Growing up, I was quite a quirky kid. And while no one knew or suspected it at the time, I had a mild form of Autism. I have done years of personal research to learn more about myself and how my brain works in general. While learning all of these new things about myself, it amazed me how obvious the signs were in hindsight. It pains me now to think about how I had to silently deal with my struggles, not understanding how to do so properly. However, I do well not to dwell on the past and things that I cannot change.
By sharing a few of the most prominent symptoms I suffered with and still exhibit, I will help showcase a new spectrum of symptoms that may not be commonly known.
Oxford defines stimming as "behavior consisting of repetitive actions or movements of a type that people with developmental disorders may display, most typically autistic spectrum disorders; self-stimulation."
For me stimming is when I use a repetitive action to calm or focus myself, and it usually starts subconsciously. My stims usually consist of me biting my fingers or lips, rocking myself, or frequently reciting part of a song or quoting tv shows (tell me if you love a good Office quote because, same Michael, same). Stimming is the equivalent of a baby learning to self-soothe.
Now I'll admit that although I still preferred to play by myself, growing up between about 2-12, I was quite the social butterfly. I'd say when I made twelve years old and started to withdraw a bit, that was a sign of autism. My autism started to reveal itself in my tweens and early teens.
Also, because I found it so hard to communicate how I felt and felt, talking about feelings led to further misunderstandings; I preferred not to really talk or be around people much. Which admittedly wasn't necessarily the best thing to do, but again I can't change the past.
Now, I know how this sounds but stay with me.
Remember when I said I bit my fingers as a coping mechanism? Well, that's a double symptom. Because not only does it fall under stimming, but it's also a self-harming habit as well. I have been biting my fingers for about 10 years now. And that, unfortunately, means for 10 years now, I have been biting my fingers until they bleed and are grotesque.
There is more to self-harming than the things that are usually portrayed. As a symptom of autism, self-harming can be banging your head, biting parts of your body, scratching your face or arms, etc. If you did any of these things as a child for no reason or inappropriately, then it could be a sign you have autism.
I would say inappropriate speaking volume is one of the signs of autism that's not talked about much. I cannot count how many times I've had people ask me why I'm talking so loudly or why I'm shouting. The irritating part is, I don't notice until they point it out.
There are usually two reasons why I'm inappropriately talking loudly: I'm passionate about what I'm talking about, or I feel everyone else is talking at the same volume as I am.
You see, I have limited interest in topics. So when I find something I'm genuinely interested in and find someone who's interested, I tend to be highly enthusiastic about the topic. Then I begin almost shouting and never realize I'm loud.
Sensitivity to senses
In other words, not being able to eat certain things because of the texture, lights being too bright, not being able to touch certain textures, and always being too overwhelming is considered sensitivity to senses.
For example, growing up, I barely ate meat because I couldn't bear the way it felt in my mouth. I even went vegetarian for a year. Even now, I still can't eat hot dogs, sausage, anything that's pork in general, or deli meat.
I can't touch anything that is simultaneously wet and sticky. I avoid cleaning products in stores because it's too overwhelming. I wear headphones almost all day and never leave home without them because you never know when a loud sound can strike. And any light brighter than a mood light or sunset hurts badly.
Learning at an accelerated or delayed rate
Yes, these are on the opposite sides of the spectrum; however, there is logic to this.
It's common for males and females to show completely different signs and symptoms of Autism; therefore, when it comes to learning things, it's not necessarily how they learn more, so it's the extremes of their learning.
For example, I began to speak but have a very advanced comprehension of the world at an early age of 2 or 3. However, I am 16 years old, and sarcasm flies over my head most of the time. Also, I haven't fully grasped the concept of spelling and sounding things out.
So really, it depends on how extreme your learning pattern is.
Avoiding Eye Contact
If you're an adolescent like me, you understand the culture we have with our fellow peers. I was raised with the etiquette knowledge from my elders that it's impolite or rude even not to look someone in the eyes while talking; however, it's not important to do that when talking to your peers because they don't look at you.
It isn't obvious. However, I have to navigate the jungle of social etiquette, but I also have to deal with the small little minute detail that physically hurts me most of the time to maintain eye contact with someone.
It feels like I will pass out from the feeling I feel in my chest and stomach. And I say most of the time because if I'm not exploding on the inside from looking someone in the eye, I'm giving them an unintentional death stare that is unnerving.
It sounds fun.
Lack of Empathy or Too much
In my sheer observation, I have found that males are more prone to lack empathy due to autism, and females experience more than the usual amounts of empathy.
In my experience, it solely depends on the situation. I have cried from killing a bug more times than I care to admit; however, I have an involuntary reaction to smile uncontrollably when someone tells me the awful news.
It varies from person to person, which is what I'm getting at.
Limited interest in Topics
I mentioned this earlier and would like to go into fuller detail.
I will admit, I am a person that is willing to try any and everything with most things. Though specific areas I am not willing to budge, such as my genera of literature and personality types.
I'm not a fan of fantasy, country, or introverts. It's just the way it is; I'm not willing to broaden my horizons.
You Think You May Have Autism
At the end of the day, if you have done the research thoroughly and you feel as if you're reading your life story, then I think that's the biggest indication.
However, I'm not a fan of self-diagnoses. This is why I always recommend you speak with a trusted adult guardian and then seek out a doctor or therapist to get a professional autism diagnosis.
I'm just a teenage alien, not a medical professional.
So, remember to take their advice and guidance over mines.
Professional Autistic Teenager