For years I did these having no idea they were due to my undiagnosed autism.

See if YOU do any of these five things that you may think are “normal.”

For example, for going back I don’t know how many years, I’ve “rehearsed” anticipated conversations in my head.

I’d do the same conversation over and over and over and over – and I mean over and over.

Sometimes they were with the very people I knew I was going to be interacting with, and other times they were with fictitious people if the upcoming situation involved the possibility of interacting with people I had not yet met.

The topic was either one I’d knew I’d be talking about, or, it was one that might come up.

I attributed this relentless habit, which would take place anywhere including while driving and on a treadmill, to my lifelong desire to act in film.

However, the frequent rehearsing of future conversations, including ones that the individual hopes will happen, is rather common in autism.

I had no idea. Instead, I just figured that this is what aspiring actresses do as well as highly organized people.

Even long after I had given up hope of ever pursuing an acting career (the dream pretty much died in my early 20s), I continued with the rehearsing or semi-scripting.

A neurotypical (NT) person just doesn’t go around rehearsing conversations all the time.

When autistic people do this, it may also include re-enacting past negative interactions: a persistent need to keep rehashing how the conversation went and what the person should have and could have said instead — or what they should have said in addition to what had been said. It just goes on and on, and it’s difficult for the autistic person to “just let it go.”

They may stew about it all day for several days, pacing as they repeatedly recycle the interaction in their head.

And no, “everyone else” doesn’t do any of this. Bear in mind, though, that it’s normal for an NT to, from time to time, go over in their head what they’ll say in an upcoming job interview or in some other sticky situation such as having to apologize to Grandma for making her feel bad when she took over watering your flower garden.

Here are four more signs of autism that you might actually think are normal.

Those Damn Tags

HOW does anyone wear a shirt with this thing still in it?

Do you detest tags in clothes? Must that tag in the collar come out before you put the shirt on?

Do you especially hate it when the tag has a smaller tag with it?

I never gave my aversion to these tags a second thought. I figured it was perfectly normal to want to cut them down to the nub.

I’d be behind people and notice a tag sticking out, wondering why they left it in there.

I take out tags inside hats and slippers, too. I remove them even if they’re near the bottom of a shirt where they’d never come in contact with my bare skin.

Just the knowledge that they’re there would grate on me.

But when I began realizing that I might be autistic, and found myself reading checklists for autism, imagine my shock when the subject of clothing tags kept popping up.

Many autistic people can’t stand these things.

I can spend quite a bit of time snipping out tags, with a toenail clippers, as close to the seam as possible, doing this over a wastebasket to catch all the tag fragments.

An Infatuation with an Inanimate Object

Big voluminous ponytails do it for me like spinning fan blades or running water do it for other Autistics.

This is not to be equated with the “infatuation” that, for instance, many young girls have with the Barbie doll.

At one point there was a nationwide “obsession” with the Tickle Me Elmo doll.

In 1975 a fad swept across the U.S.: the pet rock. These small rocks – that looked like what you’d find on a hiking trail – were sold in cardboard boxes with ventilation holes, mimicking a cat carrier.

Being sucked into a fad isn’t what I’m talking about, though, when it comes to ASD.

I’m obsessed with big fat ponytails. At one point I considered buying clip-in ponytails from a wig shop and hanging them on a wall in my home so that I could stroke them.

When I see a kick-ass ponytail in public, I get very excited and must contain myself.

If I spot one in the background of a TV show (thank you, “Chicago Med”!), I freeze the show and stare.

If it’s only a second worth and it’s out of frame by the time I realize what I just saw, I must back it up to get a frozen view.

I once spent 10 minutes on an elliptical trainer at the gym, even though this machine is not part of my workout, just so I could keep my eyes on the poofy, thick, swinging ponytail of a woman who was on a treadmill ahead of the elliptical.

When I was nine I was enthralled with roller window shades. When I was younger I had the same level of fascination with car trunks that curved up.

Are you unusually attached to or have an abnormally intense interest in an object that’s not meant to get super excited about?

Could it be telephone poles? Fan blades spinning? Bottle caps? Canals? Culverts? How about serial numbers on appliances? Power strips or batteries? Bubbles? Wheelchairs?

The line between a normal attachment (e.g., a neurotypical child and his teddy bear or rabbit’s foot, or an NT adult who collects beer bottles or stamps) and an autistic-grade attachment can be quite blurry.

The object of attachment may be one particular item in a certain category, such as the empty box of a specific cereal.

Or, it may be any empty cereal box.

Can’t Get Enough of that Song

MissLunaRose12, CC BY-SA/

I’ve listened to the same pop song up to perhaps 15 times in a row on YouTube, maybe more – wasting no time in between replays.

And not just one session, but numerous, sometimes several days in a row.

I thought everyone did this with their favorite tunes, especially since popular songs can have millions of views on YouTube.

Then again, maybe most of those views are by autistic people?

Imagine my surprise when, during my investigation of autism prior to my assessment, the issue of “listening to the same song over and over” kept coming up.

Eating the Same Foods Every Day, timolina

Do you have the same thing for lunch every day? Well, this behavior, in and of itself, doesn’t always mean autism.

For instance, where I used to work was an NT man who had two Big Macs, a large fries and a soda every single day for lunch.

But some autistic people carry limited choices of food to the next level.

Do you become distressed if something prevents you from eating your typical breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Do you literally eat the same thing for all three meals, every day?

Is there limited variety in what you eat from day to day, week to week?

Your diet may be entirely different today than it was 10 years ago, due to variables such as increased concern over your heart health or wanting to lose weight; getting tired of certain foods; or a discontinuation of a line of foods.

But this doesn’t mean you haven’t been repetitive with each new change-over in eating habits.

If it’s accurate to say, “Hey, I really do eat the same things every day,” then hmmm… you can tack this onto your list of autistic signs that you’ve always thought were normal behavior.

Five More Things Autistic People Do that You Might Think Everyone Does

Many late-diagnosed autistic adults were doing these things all along while having no idea these actions were being driven by their undiagnosed neurodiversity.

Keep in mind that not every autistic individual experiences every one of the traits mentioned in this article.

Plus, those diagnosed in early childhood are just as likely to engage in any of these behaviors when compared to those with late diagnoses.

• Sniffing food a lot: bowl of chips, salad, rice, ice cream cone, brownies, roast beef, anything.

• Getting distracted by someone’s eyes during eye contact while they’re speaking to you and thus losing focus on what they’re saying.

• Wondering when you should smile when someone’s telling you a story.

• Struggling with small talk and preferring to get right down to a meaningful, deep conversation.

• Forever questioning the norms of society.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. 


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