Essential Autistic Traits – Cognitive / Intellectual Variability

One minute, I'm good, the  next, I'm not. One day, I'm great, the next I'm not. How maddening!
One minute, I’m good, the next, I’m not. One day, I’m great, the next I’m not. How maddening!

One of the most confusing things about the autistic spectrum for people is that we can be so brilliant — or simply normal-seeming — one moment, and then losing our sh** and melting down the next. It’s hard for everyone. And no sooner do we think we’re doing great, than the bottom drops out — for us, or for someone else.

It’s frustrating. And it’s exhausting.  How can you plan or predict anything, if you never know what’s coming ’round the bend? And not being able to plan or predict can be sheer hell for this Aspie. I’m sure it’s true for many other folks, as well.

This issue is the subject of a great cartoon I’ve seen highlighted in Twitter  and Tumbler – Understanding The Spectrum. There’s a lot of great info in there, and Rebecca Burgess describes it so eloquently.

If you do well, you’re “not autistic”. If you start to exhibit your deficits, you’re “too autistic”. And that variability messes with us all the time. That’s especially true of cognitive and intellectual variablity. Autistics who are brilliant, but have marked learning difficulties, are legion. And those of us who operate on a “normal” baseline for some time, can find ourselves wiped out by fatigue (trying to fit in, adapt, etc), and suddenly present as “developmentally delayed”.

It’s a problem. Truly.

Here are the traits in this one area I’ve collected for an Alt ASD Profile Builder:

Cognitive / Intellectual Variability

  • Cognitive variability – Shows significant discrepancies between verbal and perceptual reasoning abilities, high intelligence combined with learning disabilities (e.g., dyscalculia, dyslexia, reading comprehension)
  • Learning differences – Has high-average to genius intelligence, but need academic accommodations
  • Learning differences – Has some learning difficulties
  • Times, dates, numbers – Confuses appointment times, numbers, and/or dates
  • Memory – Has superior long-term memory, but weaker short-term memory
  • Performance Variability – Performing at one level at one time, then “bottoming out” and being unable to perform any where near that level at a different time or under different circumstances.

There are many more examples, but these are high-level descriptions just to get you thinking about how that manifests in your life. The tool I’m building will allow for users to add their own traits and criteria, as needed. The whole point is to really start you thinking and talking about things in a certain light — in this case, in terms of autistic abilities and limitations going hand-in-hand, and being subject to change, sometimes at an instant’s notice.

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