I wanted to get up at 9.00am to give me lots of time to get ready for my autism group at 11.00am, but I overslept (again) and had to rush. Even then I went to the group unshaven, which always frustrates me. The group was good (on sensory issues), but I always feel I don’t meet the exact same profile as other people, which makes me worry about not being on the spectrum. I think my sensory issues are subtle and not always noticeable to or understood by me, let alone other people. I have also always been good at masking and avoiding things, so again I don’t necessarily notice them as autistic sensory issues. Ironically, I had to shut the windows to block out the noise of someone mowing their lawn, a sensory issue that threatened to distract me from the meeting about sensory issues. I also find that even with a five minute break in the middle, I can’t concentrate for two hours and end up getting fidgety and looking at other things online in the last half-hour or so.

I felt completely exhausted after this, even after breaking for a long lunch. I forced myself to work on the questionnaires that the autism hospital sent me (in a classic piece of NHS inefficiency, they didn’t say where to send them when completed. My Mum phoned and discovered they should not go to the most intuitive place). There were some obviously autism-related questions and also questionnaires about general mental health and what I guessed was ADHD and maybe some other things they might want to rule out. I worry about not showing enough autism symptoms, now or in the past (being imaginative seems to work against me, the stereotype being that autistic people are not imaginative). I think the reality is that I masked well and that I use my imagination (reading and TV as well as writing) to try to understand people and situations that confuse me in real life, but I have a poor visual imagination; I have little sense of what the characters in the novel I’m writing look like, even if I can work out how they act. I was pleased that there were questions on my employment history, which I feel ought to set off some kind of alarm bell, even if I’m not sure what exactly. I didn’t have any of the reasons suggested for difficulty in the workplace, which were things like problems taking orders or frequent lateness or disorganisation, but I did have a load of my own issues, like difficulty with social interactions and problems multitasking and changing tasks. I was pleased that some of the questions seemed to be looking for autistic behaviour that is not one of the “classic” impairments, as well as asking about masking behaviour – I’ve felt penalised in the past for deliberately modifying my behaviour and body language (etc.) to fit in e.g. forcing myself to make eye contact even though I hate doing it, not talking about my special interests except with others who share them etc.

(One of the questionnaires was called HADS, which is funny to Doctor Who fans, but no one else.)

The forms took about two and a half hours to complete. Add two hours for the autism group, some time writing my devar Torah (which I didn’t intend to do) and a little Torah study and a half an hour walk, interrupted briefly by tashlich (a water-side ceremony I postponed from Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) on Sunday so I could avoid COVID crowds) and I didn’t have much time or energy for other things. The walk to the stream was bizarre; it was not far away at all, but somewhere I haven’t been much at all in recent months to the extent that it all seemed strange and alien.

I’ve been feeling vaguely down today, vaguely depressed and anxious. I’m not sure why. To be honest, there probably are too many possible causes: an afternoon of form-filling would depress anyone and an imminent job interview for which I am not yet prepared would make anyone anxious. Then there is the fact that the days are noticeably shorter now (it was dark at half-past seven) and the nervousness around my autism assessment, and my new relationship (if it even counts as a relationship yet, which it probably doesn’t)… I just hope I’m not going to relapse into deep depression.

As for tomorrow, I have therapy. Before then, I want to rewrite my interview presentation to talk about the work I was doing at the beginning of the year rather than a project from two years ago, as I think I showed more initiative and have more scope for talking about what I would have done differently if circumstances permitted, plus I simply remember more of the more recent event.

18 thoughts on “Autism Questionnaires

  1. I think the craziest thing about the system is that they keep trying to decide what autism is and what it isn’t. All we really know is that it’s a variety of neurological differences that result in communication and learning difficulties that lead to struggles with socialization. Those of us who are higher functioning do learn to compensate and hide some of our weaknesses and quirks but it is exhausting. I’m guessing you want validation of this in order to receive the grace you need in often demanding work places. I totally understand the struggle. I’ll be praying that regardless God sends you a job that is not overwhelming and coworkers that are gracious. I think I find it a lot easier to be in social situations and to engage in conversation then you do but I find it completely impossible to write stories with characters interacting. I became an avid reader as a child partly because I was seeking social stories to help me understand people. I also frequently run into problems in relationships because I’m not totally picking up all the cues. You seem to be stronger in this area but have a lot of anxiety. It’s all autism and it’s many shades. I’ll stop now before I become like that character who keeps forcing herself into your book, lol.

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    1. I would like to have support in the workplace, yes, but my self-esteem about my ability to work has been so eroded as a result of the last few years that I also would like personal validation that there’s a reason why I struggle and I’m not a “failure.”

      I hope I’ve been able to write stories with characters interacting, but the novel I’m working on (which no one has seen in its entirety and only my ex-girlfriend has seen fragments) is the longest piece of fiction I’ve ever written, so I feel nervous about how well I have done it.

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      1. You expressed that really well and it’s exactly how I feel. You most definitely have autism even if the system doesn’t give you an official diagnosis like sometimes happens when their services are maxed out. Maybe I can share what helps me. First you said your self esteem over your ability to work has been eroded. For someone with autism this is inevitable as society and the workplace are not set up in a way that we can get a validating return for our labour. I would have this reoccurring dream that someone was standing over me screaming while I was trying to make bricks. I was exhausted and my hands were bleeding. In the distance I saw an arch with the words “arbeit macht frei” on it. The dream was the feeling I got trying to function in a neurotypical world. Society and my family were like Pharaoh demanding I make bricks without straw to build their pyramids. Through the prophet Hosea God said “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt.” I had to realize that I would have no self esteem if I kept serving these “Pharaohs” in my life. God through Moses said “Let my son go, that he may serve me.” When you have autism you are given the gift of many trials as well as the gift of a passionate single mindedness. Others have varied interests yours are more narrow and intense. You are meant to serve God with this passion not Pharaoh. Too often people mistake serving God with religious activity. When something is offered to God it might be common but in offering it/consecrating it it becomes holy and useful to Him. What if a passion for Dr. Who is how God wants you to serve Him? I know of a young boy right now who has high functioning autism and because of the pandemic is too anxious to see anyone or leave his home. He loves and constantly talks about Dr. Who but has a hard time having relationships because most people don’t care and find it annoying. The easing of that child’s loneliness is someone’s service to God. The question is how to locate and serve children like this. When it’s God’s work He makes a way. We just need to keep exercising and developing our passion to be ready when he makes a way. We might also need help from others to turn our passion into a visible service/business.

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        1. Thanks for sharing this. That was an intense dream!

          Yes, I have been struggling to work out how I am supposed to serve God, as autism, depression and social anxiety had a major negative impact on my formal religious observance. I hope that writing fiction will be such a way.

          We just need to keep exercising and developing our passion to be ready when he makes a way

          Yes, definitely.

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            1. I guess my background isn’t quite so strict. I feel the effect in terms of the way Orthodox Judaism is focused on family and community, whereas I feel I don’t easily fit in. I feel I mess up reading and understanding the social cues in the community, which can be more formal and more strictly enforced than social cues in secular society. My religious background affects my mental health issues more, where it has fed into guilt feelings, despair and, in the past religious OCD (mostly under control now, thankfully).

              (Apologies if this doesn’t make sense; I had therapy earlier and am completely exhausted! My brain is just not working now!)

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              1. Makes total sense. This was my experience in my Mennonite community. I wasn’t good at keeping the unspoken rules.My cousin struggled a great deal with religious OCD and unfortunately chose atheism as a result. I think he just needed a vision of the kindness of God which can be hard to find in conservative religion. Just wanted to affirm what your saying please don’t feel the need to answer. Have a restful rest of your day!

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  2. Regarding your other post, most Americans would say “fill out” and I’m not sure we would call that a questionnaire. I’m not sure what it would be named though. It sounds tedious no matter what it’s called; I hope it works out for you! It sounds like a stressful day in general which makes for a lot of anxiety.

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  3. Re: autism and the imagination. yes, it is a stereotype and it’s not true. Much like the view that people with AS are unemotional and cannot empathize. Tony Attwood who is considered an expert on Asperger’s has a section in his book, “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s syndrome” entitled “Escape into Imagination”. He writes (of children):
    “Sometimes the degree of imaginative thought can lead to an interest in fiction both as a reader and as an author. Some children, especially girls with Asperger’s syndrome can develop the ability to use imaginary friends, characters and worlds to write quite remarkable fiction. This could lead to success as an author of fiction for children or adults.”

    A good example of an richly imaginative autistic author is Daniel Tammett, author of “Born on a Blue day” and, more recently, the fascinating, “Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries & Meanings of Language.”

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