426: Verbal Fluency and Females with Aspergers

People with Aspergers, in my opinion, often have high verbal fluency and are able to think of many things about one given letter, topic, subject, item, etc.

Here is one example of my ability to think of many things based on one letter:
link to Dirty D’s Don’t you Weep (prior post)

I think that people with Aspergers have a high-intelligence that can be demonstrated by their ability to scaffold off of one given idea. Sometimes this processing ability adds to stress and misunderstandings, and the appearance of ADHD like behaviors.

As a person with Aspergers, my own high-verbal fluency can cause high anxiety. A simple action, like my husband showing me tile for a potential bathroom remodel, can trigger a reaction in my mind in which I am jumping from one image to another. In the case of the tile for the bathroom, the tile itself is an object trigger, triggering a series of sequenced events in my mind.

On seeing the tile, my thought process went like this:

We could make cosmetic improvements to our home’s bathroom, but we don’t own the house. If we improve the house, should we buy the house? If we don’t buy where will we live? Should we sell our other house? What should we ask for selling price? What if the house doesn’t sell? Well what is a fair price? Maybe we should continue to rent out the house. That makes sense. But what about….

All of these thoughts bombard me. Wherein my high verbal fluency can lead to fantastic writings and the successful completion of projects, the same fluency can cripple me emotionally. As a result of a number of triggers, I can find myself unable to be constructive for hours or even an entire day. Certain triggers can leave me immobile for most of a week. I get lost in the loop of my own thinking.

In the future, the tile could again trigger these same emotional responses in me, and therefor the tile could feasibly remain a trigger for an extended period of time.

Here is an activity that demonstrates the concept of verbal fluency.

This was a quick activity I did this morning. If you wish to partake in an easy four-minute activity, then read the first section “Preparation” and then stop before continuing onward.

Preparation: Without scanning down further to read, find a piece of paper, a pen, and a stopwatch. When you are ready to begin the activity, scan down and read the directions. (You can type a list instead of writing.)


Don’t read past this until your list is done.
1. Set a timer to four minutes.
2. Write a list of anything you can think of that you can do with a pencil.
3. Stop after four minutes.

Read below when done with your list.


My husband’s list (written)

Break it
Bite it
Eat it
Flick it
Throw it
Lever to lift
Stab with it
Sharpen it
Poke it
Spin it
Stand it on end
Spear things with it
Build something with it
Paint the pencil or draw on pencil
Drumstick for music
Lift things with it

My list (typed)

Miniature sword for a mouse or small creature
Stabbing utensil for defense of intruder
A rolling device to place on table for a contest
A stick to poke bugs with outdoors
A shovel to pull up weeds
A massage roller for the arm or back
A way to make a fake mustache..hold up to face.
A tiny baton
Break it up to use as a pawn in chess game
Place on paper and use as a spinner
Use for spin the bottle on flat surface
Poke holes in something (or finger)
Break off lead and use the lead to draw and smudge on paper
Use to connect yarn and make a toy like sling shot
Bang on a drum or other object
Flag holder (use tape)
To keep a door from closing all the way (may need heavier object)
Stir coffee
Take hair out of bathtub ring
Fidget between fingers when nervous
Write with (of course)
Play fetch with dog
Keep a plant held up in garden
Poke to see how dry the dirt in a plant pot is
Play catch
Place under bedsheet to bug/irritate someone
Dress up in clothes and make a doll (add yarn)
Sketch, trace, smudge
Sharpen it
Throw it away
Chew it
Look at it
Dig into garbage disposal
Twirl hair

My husband is a ‘neuro-typical.’ Also known as an NT. He is considered mainstream and typical when compared to a person who has a neurological syndrome such as Aspergers. I have Aspergers. When examining the two lists some interesting things come to mind. Of course I am a female and Bob is a male. So this aspect of gender also affects the results.

1. I saw what I would do with the pencil in full imagery and thusly often included exactly what the pencil would be used for. I added specifics. I didn’t just write ‘sword.’ I wrote “a miniature sword for a small mouse or creature.” Bob wrote a simple answer without specifics. It didn’t cross his mind to do it any other way. He thought he got the point of the question and answered accurately.

2. I paid attention to detail because in the back of my mind I didn’t want to confuse anyone that might read my list. Bob didn’t consider what other people would think at all.

3. I didn’t list logical things such as ‘write’ until the creative aspects were thought of. My mind immediately went to creativity. Bob’s mind immediately went to logical.

4. The question read what I “can do” with a pencil. In my mind I interpreted that question as actions and saw people or animals doing the action. In my mind someone or something always was attached to the pencil. In Bob’s mind it was only the pencil. He saw the pencil doing it in isolation.

5. I was actively involved emotionally with each thing I thought of, simultaneously evaluating if I’d like that action, how useful it was, and if it was truly feasible. I included minor details such as tape, flat surface, etc. to guide another or in essence to ‘prove’ it was feasible. Bob just thought about a pencil.

6. I knew in the back of my mind if I wrote short answers I could write a longer list but I had to add detail, even though I knew my list would be shorter. Bob didn’t even consider detail.

7. I saw the pencil naturally being used in my mind. Images popped up and I wrote what I saw. I used my environment to help me. If I saw I plant where I was sitting I could connect an idea. Bob didn’t look around his environment. He said he used ‘mental effort’ to come up with his answers.

8. I worried about my list. I questioned if all the ideas were valid. I questioned whether the one thing I started writing before the timer started counted. I worried about the time. I watched the clock. As the time ticked I evaluated in my mind how much time was left and the average number I was writing. I was distracted by the time and numbers. I thought about my typing speed and the typing speed verses writing speed. Bob worried about the amount of time left a little bit.

9. I pictured and evaluated each thing after I wrote it. As I went on to write the next thing on my list, I was still thinking about the first one. Had I used the right words, enough words, and described what I saw? For example I was concerned about the door wedge (to keep door from closing all the way) and thusly added ‘may need heavier object.’ I knew I couldn’t add more detail without taking up time, and that bothered me some. I could think of new items while still focusing on previous items at the same time. Bob just wrote his list. (He did say “that’s cool” when I read him this number nine; so there’s that.)

10. My thinking is complex. I wrote to keep a door from closing all the way (may need heavier object) and bang on drum or other object. Bob’s thinking was basic core segment from the start. He wrote wedge and drumstick.

My husband has a high verbal fluency. This is evident by the length of his list, and he was able to write without pause, until the timer stopped. He was able to think of many things. I have a high verbal fluency as well but my list was much different than my husband’s list. My list was affected by my imagination and thinking in pictures, and somewhat by my anxiety of time and worrying about what others would understand of what I wrote. Any person, NT or not NT, can have a high verbal fluency. But, as mentioned earlier, I think people with Aspergers generally will demonstrate high verbal fluency and use of imagination in their list.

Feel free to share your list and conclusions below in comment section.

Here is a study:
Verbal fluency in adults with high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome

30 thoughts on “426: Verbal Fluency and Females with Aspergers

  1. We got a kick out of this activity. We did three minutes. My NT son (age 10) wrote a list very similar to your husbands. (wiggle, make, poke, write, erase, draw, throw, snap, hit, annoy my my sister, design, ect . . . . ) My aspie daughter (age 8) promptly took the pencil she was writing with and drew as many pictures as she could (smiley faces, letters, dots, all kinds of doodles.) What a literal thinker. I told them to “write down all the things you can do with a pencil.” I suppose I left out the word “list” and she took my instructions very literally. She drew me a page full of all the things she could do with her pencil! Fun to see how their two brains functioned differently.

  2. Great exercise Sam!
    I’ll share mine: pick nose, graph a complicated theory, draw an exit map, support something that’s falling down, dig a hole in the dirt, design an accessible house, measure my nose, make a shadow, trace outside the lines, bury it, burn it, write a eulogy, explain in no uncertain terms, diagram my mind, imagine what to do with it, make a list, level a cup of flour or dirt in the garden, poke someone gently, kill someone, maim someone, stab someone, tickle someone, cause pain, tell a story, open a clogged hole, make a new hole, perform a lobotomy, erase, begin again, make something messy and take dictation.

  3. My favorite discovery here? I can use the silver part for a spaghetti can for the Barbies, (Of course filled with wax and a piece of thread, to look like the Barbies are making their own candles)..I make candles, and the can I use looks like that.

  4. I got completely stuck because I don’t know what a ‘number two pencil’ is. I know they can be harder or softer and that an HB is average for general use, maybe this is different in the UK to the US.

    1. lol. I was just thinking about 30 minutes ago about a UK person getting stuck based on that. In USA we say number two sooo much. It’s what our teachers always told us to use in college too. But that makes sense it would throw you off. I think I will take the number 2 out of the directions. thanks. It just means the lead type…softness as to not tear papers on bubble tests

  5. My recently-realized aspie wife thought of a bunch of creative things but was afraid to write any. Years of feeling like she has had to suppress who she is?

    A few from my son’s list: melt it on the sun; stuff it in a Teddy bear; put it in a wood chipper; get two and make a slingshot; give someone directions

      1. Just discovered your blog last week after my wife realized through some research that she’s on the spectrum. Absolutely loving it and your posts have sparked some great conversations between us. I see her in a whole new light now and my attitude towards her has changed for the better. I understand her so much more. Keep doing what you’re doing. There are so few voices out there.

      2. oh wonderful. Made my heart swell with joy. thanks very much for sharing that. yay. 🙂 and best of luck and love to you both. It has helped our marriage, too. Still learning.

  6. The first thing I typed WAS write. Because that is what I was doing at the time… writing with a pencil. Also I was trying to get the obvious answers out of the way.

    Here is my list:)
    Scratch an itch
    Drum on a table
    Make noises
    Roll it
    Peel off the cover if there is one
    Scratch off the paint if it’s painted
    Clean out your ear
    Tape it to another pencil and use it to measure things
    Splint for a broken finger
    Stakes for growing tomatoes
    Stir a drink
    Sharpen it
    Kill flies
    Kill people
    conduct an orchestra
    punch holes in paper
    straight edge for making lines
    mark your place in a book
    build with it like with Lincoln logs
    Draw/trace tiny circles
    erase (if there is an eraser)
    put stickers on it
    paint it
    make a mobile
    make a wind chime
    get things that have been dropped
    break up ice
    divide some play doh
    noise maker using a paper towel roll
    clean toilets
    clean the jets in the bath tub

  7. Very interesting post. My aspie daughter was diagnosed when she was 18, now 21. She can come across as very articulate so this fools people. They don’t see what she really struggles with. Other times she doesn’t say much at all. She suffers from severe social anxiety. I’ll get her to do this list and see what happens and get back to you 🙂

    1. thank you for sharing. Yes, I come across as very articulate, too. I often fooled many specialists….all kinds of diagnosis…inferiority complex..was an interesting one. I don’t feel inferior…definitely confused at times. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

  8. I tended for the straight forward approach, cause i tend not to be able to explain myself clearly, and i was worried about time. I had a similar experience with points 8 and 9.
    Write, Draw, Shade, Stab, Sharpen, Point, Chew end, Poke, Underline, Bolden, Direct, Doodle, Prepare, Draft, Sketch, Tap, Drum, Twirl, and Plan.

  9. First I had to figure out what to use as a stopwatch. I ended up using the watch for my heart rate monitor but wrote down the time instead of setting an alarm so I kept watching the time afraid I would cheat. And i used a pencil to write and thought that was cheating because you said a pen but I hate to write with pens. Anyway: write a list, start a fire, use as a chopstick, use as a knitting needle, build a dollhouse, use as the replacement handle for a paintbrush, pick your nose very carefully, stab someone, write a letter to someone you love, do your homework, write a manuscript, make a kite (but you’ll need another pencil for the other crosspiece), splint for a little dog or a bird, use the eraser to get black marks off the floor, stake a balloon, tap our rhythms on your desk, sell it, sharpen it, use as a circle stencil, break it up for mulch, stake a tomato plant.

  10. Fun….my list
    1. Become entranced with drawing wirly circles
    2. Smell the pencil
    3. Listen to it tap on the table during racing thoughts
    4. write, erase, write, erase, write
    5. Snap it in half
    6. Chew then spit as you forgot how awful it tastes
    7. Keep it in your “just incase” box that hangs out in your handbag
    8. Put pretty pencil grips on it and place artistically in pen holder and stare
    9. stick it into blue tac and make it stand up….dunno why
    10. clean in between laptop keys
    11. Think…. how many words and doodles this pencil will endure
    I have to confess I wrote my list over the 4minutes. 4minutes 34 seconds.
    Love all the other lists…..fun!

  11. I did this but had a totally different result. I wrote that I can draw and shade and because of the lovely picture of the tree in the post I started writing about how I would draw the branches, shade the leaves and then draw a nest with a bird. Then I started wondering if it was a coloured pencil or just black and how that would affect what I was drawing. I wanted to have the whole colour spectrum (like those rainbow pencils) and I would draw a forest on the edge of a city. The trees would all be different colours and the town would have high speed rail and an airport.

    Midway through this the nagging thought of the fact I was probably not meant to be so detailed dawned on me so I wrote about using a pencil in primary school because my writing was too untidy to get a “pen licence”. So therefore I wrote “I use a pencil for untidy writing”

    I should add that lately I have suspected I have Aspergers but I don’t really know

  12. a few from my list…..
    • Throw it at people’s heads
    • Whittle it into designs
    • Use it for entertainment
    • Wow the world
    • Make a masterpiece
    • Change the world
    • Make new laws
    o Use it to change people’s pre-conceived notions of who I am and what I can do
    • That pencil changed the rainforest
    o It came from a tree which was a home to animals, to bacteria, to cells to life and by using this pencil, I took away their home
    • If you really want to, you can use a pencil to build a house
    • Use it to take tests
    • That pencil can determine your future, your destiny
    • A pencil can make the world question everything they priorly knew

  13. I’m also looking back now and thinking that my list isn’t good enough. I’ve been diagnosed with Aspergers and have a very hard time with telling people things that I think they want to hear so they don’t get offended. Sitting here now freaking out that I’ve offended somebody (over a list of what you can do with a pencil hahaha)

  14. Umm, wow, aside from those already mentioned,

    You could clean the paint from wire meshes
    Remove dirt from crevices
    You could put a pencil in each ear and become an alien
    Secure your hair in a bun
    Make fake fangs…rawr!!!
    Hang it from a string and make a pendulum for dowsing hehe
    Wolverine claws!!!!
    Use as a placeholder for elastics to prevent elastic bands from being misplaced
    Chew on it to avoid grinding your teeth
    Clean your ear(not recommended but I did it as a kid)
    Wind up cassette tapes
    Clean dirt from your nails
    Colour your nails black, well more like grey but you get my point
    Make carbon paper by scratching a piece of paper and then writing on the other side
    Reveal what was written on the page that was torn out(I read and watched too much crime fiction)

    I’ve been wondering since,last week and I think that I might have Asperger’s. Did a few tests as well. Got a 197 on the RAADS-R. I’ll get a diagnosis when I find a professional specializing in adult female autism(and when I have money to afford it)

  15. Write a letter
    Fold no more than 7 times
    Oops… Pencil
    Make art
    Pencil fight
    Sharpen it
    Trade it
    Share it
    Put it in a goodie bag
    Lose it
    Break it
    Chew on it
    Chew on the eraser
    Take eraser out
    What company made it?
    Who is HB? (gotta google them later)
    Use eraser as earring back
    Carve it to make art
    Lead poisoning?
    Stare at it
    Write with it
    Collect them
    Throw it away
    Grind it up really small
    Practice writing with your non dominant hand
    Poke your eye out
    Leave it in a desk seat for someone to sit on
    Sit on it
    Write on clothes

    And yes… I sat on a pencil in the 6th grade that another kid fixed in the corner of the desk as a prank. I still don’t know why anyone would think that was funny. And I still have the mark… Tis life.
    And… Yes I took a left turn with orgami… Lol but I always eventually get back on track.
    This was a fun exercise. Thanks for the help with introspection.

  16. I can recall a homework assignment I had when I was 10 Y/O. The teacher asked us to read the story and right a commentary in our own words. I re-wrote the entire book in my own words. It took me three hours! lol

Thank you for your comments :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s