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Am I Autistic? This Viral Online Test has the World Wondering




HOST, TOMMASO BARONIO:

Who doesn’t love online tests? We’ve seen them all, from ‘what’s your personality type’ to ‘which shape of pasta represents you best.’ But what happens when a new viral multiple choice quiz can diagnose you with autism? Giulia Leo reports.


LEO 1

Katie Bowen never thought she was autistic… until, in 2021, she started posting TikTok videos about making her home ADHD friendly.


((FADE UP “KATIE TIKTOK” AND RUN UNDER THROUGH LEO 1))


And the comments started coming in.


BOWEN 1

And they were like, Dude, you're not just ADHD. And I was like, Am I autistic? Who's to say?


LEO 2

Usually, the first step to confirm suspicions of autism is to visit a psychologist. But now, a decades-old test to self-diagnose autistic behaviors is getting a new life.

It’s called RAADS-R – quite a mouthful, I know– And it’s available online for free. It takes a half-hour to answer the 80 multiple-choice questions. Then, the test spits out a score between 0 and 240. And if you score above 65, well –like Katie Bowen – you might be autistic.


BOWEN 2

I think I was like 160s, maybe 180s, really high up there.


LEO 3

The credit for the test’s newfound popularity goes to autism researcher Alexandra Strum. She asked almost 900 adults –some who self-identify as autistic and others with an official diagnosis– to take the test. And all of their scores put them on the autism spectrum.


But Strum acknowledges there’s a difference between socially identifying as autistic and having a medical diagnosis.


STRUM 1

You also have to meet this threshold for what the medical community would term impairment.

LEO 4

And impairment is not that easy to measure on a scale. Jennifer Bain teaches neurology at Columbia. She says you can’t measure autism the way you do something like blood pressure. She also says on one hand the test is great if it helps reduce the stigma around autism.


BAIN 1

On the other hand, you certainly don't want to be swayed by, yeah, I have a little bit of that and a little bit of this and therefore I'm diagnosing myself with autism.


LEO 5

But Ali Carbone says people only want to be a certain kind of autistic.


CARBONE 1

The RAADS thing is glamorous and it's sexy.


LEO 6

Carbone just wrote a book about living with her three autistic siblings.


CARBONE 2

People love to learn about my brother Anthony because he's social, he loves to perform, he loves to be around people.


LEO 7

These kinds of autism traits are very well accepted, even liked… but the ones her other brother Michael has… Well, not so much.


CARBONE 3

Like, can't see, can't speak. Got nothing. Nobody wants to hear about Michael's story because it's depressing, it sucks.


LEO 8

So Columbia neurologist Jennifer Bain says the test has limitations. But it can offer some clues.


BAIN 2

It just kind of gives you a likelihood for, yes, we should keep pursuing the autism question or no.


LEO 9

So, treat this test like most internet quizzes; be curious but skeptical.


Giulia Leo, Columbia Radio News.





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