Through an Autistic Lens

through an autism lens

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

A weird thing happens when you receive a late diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. You replay your whole life, viewing everything that ever happened through an autistic lens. This isn’t unique to me – I’m pretty sure it happens to everyone diagnosed as an adult.  You start to think “Oh! So that’s why I was…” and “Ah, that makes sense now…!” and “Wow, how did nobody realise?”
Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t a diagnosable condition in the UK when I was little, so I understand why I wasn’t diagnosed then. But still…there was always something about me. I always knew I was different, and felt that I didn’t fit in. I discussed this with my mother a few years ago. She said yes, we were different – because when I was a child we were hippies and vegetarian and nobody else was, where we lived. So we stood out. I tried telling her it was more than that, but she didn’t get it and I couldn’t explain.

When you view my childhood through an autistic lens, you start to pick out the signs:

  • Separation anxiety – not wanting my mother to leave me at playgroup; always hiding behind my mother’s long skirt when other adults spoke to me.
  • Never initiating role-playing games with other children; always assigned a ‘supporting role’.
  • I was an abnormally early reader; reading like a 12 year old when I was 4.
  • Delayed eruption of teeth (39 years old and I still have a baby tooth! Some of the others wouldn’t come out on their own so they got removed. Dental problems have plagued me all my life and continue to do so.
  • Not really knowing how to act socially. I’d pay attention to what my peers were doing and copy them (and get it not-quite-right, a lot of the time).
  • Having issues with drinks. I would only drink out of one special cup. Until “it got lost” (taken away from me). I never drank that type of drink again to this day. After the cup removal, I’d only drink pineapple juice. Until the acidity made me ill. Then I would only drink orange juice. Until it also made me ill. Then orange squash (and only one brand). In my teens I discovered Coke and that’s still all I drink. Rarely, I’ll drink water. There was a period of some years when I’d drink alcohol, but we’ll get to that in another post some time.
  • Certain food textures made me gag. I used to throw my packed lunches away on the way to school because I couldn’t eat what was inside. I earned the label of ‘fussy eater’.
  • Repetitive behaviours. I’d watch certain films over and over again with my next-door neighbour until I knew the scripts.
  • Narrow interests – from the age of about 12 I would only read books by two authors: Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
  • I don’t remember if I had a problem with the classic symptom of struggling to maintain eye contact as a child. As a teen and an adult I do have a problem with suddenly realising I’ve been looking someone in the eye for way too long. I’ll also realise my face is making the wrong expression. For example, someone’s telling me something that causes me to smile. The conversation moves on to something else, and I’ll notice I’m still smiling and it’s inappropriate. I then lose track of the conversation a bit while I try to make the right expression.

This isn’t a complete list. There are lots more examples, and I’m sure I’ll post about this again at some point, but the signs were there as a child.

If you’re a late-diagnosed ASD woman reading this, I’m interested to hear what early signs you notice when you look back on your own childhood. Let me know in the comments.

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