I attended a conference yesterday on ‘social interaction’. Fascinating. Not least because a considerable proportion of the work being described related to ASD: the difficulties in social interaction experienced by those on the Autism Disorder Spectrum. As I listened to (and later read) descriptions of autism and how it affected individuals’ lives I felt significant resonance and it occurred to me that maybe I was on the spectrum myself.
So I took one of the on-line tests now available. A score of 34 & up indicated “Autism likely” and 30 – 33 ‘Possible autism’. I scored 27: so below the start level . . . but not by much. More significantly, in completing the test I realised that earlier in my life I would have answered quite a few questions differently, in ways, I suspected that reflected autistic behavior. I took the test again responding as I might have done at age 14. My score came out at 37: well into the realm of likely autism. It made sense.
This realisation triggered two lines of thought. Firstly about my existing theory as to the underlying cause of my behavior: why I was a nervy child, liking to keep lists and have routine. I liked structure in my life because that was what I was used to: each day, each year predictable. Given that, it was perhaps not surprising that any change to the routine made me uneasy. Call it conditioning, call in autism; the effect is the same.
Likewise, my early life was very practical, very down to earth: no encouragement to express my feelings. Emotions, in a loving but firm way, were quietly suppressed or repressed. So I retreated into my lists, into numbers and theories.
I can only speak for myself, but I’ve always put my apparent autistic tendencies as a teenager down to a Victorian style upbringing.
The other thought was this: through my own efforts, during my life, I’ve improved my score on the ASD scale from 37 to 27, That’s a huge decrease. I should be proud of myself! It’s worth looking at how I’ve achieved this:
At primary school I never belonged, always the loner in the playground. As a young teenager my dad used to take me with him to whist drives and I enjoyed playing card games. In my 4th and 5th years of secondary school I utilised such skills to fit in with my class-mates: I was good at cards, though playing I could belong.
As an undergraduate I suffered acute fear at certain social situations (details for another blog perhaps) but so wanted to have meaningful friends and social activities. I’d always (perhaps due to attending, with my family, a church with a good hymn-singing tradition) enjoyed singing. So I attended and sang (solo unaccompanied) at a folk club and later Gilbert & Sullivan society. Initially these were really scary activities, but I so enjoyed the experiences since into them that I persevered.
As my life progressed so I’ve continued ‘facing my fears’ and developing my emotional intelligence: isn’t that what life is about?
So, now, I would call the process I’m personally engaged in as Conscious Evolution. The commitment to identifying and reducing traits that do not serve me well in the world and developing capabilities that do. In autism terms, managing my condition by developing the appropriate skills: in particular enabling and encouraging myself to be more conscious, more connected, more wholly me.