Looking in the mirror ~ How I measure up against Tania Marshall’s “Asperger’s in young girls / preschool” list, Part 2

I swear, it’s almost like Tania Marshall (and several other notable authors on Asperger’s/autism in females) had sat outside our front window and spied on me.  Tania’s list of 40 First Signs of Asperger’s in Young Girls is that accurate (for me); with very few exceptions, it describes me almost to a “T”.

In my last post, I covered items #1-13 on that list before running out of steam (and having to leave for work).  Here, I’ll pick up where I left off…

14 – Nature and animals: Aspiengirls have an intense love for nature and animals, often preferring them over people. They have an empathic and intuitive relationship and understanding of animals rather than people.

My response:  I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to animals.  They are innocent and sentient beings, with an advanced intelligence that most of the rest of the world fails to detect and fails even more to appreciate.  I easily can make eye contact with animals; people….not nearly so much.  We’ve always had cats and we’ve almost always had dogs (up until about 10 years ago).  Although I love both immensely, I’ve always been more sympathetic to cats; they’re smarter in many ways and in society, they often get the short end of the stick, especially compared to dogs.  Cats will snuggle with you and purr.  Their purr, to me, is a magical feature, a gift from nature that’s unique to cats alone.  I’ve always seemed to understand cats (and dogs, to an extent) on an intuitive level; I know what they mean.  I know what they’re trying to say.  Their non-threatening, genuine eyes say it all.  There’s no judgment, no ulterior motive, no backstabbing, no passive-aggression.  They’re not trying to be something they’re not.  Compared to them, the vast majority of people simply can’t measure up.

15 – Gifts and Talents: Most, if not all Aspiengirls have gifts and talents ranging from singing (perfect pitch or perfect relative pitch), music, art, (drawing, painting and other mediums), languages, acting and performing, dancing, writing, a superior memory, intelligence, to name a few.

My response:  This has held true throughout my life in some way.  When I was three years old, I painted what my mom calls a “perfect parrot”.  She has pictures of me painting it.  Looking at it now, however, I probably couldn’t reproduce it.  Something happened to my drawing/painting ability (except for abstract, which I have fun with).  The artistic streak was replaced with a very intense musical streak.  I started off with “relative pitch” (which is almost perfect pitch), which, in time, “stabilized” to perfect pitch.  I started composing music at age nine; my early material was nothing to write home about, but I started getting a lot of recognition and praise from my family by the time I was 11-12.  I still compose music (30 years on now), but my hearing loss has started to impact my joy–and thus my motivation–to do so.  I’ve been relatively “dry” for a while now.  That’s the sad part.  So now, I’ve sharpened my focus on writing (which I’ve been doing in some capacity for the same length of time as music composition).  Languages have always been semi-enigmatic; Spanish came naturally and easily to me, but the rest haven’t been as graspable.  I do get compliments on the length and strength of my memory.  I can remember my second birthday.  I did go through a several year bout several years back in which my shorter-term memory was quite compromised, and I’m not sure how many of those memories got transformed into long-term ones, but time will tell.  I seem to be a little stronger in that area again.

16 – Determination: A strong will, determination, stubbornness and/or competitiveness, argumentative (with teachers, parents or other adults), a need to be right (even when she’s is clearly wrong)

My response:  I have always been characterized as stubborn.  Competitive, not so much; if anything, I’m more competitive professionally and even more so with myself.  People thought I was argumentative, but I think a lot of those sticky situations were simply cases of (bidirectional) misinterpretation.  I don’t need to be right when I’m clearly wrong, though; I’ll admit when I truly think I’m wrong, and I’m not afraid to change an opinion (as in 180-degrees) when presented with new information (be it established fact or new experiences).  My stubbornness serves me well these days; in my professional life, I “play” a “detective” of sorts; the answer/key is often elusive, and it’s impossible to succeed if one gives up too easily.  I’ve been known not to stop and rest until the puzzle has been solved.

17 – Facial expressions and emotions: A discrepancy between facial expression and feelings. For example, a “fake” smile, intense facial expressions or lack of, or inappropriate facial expression to the situation. May not understand or be confused by facial expressions. May laugh when she is in trouble.

My response:  I’m not aware of a disconnect between facial expression and feelings, except for when I was young.  I don’t recall ever putting on a “fake” smile, and I don’t recall being confused by facial expressions.  I did smile or laugh when I was in trouble, which got me into more trouble.  The smile/laugh was completely involuntary, however, and in no way did it represent or match what I was actually feeling.

18 – Attention Issues: Parents may have taken her to a hearing specialist due to not responding to her name, being “in her own world” and/or thinking she may be deaf.

My response:  Always!  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I was bored off my ass in school.  It didn’t help that an unrealized dairy intolerance fueled one ear infection after another, such that I developed scar tissue in my ears when I was young (and of course, I still have it).  In kindergarten, I underwent two hearing tests, both of which I failed.  However, the hearing loss itself wasn’t severe at all; I was also so deeply engaged “in my own world” that it resembled a semi-hypnotic trance and I did indeed fail to realize that anyone might be trying to get my attention.

19 – Hyperempathy: May be very sensitive to social justice issues, abuse towards animals, nature or the elderly. May experience the emotions of others. May wonder why they feel different to others.

My response:  Animals have always been a source of extreme sensitivity and empathy.  I think I do experience the emotions of others; I think I do pick up on their mood, even in unexpected situations, such as animated characters in a Disney movie, or other drivers on the road.  I’ve never exactly been extremely tuned into social justice issues (but that doesn’t mean that I’m cold, heartless, or that I don’t care); I do have a keen sense of what’s fair and what’s not, and an equally keen volatile reaction to the latter.

20 – Intuitive: May tell you and/or know about events, people that cannot possible know about. She “knows” certain things without knowing how she knows these things.

My response:  Always, but only in certain ways.  It’s difficult to verbalize, though.

21 – Curiosity and Questions: May ask an endless array of questions that at times, cannot be easily answered. May ask why they feel different to their peers or why their peers are not like the, or have the same interests.

My response:  I’ve always been insatiably curious about the world, and from a young age, I was “that kid” who asked those dreaded “impossible questions”.  I didn’t do too well in organized religion for this reason (from a young age on); I simply didn’t “buy” the teachings; they didn’t make logical sense to me.  I’ve always wondered why I was different from my peers, but I’m not sure if I asked this question out loud.

22 – Interests: Interests are usually similar to neurotypical girls, but the intensity is unique or unusual. An obsession with knowledge on a topic of interest is common.

My response:  Not only was the intensity of my interests different from those of NT girls, but so were the topics of interest themselves!  No other girls I knew had rock collections, rainbow “obsessions”, or wrote music.  When I was young, they were all into horses.  I like horses, but I didn’t draw them, fantasize about them, beg my parents for one, or have equine figures in my bedroom.  I cared about fashion for a little while, and I tried to “get into” boys, but I never did seem to “crush” on boys like the other girls did.  I did develop a crush once, but I’m not sure how much of that was genuinely felt and how much of it sprung from the idea that I was “supposed” to do so or because my other friends were.

23 – May have vertigo, motion sickness (for e.g., on a car trip).

My response: Only occasionally.  Usually, I had a pretty strong stomach and a decent balance/vestibular system (surprisingly).

24 – Thumb-sucking can last until age 9, biting of nails, grinding of teeth.

My response:  Nail-biting only, but that was incessant and borderline-severe.  I bit my nails from ages 6 to 16.  Luckily, I’ve never “relapsed”.

25 – May have Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), hypermobility, clumsiness, poor muscle tone, may not be able to catch a ball or ride a bike, or poor hand-writing.

My response:  My handwriting has always been a thorn in my side.  When I was younger, it was too big, too uncoordinated.  I actually had hypomobility (my tendons seem too short or tight), so I had noticeably poor flexibility in my younger days.  As time passed, however, I have developed a hypermobility, in which I can’t sustain a manual spinal manipulation, or certain joints (such as the long bones in my feet) might “slip out of place” (literally, although only mildly so) even while simply walking.  I don’t remember being clumsy as a child, but my mom might have another opinion.  I do remember what a pain in the arse it was to learn to ride a bike.  Catching a ball–not happening, in elementary/primary school. By the time I reached junior high and high school, my skills had improved such that I no longer got laughed at, picked on, or made fun of in gym class.  By then, I was also in karate, which helped immensely (and was really fun besides).

26 – May have social anxiety, muteness and/or separation anxiety, may be excessively clingy.

My response:  Yes, absolutely.  The strange part was, in our kindergarten performance of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, I was selected to play Goldilocks.  I wouldn’t have volunteered for that, as I preferred to stay out of the limelight, but I didn’t balk at it, either.  Apparently, my stage presence and vocal volume were pretty good (!)  I remember that play, and I remember just getting up there and doing my thing.  I wasn’t trying to be dramatic or throw myself into the role or anything.  I just did what there was to do.  To this day, I don’t have much stage-fright at all.  However, I do have a social anxiety.  It’s not that I’m afraid of people; it’s that being around people is too overwhelming.  People are insensitive and unpredictable, and I find them obnoxious and boring.  They’re too rowdy, which creates noise and visual motion that I don’t really care for.

27 – May have fear and/or phobias (insects and butterflies, dark, separation from mother).

My response:  I think the “separation from mother” was true, but it didn’t help that I suffered at the hands of two babysitters in particular (that would definitely change things).  I won’t go into detail, but between the two, there was physical and mental/emotional abuse.  I think I was afraid of the vacuum.  When my dad shaved his mustache for the first time, I freaked out (I remember that).  I also didn’t like the dark.

28 – May have sleep issues.

My response:  All.  My.  Life.  Literally.  I hated taking daytime naps when I was a toddler, for fear that I might “miss something”, according to my mom.  From the time I was about three or four on, I was definitely a “night owl”.  Not only did I think that it was “so cool” to stay up late, I also had no problem doing so.  My sleep had since regulated itself for a number of years as an adult, only to get decimated again by a pair of traumatic periods of time.

29 – Personality:  May be intensely shy and introverted OR very extroverted to the point of annoying her peers or family members.

My response: The former applies to me, but not the latter.

With that, I have to leave for work, so I’ll pick this back up later on, in a final post-series installment. 🙂

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