GHDR Reboot 013: Rethinking Autism Diagnosis

Posted Sunday, August 21, 2022 by Sri.Tagged JOURNAL

I had a low energy day, but had a major epiphany about being on the autistic spectrum after all.

Sunday, August 21, 2022. Today was a very tired, sleepy day. I may be already burned-out on the reboot process of writing every day, though I suspect it has more to do with eating some very nice pain de mie (French milk bread) with some lovely tomatoes, as it is the very beginning of the harvest season here in New England. I can get get home grown corn on the cob and heirloom tomatoes! However, this additional refined carbohydrate and corn sugars are probably not good for me. In the plus side, the extreme fatigue I'd been experiencing for the past several months does seem to be due to just sitting too close to the large patio windows; the bright light was giving me eye strain? That said, I haven't really tested the hypothesis with a hard core problem solving challenge that involves synthesis and extended focus time (e.g. computer programming).

Rethinking Autism

I did spend some time yesterday and today reading Bianca Toeps' But You Don't Look Autistic At All (2020), which has me rethinking my rather new Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. Until today, I had been rather doubtful that I fit the pattern as it was described in literature based on the DSM V Diagnostic Criteria. The book opens with a review of this criteria, which Toeps notes is written from the perspective of a "neurotypical" clinician instead of that of an autistic person's lived experience; she then discusses each of the criteria using observations and anecdotes from her own life. Bianca Toeps works in a creative field and got there by trying a bunch of different things in a manner that reminds me of my own life path. Her descriptions of how varied the autistic experience is for each individual and how they cope with them resonated much more strongly with me than the ADHD diagnosis, which I consider a subset of symptoms related to executive function maybe driven by other factors. I don't really know, though; I'll bring it up with my MHNP Lisa next week.

Before I forget, here are the takeaways that struck me:

  • The idea that autistic people like having options over planning. This is a huge epiphany and brings my daily "emergent task planning" approach into sharper focus. I think I can apply this idea to the current GHDR V3 goal refactoring.
  • High sensitiity to sensory input is something I don't have, but thoughts also count as sensory input. Patterns, principles, figuring out the hidden aspects of the world also seem to jibe with this.
  • My mental exhaustion may come from being overwhelmed constantly from modulating all the incoming thoughts and observations with respect to myself. I am always thinking about them, and frankly it's more daunting that I have wanted to admit to myself. I control my emotional response by applying logic and a kind of personal scientific method to myself. Although at this point in my life I'm very practiced with it, it still takes a LOT of energy.

I also derived an affirming datapoint that maybe what's "neurotypical" and "normal" is really a dulling of sensitivity to the inconsistencies of how people communicate and reason. Because we're unable to gloss over them, this makes us "weird" in the eyes of others, and we are totally aware of it. We aren't dead to emotion, we have it in spaders and it's constantly triggered by people and the world around us being obnoxious to our sensitivities; that we don't always have the words to explain it (especially when we are young) doesn't mean we don't feel it. It isn't something that can be easily gotten-over; to be told this is infuriating.

Anyway, there's a lot to mine here, and to keep expanding on my investigation into ASD I've started Steven Silberman's 2015 book Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Silberman is not autistic, and it opens with the kind of science writer-y flourishes that sometimes put me on edge. However, the stories are proving interesting and it seems like it will give me more to think about.

Closing Out the Day

Today was not a productive day at all, but I'm refactoring it as a day of rest. Tomorrow I'll do my best to create some options for myself to get some stuff happening related to those strategic horizons I have been going-on about.