14 January, 2010

I'm officially Pop Culture Normal

okay, so I just finished giving myself the Adult Asperger Assessment and would like to share that as I expected, I am Pop Culture Normal, i.e. I don't have Pop Culture Asperger's Syndrome.

Before you suggest that maybe I just don't have AS at all and this whole blog is a ridiculous lie, I would like to remind you that as a kid I was mistakenly thought to have been molested because I was such a weirdo, and sent to a psychologist who told my mom, "It's almost like autism, but autistic children can't talk," then diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age ten, then diagnosed with Asperger's at age 14, and went to a psychiatrist when I was 16 who casually confirmed that I seemed AS to him (I was there for other reasons--basically a less competent psychiatrist had put me on antipsychotics because I talked too much, then put me on Adderall because like most people who are taking unnecessary antipsychotics, I was really depressed and listless). To be 100% honest, I also got kicked out of a study for AS kids when I was 16 because I was too good at reading facial expressions, but they didn't actually say I wasn't AS, just that I was either not impaired enough or already too good at coping in that particular area to be helped by the product they were testing. So like a lot of women I compensate too well to be considered legit, but there has been lots of professional opinion my whole life that I am ASD.

But let's see what Simon Baron Cohen says! I'm not posting my whole comments about the AAA, but just the ones that I think are striking.

Social Impairments

2--failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level. This is an example of how dumb Simon Baron-Cohen is! When I was 18 my relationships were way behind but now that I’m 21 they’re not so behind. That’s because once you’re an adult, the kind of relationships you’re expected to have stays the same, so if you have ASD, you get a chance to catch up. If this is supposed to be an assessment for adults, SBC should realize that developmental level is a really weird idea to apply to adults, and he should think about whether ASD people can catch up or not. My opinion is that some ASD people can catch up in many ways, and be completely happy socially with normal people, but they’re not going to socialize in exactly the same way as normal people. I think it would be smarter for SBC to see if someone socializes in an atypical way, instead of only counting someone as AS if they’re actually bad at socializing.

This section has a lot of silly symptoms that are hard to understand, like “does not enjoy social situations.” What does that mean? I don’t like parties. I don’t like being with people I don’t know. Yesterday I watched
Battlestar Galactica with my roommate, then went to visit my friend Gabe while talking to FFD on the phone, and stayed at Gabe’s apartment for several hours, talking and reading. I enjoyed all these experiences a lot. Aren’t they social? I guess if you put me with a lot of really normal people, and expected certain kinds of socialization, I would do really badly, like I did in the UK. I go to a school that fits me like a glove, socially, as much as any school can fit a person like me like a glove. I guess I had all these symptoms when I was in the UK, so we can say yes on “failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.” At least, I think we can.

4--lack of social or emotional reciprocity. Here SBC says a lot of stuff that is really insulting, like, “is not concerned if late when meeting a friend.” That isn’t social, it’s just a rule. Everyone is taught as a kid that you shouldn’t be late. So if someone doesn’t care about being late, it’s because they’re being a jerk, not because they’re impaired. SBC just thinks that AS is the same as being a jerk. Also, “does not spot when someone in a group is feeling awkward or uncomfortable,” is funny, because if normal people were good at identifying and helping awkward people, then Simon Baron-Cohen would be out of a job. I do think comforting people is scary (but interesting), so I guess I could say I have some of this. And “is not upset by seeing people cry” is technically true; I like seeing people cry because it makes it easier to figure out what they’re feeling. But the person described in this section is just such an asshole that I’ll go ahead and say I don’t have #4.


3--stimming, which for some reason he gives no examples of like he does the other symptoms. People try to leave stimming out of pop culture AS because it doesn’t fit into the brilliant jerk scientist stereotype. Anyway, I stim of course.

4--persistent preoccupation with parts of objects/systems. #4 is weird. When I first read it it didn’t seem like me at all. Then when I actually looked at the examples, some were things like “usually concentrates on the small details rather than the whole picture.” Wouldn’t it make more sense to describe #4 as “having trouble generalizing” or “having trouble seeing the whole picture or the ‘gist’ or the socially important part of a situation?” SBC makes it sound like this is all about some weird interest in license plates or something, instead of a learning impairment. Well, by his standards, I don’t have #4.


2--marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others. I feel the same way about #2 as #1 (turning conversations back to yourself/your interests)--sort of, a little, but not to the extent that he’s implying. I don’t like parties because they feel unpredictable and I feel like no one says or does anything important and I feel lost and anxious and like I should be doing something else. But I like just talking to one or two other people for hours, and don’t consider that a waste of time at all.

4--inability to recognize when the listener is interested or bored. Oh look SBC has actually taken into account that ASD people adjust their behavior: “Even if the person has been told not to talk about their particular obsessive topic for too long, this difficulty may be evident if other topics arise.” GOOD JOB SBC!! Anyway, I guess I have #4, I have no idea whether people are interested in what I’m saying a lot. I check a lot verbally, and basically assume that if someone is my friend, they think I’m interesting, and I try to make the other person talk from time to time, and I don’t really talk about my obsessions at all, and I just assume that all of those coping mechanisms result in me not talking too much to people who are uninterested.

5--frequent tendency to say things without considering the emotional impact on the listener. I guess. Sort of. I’m just having trouble not saying “sort of” to all of these communication ones. But I feel like even normal people would say “sort of” to some of them.

Impairments in imagination

1--lack of spontaneous make-believe play appropriate to developmental level. No. Also! The symptom “finds it difficult now to play games with children that involve pretending” doesn’t make any sense because if the person isn’t at an appropriate developmental level, then wouldn’t this mean that they would actually enjoy being with children? NO IT WOULDN’T BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH ASPERGER’S HATE FEELINGS AND ANYTHING GIRLY.


2--clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Does executive function count? Wait I didn’t realize that SBC never talked about executive function at all! Executive dysfunction is even more uncool from a Pop Culture AS perspective than stimming.

4--no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or self-help skills or adaptive behavior. Dude! He just kicked out executive function problems altogether because he think AS people only have problems with things “linked to social awareness e.g. personal hygiene.” I don’t understand why SBC even claims to be studying AS at all because he’s just studying “people with bad social skills.” That’s all he thinks it is.

Social Impairments--3/5 required, I got 3, but only because I was stretching it; only "difficulties in understanding social situations and other people’s thoughts and feelings" was inarguably true about me.

Stereotypy/Obsessions/Rituals--3/5 required, I got 3 without trying, but had trouble judging the other two.

Communication--3/5 required, I had a lot of trouble judging this. Somewhere between 1 and 5.

Impairments in imagination--1/3 required, I got 0 BECAUSE THIS IS COMPLETELY STUPID AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH AS. If AS gets remade as something about being a particular kind of nerd who likes taking apart machines, I just don't see what the point of the AS diagnosis is anyway. SBC isn't trying to identify a collection of impairments that people need help and support with, he's just listing a bunch of stereotypes. How is preferring nonfiction to fiction an impairment? How is not liking to play with children an impairment? Is one ASD person better-functioning than another simply because they like reading fiction? How does this make any sense?


  1. I should ask Simon: if my answer is, "I don't understand the question, can you reword it so it makes sense," does that mean I should answer yes by default because I am not evolved enough to interpret the reasoning correctly?

  2. Great post. When you said that SBC thinks he's just studying people with bad social skills, I had an "aha!" moment. That is so, so true, and it's really the main reason why I find so many of his interpretations of spectrum behavior rather inexplicable. He reduces everything about autism to social skills (and "imagination impairment"), which is completely at odds with my experiences of being autistic.

    SBC, I don't shower less than is socially typical because I'm completely unaware of the rules at age 22. I do it because of sensory and executive functioning issues.

  3. The symptom “finds it difficult now to play games with children that involve pretending” doesn’t make any sense because if the person isn’t at an appropriate developmental level, then wouldn’t this mean that they would actually enjoy being with children? NO IT WOULDN’T BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH ASPERGER’S HATE FEELINGS AND ANYTHING GIRLY.

    Ahahahaha! I may actually fit this criteria now, though I wouldn't have as a young child (i.e. I developed pretend play at a typical age but never outgrew it), I actually do find playing pretend games with children easier than having conversations with adults.