What is Asperger’s Syndrome (Now Under the Umbrella: Autistic Spectrum Disorder)?
“Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder (AD), is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical (peculiar, odd) use of language are frequently reported.”
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome on May 8th, 2013 at the age of 33. After years of depression, social anxiety and shyness, clumsiness, tantrums, obsessions, and feeling like a failure because I have trouble connecting with other people, I finally understand why. The people I know on the ASD spectrum are primarily people who were diagnosed in their teens or as an adult… which means that we have felt different or weird or special or overwhelmed for years before we had an answer. Many women are diagnosed when they seek treatment for their children. And currently only 1 in 4 people diagnosed with Asperger’s is female (Attwood/Simone) because females are more prone to masking and mimicking behaviours. It is also common for women to go undiagnosed because they have been diagnosed with other syndromes or disorders that do not encompass the full range of their symptoms/traits such as OCD, bipolarism, chronic depression, PTSD, and general anxiety disorders. Personally, prior to May 8th, I had been diagnosed with PTSD and chronic depression.
My husband heard this story on NPR, and it sparked a conversation. We both took the quiz. My results showed me that the way I think is different and led me to seek a diagnosis. Mind you, I was not looking for an Asperger’s diagnosis, I was simply looking for the correct diagnosis. A person can have some autistic traits but not be autistic. As my Psychologist explains it, “Sometimes you’re just a smart, quirky person.” You can take the quiz by clicking the following link:
At the end of the quiz you are given a link to a PDF containing your detailed results. Save this PDF to your computer, because the test website’s server only retains it for an hour. Remember, this is just an internet quiz and is not a diagnosis. If you or your relative have symptoms that are preventing work and social activity, you may want to seek a professional diagnosis. There are many “self-diagnosed” Aspies out there, and a number of them are probably accurate, but I feel it is important to have a professional’s opinion and guidance with any mental health condition.
I asked several Aspies I know, read a few message boards at wrongplanet.net, and called my insurance company before I made an appointment with a professional. It is important that you understand what your insurance company will and will not cover in terms of treatment if you are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, now Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is also important that you understand your health insurance plans allowances for mental health care so that you seek a doctor in the proper network. Testing may or may not be covered, the consultation may or may not be covered, etc.
You may certainly ask your Primary Care Physician or mental healthcare professional for a referral to someone who specializes in screening for Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. A regular doctor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist is not certified or qualified to diagnose you because they have not received proper training. Typically, psychiatrists and psychologists who specialize in Autism Spectrum Disorders work with children, but that does not mean they won’t see you. Call and talk to the office, or ask for a call back from the doctor if you’re concerned.
Ultimately you should find someone with whom you are comfortable and confident, and that might not be the first mental healthcare professional you meet.
Another thing to keep in mind is that as of May, 2013 the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome does not exist, but is now under the much broader term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” in the DSM-V (The Fifth version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual which standardizes diagnostic procedures for healthcare professionals). If you are indeed diagnosed as being on the spectrum, your diagnosis may not say “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Make sure you ask your mental healthcare professional questions if there is anything you don’t understand.
How Are You “Tested” for Asperger’s Syndrome/HFA?
Different doctors with different levels of experience have different methods. I was diagnosed after three sessions of observation and information gathering about my childhood. You may be asked when you started walking and talking, or you may be asked what your favourite game was as a child. As I said, it depends. There is more formal testing which involves educational testing (IQ tests and similar assessments) and trait inventories (long lists of true/false questions.) Your doctor may ask you to bring in a family member to corroborate the information you provide.
If you have social anxiety, be it from Asperger’s or not, it can be very difficult to open up to a stranger. Just remember that you’re trying to get to the bottom of things. Knowing the root cause of your behaviours can allow you to address and work around those behaviours, and can help improve the relationships in your life. If you suspect that you have any mental health issue or behavioral issue, I encourage you to speak to your doctor or therapist. While no one can explain you to yourself, a professional may be able to help you learn who you could be so that you can begin your own journey of self-discovery.
Recommended Reading (Books I have read, enjoyed, and found useful)
Aspergirls: Empowering Females With Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
22 Things a Woman With Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know by Rudy Simone
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood
A Field Guide to Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior by Ian Ford
Autism Society An organization that can help link you to resources in your area
Wrong Planet – Autism Community For Aspies, by Aspies
Autism Speaks My Brain Hates Me does not support Autism Speaks because it is not an organization that advocates for individuals with autism. Only a small percentage of donations they receive are used to assist families and individuals with ASD. None of the individuals who run the organization have ASD. This organization treats autism as a blight, a disease to be cured. Neurodiversity is something that I support. My brain works differently, not wrongly.
AspieintheFamily.com A blog by a mother with two autistic children and one neurotypical child
Asperger Management A site for white collar Aspies in management
Asperger’s Digest The magazines website with a host of useful articles on Autism Spectrum Disorders