Thursday, December 18, 2008


I think I may have Asperger's Syndrome (aka, high functioning autism).

This past weekend I was at an autism group in Second Life, although not because of how I identify. They were talking about accessibility technology and I was invited because I know about devices the Deaf community uses (my partner is Deaf). While there I noticed a poster of Einstein (one of my heroes when I was a kid) and looked up on the web why they would have a pic of him. I noticed some similarities to my own story and found more once I started researching the topic.

So I guess that places me in the self-diagnosed category, but I plan on talking to my neurologist about it next month. After that either another appointment or a referral to a psychologist (I have already picked one out I want to see). I really *hate* being in that grey area, especially since I can not do a proper diagnosis from inside as it were. For example, even though transsexuality is something people self-report as, I was unable to fully identify as such until a therapist agreed with me.

I tend to obsess about something (I have sucked up lots of info on this the past few days) but am lousy at social interactions. Good for computer programming but not so good when I need to interact with people, be it work or otherwise. Recently my partner needed to get our clothes from the laundry room: I said just a minute, and I was still on Second Life when she returned.

There are a triad of impairments for diagnosis:

Social Communication: I repetitively miscue how someone will react to what I say. At work usually I am instructed not to speak directly with customers/clients/superiors. I moderate several email support groups and when I actively moderate them usually a flame war erupts with people telling me I took the wrong action.

Social understanding: I really take things literally. When I get tasked with something I follow instructions to the letter, even if there was a mistake in what I was told and I knew it. I tend to avoid groups (parties and such) and when I do am not quite sure what to do or what to talk about.

Imagination: I time my walking patterns to hit lights exactly when they change or get on the right point of a train to make my transfer. Recently they keep changing the timing of the lights on my route to work -- this causes no end of stress. Another thing is over-compensating in planning: maps to walk a few blocks, building in *way* more time than is needed to get somewhere (so usually waiting for everyone else), notes to myself about things I would know to do, and doing "dry runs" in advance to get somewhere, and so on. Even this post was over-planned: writing it, editing it, checking it for completeness, repeat as needed.

I have been diagnosed with a host of things that are associated: epilepsy, giftedness, hyperactivity. Whether or not transsexuality is co-morbid too is a matter of debate. Maybe I should list a few things from my past too, bear in mind people with Asperger's are typically great at focus but lousy with social cues:

Grade school:
* Drew a spaceship -- including the detail of adding time travel devices to it. Yes, in 2nd grade I had already grasped the problem of long durations in traveling to other planets so knew I had to find a solution to it.
* At the urging of other students matter-of-factly pronounced to the cafeteria cooks the food tasted like dog food. I was shocked when they actually took offense.
* Took an IQ test and got classified as gifted when it was somewhere north of 130. Which they found odd because I had also been diagnosed as hyperactive. I enjoyed it: it meant a tutor, summer day camp, and a special class when I got to middle school. All where I was encouraged to explore whatever I was interested in (which is how I knew how to program before middle school).

Middle School and High school:
* A relative died. My 1st reaction when I got home? To program my computer to spit out quadratic equations and then start solving them as fast as possible.
* I was falsely accused of yelling an epithet at a cop. When my parents confronted me about it I replied that I could not state I didn’t (how do you prove a negative?). They assumed I was trying to weasel out of it and that earned me the same punishment as if I had actually done it.

College and Graduate School:
* My first degree was in physics, having been interested in science as far back as I could remember. I went through what is typically a 5 year program in 4 years. Then decided to hop over to computer science in the short span between looking at grad schools and applying to them.
* I accidentally (honestly!) found some ways of doing things on computer networks I was not supposed to be able to do. Usually because I was so intent on doing something else or just exploring. Generally to the consternation of systems managers. Their solution was often to tell me not to tell anyone else how I did what I did. An early boss challenged me to break into a new computer: I informed him he should take back the challenge.
* The last thing in grad school was a comprehensive exam covering all of my classes. We were instructed to read all of the instructions -- I glanced at them and raced into the exam, being one of the first ones done. Only afterwards did I find out I had answered everything and the instructions had said to pick which questions in each section to work on. I was so tunnel-visioned on the questions that I did not notice that in the instructions.

One of my favourite work anecdotes:
A client made a change request to a design. My response was to tell him "Why would you want to do that?" and then list all of the details of the design (which was huge!) that would need to change and how 90% of what he wanted was already there anyways. I did not realize it sounded like sarcasm until I was told so. I just reasoned they were paying me for my professional input so I had to be honest. My boss at the time (who was new) learned the hard way that I was not the person to drag to a client meeting and agree with everything that was said.

So does it sound like I meet the criteria?


Véronique said...

That's an interesting compilation of material. I have no idea how Asperger's Syndrome is diagnosed, but I guess there must be some way. From the little I know, I recognize that some of what you wrote correlates with Asperger's.

I hope you can learn what you want to know!

Gavin Bollard said...

It certainly sounds like you show a lot of aspie traits. Why not have a go of the Aspie Quiz and post your results?

Kara said...

Gavin - I'll take it later today ... I am way to tired to do it right now. If it is like the AQ test at Wired though: 42 out of 50 with Aspies typically being 32 or above.

Veroniqué - Yes, when I delve into a topic I really delve into it. The scary thing is that letter was 2 pages long and the current draft is now 5 pages (plus 3 pages of attachments)!

Kara said...

Your Aspie score: 173 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 27 of 200
You are very likely an Aspie

Kara said...

Oh, hi Gavin! So how did you find this entry?