I freeze and shake when there are loud noises like fireworks, pneumatic drills, or balloons popping.
She has sensitive hearing. Not unusual at all…
I love to touch soft material obsessively, running my fingertip round and round to calm myself.
That’s no different to stroking a dog or cuddling a toy, things we all used to comfort us…
I hate wearing anything tight, itchy, smelly, or screwed up, and when I do it’s all I can focus on and I become so fidgety and uncomfortable I sometimes want to cry or scream.
She has sensitive skin, which is very common…
I struggle with the feel of grass or prickly carpets and other tickly things on my skin.
Again, it’s that sensitive skin. It’s common…
I’m quite picky with food, and will chew meat for ages until spitting it out in one big dry ball.
She’s fussy, probably doesn’t like the taste, but we all have likes and dislikes…
I tell lies about myself and my life, and I copy others I admire, like their accents and walking styles, the things they like and do.
That is quite odd, but more than likely just her seeking attention. Something so many kids do…
I watch the same TV shows and movies over and over again, every single day.
That’s a bit boring, but we all have our favourite shows…
I’m passionate about animals, particularly dogs, and get so fixated and obsessed when I hear about any type of cruelty, to the point I can’t think about anything else.
Who doesn’t love animals and feel upset about cruelty?…
I dropped out of school and felt too overwhelmed to attend college.
She’s being rebellious, another way of seeking attention. Lots of teenagers do that…
I can feel nauseous and anxious when people are close to me, and I pull back if I’m touched or feel breath on my face. I even dislike my own body parts touching each other.
Plenty of us like our personal space…
I rarely make direct eye contact with people, preferring to look at their nose or mouth, or I busy myself when having a conversation, even though I know it will look like I’m not interested or even listening at all.
She needs to work on her manners, that’s all…
Anyway, she also…
…goes out to play with others and to bars in her teen years.
…loves dancing to loud music.
…is excellent at sports.
…can hold normal conservations and knows how to small talk.
…has a sense of humour and understands sarcasm.
…smiles and laughs and empathises, often too much.
…has a wonderful imagination.
She’s completely normal, and, let’s be honest, don’t we all have quirky behaviours and traits? Aren’t we all a little autistic?
No, we absolutely are not, and this way of thinking does nothing to neither encourage society’s acceptance of autistic people nor help the autistic people themselves; particularly girls, who continue to fly under the radar since many pass comfortably as neurotypical.
Even now, as a grounded, grown woman with a career, a husband, and three children, I seek and use excuses for my behaviours. I ignore my needs so as to not appear selfish or attention seeking, and I still fail to recognise how skilled I am at hiding and presenting like everyone else. I only know how much I’ve been masking by the immense mental and physical exhaustion by the end of the day, my deep concern about whether I’ve offended someone or not, and often the bouts of depression that follow.
I don’t look back at my childhood and dislike what I see. I had a loving and fun family, a warm and comfortable home, and a decent education and plenty of opportunities. I travelled to different countries on holiday, I was lucky enough to have a dog and try out several different hobbies, and I had no trouble landing jobs. I was loved and cared for and surrounded by good, kind people.
So why on earth did I end up having severe depression and anxiety as an adult? Why did I not seek help for it until it was at a serious level that affected my safety? It absolutely made no sense.
But now, it’s starting to.
Receiving a diagnosis of autism and discussing at length my past with a professional, as well as taking a step back from many commitments, all helped me understand that I was suffering with autistic burn out. Years of hiding my true self and suppressing my natural behaviours and taking on more and more to show how strong and capable I was, so as not to appear weird or even stand out at all, had led to a terrifying level of exhaustion and unhappiness, both of which I continued to bury because we all have to “get on with it” and so many others had “real” problems, “real” sufferings. I chose to continue the belief that I was the one at fault and needed to pull it together, fix myself. I have, and have done, so many things to be proud of, but I was not proud of who I had become. In fact, I don’t think I was ever really proud of or comfortable with who I was.
I realise now that acceptance starts at home, with me and my loved ones. I’m learning to like myself, to appreciate that sometimes I simply can or can’t, do or don’t, without providing a reason, and that’s okay. Healthy even. It’s not because I’m weird or attention seeking, weak or troublesome. I’m autistic and my brain works differently to most others around me; I have limits and boundaries. I’m becoming confident to say no, to talk openly about my needs without feeling guilty, and to ask for help or changes when necessary which might allow me to participate to the best of my ability.
There will be no more excuses, and that’s liberating.
My autism is mine.
Kate Foster is a young adult author, previously from England but now residing in Australia. She’s the author of Paws: Friends are what happens when you’re making other plans. Kate enjoys reading, baking, and has two adorable dogs! You can find out more about her on her website.