It’s quite likely that, if the average wife or girlfriend were to learn a bit about Asperger’s Syndrome, she might suspect her significant other has it. With symptoms that include difficulty in conversation, aloofness, struggling to express empathy or relate emotionally, it sounds less like a diagnosis of a disorder and more like a couples therapy session.
But joking aside, Asperger’s Syndrome is a real disorder that many children and adults struggle with daily. And one of the more difficult things about the syndrome is that, because the symptoms are often less severe and tolerable in day to day functioning, it can often go undiagnosed, or underestimated as a real disorder.
But awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome is growing. On the positive side of that awareness, there’s more empathy for those who have the disorder. And after a true medical diagnosis, patients can gain a new outlook on life and better understand their own behavior. On the slightly negative side, there has been a surge in armchair psychiatry, people haphazardly assuming that people with perfectly normal social quirks are on the autism spectrum.
Somewhere in the middle of those two, there is the Asperger’s Quiz. With heightened awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome, online quizzes predicting whether you have the disorder have become increasingly popular. They are not unlike the personality type quizzes that have always circulated office email, but these attempt examine what kinds of Aspergers traits the person taking it might have. So first, let’s get one thing out of the way:
NO INTERNET QUIZ CAN DIAGNOSE SOMEONE WITH AN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER. There. Diagnosis of such a disorder is highly subtle and nuanced process, often involving more than one specialized health care professional. So a quiz just ain’t gonna do it.
That said, these quizzes aren’t entirely without merit. For one, being mindful of one’s behavior, habits, strengths and weaknesses is a good thing. Even if a spouse has you take an Asperger’s quiz, and you aren’t even close to having Asperger’s, maybe it causes you to think more about how you interact with your loved ones. And with Asperger’s being a relatively new and uncertain diagnosis, there are legitimately quite a few adults out there who are undiagnosed. Taking such a quiz can, if nothing else, make someone at least decide to contemplate the issue, and potentially lead to a long-overdue chat with a mental health professional.
What exactly is Asperger’s Syndrome?To clear something up, it’s important to point out that, at least in the latest diagnostic manual, Asperger’s Syndrome (also known as Asperger Syndrome, Asperger’s or Asperger Disorder) is not actually a disorder of its own. As of 2013, the DSM, the psychiatric handbook, removed the separate entry for Asperger’s. Instead, it solidified what has long been more or less understood—Asperger’s is a form of mild autism. It is now part of what’s known as ASD or autism spectrum disorder.
Autism is a very tricky brain disorder that has certain key symptoms that vary widely in severity. As such, it is highly under-diagnosed, and on the flip side, sometimes incorrectly diagnosed. Asperger’s is the mildest form of autism, and it lacks some of the key symptoms of ASD, namely the delayed or inhibited verbal skills.
What Asperger’s does involve is a combination of two main categories of symptoms—persistent difficulty in social settings, and fixated, repetitive behaviors. Some of the common symptoms, although they vary and do not all manifest include:
- Difficulty reading social clues, such as when people are interested or uninterested in a conversation topic. Similarly, difficulty reading nonverbal or body language, as well as metaphor and figurative language.
- Fixation on very narrow subject matter. Starting at a very young age, people with Asperger’s find very specific things that interest them and become seemingly obsessed with them. This often involves intense collecting or cataloguing.
- Struggling with expressing empathy or connecting emotionally. People with Asperger’s experience emotions, but they process them differently, and expressing them externally can be challenging.
- Clinging to repetition or routine. Compulsive behaviors and difficulty or great frustration at having to stray from a certain routine.
The Asperger’s QuizOnline quizzes for Asperger’s likely became more widespread around the time the popular public radio show This American Life aired a segment on them. Specifically, it profiled David Finch, who, at the suggestion of his wife, took an online Asperger’s quiz, scored very high, and then went in to a psychiatrist and was officially diagnosed. Their story was chronicled in the best-selling memoir The Journal of Best Practices, a sweet and comforting tale of how the couple learned to understand and cope with David’s unique disorder.
What can an Asperger’s Quiz tell you? Well for one, it won’t tell you if you have Asperger’s Syndrome. Yep, it’s true. So get that right out of your head. The case of the Finches is the extreme minority. If you’re looking at this article, wondering if you have Asperger’s, you probably don’t.
But an Asperger’s quiz can tell you the likelihood and strength with which you display certain Asperger’s traits, as well as your “neurotypical” traits, or ways in which your brain works just like most other people. Your score will give you rankings in each of the many possible Aspie traits, including talents, social behaviors, repetitive compulsions, and physical traits. From there, you may decide it’s something you want to pursue a bit further.
One thing to keep firmly in mind, even if you score with flying colors as having strong Asperger’s traits, you still might not actually have the disorder. And even if you end up going to physician and learning that you do, it’s OK. A lot of really brilliant and successful people have Asperger’s. Many people think of it as integral to success in certain fields like math, technology or science.
As the Finches learned, having Asperger’s is just like any other challenge to face in life, and in some ways it can even offer some strengths. But the first step to living a happy life with Asperger’s is proper diagnosis and then steadily and patiently learning what that means for you and your loved ones.