During the time that I have spent talking with other people on the spectrum, I have realized that most, if not all, of us on the spectrum tend to either feel or act much younger than our actual age. One of my friends recently suggested that I discuss this further, so I decided to dedicate my latest entry to this topic.
My entire life I have always felt younger than the rest of my peers, and I was told many times growing up that I acted younger than I truly was, as well as that I seemed to be younger emotionally as well. This didn’t become incredibly apparent until I hit my teenage years. As a child I didn’t think much of it, and neither did those around me, but it became a much larger problem when I was a teenager and in upper middle school/high school.
As a teenager, I still found humor in things that were deemed childish. I laughed at jokes that other teenagers and older kids didn’t find amusing but young children did, I did not feel that I could handle the same level of emotions that others my age could, and when I got excited about things that happened I would express my excitement in a way that closely resembled a young child instead of a teenager. This continued on for many years. In fact, I still feel the same way, and I will be 21 in a few days.
The fact that I act in a way that is sometimes younger than my age has brought a lot of teasing my way. I can’t help it, my natural responses are usually closer to the responses of a child than those of a young adult. This is probably due to my autism, because autism can create social and emotional deficits that cause me to act in a way that isn’t reflective of my true age. I feel like I am socially and emotionally a 13 year old currently. I don’t see this as something to be ashamed of, because I can’t help it. I try to view it in a positive light. I feel much younger than I really am, and I am still in touch with my inner child, which isn’t always a bad thing. I do think that the negative stigma related to this aspect of autism needs to be done away with, however. I know many adults who feel and act like teenagers, and aren’t doing any harm and are very happy with themselves. Feeling youthful should be celebrated, not made fun of.