I am a 39 year old British man. I am a perfectly average person, living an average life with my family. There is nothing unusual about me at all. Except, over the last year or so it has dawned on me that I may have Asperger’s Syndrome.
I have decided to seek a formal diagnosis for Adult Asperger’s Syndrome and have a doctor’s appointment to start this process later this week. I have very limited knowledge about Asperger’s and this whole adventure is something of a leap into the unknown.
My primary motivation in starting this website, is to record what happens during the process of seeking a diagnosis for the benefit of others who find themselves in a similar situation. My secondary motivation is as an outlet to discuss how the possibility of having Asperger’s Syndrome might be a contributing, as yet unrecognised, contributing factor to my pretty awful mental health.
How Did I Come to Think I Might Have Asperger’s Syndrome?
Whilst I had heard of Asperger’s, I had always assumed this was a condition associated with autism and “learning difficulties”. Well, I haven’t got any of those. In fact I have an IQ somewhere around 140 and therefore categorically not autistic. Anyway, autism is something to do with children being naughty at school, isn’t it?
A couple of years ago, in the space of a couple of months, two grown men that I know of were diagnosed with Asperger’s. One of them is my cousin and would feature in a list of the top five people I think are most like me in personality. For reasons I have forgotten, I filled out an online autism quiz. I have since learned this is the AQ Test (autism quotient) and is a recognised tool (among others) in the diagnostic repertoire. I got a score of 40 out of a possible 50. The score on it’s own was pretty meaningless without additional context – what is a normal score? I got my wife to do the test on my behalf and got a similar score. She then did it for herself and got something like a 10. A massive difference. Reading more, I learned that 80% of people officially diagnosed with Asperger’s score above 32 on this test. You can find the AQ Test in lots of places online including here.
Well, so what, we’re all different and I didn’t think any more about this for some time. Then, two things happened at the same time.
First, whilst popping out to grab some lunch, I happened to hear a programme on Radio 4 of an interview with a scientist called Penny Andrews who was diagnosed as being autistic in her thirties. The revelation was in a phrase she said exactly at the moment I tuned in. She said “… I got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but it never felt quite right that that was what it was.” Bingo. The penny dropped. This lady was describing an experience similar to mine. If I do a personality test, I show up as an Introvert. I always put my lack of social accomplishment down to introversion, yet these traits now make so much more sense in the context of autism.
You can listen the programme, John Harris Talks to Penny Andrews about Autism. I hope you’ll find it as insightful as I did. I have listened a few times and on each occasion feel like it is 15 minutes well spent. (Also, Penny Andrews gets a mention in this interesting article for the Guardian.)
The second thing was that my wife studied a qualification in “Understanding Autism” through work she was doing at a school. I mentioned my thoughts and asked if she thought I might be “on the spectrum”. Without hesitation, and perfectly naturally she replied “God, yes”. Well, that was a surprise. She might have bloomin’ mentioned it before! Apparently, these traits are quite apparent in me but I have never noticed them myself.
Now, after much reading and introspection I have come to the general conclusion that Asperger’s Syndrome is a perfectly logical diagnosis for me. Self-diagnosing offers me no useful help. Either I am or I’m not, and it is necessary to know either way in order to decide on what I need to learn about myself in order to function more successfully as a human-being. Hence, I have decided to seek a formal diagnosis, and to also blog about the experience here.