I don’t know if the signs for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as numerous as the stars, but it seems that way. ASD is such a broad umbrella and each of us on the Spectrum is as unique as those who aren’t.
I run in place or pace the floor when I’m excited and when I’m just the opposite. I do it when I’m doing chores around the house. I do it to help me think. I do it to calm my anxiety. I do it every day. I used to do it “in the closet” so to speak outside the view of witnesses, but I have since come out of the closet at home with my stimming. I don’t bother hiding it from the two family members I live with. But beyond the house, I am on guard of where I stim and where I don’t.
When people come to visit my Mom’s house where I live, they’ll usually find me in my bedroom pursuing one of my interests if they care to find me. I’ll pop in and out if I think of something to say.
If I see someone I know at the store, I’ll go in the other direction because I can’t think of anything in common we have to talk about or fear they’ll ask questions I am not prepared or want to answer.
I am a “soloist”! I prefer to eat alone, I prefer to watch TV alone, I prefer to play video games alone, I prefer to go walking or bike riding at the park alone, I prefer to worship in a quiet place alone, and I prefer to do chores and errands alone. An exception would be shopping but only if someone would do the driving so I wouldn’t have to. There is no one I live with who will volunteer though.
An in-person conversation can be a delight or a booby trap. I treasure the few I know who I feel as comfortable with as my overworn faded jeans. However, most times I feel trapped in a conversation. Questions I didn’t see coming, for instance, can throw me for a loop. I tell a joke and the person doesn’t get the punch line. If the topic is about something I know little about or care nothing for, I am racking my brain for an excuse so I can get out of the trap.
My daily hobby is having a monologue with myself. I don’t just hold one in my own space, my bedroom. I’ll have a good talk with myself on a walk at the park or a ride on my bike. Back when I was a kid, I would do it at the side of the house while pacing back and forth. How often? I actually made a trail in the grass. When I retired and moved back in with my Mom, I am in the same backyard but instead of the side of the house, I take the whole backyard to walk and talk.
I am quiet as a mouse in group settings. My mind is a busy bee taking it all in. I will dwell on the topics of discussion long after the group chat was over. But on those rare occasions when I have the podium, my mask comes off and the extrovert in me takes over. The best compliment I ever received after giving a presentation was “I didn’t want you to sit down.”
I am a never-married. I guess I fall under the category of asexual. I admit the thought of homosexuality has crossed my mind. I crossed off the possibility though. I had a tremendous crush, on a male co-worker a decade or so ago. I had it hard for like two to three years. This was before I learned I had ASD. In hindsight, with the knowledge of my ASD, my “crush” was obsessive behavior. My attempts to get his attention were downright awkward. Poor guy! My not getting the hints that he didn’t have a crush on me was just one example of my being socially awkward. I will say this: It was as close as I ever came to this thing called love.
My signs are just mine. Some of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum share some of my signs and some do not. For instance, I have worked with ASD students who were quiet, like me, and I have met a few chatterboxes too.
I suspect there are a lot of adults out there who are living on the spectrum who don’t know they are. This is just my opinion that those adults who know they are on the Spectrum, and those adults who are but don’t know, have this in common: We know we are different. And that difference was agony for me until I learned the explanation of what was behind that difference. The agony of being different has eased tremendously since I have been in the “know” category.
It took me 58 years, the right job as a special education aide, and a 12-year-old to introduce me to what was behind the signs that were always there.