The question as to whether or not I am autistic has been debated for almost my entire life. I learnt to read & write fairly quickly, but had trouble with more dexterous tasks like doing up my own seat-belt. I could remember a random string of numbers (which actually proved quite useful when I was doing physics A-level), but dates & particularly dates of birth eluded me. I absolutely could not (& still cannot) multi-task.
The difficulty with diagnosing anything such as autism, ADHD, or dyspraxia, conditions we group together with the term “neuro-diverse”, is that there is no definitive test. It can’t be detected in the blood or on an x-ray, or even a full brain scan, although some studies suggest a potential link between the proportionate size of different parts of the brain, the ways those different parts are connected, and these learning difficulties.
There are some tests out there, of varying credibility, that can certainly indicate whether or not someone is diverse, & I’ve taken as many of them as I can find. Perhaps the most medically robust is the Autism Spectrum Quadrant Test where a score of 32 out of 50 or more suggests neuro-diversity. I got 38. Perhaps the least credible is the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner, which is used to distinguish between real humans & their otherwise indistinguishable robot counterparts, the replicants. Invariably, I come out as a replicant.
Despite all this, I am extremely wary of self-diagnosis. The “everyone’s a bit autistic” school of thought has caused a lot of harm to the neuro-diverse community, & it has a bad reputation with medical professionals. On the other hand, at this point I’m certain that I am in some way neuro-diverse, & I’m relatively sure that I am autistic. It is well-known that those Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB) are typically underdiagnosed due to the different presentation of neuro-diversity in women, & given that I was so ill as a teenager the opportunity to look into the matter properly simply never arose.
On the other hand, formal diagnosis would make no real difference to me. If I am autistic then I have been so all my life, & I’ve learned how to work with it & wouldn’t want it to change. The stripped back nature of the NHS & support services would mean I couldn’t get “help” anyway, even if I wanted it. The uncertainty bothers me more than anything else, which in & of itself is quite indicative.
Being neuro-diverse certainly has its drawbacks, but it is also a gift. It lends itself perfectly to managing data for clinical trials, & perhaps to writing too. It enables me to see the world from a different perspective to the majority, meaning I get to see patterns & details others don’t. Besides, some of my favourite television characters are, in hindsight, definitely neuro-diverse; Data from Star Trek being the most obvious of these, but Captain Holt from Brooklyn-99 too.
Perhaps, when I am able, I will pursue a formal diagnosis. Perhaps, one day, I will be able to say “I Am Autistic” without uncertainty. Perhaps, I will remain describing myself as neuro-diverse & worrying about more pressing matters; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am comfortable in my own mind.