Life on the Spectrum

Archive for March, 2011

Getting a diagnosis

I got my Asperger’s diagnosis when I was around 35 years old. I got it only after a long and frustrating search, going through so-called professionals who were quick to tell me why I couldn’t possibly be an Aspie.

Reason number one why I couldn’t possibly have Aspergers’s: “If you had Asperger’s, it would have been diagnosed when you were in elementary school.”

Well, gee, of course. Why didn’t I think of that? I went to elementary school from 1973 to 1981. Asperger’s was added to the DSM in 1991 — the year I graduated from university, and ten years after I finished elementary school.

Reason number two: “You’re a girl. Only boys have autism spectrum disorders.”

I’m sure Temple Grandin, one of the most famous autistics in the entire world, would love to hear that only boys are autistic. The statistics say that there are ten times as many boys diagnosed with Asperger’s than there are girls, but that could be just because the diagnostic criteria are written with boys in mind. The signs and symptoms manifest differently in girls.

Reason number three: “You’re too intelligent to have Asperger’s.”

The diagnostic criteria in the DSM state that people with Asperger’s have normal to superior intelligence. I’m probably more intelligent than the person who made that stupid statement to me.

Reason number four: “Your problems with social skills aren’t caused by having Asperger’s. Your parents just did a lousy job of teaching you social skills.”

Now, I honestly have no idea whether my parents did a good or a bad job teaching me social skills, because I really don’t know what a “good” job teaching social skills looks like. I do know that I have two siblings who grew up with the same parents, and neither of them appears to have any serious problems with social skills.

Unfortunately, the people who said these things to me were all so-called professionals. They were doctors and psychologists. I only got my diagnosis because I was stubborn and persistent. I know plenty of other self-diagnosed Aspies who have given up on ever getting a diagnosis because of “professionals” like these.

Quick Intro Post

My name is Rainbow, and I’m the Purple Aspie. My entire life I’ve been labelled as odd, or different, or retarded, or even mentally ill. A common refrain from my parents was, “Why can’t you be more like __?” Fill in the blank with “your sister” “your brother” “other kids your age” “your friend” “everyone else” “US!”

Back about 15 years ago my ex-girlfriend emailed me out of the blue with some information about a condition called “Asperger’s Syndrome.” For some reason that I don’t recall, she had decided to do some research on the web about social skills, and somehow she stumbled upon some sites about Asperger’s. She read them, and she recognized many of the traits as being ones that I exhibited. So forgetting that she had basically told me to never contact her ever again, she emailed me and sent me a list of links to check out.

I still had hopes of reconciling with this woman (though I never did), so I did as she asked, and I checked out the links. I was astonished by what I found. This was me. This explained my entire life: my lack of friends, my inability to understand other people, my constant social faux pas, even why I looked at the ground all the time (to avoid making eye contact with people.)

My next step was to get a diagnosis. This was not as easy as I thought. I couldn’t just go to my family doctor and ask for one. I needed to see a psychologist. However, psychologists are not covered by the Medical Services Plan of British Columbia, and at the time my net income was $500 a month with some supplements from the provincial welfare program.

However, I believe that stubbornness is a common Aspie trait, and I didn’t give up. After about five years of trying I eventually managed to get a neuropsych assessment through a government-subsidized job program, and the results matched what I had suspected: I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, plus a learning disability and what is called a processing disorder.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of my journey. It was just the beginning.