In addition to the ADHD diagnosis, I also showed traits related to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder Level 1 (formally known as "Asperger's Syndrome" or "Aspergers" but this Nazi Germany-associated term has fallen out of favor in the US, though Steve Silberman's Neurotribes book paints a more sympathetic history of the term that I think is worth reading).
These are my working notes as I try to puzzle out what this means, and whether or not my ASD-related traits are due to ASD or something else.
Initial Thoughts Early Summer 2022
Read ASD materials again and I don’t really see it. However, I do see a lot of ASD-identifying people, diagnosed or not, talking about things that do seem relatable that they attribute to their ASD. The ones that seem most useful are ones that are not an expression of felt traumas, but of coping mechanisms or things that they describe as difficult socially or cognitively; it is the same when reviewing ADHD related materials and anecdotes.
Intelligence and ASD: intensely always processing everything for patterns, both for fun and also because it feels good to reduce uncertainty and to see hidden pathways; also key to competence beyond technical skills that emphasize reproducing a result by following a recipe.
Thoughts: having intelligence (adapting to experience through observing patterns and acquiring knowledge, learning to turn hard things into experiments) helped me cope with emotional awkwardness and disconnection that may have been aspects of ASD.
- Example of ASD: isn’t everyone awkward in high school?
- Is loud meowing noises “stimming”? I think so.
But You Don't Look Autistic At All helped me see how many of my most frustrating emotional reactions fall under the lived experience of autistic people when having to deal with a world that is made for a certain kind of "neurotypical" person.
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity has me realizing that I might relate more to autistic / neurodivergent people in general because they have intense interests and communicate more literally; they are much easier for me to read because I'm the same way.
Followup Thoughts Late Summer 2022
I'm about 1/3rd of the way through Neurotribes where it's talking about the early pioneers of the microcomputer revolution, a history that I was already familiar with because I had identified with the idea of The Hacker Ethic in my late teens/early 20s as I wondered at who made and designed these fascinating computer devices that could be understood as simple processes leading to complex results? This recollection of with my personal history with computers as a kid is making me think, "Ok, this definitely speaks to me intellectually AND emotionally". There are a few other interesting observations from the book, such as a quote from an accomplished actress who described these hacker spaces as a way to learn how to communicate in an accomodating and accepting space (this seems comparable to how I learned how to be more comfortable around humans).
I am seeing how a lot of my coping mechanisms are related to people who this book is identifying as being autistic...it's a different kind of mind, and it's in the minority.
How I Learn
I've come to realize that the way I approach looking for experts is very tuned to my knowledge of myself, and I don't think it easily generalizes as advice to how to approach things. In a nutshell, I now assess whether the person offering the service is a good theorist, a method authority, or a practitioner with both skill sets. I then assess whether they have both breadth and depth in their field and have at least a minimal conceptual model of what they do and how it relates to others. If they seem experienced what they do, straight in describing the limits of what they know, and I like them, then I will move forward. However, I am doing that knowing that it will be entirely up to me to use them as data sources and sanity checks for building my own highly detailed conceptual model of what they're teaching me. This is how I learn, and it's very rare that I find anyone who also thinks like this.
As I wrote that last sentence, it occurred to me that maybe this "learning style" might be more prevalent in the autistic community.
In addition to the But You Don't Look Autistic At All book, I came across a terrible article about "UX for autistic people" that was everything I hate about UX when it is by-the-numbers process of fulfilling an unquestioned dogma. However, this article references Researching and Designing for Autism as one of its sources, which is written by someone with autism. And I find a lot of relatable elements in it. I think a general pattern to explore here.
Camila Pang An Outsider’s Guide to Humans (2021). This I found somewhat relatable. She is diagnosed with ASD, GAD, and ADHD as am I. Haven't finished reading it.
Bianca Toeps But You Don't Look Autistic At All (2020). This I found very relatable and informative. The style of book was not diagnostic/prescriptive for a general audience, but instead related observations, feelings, patterns, and stories. Some takeaways: having options, not plans. Thoughts are a form of sensory input. Also, I am maybe more overwhelmed than I realize, but have just processed it as words so I think I'm not overwhelmed. That I don't do anything is a sign that I am...all the thought/emotional processing has burned up all my energy. Also interesting: a 3x higher percentage of autistic population doesn't identity with gender roles.
Steven Silberman Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (2015). Written by a veteran science writer, looks back into the history of autism and debunks the myth as something modern.