Helpful Hint: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” ~ Dr. Stephan Shore. There are multiple criteria, each with multiple degrees, that can lead to an infinite number of unique and individual diagnoses.
So, let’s diablogue:
Ken: The following list is a excerpt of a much larger list of criteria on which I was surveyed. To mention and address all of the criteria would be exhaustive and prohibitive and would require a blog of its own. From this list I recall from my diagnosis, we will choose 12 to discuss.
- Motor skills—lurching gait, morning awkwardness
- Speaking cadence—robotic, monotone, repetitive
- Difficulty with conversational audio clues— tone of voice
- Above average to high IQ
- Difficulty with executive functioning—multi-tasking
- Lack of reciprocity in communication—doing all the talking
- Intense focus—ability to stay on task
- Difficulty making transitions
- A need for rigid schedules and routines
- Hyper sensitive to sensory stimuli—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell
- Eidetic memory—photographic recall
- Eye contact—difficulty with social applications
- Difficulty differentiating facial expressions and body language
- High pattern recognition—visual and auditory
- Social connections—challenges with making and maintaining
- Strong sense of justice —rigid, hard-wired moral compass
- Strong sense of loyalty
- Difficulty with empathy or theory of mind—understanding and sharing others’ feelings
- Difficulty with emotions—understanding and expressing
- Extreme difficulty with ambiguity—black and white thinking
- Extremely high vocabulary and extremely poor spelling
- Literal thinking—understanding words literally
- Inability to infer or guess
- Compulsive word play and puns—humour, wit, playfulness
- Socially inappropriate bluntness and truth saying There are more….
Christina: Wow. Big list.
Ken: True. Yet not definitive.
Christina: Do all autistics show all those traits?
Ken: No. They can have more or less—but according to my specialists, at least 12. Some say all people have at least one or two autistic traits. My diagnosticians told me that it’s not clearly defined, but if I met at least 12 of the multiple criteria I would be considered to be on the autism spectrum.
Christina: Only 12? (laughs) I think you’ve got all of the ones on your list!
Ken: Correct. And more that I cannot immediately recall.
Christina: Ok. So let’s talk about your “magic 12.”
Ken: Those would be the ones that most significantly impact our relationship.
Christina: Ladies’ pick first: Your tendency—which you almost always stuff back now, to be blunt. To say what you really think when it could hurt people’s feelings.
Ken: Correct. In social interactions, the first thing that I think and the first thing I actually say are different…
Christina: (interjecting) But, that’s the same for me… for a lot of people. We don’t blurt out what we are actually thinking either.
Ken: However, I have observed that it is a much more natural and automatic process for non-autistic people. It appears as if you do not think about it, you just do it—you say the appropriate thing. The difference with me is that, good, bad, or ugly, the truth is the truth, and I have a strong urge to state it. For me, I have an uncomfortable physiological response from having to withhold the truth…
Christina (interrupting) What does it feel like?
Ken: I feel a phantom pain of impact, like running into a brick wall. My breath catches, my body heats up, and my heartbeat increases.
Christina: Sounds like an anxiety attack.
Ken: Precisely. It takes everything I have to not act upon my first impulse.
Christina: Every time?
Ken: Every time. To varying degrees.
Christina: Which explains why socializing—even casual chitchat— drains you.
Ken: Absolutely. It is because of that physical reaction. My first impulse is always to speak the truth…
Christina: like, umm… ‘Why do you want to know that?’ or “You have a lot of body piercings,” or “that is not relevant.” …
Ken: (interjecting) Or, “that is not logical; it doesn’t make sense.” And yes, unfortunately you are correct. I used to actually blurt things like that. And I never understood why people reacted the way that they did because it was simply the truth, whether people wanted to acknowledge it or not.
Christina: Now you know that being blunt turns out badly.
Ken: Definitely. I have developed workarounds such as re-wording, softening, or suppressing my thoughts.
Christina: Right. In fact, you are outwardly extremely social! You can talk at length on any topic with anyone. That was, and still is, one of your best qualities! And since I’ve met you and we’ve been working on reciprocity, you are getting to be an even more interesting and enjoyable conversationalist.
Ken: True. However, that is a learned behaviour which I can manage well only under low stress conditions. I must maintain a diligent awareness and rigid control in order to not trip up or expose myself.
Christina: I regret that it’s so hard on you. And I understand that’s part of the reason you need to rest, be alone, and sleep a lot. And we need to limit our social activities or sometimes separate—I go, you don’t—which is ok with me. So… we’d better get another diagnostic criteria in here or we’ll have a 24-part series! How about your eidetic memory—that’s such a cool word and an even cooler thing.
Ken: Alright. Everything I hear, see, and read, sticks. Like little videos in my brain. Non-spectrum people often have difficulty with this kind of memory. That always puzzled me because for me, it takes effort to forget.
Christina: Whereas I forget everything, immediately, all the time. It’s a pain in the neck. It’s exhausting, trying to remember things.
Ken: Your ease in social situations helps me avoid discomfort and exhaustion, and my eidetic memory does the same for you.
Christina: Beautiful! Let’s start with a third criterion next post, and try to get through more of them.
Next Post: Diablogue #13 ~ “How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 2”