Am I autistic or just shy?



Sometimes I ponder this question because I have felt growing up that I was very shy and preferred to do things by myself most of the time. I did participate in team sports when I was younger when I played little league baseball from 1970 through 1972 and in high school when I ran cross country from 1978 through 1979. Aside from those experiences which I did enjoy I kept pretty much to myself. Even when I ran cross country, by the very nature of the sport I was alone for the most part but did run in groups with my teammates. I just felt more comfortable avoiding the social pressures and I managed to avoid many social related situations. I attributed a lot of that to being painfully shy. I even felt awkward in dating situations though I did have many crushes on the girls but due to my shyness I avoided dating and relationships. Through the years the only person I felt comfortable speaking to and expressing myself to was my mother. She was very understanding and helped give me sound advice. My dad was very helpful too but his job was very demanding so I did not want to burden him with my concerns.

I believe our personality and how we view the world is both learned and inherited. I am not sure exactly what determines whether we will be shy or outgoing. I feel we all have different levels of comfort and we react accordingly. Despite my shyness I managed to do well in school and I did enjoy competition and managed making friends. I just felt that I limited myself more because I did not always choose to participate preferring to keep a low profile.

I even remember having “butterflies” whenever I had to speak in front of the class or if I was called upon to answer a question. I usually responded with the correct answer but that did not alleviate the anxiety I felt.

Drawing upon my son’s experiences knowing his situation and diagnosis I too found that I would withdraw from crowds and preferred to occupy myself with things I enjoyed doing by myself. I remember as a kid I loved collecting baseball cards and matchbox cars and I also spent long periods of time arranging my cards by set comparing to the checklists and organizing them in numerical order. Is it coincidental or was that behavior of an autistic child? I was never diagnosed as autistic so I am just theorizing but find it is a valid question. In my mind I do not believe I am autistic but do know that I still battle with my shyness. I am able to conduct myself and talk with others as I have made tremendous strides but I still feel I have difficulty making eye contact and feel this has to do with my shyness.

I also feel that though I was shy as a child I knew how to conduct myself and I always behaved properly and did not react unfavorably to stimuli. I never had any sensitivities or problems with behavior. I know my son has difficulties in knowing how to relate and he does have sensitivities and when he is upset by outside “triggers” he will react out and his behavior will change. One minute he will be perfectly calm and then if something “triggers” him in a negative way he will have a difficult time and will be susceptible to a meltdown.

I know when my son is going through a meltdown it is very hard to penetrate his world and he is totally out of control. He will be very difficult and it takes a considerable amount of strength both physically and emotionally to get him back to a calm state of mind. I feel very consumed by these episodes and I only hope they are with me only. I do however know he has had them in school as well so it is not only with me that he loses his composure. This is definitely a telltale sign of a child having autism. They can not separate their feelings from how they react and they are generally unpredictable in how they will be from one day to the next.

Knowing from my own insecurities and personal experiences I may not always be the best one to give advice but speaking from my heart I know that I love my son and will do anything to help him through his difficulties and will always try my best to get him the proper support and guidance that he needs. I want my son to know he is OK and that he has so much to be grateful for. He is certainly the best thing to happen in my life and I am very fortunate to have a wonderful wife and son. Since marrying and becoming a father to a wonderful boy I have come along way in how I perceive things and how I relate to others. I have also managed to deal with my shyness much better and am working to do all I can to help my son manage in the world despite his autism just like my parents helped me despite my shyness.

We all have our imperfections which is what makes us unique and all we have to realize is it’s OK to have these imperfections. We just have to learn from them and accept them and just try to do the best we can and we also need to find peace and happiness from within and believe in God and find strength from him and seek help and guidance from our family.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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