At the beginning of 2020 - January 3rd - we received a diagnosis for our three year old, Ethan, of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This was... not particularly surprising. Ethan's always been a unique individual. Deeply focused, quiet and uninterested in the other toddlers at nursery. He's sensitive to certain sounds and loves lights and shadows. He's excellent at zeroing in on small details. And when he's excited or happy, he'll flap his arms in exaltation. We were seeing specialists about his speaking already so when he was diagnosed with ASD, it wasn't really shocking... for me, anyway.
My partner, Becca, had a little harder of a time adjusting to the diagnosis. She did a lot of research and a bunch of other speculating, including... Thom, I think you might be autistic, too. Yeah, okay... maybe... probably... maybe.
The thing is, I was a lot like Ethan when I was younger... Focused, quiet, detail-oriented... and I've exhibited some behabiours that might be recognised as stims, like Ethan's arm flapping. I didn't really come out of my shell socially until university, and even then I remember a bunch of awkward interactions. I fidget - I'm fidgeting right now. And I... have always - and still do - struggled to feel... normal?
I mean, I've always hypothesised that there's something neurodivergent about me. My worldview and behaviour seems so different to others that... it might make sense. I used to think I may have schizotypal personality disorder, characterised by social anxiety and flat emotional affect but... no, I don't think that's the case. I used to think I checked more boxes than that on the list of symptoms, but I either don't any longer or... I never did. I do still have a flat emotional affect when I speak, but more generally I am more expressive too. I don't think it... no. But whatever, listen...
As a kid, I was shy - I would hide behind my mum's during conversations with other adults. I was top of almost every class, never did homework though... Didn't seem important. But it wasn't laziness. In college, I pursued independent learning just fine. Homework, though... I knew it had no bearing on how well I would do in my exams, I was supposed to do it for the satisfaction of the teacher but... what did that mean? Anyway, whatever; continuing... I never particularly fit in, and the friends I did have in secondary school were a group who invited me in as - sort of - adopting an outcast. Before that, I hung out alone, I ate alone, I did most things alone. And in adulthood, I still have anxiety talking to people - friends included - and answering the phone, or emails, or anthing.
None of that is clear cut, and I get along just fine. But if Ethan and I are both rocking similarly neurodivergent brains, I kinda think that's rad. People love Ethan! He doesn't talk, but he wins everyone's admiration with a cheeky grin. Entirely ignores instruction or convention, a wee born explorer, he learned to work the gate at nursery and set all of the toddlers loose in the building, but flashed that grin at the staff and everything was forgiven.
I probably need to think about this in more detail - my mind's just been fried lately. But it's a possibility.
Either way, Ethan does have ASD and is an absolute rock star!