I read an interesting article in the Times magazine today. It was headed The Aspergers Effect and questioned whether aspergers is losing its stigma, in part because of the AQ test which has led to increasing numbers of people seeking a diagnosis of asperger syndrome. The AQ test was devised by Simon Baron Cohen at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre to show that autistic traits are not necessarily symptoms of disease but rather traits that we all have to some extent.
This ‘everyone is on the spectrum’ approach is controversial as it can trivialise aspergers and undermine the difficulties that many people wth AS have. There is a line between having autistic traits and having aspergers syndrome but it seems from reading this article that a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon and claiming they have aspergers when really they don’t. Just because someone may be a bit obsessive about something or dislikes socialising for example doesn’t mean they have aspergers. Nevertheless I think the AQ test offers people an opportunity to identify their traits and find a connection with autistic people which I think is important. It gives an opportunity for us to empathise with those who have asperger syndrome and to develop more affective strategies.
Certainly for my family where there is an obvious run of ASD then the AQ test has been an interesting thing to do. My husband scored 17 which is bang on average for a man and yet he is not very sociable, has poor eye contact and is clumsy. He sounds autistic doesn’t he and yet he is able to travel to new places without the slightest bit of anxiety, understands all manner of oddities in the English language and has no sensory issues at all. Lucky man!
Then there is me and unlike my husband I do have difficulties in the areas he finds easy. Not surprisingly, when I did the AQ test (and I’ve done it three times now) I scored 33. Compare this to the score of 15 for the average woman my score suggests I may have AS. I don’t feel particularly bothered by this because ever since my son was diagnosed with ASD I’ve learnt a lot about the autism spectrum and can see that I have some autistic traits. However, whether my traits are enough for an AS diagnosis I don’t know. The AQ test is not a diagnosis and it makes clear that people with a score above 32 can lead functioning lives as I do but should a functional life stop you seeking a diagnosis?
According to the article Dr Gould thinks such people shouldn’t seek a label but I’m not sure I agree. People may appear to lead a ‘normal’ life but are they really as functional as they appear or have they learnt strategies to manage or mask their behaviours? Just because someone is functional doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering from feelings of isolation or anxiety or even depression? Surely a diagnosis may help them understand themselves better and find a connection with similarly affected people?
As for me, I can’t see the point in taking this further. As my husband says, I’ve managed so far even if I am on Planet Deb. There again….