I must admit that this interests me, because a number of people (including strangers) have suggested I might be “slightly Aspergers”. Years ago, I did a ton of research about Asperger’s Syndrome and the autistic spectrum, but after I found a neuropsych to help me with my multiple mTBI issues, I turned my full attention to that recovery. Still, the connections between ASD and brain injury intrigue me. More on this later….
And now, the article Diagnostic overlap between Asperger’s and ABI:
There is a significant diagnostic overlap between ‘mild’ acquired brain injuries and Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. While confusion is possible, the dual diagnosis can help recovery from ABI, writes our man at the frontal lobe, Jason Copeland.
I discovered at age 54 that I had been twice brain-injured, at three and at six. My parents knew this, but they didn’t tell me: they let me thrash about unknowingly, upsetting people with challenging and then ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, rude and unempathic speech and actions, driving away friends, lovers, jobs and opportunities right, left and centre. In 2008, aged 60, I found out that I have all along had Asperger’s syndrome, and may have had it since before the brain injuries.
The way I arrived at the correct diagnosis of my problems, after decades of thrashing about in therapy with psychologists, reveals much about these overlapping categories. After we had been together for five years, my Missus read Ratey and Johnson’s Shadow Syndromes. She formed the view that I had mild or ‘shadow’ autism spectrum disorder, which amounts to Asperger’s syndrome, a recently defined neurodevelopmental disorder.
Madame’s reasons made up a clear, albeit unwelcome, commentary on how I present to others. She said I had empathy deficit, I wasn’t good at reading non-verbal signals, and I interrupt a lot, among other things — all known signs of ‘mild’ autism. I was also, she said, rigid in some of my mental habits, and highly critical of other people, notably about language — grammar, syntax, usage, pronunciation, spelling, and the implications of these things for the telling of clear, literal and unambiguous truth. My attitude to communication was simple. A word means what the dictionary says it means: people should use words correctly to say what they mean, and mean what they say. All else leads to chaos. Evidently though, such straightforwardness and honesty are pathological symptoms on this planet.
All those items were cited in Madame’s readings about Asperger’s. I resisted her view at first, but later agreed to consult a neuropsychologist; and I was devastated when that one diagnosed childhood brain injuries.
As you can imagine, trying to understand, later on, the effects of brain injuries acquired early in life, is harder than when you have an adult ‘before’ to compare your post-injury self with. You have to do a lot of introspecting, humbly accept feedback from your nearest and dearest on what isn’t working, and put those together with a new, critical slant on memories of what has gone wrong in your life. By 2008, after six years of reading everything I could find on aquired brain injury (ABI), I thought I had the measure of the damage.
I accepted, with pain and grief, that I had been substantively impaired by my first brain injury at age three, and even more by the second, at six. I had obviously suffered, all along, things like loss of emotional self-regulation and cumulative damage to the learning of socioemotional skills; dyssemia, and badly impaired theory of mind; executive function deficits and learning difficulties; memory problems; mood disorders, and marked damage to the self-awareness. A double dose of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, type IIB[nR]) and prolonged duress stress disorder (PDSD) from ten years of emotional, mental and spiritual abuse, completed the picture, explaining other emotional issues, neurotic symptoms and behavioural oddities. A lifetime of personal disasters, from age three to 54, came into focus for me. I had been consciously asking what went wrong since age seven; now I had a clear and nasty answer.