Did you get a result from an autism questionnaire that indicates “autistic traits” or a suspicion for ASD or Asperger’s syndrome? Worried?
There’s a reason you answered the questionnaire in the first place. The reason is that for some time, you’ve suspected you might be “on the spectrum.”
You wanted to find an explanation for why you’ve always struggled to fit in socially, or why you seem to have a fascination with things that most people would find boring.
You may, indeed, be on the spectrum. But if an online test suggests this, there is nothing to be worried about. You should see this for what it is and not complicate it. The test merely suggests that your lifelong experiences have a name. That’s pretty much it. A NAME.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also goes by the names neurodivergent, neurodiverse, neuro-atypical and my favorite, “on the spectrum.” I actually think that sounds pretty cool: on the spectrum.
It’s important to realize that an online test is just a guideline and a recommendation for further evaluation.
If you scored in the Asperger’s range, autistic range, or the result states something like, “You have autistic traits,” this does NOT automatically mean you’re on the spectrum – especially if you rushed through the questions.
You may want to take the test again at a later date when you’re relaxed, not in a hurry, and know with absolute certainty that you will not be interrupted by anything.
If the second test result is similar or even higher, there’s still nothing to fret about.
I recently took the Autism Spectrum Quotient test online. It revealed I had autistic traits. But this isn’t surprising.
Based on my lifelong inability to easily meld with people, the various “odd” things I’ve been interested in throughout my life, plus a few other features, I’ve long suspected that I was on the spectrum.
If a diagnosis is actually confirmed down the road (and I intend on getting a formal evaluation), this won’t change a single thing other than when I write about ASD, I’ll be saying, “I have ASD” instead of “I suspect I have ASD.”
Likewise, if your test result hints at ASD, this should not change anything for the worse!
If anything, it should shed some light and wisdom upon you, as it would explain why you’ve always “felt different” or couldn’t connect with people, or exhibited other atypical traits.
Stereotypes of Autism
When I was growing up, the term “on the spectrum” wasn’t used. A person was either autistic or not. There was no in-between, no variation.
Thus, back in that day, when people heard “autistic,” they pictured a child sitting in a corner flapping his hand before his face for hours.
They imagined an adult who barely spoke and was not able to hold down even a simple job. They envisioned a person who couldn’t give affection and stiffened up when their own parent hugged them.
The stereotype included people who never experienced joy or happiness, who never smiled, who sounded like robots when speaking.
Another stereotype was that of autistic children throwing temper tantrums if one little thing was out of place, or banging their head into a wall for no apparent reason.
At some point, it was realized by the American Psychiatric Association that autism comes in many shapes and flavors (the spectrum), and that many people have a mild or high-functioning form.
Autism can be mild, moderate or severe, as can many conditions such as knee osteoarthritis or overweight.
Thus, people with autism can be fully-functioning, married people raising children, working full-time in a variety of professions including software engineering, medicine, the movie industry, teaching at college, writing and entrepreneurship.
An Issue of Incidence in the Population
About 2.2% of the American population has ASD. This includes severe. This figure also suggests that over 97% of people are neurotypical. Keep in mind that many people with ASD have not been diagnosed, and many aren’t diagnosed until well into adulthood.
Now suppose the percentages were flipped: Let’s say only 5% of people were neurotypical and 95% were on the spectrum.
Let’s also suppose that of that 95%, only 2% had moderate or severe autism. This would mean that the vast majority of the population had high-functioning autism and literally ran society simply due to their overwhelming numbers.
In this hypothetical society—whom do you think would be considered the “oddballs” or “different”? What we now consider the neurotypicals would be the “weird ones” in this hypothetical society.
THEY’D be the ones struggling to fit in and straining to conceal the features that are the opposite of what we know as neurodivergent.
For example, they’d try not to laugh in social settings.
• They’d try not to smile too much.
• They’d water down the animation in their speech.
• They’d try to be more blunt.
• They’d pretend to be fascinated by mundane things such as map boundaries of countries.
• They’d keep secret their love of cheering for their favorite sports team or their exuberance at meeting new people.
The reality is, however, that the neurotypicals vastly outnumber those on the spectrum. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you should an official diagnosis turn up mild ASD.
If, indeed, there comes a day when a clinical psychologist informs you that your test results show Asperger’s syndrome or autism, and at that moment, you feel downtrodden, just tell yourself THIS:
At that very moment, someone out there was told they had only six to nine months to live or would never walk again from their car accident. Dust yourself off and embrace the art of keeping things in perspective.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.