Giant Red Flags of Autism
I look back on my childhood and teen years now and see how autistic I was in almost every memory I have. It is so obvious to me now and sometimes I am very angry that no one noticed the obvious signs. On the other hand, I grew up in the 80s, and autism, especially high-functioning autism (also called “Aspergers”) was an extremely uncommon diagnosis among girls and almost no one understood how autism presented differently in girls. (I will try to leave aside the obvious here, which is that no one cared how autism presented in girls — though it often shows up as eating disorders and fashion obsessions that are as much a special interest as trains.)
My most obvious signs of autism:
1. A nearly total lack of friends of my own age.
2. Spending all my time trying to have conversations with adults.
3. Clumsiness to an absurd degree.
4. Bad grades in only two subjects: handwriting and PE. (Later this became a difficulty in typing)
5. Teachers complaining that I spoke in a monotone and too quickly. Language had only one purpose for me: communication with words. All other non-verbal communication was distraction.
6. Being completely and constantly confused by any social interaction and talking constantly about how other people made no sense.
7. Weird special interests, including 18th century and 19th century British novels, Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason, and romance novels (which I read thousands of from age 10–20). Also: General Hospital, which I thought would help me figure out other humans. Hint: it did not.
8. Mimicking others in high school to the point of wearing the exact same size and brand of jeans even when that size did not fit me. This was me trying desperately to figure out how to have friends.
9. Lack of “common sense,” which led to me doing stupid and ridiculous things socially without having any idea what was wrong with them.
10. Not understanding jokes AT ALL, trying to ask for explanations, realizing that wasn’t allowed, and then eventually learning to just laugh anyway.
11. An incredible difficulty lying or doing anything that was akin to it, including social twisting of truth.