I had my assessment last Saturday: yesterday I was sent a draft copy of my report by the psychologist. I read it fairly quickly then (I was visiting my parents at the time and didn't really have the time to sit down and read it carefully), and today I had a closer look. Overall it seems accurate enough: I won't copy and paste the whole thing, but I'll highlight bits and pieces that matter most to me.
"Catherine reports that she does not find it easy to join in with a conversation and can struggle to follow the flow, especially if she is in a noisy environment. She feels that she is not good at making ‘small talk’."
I think I've mentioned before in this blog that I have trouble starting conversations - apologies to anyone who feels that they always have to be the one to start talking. And in loud places such as the pub, or just when there're lots of conversations going on around me - I'll admit that sometimes I lose track of what's being said.
"She can struggle to know when family members and colleagues are trying to give her helpful advice and can become angry and defensive – often feeling that people are picking on her. She often perceives advice as criticism."
I think that this is one of my greatest flaws. I truly am sorry to anyone who's been offended (and rightly so) by my response to what I later recognise as advice. I'm too proud in some respects to accept that others know better than me what I should do.
"Currently Catherine enjoys playing the Sims on her computer and can sometimes become absorbed in a game for long periods of time."
'Long periods of time' can go up to a few hours - sometimes half a day has gone by without me realising it. Sometimes people come to talk to me when I'm gaming/reading and if I'm truly absorbed I just won't notice they're there. It happens less often now than when I was a child or teen, which I see as a mixed blessing: on the one hand I'm more in the 'real world' and am aware of what's happening around me, on the other hand it takes more conscious concentration to focus on said book or game.
"Catherine stated that she would become very angry if she had planned and activity and it was suddenly cancelled."
I'm glad that this is only a draft: my parents and I agreed that I do not get angry when plans change. Also, typing error on 'and'. Anyway, Mum said that I get upset when plans change, Dad said stressed; I'd go more for 'troubled'. But not angry: I certainly like to think that I'm not an angry person!
"If she was on her own, she would probably eat the same food every day."
Yet another thing that I'd rephrase: I would eat the same thing every day, if I weren't aware of how damaging that could be to my health in terms of lack of nutrition. When I am on my own, I try to get the food groups relatively balanced.
"Catherine should take extra care drinking hot liquids and should set water temperature lower to avoid the sensation of being too hot in the bath or shower. She should ensure that pathways are clear of objects that could be tripped over. "
Common sense, much?
"She should make notes and use highlighter pens and ask for verbal information to be provided in written form."
Mum often gives me a to-do list in written form: if somebody tells me to do something and I don't have written instructions, chances are I'll either make a mistake somewhere, or forget entirely. So this is useful for others to know, when there's more than one thing to do. I don't need a written to-do list for every small thing!
"Using a bath mitt, loofah sponge or textured flannel may help to become more accustomed to different sensory experiences, as can having a deep pressure massage."
Can I just say, this sounds like my idea of torture. I'm not so sensitive that I can't be touched and hugged, so why do I need to put myself through this?
"Catherine may find that a rocking chair could prove calming."
Rocking chairs are amazing. I can rock without one, though - although I only tend to do that when I'm certain that I'm on my own.
"Catherine should endeavour to incorporate breaks and time-out into her daily routine. In group discussions she may find answering questions helps to maintain focus."
I would also find that answering questions puts the focus of a group on me, which I tend to dislike.
"It may help others to understand Catherine better if she was able to explain need for personal distance and minimal touching."
See, if I tell people that, I fear that I won't be touched at all. And I'd hate that. I love hugs, and pats on the shoulder etc - if I expect them. When a nurse 'reassuringly' shook my shoulders during an appointment regarding my asthma this summer, it caught me by surprise, and I disliked it. When friends hug me, or (thinking how to phrase this in a non-dodgy way) other casual contact occurs, I like it. So for me, minimal touching isn't the issue - but touching without letting me know first is.
"Finally, it is important to acknowledge and accept Catherine’s need for time alone away from the crowd."
If you can think of a socially-acceptable way of escaping from a crowd for a while, please do let me know!
"At times during the Vocabulary sub-test, it seemed as if Catherine knew what a word meant but struggled to find the words to describe it. She is aware of this word-finding difficulty in her day to day life."
In a way it's as though the words are hidden away, and I have to search to find them, even though I understand word meanings fairly well. Imagine I ask you to describe an apple: in your mind you probably picture the fruit, then describe it with words. I sometimes have trouble finding the words that relate to the picture, if that makes sense.
"After careful consideration of all of the evidence gathered and following discussion with Catherine and her parents, it appears that she does have significant difficulties in the areas of social communication, social interaction and flexibility of thought and would, therefore, meet ICD10 criteria for a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome."
"However, it is important to note, that in common with many young women with this type of difficulty, Catherine has learned how to behave in a socially appropriate manner and her difficulties are unlikely to be immediately apparent."
Another mixed blessing: I function and adapt well enough, but that can make my faux pas seem unexpected and uncalled for.
There was more to the report than what I've just written about, but these were the more important bits for me. At some point in the next few days I'll write back to the psychologist saying what I think could do with changing (anger at change of plans; same meals; minimal touch). For now, I'll finish the chapter of the book I'm reading ('Sensation and Perception': it's one of our course books) then head to bed.