My counselor suggests that I see about testing for at the Autism and ADHD center. I find the website and put in a request. I hear back quickly. Within a few weeks, I fill multiple forms on the patient portal, and receive a thick packet of several hundred questions to fill out and send back in. The waiting list is around 8months.
We’re on vacation in Colorado. I have a virtual intake appointment with the main psychologist I’ll be working with. I panic the day before, thinking that I forgot and missed it. I have technical issues on the hotel balcony the day of, poor service in and out. She asks me questions about my childhood, my family, marriage, school, and work. I’m informed that I need to be off any substances for at least two months prior to testing (cannabis, which I had just taken on vacation). She sends me a link to questionnaire for my parents to fill out.
(Sessions on different days over a few weeks)
Session 1 (Virtual Memory Testing)
The main psychologist is cheerful and kind. She says a list of random words and asks me to repeat them back once she’s finished. She says other words and asks me to spell them back to her, backwards. She asks me to count back from 100 by 7’s. Then she asks me to repeat the initial words list back to her as best I can. I think there were a few more tests, but I (ironically) can’t remember.
Session 2 (In-Person ADHD Testing)
A new tester escorts me back to a small, plain room. There are two desks, nothing much else, and nothing on the walls. We start with a motor skills test. There’s a small block with 25 holes in a 5×5 grid and a peg for each hole. The instructions are to put the pegs in the holes, one by one with my right hand, as quick as I can. It’s timed. The follow up is with my left hand.
I’m directed to the other desk. There’s a computer. Explicit instructions are given. She reads them off a card. There will be a number that appears on the screen. The number will always be 1. Whenever I see the number, I’m to click the mouse.
Next, I will hear a number spoken, the number will always be 1. I’m to click the mouse whenever I hear the number.
Stage 3; there will be both a number visually on the screen and a number spoken out loud, the number will always be 1. I’m to click whenever I see or hear the number 1.
Lastly, numbers will appear on the screen and be spoken out loud. The number could be 1 or 2. If the number is 1, I’m to click the mouse as quickly as possible. If the number is 2, I’m not to click the mouse. This stage will last for 15 straight minutes, no breaks. I need to do my best to focus, only click when I see or hear the number 1.
We head back to the empty desk in the corner and play a game of 20 questions. There’s a card of different things in front of me; a train, a plane, different foods, different animals.
She directs me back to the computer table for a new game. There is an overly pixelated set of squares on the screen. Each one has shapes (square, circle, triangle). The shapes are different colors and there might be 1, 2, or 3 of each shape in a group. Given a small pattern, I need to guess what I think comes next in the pattern. The pattern continues on and on. If I’m wrong, a loud buzzer goes off. If I’m right a loud DING goes off. The pattern might make sense for a while and then change very suddenly to a totally different pattern. For instance, starting by picking the same shapes each time and then switching to same color part way through, or same number. This goes on for a while.
There is one last computer game. There’s another overly pixelated picture on the screen. This time it’s a gauge, stretching left to right, left being $0 and the right being several thousand dollars. I can pick from several amounts of money each round. It often adds up without a hitch. Sometimes though, it will add the money and then take out some. Sometimes it will add the money and take a large amount. I play and look for patterns and gauge risk. The goal is to make as much money by the end as possible. There are loud noises with each choice.
Session 3 (ADOS-2 Interview In-Person)
I thought this was going to be conducted by the main psychologist. While she was there, her role was as an observer while someone else ran the interview. They took me a back to another small, plain room. I sat at a desk facing the wall. The interviewer was on my right, and the main psychologist sat behind me in the corner to my left, taking notes.
First, the interviewer put a tangrams picture in front of me. She gave me a few pieces and asked me to make the picture over top and said when I needed more, I could let her know and she would give me more pieces. I ran out and waited. She waited. It clicked and I asked for more. I ran out again. I did the same thing. I looked towards her, waited. She waited, it clicked, I asked for more and finished the puzzle. The paper was upside down, so I fixed it when I finished. She asked what I thought it looked like and I said a spaceship. She chuckled and agreed but said she’d never heard that before and that she thought it looked like a bird. She cleaned up, asking me what I did for Thanksgiving, what I ate and if I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ask about hers.
Next, she put a story book on the table and opened it, reading the first sentence. It was a simple sentence about the time, and she said the rest of the book was pictures that told a story. She started the story saying that a turtle had gotten comfortable on a log and fallen asleep and slept late until after the sun had set. She turned the page, and it was my turn to continue the story. I explained what I saw, not sure if I was supposed to say anything else. I said there were frogs floating around the turtles on lily pads in the air. She waited for me to turn the page. I was super frustrated that it took me a second to catch on again. There was a woman sleeping in her living room, the frogs flew around town. When there was text, she would read and continue the story for one page before it was my turn again for several pages. I started turning the pages myself, looking at her to make sure that I was doing okay. During her turns, she started saying how a character was feeling in the picture so, on one page, I said a frog looked annoyed.
With the book finished, she asked me about school, how much I had gotten through, what college courses I’d taken, what college I went to, and if I wanted a degree. She asked about work, where I had worked in the past and what I do now, if I was happy in my job or if I wanted to move on to something different and what I would do if I did move on to something else. She kept saying, “That’s super cool!” She asked what I enjoyed doing for fun and for hobbies.
She asked me about emotions. She asked what things made me happy and how it felt to me. I wasn’t sure how to answer at first and said that it felt…happy? Then I explained how it felt in my body. We did the same for scared, sad, anxious, and angry. She asked what it was like and what I was doing when I felt relaxed and content, if I ever felt lonely and if I thought other people ever felt lonely, what I do when I feel lonely and what I think other people do when they feel lonely.
She asked if I’d ever been bullied or teased and how, and if I changed anything about myself to avoid it. She asked if I knew anyone who had been bullied or teased. I said that I figured everyone had been at some point in their lives. She asked where I lived, if I could tell her more about it, if I had friends, what I do with my friends, what it means to be a friend, and how I know that I’m friends with someone.
Break time. (Spoiler: the break is part of the test) She told me it was time for a break. She put out a bag of toys, books, and magazines on the table and said I could use them. I sat and waited while she wrote things down on her clipboard. She said again that I could use them. I said I was good but peered over to read the top of a magazine poking out and looked around the rest of the room. They made notes the whole time and then put the bag away.
She asked if I handled my own finances, who paid my bills, if I’d ever saved for anything that I was excited about and what it was. She asked me questions about marriage, how long we’d been married, how we met, what the best and worst parts of marriage are, and why I thought people got married.
Lastly, she dumped a random assortment of objects on the table said she would pick five and make a story with them, and then it would be my turn. I whined and asked who made these tests up. They laughed and said I was doing great and that this was last test. I was anxious and made up a quick, dumb story about “Mr. Marble” jumping over some other little object. I honestly don’t remember what I said, but it was something like that. On the way out, she asked about my students and told me to have a good day.
The whole ADOS took about 30 minutes.