Childhood Autistic Traits | Early Signs of Autism in Girls

Autism in Girls

When I found out that I am autistic, my ENTIRE childhood suddenly made sense! Everything that made me "weird" as a kid now had an explanation, from being a picky eater to thinking objects had feelings to having very few friends. In today's video I share my top 10 childhood autistic traits so you can gain insight into what my life was like growing up as an undiagnosed autistic girl!

1. Always organizing

My first childhood autistic trait is that I was a VERY organizationally oriented child. I always had to make sure everything was “matching”. I lined up shoes by size, classified clothes in rainbow order, read all the books in a specific series before moving on to the next one… I even organized all my toys instead of actually playing with them! My parents remember how when people came to our house for a party or any celebration, I would always force everyone to take off their shoes so I could line them up by size and color!

As a kid, I loved Playmobil toys, but I would never actually play with them! Instead, I set everything up to make it look exactly like the photo on the box. It wasn’t until I started to read more about autism, that I realized setting up toys without playing with them is a very common childhood autistic trait!

2. Repetitive behavior

My second autistic trait is repetitive behavior. I was a very obsessive child; I could focus on one thing and quickly my life would revolve around it. One of those obsessions was the film “The Little Mermaid”. I swear, I watched that movie so many times that my dad became sick of it! When it came to drawing and artwork, I would only draw symmetrical rainbows or castles, as they were perfectly organized and calculated for my logically thinking brain. I remember once in Kindergarten, we were told to do a creative drawing assignment and I totally refused to participate because it HAD to be either a rainbow or a castle. If it couldn’t be either of these, I wouldn’t do it because it was out of my comfort zone!

3. Difficulty with change and transitions

Difficulty with change is something autistic individuals really struggle with, and in my case, it definitely showed up as a kid. Speaking of which, my third autistic trait is that I had a really difficult time transitioning. School was especially difficult, as you’re constantly shifting subjects throughout the day! In 1st grade, I needed to go to special math class to help with my math skills, as well as reading and writing class because apparently, I could not write or read. Nowadays, math and writing/reading are two of my strongest suits…so apparently, it wasn’t really the math or reading/writing that was the issue!

4. Believing items had feelings

My fourth childhood autistic trait may seem weird but, at the time, I swear it was completely logical to me. Even though I've always had a very difficult time identifying others' feelings and emotions (sometimes even identifying my own) as a kid, I thought items and inanimate objects had feelings! For example, when my dad put a granola bar in my lunchbox for school, instead of throwing away the wrapper after eating the bar, I would put it back in my lunchbox. Why? Because, I couldn’t throw it away out of fear that I would hurt the wrapper’s feelings!

I would even tell super lame excuses when my dad found a wrapper or a banana peel in my lunchbox like: “there were no trash cans at school” LOL, but I just felt too bad throwing away the items it! I would love to know if this is something more autistic individuals did or if it was just me, so feel free to send me a message on Instagram if you or your child resonates with my story!

5. Having few friends

Growing up, as you can imagine, I was an odd child who had very few friends. Although from the outside I could appear as someone very social, I never really felt like I connected to anyone (with the exception of a really good friend I had in fifth grade). As a kid, I guess I was different! Some could even call me a tomboy because, during recess, I would be the only girl playing soccer with the boys while all the girls were talking about makeup, movies, or other things I wasn’t interested in.

6. Being clear and direct

My sixth childhood autistic trait is that I was VERY clear and direct about what I wanted. As I mentioned in this post (my top 10 female autistic traits), as a kid, I would make a gift list and hand it to all my friends who were coming to my birthday party. As you can imagine, this would turn people off and, to be honest, I would be turned off too if someone did the same to me! But, at the time I just needed to know exactly what I was getting, which goes to show how badly I didn't want to be surprised!

Another thing I would always do was saying “just kidding” when I realized something I said was not well received. One day, this really good friend of mine came up to me and said: “Livia, whenever you say something mean, you always say you’re just kidding”. Since then, I started to doubt myself a lot because, I didn’t really understand why I did that! Even from such a young age (I was around 10 at the time), I was really interested in psychology and genetics. I loved to know the reasons behind why people act the way they do! No surprise, I still love these topics!

7. Strong feelings of righteousness

My seventh childhood autistic trait is that I always had a very strong sense of righteousness. This mentality stems from the idea of things needing to make sense. To me, that meant I saw things as either right or wrong, fair or unfair...I have a clear memory from my childhood that explains it perfectly: when I turned six, I had a birthday party. We were playing the musical chairs game, the one where you run around some chairs until the music stops. Well, we were playing and when the music stopped and I sat down, one of my friends (which afterwards I assure you she was NOT my friend anymore LOL) pushed me out of the chair and sat in my place. My mom, who was refereeing the game, said: “Okay, Livia, you're out”. I was SO mad because it was unfair, that I still remember this event 15 years later!

8. Difficulty following rules

My eighth autistic trait is that I had a VERY hard time following rules. Well, I just didn't, because let’s be honest, as a kid there are A TON of rules that don't make sense! Fortunately, this was somehow supported by my parents, who, like me, don't want to follow the rules if they don't believe they make sense either. When I started to learn more about autism, I discovered that being against the rules if they don't have a clear explanation is a very common autistic trait. For us, things NEED to make sense!

For this reason, my BIGGEST tip for anyone who has an autistic friend, family member, or just wants to communicate with an autistic person in general: give clear instructions! For an autistic person, there’s nothing worse than receiving vague, unclear instructions. Lack of clarity can cause us to become overwhelmed by the endless possibilities, that we can get stuck in a state of analysis paralysis. I explain this phenomenon of “analysis paralysis” in depth in my post “Interoception in Autism and Anorexia”!

9. Picky eater 

My ninth childhood autistic trait is that I was a VERY picky eater, which definitely had an impact on the development of my eating disorder. From the age of zero until the age of ten, I ate the EXACT same thing every single day. My breakfast had to be a sugary and sweet bowl of cereal with milk; either Froot Loops, Cheerios, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch! If things didn’t go the way I expected, I would get SO upset. One time, we ran out of milk and my mom suggested putting yogurt in my cereal instead…I was enraged and it took me about an hour to agree to having the yogurt! When I finally did, I realized it was actually delicious! So if you’re a parent and are worried your child will NEVER eat new foods, I’m living proof that the palate CAN expand :)

For lunch, I would have a bagel with cream cheese or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with a specific type of peanut butter, jelly, and bread, of course). Dinner consisted of mac and cheese with chicken nuggets and broccoli, and no matter what, I ALWAYS had to have dessert and snacks (I loved baking those Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies from the bagged mix!). That was basically my diet for ten years. At age eleven though, I developed my eating disorder…and all those foods went out the window. You can read my full story here.

10. Difficulty sharing

My tenth and final autistic trait is that I had a VERY difficult time sharing. If I’m honest, that's something I still struggle with quite a bit! Over the years, I've learned that anxiety is a very prominent emotion among autistic individuals. Luckily, I have found a lot of ways to manage and deal with it, but it definitely remains a lifelong struggle! You can read more about the relationship between autism and anxiety here.

So now, imagine you have to share your stuff. The hard part is the unpredictability; what are other people going to do with your items? Are they going to return them? If so, when are they going to give them back? Is it going to get damaged? … There are endless questions!

As an anxious person, you need certainty in order to feel calm. So, to prevent anything that’s out of your control, the easiest solution is simply to never share anything! Just in case something happens, you can keep everything safe within your little bubble of life :)

And those are my top 10 childhood autistic traits! I would love to know if any of these traits resonated with you, so if they did, please send me a DM on Instagram @livlabelfree!

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