The ways I don’t quite fit the Autism label.

I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s. When I first learnt about Autism I thought the label fit me. As it’s a spectrum it made sense that not everything applied to myself. I am terrible at maths. There’s not really any ‘one’ thing that I’m good at. I don’t have one particular obsession. Routine doesn’t work for me, never has. I have a good imagination. I can be quite sociable, at least at first, once people get to know me it becomes apparent that I don’t quite ‘fit’. And a few other things.

But I had plenty of the traits, enough for a diagnosis anyway. I have trouble socially. I don’t ‘get’ emotions. I stim (a lot). I have some ‘obsessions’, a few which I tend to flit between. I have sensory issues. I don’t know when to finish a conversation or leave a place. I struggle understanding others and their viewpoints. I have problems with coordination and motor skills. Literal thinking. Problems recognising sarcasm and jokes. Meltdowns and shutdowns. And other traits.

Still, something didn’t quite add up. I looked into other co-morbids. I searched ADHD, OCD, SPD etc. Nothing fitted the slot I had open, nothing filled the hole that Autism hadn’t quite filled. There was something else there, but what? Then a chance sighting on the internet finally showed me what I’d been looking for. The answer to my lingering questions. PDA. Pathological demand avoidance. A sub-type of Autism and the thing that explained why I wasn’t quite Autistic but ticked enough of the boxes.

I am Autistic, to some degree. There’s still some debate as to whether PDA should be on the Autism spectrum or a separate diagnosis of it’s own. As far as I’m concerned it’s part of the spectrum. PDA people have traits of Autism but they also have traits which differ from Autistic people. Having a good imagination, so much so that PDA people can become completely absorbed in it. Appearing sociable to a higher level than most Autistic people but lacking depth which points at communication difficulties similar to Autism. Displaying a level of manipulation unusual of Autistic people. A dislike of routine dissimilar to Autistic preferences. A need to avoid demands which cannot be explained just by difficulties such as SPD or social anxiety.

Many PDA people are turned away for a ASD diagnosis because they don’t quite fit the profile. Unfortunately there are few professionals who recognise PDA and even few who are willing to diagnose it. There’s not as much awareness of PDA as there is of Autism, and there’s still not enough of that either.

I’m glad I found out about Autism. I proud to be Autistic. I’m also proud to have PDA. Together the two have made quite an impression on my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. Sure I have difficulties, who doesn’t, NT, ND, everybody. We just have to learn to cope with what life has given us and improve our lives the way we want to.

7 thoughts on “The ways I don’t quite fit the Autism label.”

  1. It is really great that you found your place on the spectrum.

    I would say that the imagination thing in autism is a myth, and as far at the old triad went this is what is meant by social imagination

    Social imagination
    Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people’s behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas and to imagine situations outside of our immediate daily routine. Difficulties with social imagination means that people with autism find it hard to:
    Understand and interpret other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Predict what will happen or could occur next.
    Understand the concept of danger, for instance that running on to a busy road poses a threat to them.
    Engage in imaginative play and activities. Children with autism may enjoy some imaginative play but prefer to act out the same scenes each time.
    Prepare for change and plan for the future.
    Cope in new or unfamiliar situations.
    However, difficulties with social imagination should not be confused with a lack of imagination; many people with autism are very creative and can excel in such areas.

    So having a good imagination and love of role play isn’t a factor in autism and doesn’t go against a diagnosis as a definite ‘non-autistic’ trait.

    I believe PDA does belong on the spectrum.

    I am autistic too, and I avoid- just no where near to the extent of autistic people with PDA. I avoid social things and new things, and couldn’t imagine (possibly due to my social imagination difficulties 😉 haha) what it is like to be avoidant over more every day things.

    I already follow Julia on me myself and PDA, but I also look forward to hearing more about PDA from another perspective- you meet one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person… The same goes for PDA 🙂

  2. Yes, PDA fits myself & my daughter very well. My son has much less PDA traits and so Aspergers fits him better. I used to think it was gender differences that led to our differences. and its interesting that the gender ratio in PDA is said to be more ‘balanced’. I wonder if a lot of what is now said to be ‘female’ autistic traits are actually better defined as PDA. Just a few thoughts anyway.

    1. Maybe, there certainly needs to be more research into it. There seem to still be gender differences in PDA but they are much less than in any other neurotype, which is interesting.

  3. I wonder if PDA appears to be more balanced, gender-wise, because its collection of symptoms hasn’t been created predominantly only on those shown in boys. If autism and ADHD were only being ‘discovered’ today, the defining list of traits of both would be very different, I’m sure. (There is still so much under-diagnosis of these two conditions in girls and women because the female presentation doesn’t fit what’s traditionally recognised to be autism and/or ADHD.)

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