I have been autistic all my life, but it was not recognised until my twenties (which was a massive relief) However, the signs were there, even if they were less noticeable. I am going to write about what signs there were before I was recognised as autistic. Hopefully, this article will help some people who are questioning if they are on the spectrum.
1. Loud noises – I hated loud noises, from dogs barking to fireworks. When I was little, these would be visible as I would cover up my ears to reduce the noise. However, I was becoming aware of what people thought of me when I would do this. So I stopped making my pain visible and just stand there, showing no emotion when I found the noises overwhelming. That wasn’t fun.
2. Food- Food has been a big one for me. I ate a very restricted diet, and only ate 7-8 items of food for 11-12 years. I found most foods tasted so strong that they made me gag and feel sick. The blander, the better. Also, the texture of the food was important too. If it was the wrong texture, then I would find it unbearable.
3. Socialising- I always felt a bit different from everybody else. I thought it was a case of my personality being slightly more unique than others, but not significantly. I didn’t always enjoy the games the other girls were playing during break time. If that was the case, I would choose to be by myself. When I did join in, I would follow along, I would never take the lead. I appeared to be socially integrated, but I was somebody who was on the outskirts of social groups, rarely was I fully part of one.
4. Bullying- Like most other autistic people out there, I was bullied. I never understood the motivations of why people chose to pick on me, as I would never do/say anything to hurt them. They would make nasty comments daily. At age 8, I was branded as ‘The worst girl in the school’ but the so-called ‘popular crowd’. They would also refuse to sit next to me and find every opportunity to laugh at me. School was a miserable existence for me.
5. Interests- The stereotypes of special interests were true for me, but they were not considered unusual. I mean it is considered perfectly normal for a little girl to love Disney. But all I would want to talk about is Disney. I lived for my Disney holidays growing up. I still love going to Disney parks now! My aim is to visit every Disney resort worldwide! I’ve been to 4 out of 6. There is only Shanghai and California left to go!
6. I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t– I would find everyday life exhausting. As I felt the pressure to be somebody who I am not. The world doesn’t accept a lot of behaviours, even if most of them are harmless to other people. I picked this up from an early age. I always felt I had to behave in a way that society expected me to be, and people would not accept the real me. So I would stay at a social event for 10 hours, even if it would drain me mentally. I would pretend to have the same interests as my peers, when I couldn’t care less about them. I would wear clothing that I didn’t like, but was deemed to be fashionable. I would force myself to wear jeans even though I found them uncomfortable. The list could go on and on.
7. Dyslexia- it is not that uncommon for autistic people to have other coexisting conditions. I was recognised as dyslexic at a young age, so this is something that I was always aware of. Other common coexisting conditions autistics have include ADHD and Dyspraxia. To clarify I am not saying that all people who have ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia are autistic (because that is not true), it is just that many people on the spectrum also have these conditions too.
8. Preferring animals to people– It is well known that many autistic people prefer interacting with animals. For me it’s cats. I loved cats from when I was young and still do now. If there is a cat in the room. Chances are I’m going to ignore all the people and give the cat a lot of attention.
9. I loved lego- To be honest, I am surprised that a love for lego isn’t part of the diagnostic criteria. When most people from pre-school were sent home pictures of them playing with other kids, my parents got a photo of me playing lego by myself (not sure where that picture is now).
10. I’m bad at lying- Everybody could always tell when I was lying, as people can read right through me. It also annoys me when other people lie, like politicians. I like being honest and as I’m getting older, I don’t see the point in telling ‘lies’ anymore.