Ask the Aspie

In a post a while back I mentioned that I suffered from Asperger’s. It’s a disorder along the spectrum of autism, whose symptoms are bad social skills, among other things. So I, along with Aslan of Narnia, are starting a thread where you can ask an Aspie (or 2) anything you want.

Any questions?

When did you first suspect you needed a diagnosis, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?

For me, it was because I had no idea of what my boundaries were. I would say stuff, and wonder why I might get punished for it. It just never occured to me what the proper thing to do or say was. I was quite reckless, and I would do anything I wanted to do as soon as it came to me. I realized that my actions have consequences, and sometimes they aren’t right. Although, then I didn’t know which was which and tended to withdraw from social things after a while.

For my parents, they noticed it when my marks for the work I did were excellent, and for some quite ahead of my grade level, yet I was depressed and got into a lot of fights and had a lot of dentention.

I got tested, if I am recalling correctly, in grade three. My parents and my teachers were concerend about me, about how I was so intelligent, yet failed to do a lot of work or be more social.

Thankfully that has improved greatly over the years.

What are the differences between Asperger’s and high functioning autism? Also, do you ever see misdiagnosis of high functioning autism as Asperger’s to avoid the stigma of an autism diagnosis?

Asperger’s is a milder case of autism. Think of a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being normal, 10 being fully autistic. Asperger’s would be around 2 or 3.

As for misdiagnosis, I’ve never heard of it happening, especially since autism’s stigma is, like other mental disorders, starting to vanish. I’m sure they screw up diagnosing it sometimes, since back when I was around 3 a group of doctors thought I was autistic. Turned out I wasn’t.

For me when I was diagnosed, it started in 4th grade when I scored really high on a math test, the highest ever recorded in my county. Then again after my middle school suspended me for a week after I said “pipe bomb” on the bus. Also, I found that I have most of the symptoms of Asperger’s.

The difference’s, which apparently are not agreed on by many from what I’ve looked thru, are basically that with AS they are people of normal or above normal intelligence with Autistic behaviours and tendencies, where as HFA is in cases where the person is not mentally retarded(mental retardation and autism both occur with each other 75% of the time, mental retardation is usually evident with an IQ of below 70), but is below average in IQ and has many autistic tendencies and behaviours.

AS tends to be more hereditary than HFA.

AS tends to result in motor clumsiness, where as HFA tends to result in motor mannerisms(hand flapping, rapid movement, etc.).

Delays in communication and language tend to be more severe in HFA.

People with AS tend to have attactments to family members(gee, sounds rather unusual, don’t it?), where as people with HFA tend to regard family members with aloofness.

In general, HFA tend to be more severe. Using The Man With The Golden Gun’s scale, it would probably be a 5-6.

Never heard of someone being diagnosed AS to avoid te stigma of HFA, probably for the reasons The Man With The Golden Gun mentioned.

Some folks use the terms AS vs HFA interchangeably. My son’s label for insurance purposes is Aspie, his label for school is Autism. He’s probably more along the lines of HFA, though; his social delays are worse than I would expect for a “pure” Aspie; he has some of the vocalizations and hand-flapping that I associate with “pure autism”.

Either way, it’s like a person living on a foreign planet - things that the “natives” know from growing up there, the “alien” has to learn through practice, deliberate studying, etc. And they never “speak the language” as well as someone born there…

I also haven’t heard of anyone being labelled AS vs HFA for stigma purposes… though the person who diagnosed Dweezil initially eased us into it by talking about PDD vs. “true autism” (he was emphasizing “true autism” being around 9/10 on that scale while Dweezil was more around a 2/3). Then we started reading about just what PDD was.

GoldenGun, do you see similar tendencies (less severe) in family members? Do you see other relatives with other neurological disorders? Just curious - we’ve got a nephew whose also autistic, around 7/8 on that ol’ scale… his brother is possible bipolar, my Moon Unit has major behavioral issues, and Papa Zappa and I have some definite social-cluelessness issues. We’ve taken to describing our family as a “genetic train wreck”.

LoL, Mama Zappa, my mom thought you were actually Zappa’s wife.

Anyway, there’s never been a history of either autism or Asperger’s on either side of my family. My cousin Josh is retarded and autistic, though he isn’t biologically related to me, since my aunt had him with someone other than my dad’s brother. But nothing on either side of my biological family, if you don’t count my mom’s suspicions. :slight_smile:

My counselor mentioned to me a few months ago that I ‘might have a touch of’ Aspergers. Arrghh… once I looked into it, it explained a HELL of a lot, like why I never could quite connect with people, why I’ve had few intimate relationships, etc.

I do have to learn social skills and how to relate to others; it is like learning another language. And body language is the same. I know I’m pretty clueless about how others perceive me, and whether others are trying to connect/flirt/whatever with me… although, in the immortal words of Larry Gonick, ‘even a punch in the mouth is not without its information value’.

The first I heard of the ‘autistic spectrum’ was when I read a segment of the Jargon File editorialising whether some of these diagnoses were simply extroverted types stigmatising their introverted hacker cousins. (I know that’s too simplistic a paraphrase.) From one mainstreamish viewpoint, lack of social skils could actually be a disorder, but from another viewpoint, it’s just another way of being.

So when does general lack of social skills shade in to these actual disorders? How do you tell whether you have Aspergers? Are there physical markers of Aspergers? Who makes the diagnosis?

It shades in at the point where the difference between one child and the other is noticeable. It can be a real fine line.

It can be hard to tell. Best idea would be to see how many of the symptoms you have.

As for physical markers, I’ve heard that lack of eye contact and looking down at your feet is the main physical symptom. I do both, and it’s damn near impossible to unlearn it.

The diagnosis is made by a child psychologist.

Another physical symptom is hand flapping and general like of making ‘unneccesary movements’, but I don’t do that, and neither do the 30+ people with AS I’ve encountered so far.

Mama Zappa, a lot of my family tends to suffer from some form of mental illness or depression, or both. I have one uncle with AS. I tend to see a lot of him in me. I feel good about it because he’s sucessful and can support himself(I have this worry once I get to college I’m going to be unable to get a degree or a good job).

Sunspace another diagnostic tool is checking out your ability to remember/recognize faces. Say you see someone from school at a non-school function, do you immediately recognize and place the person? Aspies often have what’s called face blindness, which can be either the inability to correctly read and interpret expressions or an inability to place a familiar face when out of context.

Re:misdiagnosing, in the school district where I live, autism including aspergers’ qualifies students for special education help, whereas ADHD doesn’t. In order to rank as “learning disabled” for whatever reason, an elementary student must test out over 30% below grade level on at least two core subjects. A lot of kids need extra assistance for whatever reason, but fail to meet the necessary qualifiers, so suddenly we’re in the middle of an Aspie classification boom.
My son has been diagnosed as ADHD since 5, and falling further behind academically every year. Since my district follows a ‘social passing’ policy, failing every academic subject still isn’t enough for me to have him held back. Monday he starts yet another school year he’s woefully unprepared for, there’s no way he’ll be able to complete the curriculum assigned to his grade level. Medication and behavioural modification helped solve the discipline issues, but he’s one of those students falling thru the cracks. Once he stopped being a major behavior problem, the school system largely ignored him. After raising all kinds of heck, I finally got someone to listen and start looking for solutions, Aspergers is what the school came up with. Being careful to remind me that it’s an educational classification and not a medical diagnosis, naturally. I got the backstory mentioned above when talking to the school social worker outside of the office environment. Unfortunately, even getting a diagnosis that qualified him for sp.ed help hasn’t been the magic bullet I hoped it might be. Instead of quality time spent working on skills or even time management, he’s been scheduled into speech therapy, utterly unnecessary. Hopefully, a new year and a new school will help turn this around.

Hmm. TMWTGG, by ‘physical markers’ I mean more on the cellular level, like a high level of some compound or a weird brain structure or something; I would refer to your physical markers as behavioural markers. But that’s just a nitpick.

How do they diagnose adult Aspergers?

My 4yo boy was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2. We didnt think his quiet personality was a problem, we felt it mirrored Mr.Nvme. He is very attached to me and does have face recognition. He is capable of speech but other than no and go, I have not heard him independantly say other words in about 8 months.

He limits his social activity to his twin sister and adults. Did either of you develope language late?

Adults are diagnosed by psychologists, preferably ones who are experienced in diagnosing it. It’s a very subjective diagnosis with no physical markers and while a person with Aspergers should have the core symptoms on the DSM IV, a diagnosis can be made where not all symptoms are present.

One major difference between Aspergers and HFA is that with Aspergers, speech development is not delayed and may be advanced. Theoretically if speech developed on time, then it is Aspergers not HFA. In Australia you are likely to come across kids who are dx’ed as HFA because with a dx of HFA, you can access carer payment automatically while Aspergers is reviewed 6 monthly.

Propagnosia or face blindness would not be a core symptoms. While some people with Aspergers have it, not all do. My kids certainly don’t. Hand flapping and uncontrolled movement is reasonably common in kids.

I think there is still, well maybe not stigma, but certainly emotion attached to an autism diagnosis. You don’t often see PDD dx’ed in Australia and I know of some kids who were dx’ed with Aspergers as a ‘softer’ diagnosis than HFA. The psych who assessed my younger son said definitely autism but that his diagnosis would ‘upgrade’ to Aspergers as he got older and more functional. Knowing that this psych is not an idiot ;), I’m fairly certain she said that to make me feel better. Not that it worked.

Queen Tonya my heart goes out to you. My older son was dx’ed to get services which never really materialised in a useful form. I hope things improve for you and your boy.

How difficult is it for you to chose gifts?

I don’t really choose gifts. I don’t know a lot of people well enough to know what to buy for them, as I have no idea what they like. Talking around people except my closest family generally makes me very nervous. I don’t tend to initiate conversaitions because I put my foot in my mouth.

I didn’t. I was using large words very young, in the right context. Such as ancestor, I could tell you what that meant when I was 4 or so.

Thanks for the help, Primaflora.

While this is the differences in autism, I suppose it applies to all parts of the autistic spectrum. It appears that parts of the autistic brain are overdeveloped, which might account for savant abilities, and some parts that are underdeveloped(sometimes even physically smaller), which might account for poor social skills or other impairments.

The physical brain research is fascinating – one thing to consider is that the diagnoses are currently being done by subjective means and that has to mean that when they do the brain scans, they’re not going to find the same markers objectively. Eeeeeep does that make sense?

Did either of you two end up with the splinter skills issue? YK where you can do English, maths, science, history at a high level but they’re all considered splinter skills? Splinter skills p*ss me off. I’m sure they do exist as a milder form of savantism but when you’ve got a kid who is doing OK academically across the board and the powers that be try to say it’s all splinter skills, I just shake my head in wonder.

Neither of my kids have problems with gifts. They know chocolate is the answer. :wink:

What exactly are splinter skills(you are talking about a near savant level at things, I think, but what makes them splinter skills)?

Are they saying that the only reason he’s doing so well in school is because of his disability’s effects? Seems like a rather redundant thing to say. Like saying “The only reason John scored so well on that test is because he’s intelligent”.

Regarding Splinter Skills(if I am understandig you correctly)

I personally need a lot of help(resource room) in some areas, such as math. It’s frustrating to be able to read and comphrehend non math stuff so well. People like to use the excuse that I’m being helped(all the work done for me) when I do well, and that I’m stupid when I don’t(hmm, if my work that I was helped with is so great, why don’t I have great work turned in for every assignment?)