“Oh my gosh, he looks just like you!”
First day of school, first bus ride of the year, first time meeting new bus driver. First sentiments of new bus driver.
It’s true. Declan is my miniature me in appearance.
We share another thing in common. We have problems in social situations.
When Declan was diagnosed with autism and I began to read about the disorder, I saw that Declan was going to have problem in social situations, may have a hard time relating to others and may only have a few friends, I thought one thing:
“What’s wrong with that?”
I sometimes feel like a social misfit. I can take a perfectly normal social interaction and make it awkward and uncomfortable. At least if not for everybody else, then for me. I have good intentions, but seem to say the wrong thing more often than not. I avoid social contact. And I only keep a couple close friends.
To put it another way – my favorite things to do include long distance running, reading and writing. Hello alone time.
So it got me thinking. I am an Introvert to the core. I am totally cool with this. But I do not have autism. Right? Right. Here’s why…
Introversion vs. Autism
There is a lot of research being done and professionals stating that introversion is on the autism spectrum. I think things might be going a bit to far. Here’s why.
To get an Autism Spectrum Disorder you must meet 2 main characteristics.
- Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities
There is a lot of information that follows these 2 basic criteria, but to focus o the basic criteria.
Yes, one might say, that an introvert has deficits in social communication and interaction. But social issues are only part of the autism picture. On top of that – does that mean that all people with autism are introverts because they also have problems with social interactions? Here is where I think these assumptions are wrong:
Declan is teaching me? Yes – he is teaching me social contact is cool! Declan enjoys other people. He seeks out interactions. He wants to play with others. If anything, he is more of an extrovert that has a harder time learning the social rules. But he wants to interact!
Me, sometimes. Not as much as him!
Declan has numerous sensory issues. Issues with food, clothes, unable to sense when he needs to go potty. CONSTANTLY sensory seeking – if not to squeeze something squishy then to listen to a funky beat or watch colorful TV.
Me? No sensory issues.
Declan lost his speech. We all worked real hard to get speech back, and it is here. He exhibits echolalia – repetition in speech.
Me? No speech issues. Sometimes I curse, I guess, and that’s bad. No other speech issues.
Declan has a lot of intense fixations. His Disney Infinity for sure. But bigger than that – Spiderman. If we can’t find the right Spiderman – a little 2 inch Spiderman toy with the slightly smudged out web, smooth turning head with his thumb down on the right hand – well, we can all forget sleep. The fixation is deep. He cannot get past it.
Me? I love running. I can still sleep if I miss a run.
When I hear something along the lines of, “He doesn’t have autism – he can make eye contact with me!” I come back to this thought. Declan is not an introvert. He is trying so hard to communicate and socially interact. He just doesn’t have all the skills.
Yes, he will eventually make eye contact with you. He will initiate play. He will hug you or hold your hand. But he may hit you if you disagree with him. He might say “Hi!” an inch from your face. But he is learning. He is trying.
Declan has numerous other factors related to autism. He lost his speech, he has intense fixations, he has sensory issues, he needs routine. That’s okay.
Introversion is not autism. People with autism are not always introverted. They are just 2 separate things.