HAVING little enough to do on one appalling day recently – snow that turned to sleet then rain at barely above zero outside, and the book I was reading dragging a little inside – I found myself ticking boxes in one of those “discover the truth about yourself” magazine tests.
Having ticked 50 boxes and added up results, I said to Liz: “Would you believe it? After joking about it so often, it seems I am borderline Asperger’s.”
She looked up, raised one eyebrow, and went back to her newspaper.
“You mean you weren’t joking?” I said.
She raised the other eyebrow. Undeterred, I read the article accompanying the test and discovered, like reading an instruction manual, that the background and explanation took all the fun out of the result.
According to the article by the professor and colleagues who created the autism spectrum quotient, we’re all on that spectrum somewhere. Like being left-handed, it’s a matter of degree.
After all, what’s wrong with preferring routines, being interested in dates, not enjoying social chit-chat, having a moderate fascination with numbers, preferring a book to a party, not particularly enjoying social occasions or preferring to plan carefully rather than winging it?
Nothing more wrong with that than what might seem the contrary facts that I enjoy meeting new people, enjoy multi-tasking, cope well with interruptions and can tell if someone I’m talking to is getting bored; yes, I know, lots of practice.
These answers – and others – gave me a score of 25. A score of 17 or fewer would have confirmed me as socially smooth and ambivalent about systems and numbers. Mid-twenties upwards is Asperger territory. But all with the proviso, that is, weasel clause, that: “The test is not a means of making a diagnosis, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger’s report no difficulty functioning in their daily lives.”
Phew! Delighted to hear it, although, in that case, as Basil Fawlty rightly said in another context: “What is the bloody point” if we’re all on the spectrum somewhere?
I don’t trivialise autism as the serious affliction that some families have to cope with. But most of us have our little foibles, known and loved – that’s right, tolerated – by families and friends, and if one of our mental tics or traits threatens to become obsessive they laugh us out of it. That should now include spending time that will never come again on magazine tests.