Oasis @ MAAP, a joint project with individuals with Asperger's and autism, parents, and professionals.
UCSB Koegel Autism Center. Our family found Pivotal Response Treatment to be helpful.
________________________________________________The last few days a new quiz made the rounds on facebook: the Autism Spectrum Quotient Test. This little quiz can be found by searching on facebook or by going to this website: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html.
On the facebook version, this quiz is prefaced with a quick description:
The Autism Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, is a questionnaire published in 2001 by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. Consisting of fifty questions, it aims to investigate whether adults of normal intelligence have symptoms of autism or one of the other autism spectrum conditions.
After taking the test, the quiz calculates your AQ, a number between 1 and 50, and on the facebook version you can post your result to your wall for all your friends to see.
According to the Wired article linked above, the average score in a control group of adults was 16.4; 80% of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The article is quick to point out that this test is not a diagnostic tool and that "many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives."
I am the mother of a child with autism. I am familiar with screening tools used to identify individuals who might be somewhere on the autism spectrum. When my son was two I started scouring the internet, looking for this kind of "test." I found one and it was helpful. So what's the problem, you ask?
Here are some thoughts.
1. This quiz was presented on facebook in the same way as the quiz "Which Pokemon Are You?" as if there is something socially amusing about being "more or less autistic." Autism has serious life consequences for many of the people diagnosed with it--not the least of which is the social stigma the rest of the world attaches (in addition to overprotective parents who write blogs).
2. The original quiz comes from the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. Their terms and conditions for using the tests are very clear: "Tests developed at the Autism Research Centre (ARC) may only be used strictly for professional, scientific or clinical purposes, and are not for commercial use. Use of these Tests for commercial purposes may violate copyright legislation." I do not think a facebook quiz qualifies.
3. The facebook description of the quiz is misleading. Many adults with autism also have "normal intelligence." People with autism may or may not have developmental delays or difficulties functioning, just like people without autism.
4. The simplistic way this quiz is presented, as a sort of personality questionaire, seems to equate introversion with autism. "Oh, hey! I don't like parties, I'm autistic hehe." The individual personalities of people with autism are as varied as people without autism. There are clusters of characteristics that tend to be present in people with autism, but being uncomfortable with crowded rooms or making eye contact is not the same thing as being introverted. Speech and language difficulties are not the same thing as preferring to spend time with people or books.
5. The autism spectrum includes a large number of diagnoses, including autism, asperger's syndrome, and PDD-NOS. This quiz does not help raise awareness of the complexity of the autistm spectrum or the people on it.
I think what troubles me most is the way the quiz is being used on facebook. Comments like "I got an AQ of 36, that sure explains a lot!" are a way of mocking individuals who do have autism. The FAQ section of the quiz claims that this isn't just "another trivial facebook quiz" and points to the original description of the test as a scientific tool. But the people taking the quiz on facebook aren't mostly people who are considering they might have autism. There is no scientific rigor or determination of who is taking this quiz--the developers of this application have no professional, scientific, or clinical purpose stated in their information.
What do you think it feels like to people who are on the autism spectrum to watch facebook friends dance around this quiz with idle curiosity, making wisecracks and comparing their introverted/extroverted natures to the challenges people with autism face? I don't know, but I don't think this quiz is cute or funny or helpful. And that's all mama bear has got to say on this.