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Interesting article about the "popularity" of Aspergers

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Aussie Willy, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Found an interesting article about Aspergers and how it seems to be the latest diagnosing tool to understand people's behaviour.


    I have friends who have a habit of diagnosing people as having Aspergers (including myself) all the time. However they do like to put people in a box. But then is that an easy way to explain people's behaviour or quirks rather than truly understand if they have it or not?
  2. UGG

    UGG Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think it is just an "easy way" to understand someone.

    While "quirks" are associated with people who have Aspergers, it is a disorder. I think too much focus is on the "quirky" part, and not enough on the actual diagnostic criteria. (In the scenario that you provided).

    I post on a board for parents of children on the autism spectrum, as my son who just turned 2 was diagnosed with PDD-NOS in December. (although he did meet all criteria for classic autism, the neuropsychologist who diagnosed him went more mild because of his age but anyway...) people are always posting things like "my daughter walks on her toes but only when the floor is cold could this be aspergers?" Or..."my son is 3 and can name all the presidents could he have aspergers?". Then when parents of children with ASD start asking about how they act in social situations or how they communicate, the people asking the questions don't understand why.

    Not sure if this is what you were getting at?
  3. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Seems like we cycle through diagnosis fads. Not by professionals, mind you, but by parents and others. When I was first teaching in the late 90s it was ADD/ADHD. Every third parent that sat down at the table at parent-teacher conferences was certain that Johnny or Susie was talking in class/disorganized/turning in HW late/getting a B...because s/he had ADD or ADHD. Interestingly enough, in sixteen years, I taught exactly four kids who had actually had a professional diagnosis of either one. The others were just being young adolescents.

    By the time I stopped teaching full time three years ago, ADD/ADHD was out of fashion and parents of kids with any imperfection in school were wondering aloud if it were Asperger's or ASD. I never had a student professionally diagnosed with either one. (Mind you, part of that was because of teaching in a private school without SPED or other services--parents with kids who are diagnosed are wiser to keep them in a public school with services).

    Something new will replace it as the amateur diagnosis fad soon enough.
  4. kylet3

    kylet3 Well-Known Member

    It is an interesting article and I do believe it has valid merits. It seems to me that these days, that people looking for an easy fix and if they exhibit a single sign or symptom, then they automatically have Asperger's, which of course isn't the case.

    I was diagnosed with Asperger's by a Psychiatrist back before it was popular to do so and almost no one knew about it. I was diagnosed when I was maybe 11 or so? and this was back in 1997. The doctor didn't go by a single sign or symptom, it was multiple signs and symptoms that made me a classic case. It adversely affected my life in junior high, I had almost no friends, I was awkward socially, it was so bad to the point where I constantly had suicidal thoughts and wondered why am I here? It can be a very difficult thing to deal with especially in those awkward teenage years.

    It seems like Asperger's right now is the popular diagnosis, and as PDilemma says, it'll be replaced by something else. Anytime Asperger's gets awareness, that's great, but we need to be extremely careful of how it is portrayed and making sure that people properly understand what it actually is and it involves, and sadly, it doesn't seem like that's the case at the moment.
  5. RFOS

    RFOS Well-Known Member

  6. Coco

    Coco Well-Known Member

    ((((kylet3)))) glad you made it through junior high!
  7. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

  8. RFOS

    RFOS Well-Known Member

    I haven't had a chance to listen to this yet, but was given this link yesterday:

    Here is a really detailed quiz that I took prior to being officially tested, and got completely ambiguous results (I scored just about equally on the Asperger's and "neurotypical" scales):

    This is an interesting link I saw earlier that might even be worth its own discussion, but seems vaguely related because it discusses people looking for and interpreting potentially ambiguous behavior in such a way as to get the desired or expected label for a person, in this case as a psychopath:

    To be honest, when I read the report from the person who tested me, I did feel like she did quite a bit of that. I felt like she focused on the "negative" aspects that would support a diagnosis and didn't really address anything that didn't fit. I can kind of understand why because she needed to justify her decision that on the whole a diagnosis seemed the correct thing to her. A lot of the questions on the tests I really wasn't sure how to answer, things like "I can easily tell how people are feeling." There wasn't a neutral option to the questions, which I would've picked if there had been because that really depends on how the particular person expresses it. I don't think I'm extremely adept at reading social cues, but from some documentaries I've watched they make it seem like people with Asperger's literally can't read facial expressions at all (I suppose there are differences in severity with any diagnosis though), which definitely isn't true for me. I took a facial expression recognition test online that had really subtle differences and I found it challenging, but in the end I think I scored about "average" on it. There was nothing like that on the official test, which I think would be more accurate than just relying on self-report on extremely vague and general questions, which I think could really vary depending on the mood the person was in. My confidence definitely fluctuates quite a bit and I may have been in a not super confident mood at the time.

    Another thing that was strange about the testing was she had some random objects (things like a toy car, a shoelace, a ball, maybe a clothespin and some other stuff) and told me to use some of the objects and make up a story involving them (after she did as an example). I really felt odd about it and and felt kind of "blocked" and didn't come up with a good one, and she used that one example to basically say that I lacked imagination. She also had a picture book with no words that she went through and asked me to tell the story I interpreted from the pictures, and in doing so I did say things like the character looks happy and such, which I would think would at least be small evidence against the diagnosis, but she didn't mention that in her report.

    Before getting tested I had thought about it, because I had an online friend who was diagnosed and we have a lot in common, and a relative had asked me whether I had considered it as a possibility. I discussed it with some professionals I had worked with and eventually found out about the option where I wouldn't have to pay for the testing (which is usually about $2,000), so I decided to try it. I had gone back and forth a lot on whether I thought I had it, because there are a lot of ways in which it seemed to fit, but I could also see some ways in which the diagnosis would fit my friend more than it would me (for example, he has sometimes said things that could be considered strange or inappropriate considering the person, and has said he doesn’t really have a filter).

    I also kept coming back to the fact that one of the main criteria was a lack of empathy, which I felt like didn’t fit at all. Sometimes I think TOO much about what other people might think or feel. Also, I’ve heard a lot of talk about “meltdowns” which I’ve never had and sensory differences/sensitivities which as far as I can tell I don’t have at all, although as far as I know neither of those are required for diagnosis and I don’t recall there being any questions about them on the official test (but there was a section on the unofficial test posted above about sensory differences. I scored very, very “low”/neurotypical on that section).

    On the other hand, I am very introverted, socially awkward much of the time and have difficulty making eye contact, have many unusual interests (figure skating for one ;)), and can go overboard sometimes with my interests and thinking way too much about things. There are many things that seem to come naturally to or make sense to or be very popular among other people that I just don’t “get” at all (a year or two ago I recall getting pretty worked up in Sekret Sources about why in the world it should matter what kind of clothes someone wore to a job interview, and every time a wedding thread comes around I find myself thinking more and more that all these strange customs that almost everyone seems to accept without questioning just don’t make any sense or have any appeal to me. I also hate being the center of attention most of the time so in that way I wouldn’t enjoy a traditional wedding). Of course, in order for a wedding to even be an option I need to have a romantic partner, which has yet to ever happen, and is the one area in which I feel the most completely inept. The idea of “flirting” is absolutely unnatural to me and even if I could learn what people do I don’t think I could pull it off without coming across as even more TOTALLY awkward than I already am, and I know that the physical and emotional intimacy of that kind of relationship would not come naturally to me if I were to even get into one. I’m also definitely more literally-minded than most people. Going back to 4th grade, my teacher asked us to write down everything we knew about Japan and I had trouble even conceiving of where to start (and not because I had particularly great knowledge of Japan, but because I was stuck on the word “everything” and it seemed overwhelming). My literal-mindedness has caused some minor problems since then also, and in college I loved philosophy because I loved being able to really pick apart the details of arguments and enjoyed the nitpickiness of defining things really really precisely (I think I would really enjoy and be good at writing rules or instructions and would love to someday be on a committee of U.S. Figure Skating that does that).

    Another thing I felt that made me suspect something other than social anxiety (of which Asperger’s was the primary specific option I was aware of) is that my anxiety isn’t always strong enough to explain my degree of awkwardness. I have trouble expressing myself through speech and body language (and am a thousand times better at writing) and I think I tend to come across more awkwardly than I feel. On the one and only date I’ve ever been on, I came across as awkward enough that the girl kind of rushed off and later explained that that was why, even though I thought the conversation was going decently. (I was absolutely paralyzed with anxiety before we met up, but calmed down after we met and started talking). And when I am really anxious, it takes me forever to even think of what I want to say and even longer to get the words out. I felt like there had to be another reason why certain things that didn’t seem hard for other people just didn’t come naturally to me.

    I’ve thought about and discussed some other possible causes of my difficulties with relatives and professionals, both before and after my diagnosis. I was born (by C-section) extremely prematurely (over 3 months early, weighing 2 pounds) and had an identical twin brother who died a few days after birth. I am very lucky not to have suffered any long-term physical symptoms (not that have shown up yet anyway) but I have wondered whether my social difficulties could have either been influenced by my premature birth or, perhaps on a subconscious level, of having lost a twin brother. It’s not something I think about too often. Also, I was in the hospital for a long time after birth and didn’t have as much close contact with people as most babies would during the first few months and I do know that that can have major long-term psychological effects among babies raised in orphanages for a while, even if they were young enough to not actually remember. I’ve read that there’s a link between premature birth and autism but I’ve also heard of potential genetic link, which seems almost contradictory. Is it some “disorder” that there’s a gene for or is it caused by the circumstances of birth? If it’s the former, maybe premature birth only leads to similar symptoms but isn’t technically autism? I guess there are lots of personality traits that are formed by some complex combination of genetics, pre-natal environment, and post-natal environment, but I guess it seems like something defined as a single “disorder” should have a more specific cause, though I understand that the real causes of autism and Asperger’s are still very poorly understood and that many of those supposed links are probably just correlational.

    As you can see, I’m not 100% satisfied with or convinced by the label of Asperger’s, but I felt like I was looking for “something” that might help explain why I find certain things difficult and just feel “different” from most people, so in a way it felt good. It’s not something I’ve shared with many people but one acquaintance who has a son with Asperger’s said she suspected I was “on the spectrum” since the first time she met me. On the other hand, a therapist I had been seeing for 10 years prior to testing never had that gut feeling. I have a much younger cousin who has been diagnosed and have thought about discussing it with my aunt and uncle (whom I don’t see often and haven’t seen the cousin, who is now 13, since he was 8).

    This long post is one example of what I said about tending to get carried away once I get started with something and think way too much about things. ;)

    Kyle, I would definitely be interested in hearing some more of your thoughts and experiences if you are comfortable sharing, either on the board or via PM. :)
  9. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing RFOS.
    I hope you never experience any of the negative "assumptions"/stereotypes that sometimes come with this diagnosis.
  10. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    That doesn't surprise me at all. This is how bias comes into scientific research, and don't kid yourself that bias in science doesn't exist. The data doesn't lie, but it all comes down to interpretation and/or availability of test-taking mechanisms. All of which can be easily biased.

    I'm somewhat similar to you, I think. Although I took that test that you posted and I tested fairly low on Asperger's and pretty high on neurotypical. Most of the stuff on the "Aspie" scale was obsession about my interests and introvertedness. Although I'm still socially awkward, I manage to keep the physical anxiety on the down-low.

    It's not unusual at all to be shy and awkward. And I'm here to tell you that finding a partner isn't impossible if you are both. I won't diagnose Alf, but he does take things very literally. The idea of him flirting makes me :rofl:. We mostly sat in silence for our first date, but I noticed that the silence wasn't awkward and he didn't seem to be bothered by it. (We're both introverts so this is important!) He doesn't shower me with romantic words or actions. All that actually works for me because I love it when he notices I'm busy and offers to help. And when he does the laundry. :cheer: And I too think that flirting and many romantic "traditions" are stupid. :) The world is big and connected now - the ones who would have been thought "strange" in the past now have a voice and community. Just because you aren't like "everybody else" doesn't mean things are impossible.

    I do think lacking empathy is something that cannot as easily overcome, though. You can't really be in a relationship unless you care deeply about the other person, and are mindful of their needs. Even though Alf isn't romantic in the typical sense, he is extremely mindful of my well-being. So at least you don't have that obstacle to jump over.

    I think this part does come easier with practice. Maybe not in a date context when you're already at max anxiety and the interaction is fairly unstructured, but maybe Toastmasters? I've been thinking of joining one once my schedule clears out, to help with my stutter while public speaking. (Yeah, it's not a surprise I communicate much better through writing than speaking...)

    I've learned this especially at work, where my boss's grad students are known to give the best presentations at the school. That never comes naturally - it comes with diligent practice. He'll make them practice out loud for weeks, tweaking the structure of the talk each few days. One of them in particular was almost as bad as I was giving presentations at first. (And I have a stutter - it was pretty bad!) Fast forward to her thesis defense, and she was totally and utterly AWESOME. :kickass: A bit of her awkwardness still came through when it came to the Q&A portion, but it was tremendously improved from before.

    Certain traits can make it difficult to do things that others find easy, but it doesn't make them impossible. :)
  11. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    The most disturbing part is that the "popularity" of the diagnosis will take away from those who are professionally/clinically diagnosed.

    Took the test, I am neurotypical, in spite of some of my OCD answers. There are several crossovers.
  12. RFOS

    RFOS Well-Known Member

    Yes, and one thing that is really important to me is striving to be objective. I don't think it's completely possible to succeed at that, especially when assessing something where emotions and aesthetic preferences do come into play like skating, but I'm going to keep trying anyway ;) This is a really interesting TED playlist that discusses some fascinating ways in which we tend to be biased and/or irrational: http://www.ted.com/playlists/74/our_brains_predictably_irrati.html.

    I appreciated the rest of your post also, so thanks for responding. :)