Autism tests and experience

I’ve mentioned before how I was seeing a psychologist again in order to get a diagnosis for autism and because I often share how my mind works when doing stuff like calculations and memorizing, I thought giving you guys some insight as to how my mind works in other situations like conversations, reading and analyzing could be interesting for you as well.

So today I had to do some tests that can indicate a diagnosis for autism. 3 tests specifically. The first test was about short stories. I was told 9 different stories and with each story I had to answer a few questions afterwards. I remember 6 of the 9 stories but I don’t think I should share them as they are part of an official test. Anyway, I got asked questions like:“Did anyone say anything that was inappropiate or should not have been said” and “why do you think they said that” Etc.

I immediately knew I was in for some trouble. Not only do I take things literally, I also read literally and I often cannot decide anything without 100% certainty. I sometimes answered a few question with “I have no idea because nothing in the story indicates that, I need more information, I can’t decide yet” or “That is impossible to know because I need to know this in order to answer that but the story doesn’t say anything about that”. Questions about the motive of a person for saying certain things were the hardest to answer because I couldn’t picture a situation like those with me in it and I don’t know how or what others think, people are hard to predict singularly. With one story, I read the whole story different because I took it in another way and the way I read it still made sense and was correct but it probably wasn’t the way I should’ve read it but I had no idea. I had to change all my answers again with that one.

Test 2 was about pictures. I had to look at some pictures and answer a few questions about the pictures and this one was tough, very tough. All pictures had people in it and I had to say what I thought was going on or going on beforehand or what would happen after and for the life of me I could not answer almost anything. I could often come up with what it all could be but it was impossible for me to know what it really is and I cannot guess then. I felt like that computer programm who couldn’t figure out tetris and instead of losing or trying to win the game it just paused the game… forever. That’s what was going on in my mind, I could not decide something because that would be assuming and I cannot assume, it’s incredibly difficult for me because I don’t have a “gut feeling” for most things like other people, I actually need data in order to do things like making decisions. This makes giving an opinion very difficult on things where the answer doesn’t really matter like what my favourite food is or how I felt today or this week or what is going on in some pictures. :roll_eyes:

The final test was just a pain in the ass. I had to complete sentences but the sentences were so random. I already said that I need information in order to decide things or come up with things but this was just ridiculous. I had such a hard time figuring out what I should write because I had nothing that indicates what the sentence was about or should be about. Well, I just got lost. With some sentences I couldn’t come up with anything to write. Imagine ordering a computer to finish a sentence and you give the computer one word or two words. The computer would see so many possibilities and without a guide or indication which one would be correct or appropriate, it would just keep on searching for possible ways to end the sentence or select a random one which would give you nothing to work with since it is just random. My mind was like that when I did this test. Sometimes I could use my own experience and complete a few sentence that way but everything else was just guess work with a lot of struggle.

I think the fact that I was struggling so hard with these tests, must indicate that something is up. I felt like going crazy sometimes, especially with the third test because the second test had worn me out a lot. These tests took the whole afternoon and if I had to complete all the 80 sentences in the third test, probably much longer. Can anyone relate to any of this?

I Hope you enjoyed reading my brain crashes and errors during these tests today, let me know what you think :slight_smile: :grin:

10 Likes

As someone who is actually on the spectrum, I can see myself responding similarly. Especially with the motives and the inferring stuff - ouch. I am terrible at that. This is why I failed English II in college, actually.

5 Likes

This is quite interesting.
Have you tried making detail based assumptions? E.g if there was a dark stain on a carpet that is brown and the person in the room was a very “clean obsessive” person.
It would make sense to assume that this stain isn’t from them, because otherwise it would have a lighter shade as they would have cleaned it right away. Given it is dark it must be some chemical or otherwise simply a common hot drink which implies the likelihood of it being them is again incredibly low.

If you then found out the stain was hot chocolate it is highly likely that they are visited by children occasionally. You would then assume that there are some mild other indications, if there are none they must have been visited rarely. Hence unlikely to be their child. Likely some of their friends have brought a child.

That said this isn’t evidence but usually there is some evidence or conditions later on down the line. E.g the stain must have been caused by something that leaves a brown stain is a true fact, hence there are few things that leave a brown stain of that form. If the person only has access to common household equipment and this is not a design choice it almost ensures this is either sauce,tea,coffee or hot chocolate.

It seems very interesting that you take things literally. I have often taken things literal when younger: my parent said not to open the door for anyone. So when they came back and asked me to open the door I said no because I was told not to open the door for anyone them inclusive. I do however have a very strong sense of gut feeling and emotional perception.

I usually know right away when I meet a person or from how they are speaking (even if online) what kind of person they are or if they are acting in that sense or even how they are feeling. Arguably more importantly I also know what tiny bits make me feel a certain way regardless of the situation. I generally am very good in the above situations you had to experience on the test:

" A circle of friends were all happily laughing in the middle of a wedding party when one person dropped a drink and said ‘sorry about that’ as he picked it up, while another person was looking away at something else, another was congratulating the couple and a final person said that he had to go."

"Did anyone do or say anything that was inappropriate or should not have been said” and “why do you think they have said/done that”

The person who did something inappropriate was the final one to say they had to go, particularly when most of the circle of friends were happy, he indicated that he had to leave. While it is natural to make a mistake such as drop a drink (that according to the text didn’t drop on anyone) or being focused on something else, these are not purposeful disruptions that seek to acquire the attention of the circle and therefore not inappropriate. He/she should have gone about it a different way.

“Why did he/she do this?”
Most likely because he/she (was not happy about this wedding). For them to take a very direct response when everyone is happy makes them seem to be angry about something and not consider the current place or situation. They still went to this wedding so whatever made them angry was the wedding itself or something that happened during/slightly before it. The person was seeking attention but didn’t simply leave and also responded in a very unsympathetic manner. If they for example were angry about the couple, they would most likely have either just left without saying anything or congratulated them bluntly before leaving. It’s far more likely that the situation is something alike them having told the couple they would not be at the wedding if someone(a certain someone) else came and that someone else arrived and is likely the person who dropped the glass(triggering them) or is looking the other way (avoiding them) so they want to leave.

Well I could have analysed the above a bit more but this trivial random example I just created without verifying or putting behind the actual reasoning/logic kind of explains how I would see it. Certainly this depends entirely on what exactly was said and the whole situation. It may just be that the person has an appointment right now (initiated from a phone call) , had already congratulated the couple earlier, not part of the friends maybe worker, etc. It’s still mildly to very inappropriate to gather the attention of everyone to say this in the middle of a happy congratulation hence it puts my small bouts of reasoning into more likely than the others.

I haven’t really ever thought about this situation before so I randomly generated it from my head over a few brief seconds, do you find random generations easy/difficult?

Usually when I picture what someone else is thinking I emulate their thoughts as my own (perhaps my internal voice as their actual voice too) so I am then rather than seeing it from my position in their shoes, seeing it from their position in theirs. Alternatively I would just use the evidence and their patterns in behaviours and emotions and my understanding of them. The hardest case is when someone is acting to mask themselves (and very good at that). This however makes me realise whenever I am reading what someone else is saying there is a different voice for each individual.

Again this is very interesting. Peoples motives usually vary but it seems unlikely for them to do something without a reason even if they themselves feel to have done something without a reason. Beyond that in truth there is also always a reason.
For example the reason I didn’t simply say ‘there is always a reason’ in my 2nd sentence, is because I am saying this impartially : beyond that (in short in a form much more fundamental than what one thinks about and any layers upwards of that) , and in truth ( for what is actually the case with the chemical exchanges in the brain), there will always be a reason hence the fact that there is always a reason is proven to some extent, whether that extent is for basic things or not is then up to you to decide. I did write this in a somewhat biased ‘processing’ to still get the general point across which I am not implying directly but as a mere possibility. I also stated any layers upwards because I am trying to not indicate bottom up processing but either possibility of a top down and or bottom up processing (however you look at it) approach. If I started stating this for everything I am saying I would definitely never get anything written without a few 100 pages.

The thing with assuming things is, while they are not true, when you assume something the possibilities after this assumption are fewer than before (with a good assumption). When the fewer possibilities are illogical or not possible you can discard this assumption. There will be situations where the assumption is logically possible but whatever is done after that is not.

I think my posts are becoming much too long, I think mine is even large than yours now? So I will leave it at that.

4 Likes

Do you also take things literally?

It can be pretty annoying for myself and others that I take things literally. I sometimes don’t get jokes or don’t understand instructions because people don’t realize how often they actually say something that is odd for someone that takes things literally.

3 Likes

As a kid, I would have done those tests very much the same way. In fact, in my tests I got asked to explain how to brush teeth. I panicked, I know how I brush my teeth but I dont know what is comfortable for you, so why tell you how to do it? Grab the brush and try stuff yourself.

Nowadays, I learned to be more emotionally laid back, which helped a lot. I mainly stopped caring about what others thought of me and my opinions, which let me share them much easier.

Maybe it is different for you, but the main thought tht would stop me from doing things would be “what will the other person think?”, and when I lost that, I basically discovered a whole new freedom.

Heck, my boss probably edges on a burn-out because of all the funny, crazy, nerdy or slightly suggestive shirts I sometimes wear at work when I have no meetings.

6 Likes

I agree with everything you’ve said about this IF the context was given. The pictures I was shown had no context at all, no story, no background of people, nothing about the people in it, no text, literally nothing. They were just pictures with people in it standing or doing something, nothing else.

I think I worded something wrong. I cannot make assumptions if I have no reason or indication for which assumption is more likely. This makes it very difficult to assume things with pictures with no context at all.

Is it? It doesn’t say he gathered the attention of anyone and then said it. If the people knew beforehand that he would leave then nothing inappropriate would be happening here but it doesn’t say wether the other people knew that he would leave or not. If they didn’t know than this could be inappropiate but if they did know then this could be fine but the story doesn’t say anything about that. And even if you take the story for what it is, it doesn’t say that the other people even reacted at all to the person who said he was going to leave! We have to assume they did! There is literally nothing indicating that it was inappropiate for him to say he had to leave. The only way for this to work if is you make things up like “gathered the attention of everyone and said he had to leave” or assume things about everyone, even though we know nothing about them other than what was given in the story. The story said they are friends so perhaps it was okay for him to leave? Perhaps the person had autism as well and they all knew that so they were fine with him leaving since they are used to this? :stuck_out_tongue: We don’t know man, it’s tough.

3 Likes

If I was asked to explain how to brush teeth I would have asked if they meant how I brush my teeth or how you should brush your teeth. If they meant the latter then I would have to say “sorry, I can’t because I don’t know how to brush teeth the way you actually should and I don’t even know if there is a way you should actually brush your teeth. Is there a consesus between dentists about brushing teeth?”

3 Likes

Thanks for sharing your experience, that’s quite interesting.

Earlier in life I also had a hard time to figure out what people around were thinking, if their behavior was appropiate and what they wanted. (Maybe I’m also on the spectrum, maybe not. Any way, that’s something I don’t want to share with the public.)

In my experience reading is a great way to deal with it. Fiction novels and biographies are good because they often show what the protagonist is thinking in a given situation. Self help books are also great, especially when they help to understand the motivations and thought processes of people. I highly recommend the books by Dale Carnegie to start with.
What helped me the most is creative writing. I regularly slipped into the skin of my main characters. This forced me to think about what another person - with another background, other preferences and characteristics - would do in a situation. Writing a female character for instance is an interesting challenge when you are male. Try to experience the story as the character herself. Imagine beeing her. See everything with her eyes. You can approximate emotions by thinking of a similar situation of your own life and how you felt back then.

After some time you will probably be able to take a step back and see yourself from the outside. But be warned, this can scare you to death.

In short, I think you can train the ability to understand peoples behavior. It may take a lot of time and effort though. Furthermore you probably have to do it consciously. The default mode will still be your old self.

Just my 2 cents :slight_smile:

5 Likes

Hmm, I can’t exactly see example pictures so I am unsure. I would usually infer what happened based on what is in the picture. There would be limited things that can lead up to the precise situation when you look at all the detail. There would also be limited things that can happen from there while still being reasonable(no sudden a meteor destroyed everything). People usually wear their emotions on their faces too. Maybe some other unrelated pictures that are similar would give more of a sense of it. If there really was no context infer-able from the situation you would have to make your own ‘untrue’ situation that just happens to fit, but given this is a test if they didn’t state this, its a bit unfair. To be honest even making a situation based on the context is unfair for a test. Most people don’t really reason out situations they are in or are given. So I assume they wanted you to visualise a random possibility that fits.

I don’t think you worded anything wrong, I was more referring to exploring equally likely assumptions to make them less likely or more likely. Once you see a situation where an assumption is supposed to be true the things leading up from this assumption can be all false, for example:
someone wore a X coloured Y to a store and this clothing was an indication for where they were to go next.
If the clothing is ‘blue’ there are a lot of differences from this than if the clothing is ‘black’
You could assume a funeral in blue is not going to happen. So if it later says he went to a funeral you know that he didn’t wear blue but wore a funeral colour unless he changed after. Similarly if you actually weren’t informed that this was a funeral you may associate black with a funeral among other things and there would be some other requirements for this to be a funeral precisely. If you get enough detail to ensure those requirements aren’t there then you will be able to negate the funeral assumption. Many of those requirements though have nothing to do with black itself but have much to do with the conclusion after assuming black and a few more conclusive steps. In this case there are a lot of choices and little detail, but usually there is more detail and fewer choices so by the time you negate 3 of them you can most likely eliminate almost all choices but the right ones. The perfect example is a little hard to think of without visualising actual cases though. Obviously this example makes a funeral extremely unlikely but it somewhat illustrates the point.

This is true but he did say it. Not think it to himself, he essentially informed everyone who listened to him or the passive utterance he made in their background. It would be extremely strange for him to gather everyone to say he was leaving, never-mind inappropriate.

This is very true. In this case though he would be able to inform them by a sign(if there are many people which is likely for a wedding party) rather than telling them explicitly,simply leave or he could wait until the person has finished congratulating them, then directly inform the person. Either way in this case its indeed true that it is no longer inappropriate. Which if it is not inappropriate none of the cases are. Though if you are only given this much information it seems reasonable to have a non-absolute answer to the question which becomes absolute with any further evidence.

Indeed, we don’t know what happens next at this point. Him saying this is inappropriate still. It is only not inappropriate when he has informed others of it beforehand either by them knowing him or otherwise. If he said this and no one reacted to him… well that would be a little sad and implies a lot of new variables, but it would have been inappropriate for the situation and not for others since they haven’t really heard him, unless of course they ignored him.

Maybe he wasn’t trying to get everyone’s attention but in the context of being inappropriate, him saying this at this time if the others did not know is inappropriate, if they did know it’s still slightly inappropriate to say this in the middle of someone else’s congratulation. It’s not so inappropriate that you can’t do it, of course its very slightly inappropriate. Even the entire case of leaving a wedding party like this isn’t so inappropriate.

Any other factors we do not know about (such as them knowing about it beforehand) changes the situation, but for example he may not be part of the circle of friends at all. I did say a final person indicating of the group of friends but the other persons there also half negate this (also ‘all happily laughing’ indicates he may not be part at all). Some things you have to assume for example are that they are human, that a wedding is an actual wedding and not some otherworldly thing etc. There would be an endless sense of correction present if you don’t have such base assumptions. Part of such base assumptions are also related to feelings. Someone who doesn’t like someone else is unlikely to want to do good for that someone when given free choice to, unless of course there was a reason such as their convictions. Someone in a situation is likely to be acting when seeming ‘normal’ but unlikely to be acting when seeming angry or sad or otherwise unless the situation can provide a benefit for doing so. Their reason can then be traced back from previous events.

The most reasonable assumption using what is there is still more in him not having informed others previously hence being inappropriate. Also that if he had informed people previously his way of informing them now seems inappropriate ever so slightly. From only this context it seems so, though its not a guarantee. Ironically this is also what I meant when I was talking about making assumptions to reduce the scope. It’s precisely because things can be different before or after that making assumptions can reduce the scope. If instead of the explanation there was a picture of people around a couple someone who is picking up a broken glass one who is looking away and one who is walking while looking away. I don’t think my reasoning would be the same but I am actually certain it may be more thorough. Though I also didn’t go as deeply as I could have.

I must say overall I think I truly understand much better now what autism actually is after this post.It kind of makes me actually think I may have a different form of autism too.

2 Likes

I definitely also second this, all my emotions and understanding of people and their emotions or motives was essentially developed from watching anime and further interactions with people.

I always always think when I see males write stories with female characters that somehow the females are much more realistic than they actually are. As much as this is an illogical seeming statement. This is indeed an interesting experience, I have tried this before too.

4 Likes

I actually have been working on a story about a musical savant with super natural powers for a year now and it taught me a lot :slight_smile:

3 Likes

I definitely take things literally. This was especially an issue when I was younger.

2 Likes

Hmm I thought this topic was maybe about online tests for autism but anyways…in the not too distant past two of my immediate family were diagnosed as being ‘in the Spectrum’ in later life (HAH! I always knew I was the normal one!). Anyways following the diagnosis it was recommended I take one of the better online tests. Not that I had ever felt that my own ‘cornflakes’ (80s’ slang for ‘complexes’) were ever of an autistic nature but better safe than sorry.
After about the first ten questions it was bloody obvious that i am so far off the spectrum I’m on a ZX80. However answering the questions made me confront some of my own behaviour so just for scheisse and giggles i took the test for OCD.

I don’t recall what the scoring system was exactly but if ‘0’ = ‘normal’ and 100 = ‘full on cornflakes’ then my score was 110% - a High Score that earned me the equivalent of a Tarasoff Warning of 'SEE A SHRINK NOW. DO NOT PASS GO!'
I mention this because I don’t suffer, much, from the classic ‘symptoms’ of raging OCD…or rather those behaviours eveyone (including myself) thinks are ‘OCD’. I don’t have to turn off the light several times to be sure it is turned off.
So if anyone does feel they are maybe ‘on the spectrum’ then it is worth asking your GP which online self test he would recommend. There are some very good ones out there now so I’m told, often designed with input from actual medics and autism lobby groups.

1 Like

One of my university assignments said : “…The resulting file should contain only content words, one word per line here is the example:”
word 1 word 2 similarity
w1 w2 0.54

On demonstration days, I have heard people being asked ‘why did you only write 1 word per line? You get 0 for this’ or ‘where is the similarity, you didn’t do any work’.
Then after being shown the assignment : The person who wrote it:‘this is not what it means, look at the example’.

So even aside from taking things literally, there are people who don’t put things down very clearly. I gracefully ask only people who take things literally, to make exam papers or assignment documents or even instructions.

1 Like

A little while ago I got an email from a healthcare institution who are specialized in autism about their last newsletter. Their last newsletter was about summer vacation. It said:“De zomervakantie staat weer voor de deur” which sorta means “the summer vacation is right around the corner again” and apparently this sentence caused some confusing among the autistic readers since summer vacation often means being free and a lot of them thought that their counseling would stop and their daily occupations too but this was not the case because that would just still continue. Now the institution hires experts to check their newsletter for any misunderstanding. Even specialized institutions make these mistakes. I could totally picture some autistic people panicking when reading that and stressing out, it’s funny because I know the experience :grin:

4 Likes

People here might be interested in the book NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman. It’s about the history of autism and autism culture, from ham radio to science fiction, Rain Main, and the development of the Internet. It exposes a lot of things that (most of) society got wrong about autism throughout the 20th Century and offers a more positive outlook. I’d rank it as one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve also seen the author speak in San Francisco, and he has a lot of interesting things to say.

4 Likes

I don’t think you were expected to find the right answer. The fact that you found the questions too open ended is itself a strong indicator. Being on the spectrum, I do the same myself to some extent and I understand your feeling frustration. There are assumptions about context that seem obvious to everyone else and I feel at sea. Often I miss humor and am too earnest. Your reluctance or inability to assume contextual information might be what they were actually looking for.

This the other day:

My friend: “Sweater is coming along. What do you do for scales?”
Me: (Complete blank. I’ve no idea where we are. I guess) “I shed my skin every spring.”
My friend: “No, I mean to weigh the wool for the sweater I’m knitting”
Me: “Oh” ( How come I missed that?)

A regular experience.

4 Likes

It probably is. I just simply could not decide what was going on. In the first picture of the second test I was asked what a woman was feeling. I said she either is tired or sad or both but she could also just have a tired face, some people have that. I have an angry face, people often think I am angry or frustrated even though I don’t feel like anything most of the time. In my head I was like:“Do I know the percentage of the population of people with tired faces? If I do then I could say that she ‘probably’ is this or that. Let’s wait for numbers to pop up… aaannd nope, nothing”. I was back to zero again :grin:

2 Likes

I am professionally diagnosed as autistic and I remember similar tests given to me during the diagnostic process. You answering that you could not infer what the examiner wanted you to answer from the information provided is a problem I have as well.

I have tried to take personality tests and they always ask vague questions where you are supposed to give your gut response. I can’t ever complete them because neither option is “right or wrong” like in math, where if you get an incorrect answer you made an error during the steps to solve the problem.

As a child, I had to see a tutor who helped me learn that people sometimes use figures of speech that aren’t meant to be taken literally. She also helped me learn to recognize when someone’s tone of voice meant they were being sarcastic.

I can empathize with these tests being hard for you. The fact that you found them very difficult gives clues to the examiner about the way your mind interprets the questions. An autistic person would give different results to such questions and take longer to come up with an answer than a non-autistic person would. I am guessing that’s why the questions were vague - too vague for you to give any answer. Again, this is contrasted with math problems, where there is a clear process to get the correct answer.

4 Likes

I tested with one doctor in 2010 and another doctor in 2015. I thought the first doctor should have used more appropriate tests for me, but I should be fair to her and say that most tests aren’t designed for patients older than fifty. I resorted to some procedures/rules/ life-hacks which I designed for myself. I verified that I understood the instructions, and verified that no context was available for some test questions: how often has a smile on a face resulted in me being hurt? More often than frowning or neutral expressions! I labeled smile pictures as not-trustworthy. I did well on vocabulary and memory, but Asperger and autistic spectrum allows that.

I’ll read through these responses, fascinating! I don’t follow some of nagtime’s reasoning: what if the chocolate stain held sentimental value? I’m lucky, my autistic qualities mirror quirks from Dad, Grandma, and her father: I was raised to understand that “other people” don’t often make sense in what they say or do. I learned early to read poetic prose and poems to learn about double-meanings and colorful ways of using language to hint at what is being meant. I’m forever grateful for my strange family!

1 Like