatever… please understand I’m not being awkward, I’m being me. I hope you’re okay with that.

I am.