After coming home from that meeting with my school director, before the hours of research, I’d found and taken a couple of online assessments. I have always hated things like this. I’ve never been able to take personality tests like the Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram because I get too worked up about the statements being too vague or the answers being too generalized. This happened with the first online assessment I did that day, the RDOS Aspie Quiz, too.
Some questions were very easy. For example:
Question 8. Do you instinctively know when it is your turn to speak when talking on the phone?
Easy. No. I’m constantly speaking at the same time as the person on the other end and I hate it, because I know they think I’m purposefully interrupting them, but in reality when this happens I’m mortified, and then there’s always a couple of start/stop missteps as we try to get back to single-talker communication. Because of this I hate the phone. I didn’t always have such a problem with this I don’t think, but then again, maybe teenage me had less to say or was more spellbound by the tales of her best friend’s crush on Duran Duran.
Others were answerable, but took a long time and I didn’t feel confident about the answer. For example:
Question 3. Do you find it difficult to take notes in lectures?
No. Well, sometimes. It depends, right? Is the teacher talking too fast? Are there also slides I’m trying to copy while the teacher talks too fast? Is it a lecture that will spur ideas for me that I also want to make note of? Do I like my pen or does it have crappy ink/a cold barrel/and uncomfortable grip? Am I comfortable in the classroom? Is it too bright or too dark? Am I cold and shivery from air conditioning despite wearing a sweater? What kind of shoes am I wearing? I wanted there to be an answer that said It Depends but the only choices were Yes, No, A little, or Don’t Know. None of those felt right to me.
Question 2. Do you have problems finding your way to new places?
How do I answer this? If I have a map, I do not have any trouble finding my way to new places. Unless the streets are missing their street signs, and then obviously I’ll miss a turn and then wind up needing to figure out where I am with my phone (after turning on the battery-depleting location services, bah) so I can turn around to get there. And then as long as there are numbers on the buildings, I’ll be fine. Except when the numbers on the back of the buildings where the parking lot is and you can’t see them from the street. Seriously, who designs this kind of terrible one-sided wayfinding? And obviously there’s a language caveat — if I don’t know the language of the signs because I’m someplace with another language I don’t know, that will cause problems with finding an address. But I’ll eventually get there because I’m smart and I can look things up (as long as my battery is still good) and I’ll keep trying. So does that mean I should answer No? I think so, but it wouldn’t be completely true, because sometimes I have trouble (as outlined above). Should I answer A Little? But for me it’s not about how hard it is — a little bit or a lot — just about whether or not there were reasons I might lose my way. So that doesn’t sound right. And I obviously can’t answer Yes because more often than not I get where I need to go with very little trouble and because I try to allow extra time when going someplace new so that if I get lost it won’t make me late. I wind up checking No, but it bothers me throughout the whole test.
Note: It had never once occurred to me that the fact that I arrange my life so that I mostly just go to the same places over and over might have something to do with stress over finding new places. Everyone who knows me has heard my stated policy that when choosing a place to live (and I’ve lived a lot of different places as an adult) my mantra is that everything I need should be within a 5-block radius: a grocery store, a coffee shop, access to mass transit, a library (or bookstore), and at least one restaurant where I like the food (somewhat limited by my pickiness and no-meat preferences). Now, after months of reading, I recognize this pattern for what it is, a need for routine and sameness as a form of safety to combat anxiety. Who knew?
And then there were the questions that just made me confused.
Question 117. Do you have difficulties judging distances, height, depth or speed?
That’s four different questions in one. Who designed this survey and didn’t they ever have to take a basic research methods class and learn about single variable questions? I think I’m probably decent at judging height. Well, height of people, anyway. Mostly because I can think of someone whose height I know and compare to how tall they would be compared to me. Height of a skyscraper? I guess I wouldn’t be good at judging height instinctively — I would count the floors using window banks and then multiply by 10 feet to guess at the height. Does that count? Distance….meh. I usually go by how long it takes to get there rather than how many miles. The difference between walking 4 blocks and 6 blocks is inconsequential and I wouldn’t notice the extra distance, I’d notice the difference in how long it took. Depth? Uh, when have I ever had to judge depth? I guess maybe in a swimming pool? But there’s water in it, distorting what you can see anyway. Speed? Like in a car? It depends — going 30mph in a 1971 Austin-Healy Sprite with the top down on a coastal road feels really fast, but going 60mph in a 2007 Toyota Prius on an midwest interstate feel almost like inertia. Why do none of these questions have Sometimes for an answer??
I wound up leaving about half the questions empty as Don’t Know, so I’m not sure how that would affect the scoring, but that first attempt at an online test gave me this result:
So basically, who knows. The next one I did was a Broad Autism Phenotype assessment. I mean, if you’re somewhere in the middle between neurotypical and asperger’s, that’s probably the answer, right? Results on that one:
Okay, so maybe closer to asperger’s after all? I took one more that day, the Ritvo Autism Asperger’s Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R). I had the same issues on this one that I had with the aspie quiz. If anything, this test was harder for me than the RDOS, because it was written in a way that made me second-guess everything starting with the very first question.
Question 1. I am a sympathetic person.
Well, yeah, of course I am. Except my school director just told me I’m not. And my former HR director told me I’m not. But they’re wrong! But are they? What if I’ve been fooling myself? What if I *think* I’m so sympathetic and perceptive, but all the things I think I’m perceiving have been wrong? Am I sympathetic?? In a Star Trek world I always thought I would describe myself as Spock and Troi’s love child. But maybe I’m wrong about everything?? Gah! And this test didn’t have a Don’t Know option. Its choices are True now and when I was young, True only now, True only when I was younger than 16, and Never true. And you can’t leave any blank answers. So I kind of guessed on a lot of them, and didn’t feel confident about it.
This was the result:
Another neither here nor there result. That’s what propelled me to read hundreds of websites (sometimes a single page news article, sometimes a personal blog with years worth of entries) and forums. I read a bunch of women in their 30s/40s/50s getting diagnosed after decades of thinking they had other issues. I was still skeptical, despite repeatedly reading things that sounded familiar — I mean, the tests said I was in a gray area. That’s what led me to the bookstore to pick up a bunch of memoirs.
When I read account after account that sounded like my life, it was simultaneously comforting and alarming. Comforting because oh, I’m not so weird after all. Alarming because oh, is there something wrong with me after all?
Clearly I needed more information.