Question: How do I figure out what about my thoughts and actions are autistic if all autistic people are different?
Being autistic is not so much about individual thoughts and actions. Instead, it is a triad core of neurodivergent thoughts and actions. It is the way in which we (perhaps you?) uniquely perceive others, and how they perceive us/you.
On the surface, neurotypicals and autistics may appear quite alike. Except—from my/our perspective—neurotypicals exhibit an excessive need for social interaction. To autistics, this often appears as their singular communal “special interest”. Just as we are known to misinterpret interactions with neurotypicals, they commonly misinterpret interactions with people on the spectrum. For more information on that, have a look at the dialectical misattunement hypothesis. Unfortunately, the fact that we autistics do not share those same social interests and thus do not provide the social dance responses they expect, can lead to indifference, exclusion, rage, and violence—all of which may lead to harm to autistic people.
Indicators of differences
If you are not prone to those particular social patterns of thought and behaviour, then you may be on the spectrum. There are several indicators of our differences:
- Sensory/perception differences: We perceive things differently and often more intensely than neurotypicals.
- Stimming and other self-soothing behaviours resulting from being overwhelmed by sensory and perceptual input.
- Some difficulties in executive function making everyday tasks more challenging.
- Meltdowns or shutdowns as a result of being exposed to social and sensory overload, well beyond what neurotypicals experience.
- A sense that you will never quite understand or be understood by neurotypicals.
- Stress and anxiety related to the times when your different responses provoked more extreme reactions from neurotypicals.
- A sense of joy in patterns, be they visual, numeric, linguistic or aural. This is called hyper-systemizing).
- An ability to hyperfocus on an area of special interest for a prolonged time.
There are more attributes that I have not listed. The best way to determine if you are on the autism spectrum is via psychological testing using several surveys. These may involve questioning yourself, your family and those close to you. If you want to test yourself or get assessed by a professional, follow the links below.