Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)- It’s a neurodevelopmental condition that affects around 700,000 people in the UK (1 in 100 people.)
Of those diagnosed with Autism, an overwhelming proportion are boys, with girls accounting for only one in five cases. This isn’t because far fewer girls have Autism, it’s because girls are better able to hide their Autistic traits from onlookers, by internalising the difficulties they face to ‘fit in.’ It is for this reason why a high proportion of girls and women with Autism also have a co-existing mental illness, e.g., depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. Having to pretend to be someone they’re not day in, day out becomes exhausting, as Autistic girls know all too well, and therefore they seek out a coping mechanism, albeit a destructive one in the context of a mental illness, to help them through it.
In terms of how Autism typically presents itself, it exists on a spectrum, therefore symptoms can, and do, vary massively from person to person. Common difficulties experienced by most people with Autism, however, are those relating to social reciprocity, social communication, flexibility, and sensory processing. As such, people with Autism tend to view the world differently, sometimes feeling as though the world in which they live in isn’t ‘designed’ for them.
Despite feeling out of place in the world, people with Autism are likely to experience it (the world) in ‘HD.’ This is because, often, people with Autism experience a magnification to their senses, with their taste, smell, touch, sound, and sight all being impacted upon by the condition.
An example of how the magnification of senses can impact someone with Autism is by preventing them from entering perfume shops due to the smell being too overwhelming for them.
Other examples of how the senses of people with Autism can be negatively triggered are through touch (e.g., feeling uncomfortable touching certain textures such as paint or glitter), sight (e.g., being able to immediately determine whether something has moved/is out of place upon entry into a room), and taste (e.g., sensitivities to spicy food.)
Although the symptoms of Autism can be a hindrance to those diagnosed with the condition, such as those highlighted above, some ways in which Autism presents itself can actually be of benefit to them, too. One example of a symptom that can prove beneficial to Autistic people is the generation of intense interest in a particular subject, something which often takes the form of them fixating intently on one thing at a time. This might be reflected in them caring about things that others do not care about/ being bothered about things that others consider ‘normal.’ This is certainly something that I relate to, as I’m always questioning why things are the way they are…
Writing this post has actually been quite a cathartic experience for me, as I have resonated with many of the characteristics identified as being common in girls with Autism, such as being bothered about things that others consider ‘normal’, as indicated above.
Additional characteristics of mine that make me think I am most likely Autistic:
- Sound- when I am reading or writing, I can only concentrate in complete silence. If there is any background noise, whether that be the TV, or people having a conversation, the words just cannot go in. I find myself rereading the same piece of writing repeatedly.
- Taste- I can’t eat spicy food, and I am oversensitive to the heat of food/drink too.
- Touch- I hate touching glitter and polystyrene (anything that sticks to me.)
- Emotions- I have to stop myself from laughing at really inappropriate moments. Despite knowing that a difficult situation isn’t funny, in the moment I feel like my head gets so confused regarding how I should react and so I choose the wrong reaction.
- Socialising- I’ve always felt different, like I don’t ‘fit in’ with everyone else. I find socialising extremely difficult. I’ve only had a handful of friends throughout my life because I struggle to build relationships and hate being around people I don’t know. Furthermore, I also struggle to maintain eye contact, and find starting and maintaining conversations difficult.
- Structure- I need predictability and structure to my life. I overthink things and hate any changes to routine.
- Obsessions- When I was younger, I would become easily obsessed with certain things and people. This isn’t something that affects me so much now that I’m a bit older, but I do still get fixated on things and feel a need to devote all my time to whatever it is that I’m ‘obsessed’ with.
The fact that I have resonated so much with so many of these characteristics has led me to believe that I probably do have Autism, albeit a mild, ‘high-functioning’ form of it. Does this change anything for me? Not really, but knowing that me ‘feeling different’ for all these years has most likely been for a reason, is reassuring. I will not try to get a diagnosis though, because whilst I know that this helps some people come to terms with themselves and their identity, for me, I don’t really see a point to it. As I discussed in my last post, my belief is that we place far too much emphasis on labels, even though, underneath it all, in our souls, we are all the same. It’s just this weird, judgemental world we live in that has made us feel so different.
But, remember, different is good!! And so, just keep being you! You are enough.