Have you heard the one about the comedian who used the internet to diagnose his elbow pain? It hurt on the outside of his elbow when he gripped. He did an exhaustive internet search, and discovered that it was one of two things: 1. tennis elbow; 2. cancer. Since he wasn’t much of an athlete, he deduced that it was obviously cancer, and set forth writing his will.
I know that diagnosing yourself based solely on what you find on the internet about your ‘symptoms’ is as foolish as the above comic’s attempt at humor.
That being said, I have always felt that the signs and symptoms and behaviors that make up Jacob’s particular brand of autism are just personality quirks that Beth and I each have, only magnified to the point of disrupting his life and relationships with others.
I am left-brained to a fault. I enjoy being around people, but seek refuge in solitude. I am an extroverted introvert. It costs me energy to be around others, and I draw my strength from being alone. I can’t stand the thought of lotion between my fingers, and don’t get me started on shirts with seams or wool sweaters. I crave routine and familiarity. Ask Beth. I dry off from the shower in the exact same way I always have, fresh from shaving my face in the same pattern I’ve used since I was a teen. I can easily set my emotions aside and look at a situation with clinical cool. I think in numbers and patterns. I love to talk at length about subjects that fascinate me – just ask me about my blog!
Anyway, I’m rambling.
I recognize these things point to a lot of varying diagnoses if taken to the extreme, or maybe just some eccentricities if looked at individually.
On a lark, I Googled “do I have aspergers” and got 3,500,000 results. I clicked on the first useful link, which for me was PsychCentral’s Quiz.
The Psych Central quiz features 50 questions in which you rate the level to which you agree with the statement in bubbles labeled “strongly agree” through “strongly disagree.” The scoring is as follows: 34 and up = autism likely. 30-33 = autism possible. 29 and under = no autism.
I took the quiz with as much honesty as I could muster, wanting a truthful representation. I scored a 31. The disclaimer told me that it was likely that I had asperger’s syndrome, but quickly reminded me that this was, in fact, the internet and I shouldn’t ever use anything found on the web in place of a qualified professional’s opinion.
My next stop was Asperger’s Quiz.
Here were 21 questions, arranged into the three categories Social, Life Skills, and Physical (or Behavioral) symptoms. I again answered as honestly as I could and was found to have a 60% chance of having an autism spectrum disorder. I got a very similar message, again reminding me not to trust the web.
What does this mean, if anything?
Does it change anything about mine or Jake’s lot in life?
Not really, I guess.
I’m left to wonder if Jake’s autism truly is an extension of behaviors that I exhibit. Is my genetic brew, when blended with Beth’s, destined to make kids like Jake? Not so, if we’re to look at Gabe or Liv.
To thicken the plot, Gabe qualified for developmental therapy when he was a very young boy. He was showing too many Jake traits and we wanted him checked out. He scored high enough (or low enough, I suppose) on enough of the right tests to qualify for intervention. It wasn’t six months, however, before he tested out of it. We were told then not to be too surprised if he didn’t prove to have Asperger’s later on. He’s a little brainiac, but he’s too socially adept and compassionate at seven years old to be considered anything less than mainstream.
Olivia’s the most social of all butterflies. She’s as empathetic as the day is long. She’s never shown any signs whatsoever of anything other than neurotypical development.
I asked my mother and my wife, on separate occasions, if they’d be shocked to find out that I had Asperger’s syndrome. Neither of them skipped a beat before telling me that no, they wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Hmmm.
To me, this really speaks to the nature of the “spectrum” that are the Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD. How to medical and behavioral specialists differentiate between autism and so many of the other things that look like it? Dr. Temple Grandin, famed author and speaker, public figure and animal rights activist, has autism. My verbalish, video game loving eleven year old has autism. Carly Fleischmann, about whom we read in this month’s Book Club, has autism. She is very self-injurious, and struggles endlessly with controlling her behaviors.
Am I an Aspie, as those with Asperger’s are prone to calling themselves? I don’t know. I’m certainly not afraid to be labeled amongst their numbers, and I guess it doesn’t change anything about me either way, really.
I’m still a unique individual who has had to adapt to fit in. We can all say the same thing about ourselves, can’t we?