No, this didn’t happen to me. My quizzes and questionnaires returned unquestionable results, and my formal diagnosis was a pretty easy gavel to bang. But I have heard this statement from several other people in my life.
The first time I heard it, I thought, surely that can’t be right. I’ve known them for a long time, and I could’ve sworn they’re autistic/an Aspie! How could the quiz say they’re not?
It’s quite possible that they don’t reside anywhere on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. In that case, so be it; case closed.
It’s also possible that they do fall somewhere on the spectrum, but the online quizzes failed to reflect that fact. The questionnaires themselves are written and engineered to pick up only the more obvious, stereotypical manifestations of certain traits as they’ve been observed using relatively small sample sizes, limited primarily to young boys.
Thus, even if someone doesn’t score within the Asperger’s/autistic range of the test, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not on the spectrum. A common tendency among several people that I know is to take one quiz, score with “neurotypical” results, and then say, “well, that’s it. I’m not Asperger’s/autistic.” The truth is, they might indeed be Aspergian/autistic; they simply might have a different grouping of traits than the quizzes are engineered to detect.
There are several other possible reasons that someone might score “negative” when they’re actually autistic/an Aspie after all…
1 – The wording of the quizzes can be slightly cryptic and a person may not recognize any similarity between the terms used and their natural tendencies in every day life. Sometimes the descriptions of behaviors and the examples given (if any) rely too heavily on clinical/academic research/professional jargon.
For example, someone might have a different impression/perception of the word “repetitive”, imagining an incessant, obvious behavior, not realizing that their subtle habit that they might not even realize they’re engaging in might fly under the radar when it comes to taking the online quiz.
2 – The quizzes themselves depend on self-awareness as a central concept, and the person taking the quiz might not be aware that they do the things mentioned in the quizzes. The person might think they do things one way, when really they do things another way, and the answers they give might not even be completely accurate. They might think they “fit in” better than they actually do.
3 – The person taking the quiz might be exceptionally good at (and accustomed to) acting and masking.
This is especially true is they grew up in a family in which strict neurotypical socialization was solidly ingrained from a young age, and thus, their quiz answers might be according to what they think they believe. If they were never given the option to be themselves in a strict neurotypically-socialized family, they might have internalized their family’s social values and this might skew their answers on the quizzes.
4 – There may be differences in cultural and/or gender perception.
There may or may not be differences between how Asperger’s/autism is specifically expressed between the two genders; for example, a little boy in a Western culture who isn’t outside playing football with his friends but instead is in his room building model airplanes for 12 hours, probably a lot more likely to get noticed than the little quiet girl who reads books in her room all day long.
Different cultures (or perhaps different regions within the same culture) may also express different levels of, for example, extroversion vs introversion, and maybe even during different seasons of the year (someone living in the north is not going to be too chatty in the wintertime when the wind gusts are icy).
This scenario highlights one advantage of being evaluated by a (good, exceptionally astute) professional, if you can, and if you feel comfortable doing so. It is crucial to find one that is especially intimately familiar with the non-stereotypical manifestations of spectrum traits, however; not everybody with a PhD or MD behind their name, or the word “Psychiatrist” on their office door or clinic signage, actually knows what they’re doing in this area. Adults are deplorably under-diagnosed, and for a variety of reasons, the existence of the condition is entirely missed.
In the case of a strong suspicion of being on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum despite a negative-result on the online questionnaires, though, this is one circumstance in which a decent professional will likely have to be involved.
I’ve provided more information as to how to go about getting a diagnosis without inadvertently landing yourself in potentially treacherous waters in a previous post from last fall. Also, the practitioners listed on the recently-updated Resources page have been personally vetted (as in, I’ve talked to both and worked with one so far) and confirmed to solidly respect privacy, and they even allow patients/clients to use an alias or pseudonym.
If This Has Happened To You (negative online test or denial of diagnosis by a professional):
Whatever the case may be, go with your gut, and keep researching. Get your hands on as many trait lists as you can. Ask other people who know you well about various traits. As self-aware as I thought I was, the diagnostic process (which for me, included questionnaires to be completed by other people close to me, about me) was very illuminating and insightful; I learned and remembered previous behaviors from young childhood that I had either long forgotten or hadn’t thought anything of, until they were pointed out by people around me. There were many instances in which I hadn’t thought that a particular diagnostic criterion applied to me but lo and behold, it did.
Never take the words of one professional (especially one who is run-of-the-mill) at face value. They’re not infallible, either. They make mistakes, too. They’re not entirely objective; they’re prone to their own bias and they’re subject to their own lack of understanding. If they’re not particularly astute or adept at detecting the variety of presentations that come before them, they may fail to recognize a real “case” of Asperger’s/autism. In fact, the vast majority of them wouldn’t know what adult autism/Asperger’s looked like if their lives counted on it. So, take their negative answer with a grain of salt, and remember that it is always your right to seek a second (or even third) opinion (if you can/want to).
Either way, never stop reading, researching, and so on.
Also, it’s important to consider that although you may indeed not be autistic, per se, there are several other related conditions in which traits and characteristics overlap somewhat significantly. So even if you’re not autistic/an Aspie, per se, you might indeed be neurodivergent in another way, such as ADHD, social anxiety, or another related designation. Either way, the truth is whatever it is, and you are whoever you are, and you have a place in this world; you always belong; you’re never alone 🙂