Category Archives: Asperger’s diagnosis

My Asperger Personality Unmasked.

Research published online on May 19, 2017 examines the notion that Aspies and others on the spectrum camouflage their autistic personalities in order to manage social situations.

The study entitled, “Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions* looks at a number of issues ranging from:

  • why females in particular are often diagnosed later in life,

  • if the fact that so few females are diagnosed is due to the feminine personality being more successful at camouflaging, and

  • that perhaps camouflaging can be detrimental to our mental health.

Before I read the study, I wrote this blog in an explosive mood after experiencing severe anxieties about taking a bath. I didn’t post it because I was afraid of what my partner would think if he read it.

After what I read in the study, I realized that by not showing him the blog I was camouflaging, masking my anxiety–though honestly, not very well.  

Why did I take a bath?  Because it’s such a normal thing to do, and I felt that I must be weird to be so resistant to sitting in a tub.

What follows in the resulting blog are my true feelings about the situation.  Looking at it now that a little time has passed, I realize that while some of the blog sounds reasonable, logical and fairly intelligent, other aspects simply seem to be the rantings of an angry child.

Here it is then, one Asperger personality, my own, unmasked and unleashed!

The Bath: A Source of Anxiety for Asperger Me.

As an Aspie, maintaining a relationship can be a challenge.

My partner thinks of baths as sensual, delightful, peaceful and meditative experiences.  Candles, essential oils, music, time for reflection.

There is no music in my bathroom, I told him.

To break the ensuing period of uncomfortable silence, I spoke up.  I said Baths are boring.  Which, granted, was probably rather inconsiderate.  That’s when he brought up the essential oils, candlelight, reflection etc.

You have to sit there.  I said.  Doing nothing.  

People who take baths seem to think that to truly enjoy bathing you have to sit in the water … like forever.  I am not tall, but my chest is always out of the water.  It gets cold.  I soak a cloth in the warm bath water, but it quickly gets cold too.

I could catch a chest cold.  Not to mention the other alternative: die of boredom.

You haven’t learned how to let go, he says.  How to be one with the water, breathe in the aroma of the oil, enjoy the sensual texture of the water against your skin.

It’s tap water, okay?  Tap water.

You want me to be at one with the water?  Take me to a warm ocean, where the air is fresh and salty, the water buoyant and in constant motion.  My body, floating, swaying with the sea, caught up in the ebb and flow, me at one with the sea responding to the universe. Now that rocks!  Moving in tune with the moon’s gravitational pull … that’s a sensual, soul-saturating sense of unity.

But a four-foot tub filled with tap water?  Come on!

You have to learn to relax, he says.  He means be STILL.  Unfortunately to actually be still is a physical impossibility for me.

I have a familial tremor, which means my body is in constant motion whether I am consciously moving it or not.  It also means my adrenalin is always, to some extent in fight or flight mode, under which circumstances, unless I’m sleeping or comatose, it is pretty much anxiety-producing to be still.

But okay.  I had a bath.  I believe I stayed in that tub for ten whole minutes.  Maybe eleven.

Because I know it’s important to him.  I just don’t know why it’s important to him that I have a bath.  I shower every day.  Sometimes twice a day. I’m a bit of a clean freak.  But it’s important to him that I try, so I’ll fill the tub, light the candles and sit there as long as I can bear it.

Next time?  If he brings in a portable CD player and puts on some Celtic music, I’m going for twelve minutes.

*More about this study can be found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509825/

 

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Asperger’s/Autism Diagnosis: How Does It Feel?

 My daughter phoned.  Her oldest son had been diagnosed ADD, ADHD, had been on Ritalin, and barely eight years old, had been the subject of repeated bullying and school yard ostracism.  “It’s Asperger’s Syndrome, Mom, and you and I have all the symptoms!”

That was seventeen years ago, but I vividly recall the conversation.

As we discussed the list of traits of people with Asperger’s, relief flooded through me.  At last I knew what it was that was “wrong” with me!

Anger came later, as I processed the information and with it, an understanding of my nature and how the very people who were close to me had taken advantage over the years.

And then grief.  Oh yes, I grieved the loss of the possibility of ever being ‘normal’.  I grieved for the child I had been, for the loneliness and isolation of all those years of trying to join our societal mainstream and just not getting it.

And I felt rage, too.  A deep anger at being shoved aside, at being made an onlooker, a non-participant, when I so poignantly wanted to belong.

And pride.  Pride in my ability to accept, even as a teenager, that the best I could be was ME, with all my faults and failings, my oddities, my strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, Asperger’s made me an easier target for my abuser, but the different way of thinking helped me to end that abuse as well.

And so I felt joy.  The joy and satisfaction of finally belonging somewhere.  Of finally finding that there were others, many others, like me.  Of understanding the close bond between my daughter and I.  Of finally feeling that I was, in my own newly recognized niche, a part of a larger entity.  I was not alone in my weirdness. in my unusual way of perceiving situations, patterns and people.

As an Aspie, I was fine, just as I was.

I still struggle some days.  As one of my friends says, “Margaret will always default to the Aspie truth.”  It’s his way of recognizing our straight forward approach to life.

He also says, “I know your intentions are always good.  That’s a no-brainer.”  So no matter how wrong something turns out, he understands that it was not my intention to create havoc.  This is the most reassuring response to my Asperger’s that I have ever had, and I bask in the glow of it.

Acceptance.  That’s what we all need.  To not only be accepted, but to be celebrated for who we are.

As I note in my book,  Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen,  it is easy to forget the most important thing:  You are perfect, just as you are.

The celebration starts in you.

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ASD, Aspergers and PDD: Diagnostic Changes with DSM-5

With the publication of the DSM-5, parents of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children may be wondering whether or not to submit their child to another diagnostic evaluation in the hope of qualifying for a more extensive range of resources under the new criteria.  Caution is recommended.

Generally speaking, evaluation for available services has been conducted in accordance with the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), although some agencies and districts may use a different criteria.

According to the DSM-4, diagnosing ASD included 3 designations: PDD or pervasive development disorder, high-functioning autism, and Asperger’s.  Asperger’s was generally used for fewer than six symptoms of autistic behaviour, high-functioning autism for six or more and PDD for any number of symptomatic behaviours that did not fit either pattern.

Then, in 2012 a study conducted by Dr. Catherine Lord indicated that while these three diagnoses varied widely, the symptoms among the children so diagnosed did not greatly vary.

What did vary to a great extent, however, were the services available based on the diagnosis.  For instance, a child diagnosed with high functioning autism would, in many regions, be entitled to a far greater range of services and resources than a child determined to have Asperger’s.

It was in an attempt to correct this situation that the DSM-5 abandoned Asperger’s as a designation and instead, diagnosed for high functioning autism as an umbrella category.

However, under the criteria of the DSM-5 a child must have at least two repetitive behaviours in order to qualify for a high functioning ASD diagnosis.  Repetive behaviours are not always present, and some professionals are finding that children are being eliminated from the spectrum on re-diagnosis.

It is important to note that the DSM-5 specifically states that individuals with a well-established DSM-4 diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or PDD not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. (p.51).  

Thus, it is possible that a child already established as having Asperger’s could still be slotted into the autism spectrum disorder even without repetitive behaviours as long as he is merely carried forward in the system and not re-evaluated.

These are important considerations to keep in mind if you are thinking of having your child re-diagnosed under the new DSM-5.

(This article is based on information from A Parent’s Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder; Ozonoff, Dawson, McPartland.  Please check with your physician or specialist regarding current DSM standards and issues it presents in terms of evaluation).

Hope you find this helpful!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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