I’ve done quite a few of the online tests for Asperger’s, but yesterday was the first time I’d tried the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, along with tests of dynamic expressions (short videos rather than snapshots) and voices. The idea with these tests is that you choose the emotion being expressed by eyes, body language, and voice respectively. It’s multiple choice: you have four options to choose from.
Well, this week I’ve been feeling a bit fed up about probably being Aspie, so I was delighted when my scores came out better than the average neurotypical’s. But something didn’t feel quite right.
Firstly, the test was easy by applying common sense. Often, the emotion I thought was being expressed wasn’t in the list, but it was easy enough to get to it by process of elimination. If I thought someone looked sad, I could rule out all the positive emotions and choose from the negative ones. In the voice test, the words gave the clue to the likely emotion, even if the voice tone was difficult to interpret. It didn’t feel like I was being tested on interpreting emotion, rather on my intellectual capacities.
I did some digging. I started off with some academic papers, and they all seemed to support the test as being reasonably reliable (although Simon Baron Cohen, who developed the eyes test, often seems to be a co-author, and it’s in his interest for the test to be well-regarded). The aspie forums, on the other hand, seem to have lots of aspies scoring at least as highly as I did.
The fundamental problem with the test seems to be its lack of ecological validity: this means how close it is to the ‘real world.’ In everyday life, we’re interpreting words, voice, face, eyes, other body language and it changes constantly. We don’t have a few seconds to consider a fixed picture.
Anyway. The feeling fed up thing. I wish I could get the whole Aspie thing out of my head, because I’m constantly wondering if I’m messing up, in conversations, or in phone calls, or any social interaction. Obviously I’ve not changed, and if I have it, I’ve always had it, but there is something about pre-(self)diagnosis naivety that lets you just get on with life. You know there are some things you’re better at than others, but you feel you know who you are, and that if you concentrate, you can do OK. The truth is that the more I think about it, the more I suspect that I don’t do OK. There are so many instances in my past of aspie behaviour that I’d just put down as ‘one-offs.’ To begin with, recasting my narrative history was a good feeling, because I do like a neat explanation. But I can’t bracket that off. I have to accept that that’s how I’m permanently wired, and whatever strategies I go for, I can’t change that.
There seems disagreement on the strategies thing. Rudy Simone’s book, Aspergirls, is full of strategies and advice for aspies and for those around them. Ian Ford, in A Field Guide to Earthlings, counsels against trying to fake being NT, and advocates being true to yourself. I guess it depends what you want out of life, and whether the people around you are accepting of difference.
It’s still a secret, by the way. I have joined a local meet-up group for people with Aspergers, but I can’t go unless my husband is away, otherwise I’ll need to explain where I’m going (or lie, which isn’t really something I’m up for). Although he’s away a lot, the first meeting clashes with him being home. I’m not sure how he’ll react to the Aspie thing, and I don’t see the need to say anything at the moment. I’d prefer to keep it to myself, and hopefully I’ll manage to get to the meet-up group soon.