I was diagnosed with autism about a year ago, which freed me up quite a bit. Many things fell in place, and I understood some of my shortcomings and challenges throughout my history much better.
Let me explain: I think that I am in the midst of the largest positive disintegration I experienced in my life, and the first attempt to break through the first levels and grow into level 5 eventually.
I was about 53 years old when this started due to personal healing and, at almost the same time, a cancer diagnosis. Last year, I was 58 years old.
I think that I had progressed to level 3, spontaneous multilevel disintegration, as I saw an ideal I was striving towards but had no idea about how to do that.
Within a short period of time, several things helped me make sense of my status and direct me towards an emerging understanding of what to do next.
My diagnosis of autism, my newfound understanding of OEs, and my personal profile of them, plus the writing of my book partially as auto-psychotherapy are just a few.
As an interim observation, writing my book brought to light a condition called SDAM. Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory refers to a lifelong inability to vividly recollect or re-experience personal past events from a first-person perspective.
It was by no means easy for me to recollect auto-biographical memories for my book. But back to the main topic, autism.
Autism allowed me to prioritize the topics that need adjustment. Recognizing that some things are physiological and innate helped me accept them and de-prioritize them on my list.
I was, therefore, able to look at certain things and grow in those aspects that were mostly nurture, that is, second-factor, environmental influences on my life.
I am speaking mostly of the requirements and expectations put on me by the church that had made it deep into my thinking.
Also, looking at some things as nature allowed me to unmask. So much of my behavior used to be survival tactics and trained behavior to fit in, but harmful and stressful to me.
Getting some of those things out of the way, I am now ready to have a second look at my diagnosis.
And I find that I am less and less agreeing with it.
Let me put together some of the defining symptoms of autism according to Leo Kanner:
insularity, a desire for sameness, deviance from normal pronoun use, difficulty with understanding the intentions and viewpoint of others, a total lack of interest in people, and an obsession with the inanimate.
inability to experience wholes without full attention to the constituent parts. … A situation, a performance, or a sentence is not regarded as complete if it is not made up of exactly the same elements that were present at the time the child was first confronted with it.
difficulties with: gaze following, response to sound and deficits in attention, showing of objects, responding and orienting to own name, looking at other’s faces, pretend play, proto-declarative pointing [pointing to draw the attention of another person to an object of interest in itself–‘doggy!’–by comparison with proto-imperative pointing, which is instrumental in demanding something – ‘biscuit!’] and gaze monitoring, empathy and imitation, joint-attention behaviour, affect and personal relatedness, self-awareness including self-recognition, self-other differentiation, body awareness, theory of mind, inter‐subjectivity, ego/allocentrism, motion processing, language (pronoun reversal, inner speech, third-person perspective), self stability over time, autobiographical memory and narrative self …
I take all this from Iain McGilchrist’s book “The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World“(pages 476-8). Perspectiva Press.
While I certainly experience many of these symptoms to a degree, I have much more problems with Iain McGilchrist’s conclusion: both autism and Asperger’s syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum, have many features in common with right hemisphere dysfunction.
Following his work, I have found myself to be rather balanced regarding the two hemispheres, with the master (right hemisphere) and the emissary (left) working together.
Granted, this could be the hubris of the emissary that does not know what he does not know and thinks it can do the job on its own without needing the master.
But then, my development in faith and theology has proven to be rather in favor of the unknown, the chaos, and the bigger picture–all of which are right hemisphere specialties.
Many of the phenomena described for autism can also be ascribed to introversion. I am referring to the AQ Test for adults and quote the questions below. Some are stated such that I would answer yes, others no, but I stick to the original questions for clarity.
I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own.
I would rather go to a library than a party, or, I would rather go to the theatre than a museum.
I enjoy social chit-chat, and, I am good at social chit-chat.
I enjoy social occasions.
I enjoy meeting new people.
Others correlate with aphantasia, the lack of an inner eye:
If I try to imagine something, I find it very easy to create a picture in my mind.
When I’m reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like.
Professionally, I have learned that multitasking is not a feature humans are good at. They actually lose a lot of energy and time in task switching. I tend to answer questions along that line negatively because I trained myself to focus on and stay with one task at a time.
In a social group, I can easily keep track of several different people’s conversations.
I find it easy to do more than one thing at once.
I find that what pushes me over the edge in the diagnosis are questions in regard to reading other people’s non-verbal communication and interpreting their intentions.
I don’t usually notice small changes in a situation or a person’s appearance.
I find it easy to work out what someone is thinking or feeling just by looking at their face.
I find it difficult to work out people’s intentions.
I know how to tell if someone listening to me is getting bored.
This is why self-testing is inaccurate. But this is also why introverted rather disagreeable people with aphantasia can easily find themselves put on the spectrum.
So, what does that mean for me? Will I stop calling myself autistic? Well, I have for a while, and even before, rarely did but in the right context and to the right people, I think.
I have adopted the term “neuroatypical” for myself. And this is not to say that I believe in something like “normal,” as norms are socially constructed.
I do not use the term as an excuse either. I use it as a reminder for myself that even if bullied and misunderstood, I am a valuable and unique person, just as the other one is. I just do not align with the average.
I would not call people with an IQ between 85 and 115 “the norm,” because that certainly is not normative. I would call it
“average” because we find just short of 70 % of people in that range.
This constitutes people with a higher or lower IQ as outliers, as atypical.
Granted, the more characteristics of our personality we take into consideration, the more we truly are unique individuals.
Thus, I use the term as a reminder, not as a means to categorize, assign value or even build hierarchies, and certainly not as an identity.
For years, I was under the impression that most people think as much as I do, that I just lacked the interpersonal skills that they were gifted with. To remind me that neurodiversity exists is to remind me of my worth and value.
Do I value my diagnosis less now that I might even see it as potentially wrong? Not at all! It has been and still is of great use to me as it helped me grow toward my self-ideal in the last year.