Tag Archives: maturity

Not Properly Female

So now everyone (almost everyone) knows that female autistics don’t usually present the same way that males do. A little step to the side here to tackle that word: present. We don’t present. We behave. Everyone else in the world behaves; they don’t present, so let’s drop that piece of medical or psychiatric jargon where it belongs — in the trash.

Instead of expecting female autistics to behave the way males do, the experts on how autistics function have now weighed females down with a different set of standards. We are more adaptable, and we work harder to adapt. We socialize more easily and try to fit into the social groups around us. We’re more concerned with how we look. Overall, we’re less likely to have the strange traits and behaviors that make autistics so weird.

I’m sure there aren’t any statistics to back me up, but I suspect that those standards are just so much BS. Another set of stereotypes to hang on to for people who have trouble understanding a concept like individuality. I suspect there is a point in almost every autistic girl’s or woman’s life when they say the hell with it, and set off on a path that’s comfortable for them, rather than keeping on with the struggle to fit in. That may happen early, in which case the girl avoids a great deal of the grief that occurs when you spend all your energy trying to emulate people with whom you have nothing in common.

Finding your own way of being female may very well mean that you will never be a “proper” female. And this can be a good thing. An excellent thing. Every time you let go of an expectation that others have for you, you gain a measure of freedom. Every time you give up one of those expectations, the next one becomes easier to let go of. And once you realize that you are now living a life designed by your own needs and preferences, you are free to accomplish whatever is important to you. Even if that means the rest of the world will never consider you a “proper” woman.

Temperament Makes the Difference

Extravert or introvert? Outer-directed or inner directed? I don’t recall ever seeing a discussion of temperament and the way in which it can affect how aspies adapt to a neurotypical world. So it probably looks like a way-out-there statement when I say that temperament may be the most important trait in the ability to adapt.

I’ve read a lot of “confessional” essays, “confessional” being my way of classifying essays and blog posts that are based entirely on the writer’s personal experiences. All too often, the personal essay/post slides seamlessly from being my experience to an experience we all share. It’s such a normal human way to function– generalizing from our own experience–that I doubt many aspies realize they also do it. It isn’t an exclusively neurotypical trait, and it produces, among aspies, and in their communities, such as they are, the same kind of stereotyping that is supposed to be the domain of neurotypicality.

I’m a very private person, an introvert, which makes this kind of discussion somewhat more difficult than it may be for others, but I still have to work to avoid generalizing from my own personal experiences. I’m also an extremely inner-directed person. In the light of those two statements, what follows is my attempt to lay out a theory that may or may not work for others on the spectrum. The intent, here, is to analyze how two different temperaments respond to interactions with the neurotypical world, and propose a possible way of making those interactions easier.

I have no way to determine whether introversion correlates strongly with inner-directedness or extraversion correlates strongly with outer-directedness, and don’t know if it’s ever been studied, but it seems a logical connection. If anyone knows of relevant studies, please point me to them.

What I propose, purely as a theory, is that introverts are more likely, on average, to be inner-directed, and thus will make less effort to conform to neurotypical expectations for behavior and accomplishment. Anyone who is primarily inner-directed, and this can include neurotypicals, places less importance on social demands than on their own inner needs. The problem is that introversion is so often seen as a problem to be overcome, and probably more so in people on the autistic spectrum, that its benefits are inaccessible. When you are constantly diagnosed as shy, unsociable, unfriendly, self-absorbed, even as oppositional, that is how you will see yourself. You will spend all your energy trying to conform to the demands others make. In the process, you will lose yourself and, as so many aspies confess, live a false life, wondering who you really are.

You will allow your opinions to be formed by the people around you, even if you sense, however dimly, that they are wrong, or not something you really agree with. You will make choices that make you unhappy, if not downright miserable, because those are the “proper” choices. You will waste whatever talents you may have by fulfilling society’s needs instead of your own. You will be left with what is known as the inauthentic self.

Inner-directedness may develop slowly, as the individual becomes aware of making choices that set them apart, and deciding whether to uphold those choices or give them up in the face of disapproval. Introversion has the potential for being a sort of mask, but one that protects rather than falsifies. It allows for a polite withdrawal that, with maturity becomes more self-assured, and less prone to seeing direct confrontation as the only way to maintain personal integrity. It’s a quiet corner from which to observe and analyze what goes on around them, and to make choices that encourage personal growth and risk-taking rather than acquiescence and conformity. An authentic, creative life cannot exist in a state of dependence on external value judgments and pressures.

 

Those Self-diagnostic Tests

I became aware of the subject of autism very late in life. In the course of trying to determine whether the characteristics that had always set me apart and given me problems were signs of autism or just me being weird, I took several online self-diagnostic tests. And for a long time, they just complicated the problem of whether I was or wasn’t on the spectrum. Every test said that I was barely on it, nearly as neurotypical as autistic.

Why did I persist in my search until I was sure, one way or the other? Not to be part of a group, not to be officially recognized. Not to add to my already numerous physical and mental problems, to see myself as a collection of disabilities. It was to better understand who I was and what had made me the person I became, and, possibly, stop blaming myself for traits that are inherent in my makeup. To better understand them so that I might find ways to ameliorate some of the problems, as far as that’s possible.

I now understand that there was an important factor keeping me close to the edge on those tests. I answered the questions as the adult I was at the time rather than the child or adolescent I once was. The importance of maturity is mentioned now and then, in articles, but it isn’t given as much emphasis as it deserves. Depending on intelligence and the severity of the traits, we gradually learn ways of coping with our differences from the norm, not all of which have to be viewed as disabilities.

If you are an older adult with a high IQ you have a lifetime of learning and adapting behind you. Add to that, the design flaws of many tests, not just those concerned with autism. One major flaw is that most tests force you to make choices that don’t in any way reflect your personal reality. I can go all the way back to high school in my memories to support this. On a job aptitude test that all students were forced to take each question had two choices: either this or that. Every question had to be answered. The result was that I supposedly had an aptitude for and would work best at a job that, in actuality, I would have hated and eventually rebelled against.

Why did this happen? Because the test was oriented to the standard jobs that the majority of people do, in fact, work at. There were no choices that would allow for creativity of any kind, certainly not the desire and ability to create your own job. No entrepreneurship, no chance of opting out of the pervasive work ethic and doing something else altogether.

In the same way, most self-diagnostic tests for autism force choices based on assumptions.

http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/autism-quiz.htm – does take account of changes with maturity. But it also forces yes or no answers to poorly stated questions. A typical example is “It is difficult to figure out what other people expect of me.” You can’t answer sometimes; the choices are never, now and when I was young, only now, or only when I was young. Is a failure to understand caused by your supposed disability or because the other person hasn’t made it clear what they want from you? The assumption is that failure is an outcome of a disability.

https://www.aspergerstestsite.com/75/autism-spectrum-quotient-aq-test/ I retested myself on this one quite recently, and came out barely on the spectrum, just as I did when I took it several years ago. It was designed by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Cambridge Autism Research Centre, and allows for the fact that whatever problem you might have you don’t necessarily have it all the time. But it is entirely present-oriented. “I am…” “I enjoy…” And that’s the crux of the problem. It tests for who you are now as if you never learned anything over the years about how to manage the factors it asks about.

If you are intelligent, analytical, and self-aware, you will have found ways to avoid problem areas, or to compensate for them. Which means that if you’re taking this particular test or one like it, you will get a more accurate score if you answer as if you are much younger, before you learned, either with assistance or on your own, how to work around the “disabilities.” Not that it will be completely accurate if the test requires you to answer every question. Why not? Because you probably won’t remember what certain things were like when you were younger. For instance: Question 3. If I try to imagine something, I find it very easy to create a picture in my mind. Today, I would slightly agree. But I have no memories about that kind of thing from earlier in my life.

Self-tests can be useful, but they may not be completely accurate. Proceed with caution and common sense.