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 properly do so. However, I do well not to dwell on the past and things that I cannot change.
I feel that 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 may be displayed by people with developmental disorders, 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 the ages of 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 was feeling and felt talking about feelings just led to further misunderstandings, I preferred not to really talk or be around people much at all. 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 its 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. Self-harming, as a symptom of autism, 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 at all. 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 sounds always being too overwhelming is considered having a 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 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
Now yes, these are on the complete 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 its the extremes of their learning.
For example, I began to not only 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 fly's over my head the majority 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 then 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 to not 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's very confusing. However, not only do I have to navigate the jungle of social etiquette I also have to deal with the small little minute detail that it physically hurts me most of the time to maintain eye contact with someone.
It feels like I'm going to 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 them I'm giving them an unintentional death stare that is unnerving.
Sounds fun doesn't it?
Lack of Empathy or Too much
In my sheer observation, I have found that males are more prone to have a lack of 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 when someone tells me really bad news, I have an involuntary reaction to smile uncontrollably.
It varies from person to person 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