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Sanity Savers: 4 Times My Loop Earplugs Became My Best Friend

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With the overwhelming range of earplugs available today, Loop earplugs stand out. Their unique design, centered around a circular acoustic channel, has given people with autism, ADHD, and other sensory challenges a new world of options for noise reduction. Instead of blocking out all sounds, they reduce how much unwanted background noise the wearer hears. They still preserve the clarity of the more important sounds that you still want to hear, like conversation or a live performer. Loops also come in a variety of models, each of which blocks out different levels of noise.

My First Purchase: The Loop Engage Plus Earplugs

After researching, and reading reviews, and comparing the available models, I chose to try out the Engage Plus Loops. I also selected the clear color because I liked the idea of very few people knowing I was wearing them. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, these earplugs promised to reduce background and preserve my ability to hear the person next to me speaking. True to their word, my experience has been that I’m not entirely isolated from my environment when wearing them! They enable me to enjoy events and activities in loud, chaotic environments without shutting out the world around me.

I like to keep my Loops on me, in the nice convenient little case I got with them on my keychain. This way, I don’t need to anticipate when I might get overwhelmed, and instead can just whip them out when I notice I start to struggle with noise. The following are some of my favorite times I’ve used my Loops, and some of the times I’ve been most grateful that I had them on me.

The Reverberating Mayhem of Indoor Sports Games

Anyone who’s attended a kids’ indoor sports game knows the intensity of the noise. I guess that this doesn’t just apply to kids’ games, now that I think about it… But, since it’s probably been a decade since I went to an indoor game that wasn’t for kids, I’m going to stick to what I know.

The high-pitched cheers of parents, constant dribbling of the ball, and echoing referee whistles can be a sensory nightmare. The closed environment of indoor gyms amplifies every sound, making it resonate throughout the space. With my Loop earplugs in place, the echoing chaos faded to a comfortable hum. I found myself enjoying the match, cheering on the players, and genuinely soaking in the exhilarating atmosphere, all without the usual sensory assault.

Live Concerts and Shows

I love live music. I love being a part of the crowd, drinking in the artists’ energy, and even singing along when I’m positive that no one will be able to hear me over the band. The thrill of live music is undeniable, but the sheer volume can leave your ears ringing for days. During my first concert with the Loop Engage Plus, I was skeptical – I didn’t want to miss out on the music. But as the beats began to drop and the crowd roared, I quickly appreciated their worth. I was lost in the melodies, singing my heart out, without the fear of potential hearing damage (or the desire to run to the bathroom where things might be a little quieter).

Karaoke Night

I self-identify as a terrible singer. So, when my friends insisted on wanting to celebrate an event in their lives with a karaoke night, it was incredibly kind of them to book us a private room. With no audience except people who already knew me and presumably wouldn’t throw things at me, singing was much more comfortable.

BUT, the smaller room also meant that sound did the bouncing-around thing, and the music and mic were quickly very loud for my sensory challenges. My Loops were a lifesaver, toning down the cacophony, allowing me to appreciate my friends’ spirited performances, and even join in the fun.

Bachelorette Party Drag Brunch

It was a day of flamboyance, laughter, and high-energy performances. The drag brunch was a riot of colors, music, and cheering. Every announcement, every performance, and every toast was louder than the last. But with my trusty Loops, I danced, laughed, and celebrated without once feeling the need to escape the noise.

Try Them for Yourself

In reflection, the Loop Engage Plus earplugs have been nothing short of transformative. Their unique design and unparalleled performance have made them an essential part of my life. Whether it’s an adrenaline-packed game, a soulful concert, or a day of celebration, my Loops have ensured that I’m present, engaged, and comfortable. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect balance between immersion and protection, look no further. Buy your Loop earplugs today, and dive into experiences like never before.

adhd, adults, autism, children, sensory stuff

AuDHD: The Combined Forces of ADHD and Autism

“Hi, I’ll have the Super Spicy Combo please”

ADHD and Autism are both neurodevelopmental conditions, and they have plenty in common. They also have some pretty drastic differences. So, what happens when the two team up together in one person’s mind? The emerging term AuDHD refers to that exact situation.

Is it common to have both?

In a word, yes. The exact details for how common, though, are a little fuzzy. Depending on the source, you’ll find a wide variety of statistics. According to, “More than half of all individuals who have been diagnosed with ASD also have signs of ADHD.” Having one condition doesn’t mean that you’ll certainly have the other. But, if you have been diagnosed with one and you feel like you have signs of the other, it’s worth exploring.

Overlapping Symptoms and Experiences

To complicate the topic, autism and ADHD share quite a few symptoms in common – even when presenting individually.

  • Attention Difficulties: Both people with ADHD and with autism might have trouble sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Hyperactivity: This is more commonly associated with ADHD but can also be seen in some people with autism. It can manifest as fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness.
  • Impulsivity: Both conditions might cause someone to act without thinking first, particularly children. This can result in interruptions, hasty decisions, or difficulty waiting one’s turn.
  • Social Misunderstandings: Individuals with ADHD might interrupt frequently, miss social cues, or have trouble listening to others, while individuals with autism might struggle with understanding social norms or reading social cues.
  • Difficulty with Transitions: Transitioning from one task or activity to another can be overwhelming for people with either condition.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Some people with autism are especially sensitive to sensory stimuli such as lights, sounds, or textures. However, there’s growing recognition that sensory issues can also affect people with ADHD, though it might manifest differently.
  • Executive Function Challenges: Both ADHD and autism can be accompanied by difficulties with executive functions like organizing, planning, and prioritizing tasks.
  • Repetitive Behaviors: While repetitive or “stimming” behaviors like hand-flapping or rocking are more commonly associated with autism, individuals with ADHD can also have repetitive actions or habits.
  • Focus on Specific Interests: Just as a person with autism might become deeply interested and focused on a specific subject, someone with ADHD might also hyperfocus on an activity or topic of interest, though the context and duration might be different.

All these overlapping experiences can make the two conditions difficult to untangle from each other to begin with. The combined presentation, then, of ADHD and autism can lead to heightened or more intense symptoms. According to, “People who have traits that stretch across both autism and ADHD diagnoses often face more serious challenges than people with either diagnosis alone: They can have greater impairments in adaptive functioning, a term that refers to self-care and daily living skills, and more severe social and cognitive issues.”

On the Go, But Where To? A Look at Executive Functioning

Executive functions serve as our cognitive command center. For those with AuDHD, tasks like organizing, planning, and maintaining attention can be a rollercoaster ride. Executive functioning skills can be learned. For those of us with neurodevelopmental disorders, though, it takes more intention to learn them. Executive functioning is such a challenge for us neurospicies, that we’ve started coming up with more fun terms for our challenges (enter ADHD paralysis). PDA, or pathological demand avoidance, is typically associated with autism and can complicate these struggles even further.

Parents of kids with AuDHD might see them struggle to get started with chores or homework. Or, kids might struggle to turn a big project like “clean your room” into the individual tasks it takes to complete them (“put dirty clothes in the hamper” and “put your toys away”).

In fact, it seems like I’m only able to get into a groove with writing this article when I’m about to leave to go somewhere else. There’s a funny irony to my own executive functioning challenges that I’m experiencing, while writing about executive functioning. The impulsivity from ADHD combined with a need for routine from autism can create an interesting dance of cognitive strengths and challenges.

Feeling the World Intensely: The Dance of Sensory Sensitivities

Imagine hearing background noises with the same intensity as the primary conversation, or feeling the textures of everyday materials as if they were magnified. Sensory experiences are amplified for many with AuDHD, leading to unique interactions with their environment.

These experiences can be difficult to identify, because they are so subjective. Everyone has a little bit of sensory sensitivity here or there. The phrase “nails on a chalkboard” has become an idiom because we can all relate to how much that sound feels like torture. But, for ADHDer, autistics, and AuDHDers, sensory triggers can be hiding everywhere. Someone with these conditions might have very specific preferences about the fabric of their clothes, the hue of their light bulbs, the texture of their foods, and the volume or type of background noise they can tolerate while they work.

Loop earplugs can help with the auditory sensory issues, and there are other products and strategies that help AuDHDers to live more comfortably.

Navigating the Social Labyrinth

Navigating the social realm with AuDHD is akin to traversing a maze with shifting walls. The impulsive nature of ADHD might lead to speaking out of turn, while the autism aspect could cause challenges in reading social cues.

On top of all of this, neurodivergent people in general tend to receive a significant amount of negative social feedback during their formative years. Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a common experience among people with ADHD and autism, too. Together, these factors can create a perfect storm of social anxiety. It’s important to know that anxiety is a very normal response.

It’s a spectrum of social experiences that requires patience, understanding, and often, guidance.

Harnessing the Power Within: Amplifying AuDHD Strengths

While AuDHD can present some challenges, those living with it often exhibit incredible strengths, such as intense focus, passion, and out-of-the-box thinking. Having someone with AuDHD on your team can lead to more effective problem-solving, more creative work, and honestly, in our opinion, a way less boring meeting. People with autism, ADHD, and AuDHD drive innovation in this world, and their gifts should be treasured!

AuDHD is more than just a convergence of ADHD and autism. It’s a unique experience that requires understanding, support, and tailored approaches. Select resources and strategies that align with your journey. Remember, with the right knowledge and tools, every challenge can be transformed into an opportunity for growth!

adhd, adults, autism

Autism and Sleep: 12 Tips for a Restful Night

In the world of autism and sleep, there’s a rhythm – a sometimes elusive rhythm. Whether you’re rocking the spectrum or you’re guiding an autistic superstar (maybe your kiddo), there’s a dance between sleep and autism that’s intriguing to understand and essential to master. Together, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of dreams and the spectrum.

Sleep and Autism: More than Meets the Eye

Autism is a spectrum, and so are the sleep challenges that come with it. Many autistic people find themselves either too sleepy or, more commonly, dealing with insomnia. Some also experience poor sleep quality when they do get to rest. Neurological differences, anxiety, sensory sensitivities, or even gastrointestinal issues linked with autism can impact sleep. It’s not just about being a “night owl”; there’s a whole behind-the-scenes play going on.

A question that often pops up is whether the severity of autism has a direct link with sleep disturbances. These challenges might manifest themselves in general insomnia While it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, research indicates that those with more severe symptoms might experience greater sleep challenges. However, individual experiences can differ based on a cocktail of factors – environment, co-existing health conditions, daily routines, and more.

Tips for the Little Spicies: Helping Autistic Kids Sleep Better

  1. Routine Rules All: Kids thrive on routine, and for autistic children, a predictable bedtime can make all the difference. This includes consistent sleep and wake times and a series of calming pre-bed activities.
  2. Sensory Paradise: Everyone loves a comfy bed, but for kids on the spectrum, sensory considerations are crucial. Soft sheets, room-darkening curtains, or even a special stuffed toy can help. Make the bedroom a haven, not a sensory minefield.
  3. Limit the Excitables: Beware of those sneaky stimulants! Limiting screen time an hour before bed and watching out for sneaky caffeine in chocolates or some meds can be game-changers.
  4. Try out a Sensory Sleep Sack: This comforting sleep pod provides the the pressure of a weighted blanket but without the night sweats that can come with it. The breathable fabric helps kids sleep and stay cool at the same time.

Advice for the Grown-Ups: Catching Those Zzz’s

Autistic adults, we see you! Sleep challenges don’t magically disappear after the teenage years (if only!).

  1. Chill Mode Activated: From guided meditation apps to a simple breathing exercise, finding a way to calm that buzzing brain can make bedtime less of a battleground.
  2. Environment Matters: Think cool, dark, and quiet. Sometimes, it’s the basics that get overlooked. A comfy mattress, blackout curtains, or a fan for white noise can be simple yet effective solutions.
  3. Screen-Awareness: The blue light in your phone’s screen can trick your brain into thinking that it’s the middle of the day. As tempting as it can be to scroll until sleep takes hold, you may have more success setting your phone on your nightstand.
  4. Move Every Day: A regular routine of physical activity can help your body feel more tired when it’s time to feel tired. Some people have a hard time heading straight to bed after exercise, so even working out in the morning can be a great help.
  5. Gadgets to the Rescue: Ever tried a weighted blanket? For some, it’s like a warm, reassuring hug. For others, a white noise machine muffling external sounds is the ticket to dreamland.

Parents in the Mix: How to Support Your Autistic Child’s Sleep

When a child has trouble sleeping, the effects can wear on the whole family. Keep trying different ideas to see what works for your child, and eventually something is bound to work.

  1. Routine and Flexibility: Sounds contradictory, right? While maintaining a bedtime routine is golden, sometimes being flexible based on the day’s events can be beneficial. Maybe after a particularly sensory-overloading day, bedtime needs to be a bit earlier.
  2. Seek the Experts: If sleep remains elusive, it might be time to tap into professional resources. Sleep therapists, occupational therapists, or even certain apps can provide strategies tailored to your child.
  3. Parental Self-Care: While supporting your child’s sleep, don’t forget about yours! Ensure you’re getting rest, seeking support when needed, and perhaps even trying some of those relaxation techniques you’ve learned for your child.

Goodnight and Good Luck!

Swaying to the rhythm of autism and sleep is a dance of patience, understanding, and trial-and-error. But as with any dance, once you get the steps down, the motion becomes more fluid and graceful. Whether you’re on the spectrum or guiding someone who is, remember: every challenge has its solutions, every problem its steps.

Select your sleep strategy, find your groove, and glide into better sleep tonight. Sweet dreams!

adults, autism, autism parenting tips, children, parenting tips, sleep

What does undiagnosed autism in adults look like?

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Have you ever felt like everyone else has a handbook for social situations, but you never got your copy? Do you have very strong preferences about fabrics or foods? Do you wonder if it’s autism, or if you’re just introverted, sensitive, and quirky?


Look, I’m not a doctor. I’m just another former gifted kid who wears Loop earplugs to sporting events and has to constantly remember to write niceties in her emails. As of this moment, I don’t have the resources to get the whole formal evaluation to find out “for sure” if I’ve got a touch of the ‘tism. But, I’ve done lots of Googling (shoutout to the websites that point to all my Googling as a sign of autism) and I thought I would share some of the things I’ve found.

Understanding the Spectrum

Everyone with autism has different support needs. Doctors often describe autism profiles with three levels, most prominently characterized by those support needs:

  1. Level 1 is often considered mild, and those within this category may learn to mask their symptoms and needs at an early age. This masking may lead them to fall through the cracks, with their autism going unnoticed.
  2. Level 2 represents a moderate need for support, and people in this group might find it harder to communicate in a way that’s understood and accepted by neurotypicals.
  3. Level 3 indicates substantial support needs. People in this category might be nonverbal at times, and are unable to mask.

Some people grew up only understanding autism to describe people who need substantial amounts of support to meet their basic needs. If you have level 1 ASD but the picture of “autism” in your head looks like level 3, then it would make sense that you’d be confused about your experience.

Signs of Undiagnosed Autism in Adults

Since our perception of the world is based on our own experience, it’s easy to assume that everyone thinks, feels, and acts the way we think, feel, and act. And if everyone does it, then it can’t be an autism thing, right?

Your keen pattern recognition skills have probably picked up where I’m going with this, but I’ll go there anyway. First, no. Not everyone thinks, feels, and acts the way you do – that would be statistically improbable anyway. I have a formula in my head for social interactions with strangers, and when I found out that most people just say the things that come into their heads, and it goes well for them? Mind. Blown. Moral of the story: keep an open mind to hearing about how your experiences differ from others.


Verbal Communication

Autistic verbal communication is effective and tends to be direct. Sometimes, it can be so direct that it intimidates neurotypicals, but it’s not on purpose! Both autistic and allistic communication tendencies have their strengths. We can run into issues when both sides don’t keep an open mind about the others’ perspective, but the differences in general communication style are just that: differences.

Let’s revisit the idea of direct verbal communication. If they need or want something, they’re more likely to ask for it directly, and expect others to do the same. On the flip side, allistics put more emphasis on niceties and small talk, and might indirectly mention their needs or wants. For example, a neurotypical might invite a group of people to a party by saying this:

“I’m they are having a party Friday night. It’s a potluck, and we still need drinks!”

The autistic person receiving that message might think to themselves, “huh, drinks are pretty important. I sure hope they invite someone that brings drinks!” and not realize that they themselves had been invited.

Sign #1 of undiagnosed autism: taking things literally. Bonus points if you have thought to yourself, “I don’t have the ‘taking things literally’ sign of autism because I don’t do [very specific thing].”

Sign #2 of undiagnosed autism: finding it easier to communicate with other neurdivergent people, especially if communicating with neurotypicals gets confusing.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication includes body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, inflection, and other things that aren’t the words coming out of your mouth. Neurotypical people tend to put much greater importance on these nonverbal signals than autistic people do. This applies to both the sending and receiving of messages. Again, neither group is better or worse than the other! The differences in communication, though, can lead to confusion and frustration.

Sign #3: practicing your “yes, I am listening and interested” face.

Sensory Stuff

People with autism become overstimulated from sensory input more quickly and more intensely than their allistic peers. These manifest in different ways for everyone, and different people are sensitive to different sensory triggers. I’ll list a few examples below, but this list is definitely not comprehensive.

  • Hearing electricity in your home, but struggling to understand conversation in restaurants 
  • Using Loop earplugs (or another cool type of earplug) in loud settings 
  • Placing a high priority on clothing fabric, and not being able to stand certain materials. 
  • If you find a texture that feels good on your fingertips, you could play with that object for hours.

Sign #4: having very strong opinions about socks.

Sign #5: if I asked you about food textures that you can’t stand, you would have a list of things that you hate.

Sign #6: your noise-canceling headphones are an absolute lifesaver.


Online Quizzes

Courtesy of Embrace Autism, a phenomenal resource that I love to cite, I’ve linked some common self-assessment questionnaires below. I’ve had doctors recommend these to me, so here I am, recommending them to you.

Autism Spectrum Quotient

The Doctor Decision

If you find that you relate to much of this article (plus the other 7 you read in the past week about this topic) you might be weighing your options about a formal diagnosis. Pursuing a formal autism diagnosis is a personal decision and has its pros and cons. On one hand, receiving a diagnosis might help you gain access to tailored therapy and/or the accommodations that will help you be successful in school and at work. On the other, the process can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly. Regardless of your decision, you are valid and we are accepting of self-diagnosis here.

Your Journey is Just Beginning

If it feels like there are pieces of your life that are starting to make more sense, I encourage you to keep exploring other autism content! You could start with our piece on pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and autism. The more you understand yourself, the better you can meet your needs.

adults, autism, sensory stuff

Navigating PDA and Autism: Understanding Demand Avoidance

What is Pathological Demand Avoidance? 

The definition of pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is still debated within the medical community. Some see it as a profile of autism – a certain type of ASD that some people have – while others see it as a symptom that some autistic people experience. We’re neither doctors nor researchers, so we won’t claim to have the answers to that discussion. We do know, that demand avoidance is a shared experience among some autistic people, so that’s how we’ll describe it here: as a shared experience. 

In this article we’ll delve into what PDA looks like from the outside and how it feels for those who experience it. Whether you have autism or you are caring for someone else on the spectrum, we aim to provide valuable insights and tips to navigate demand avoidance with understanding and empathy.

Experiencing PDA: Finding Balance and Accomplishing Daily Tasks

In the simplest terms, Pathological Demand Avoidance is what happens when someone knows there is something that needs to be done, knows there is a deadline approaching, and instead of doing it they freeze and can’t get themselves to do it, or otherwise avoid what needs to be done by becoming very busy with other tasks that feel less overwhelming. Experiencing PDA can be overwhelming and is often fraught with anxiety and shame. If a teenager can’t seem to “just make themselves” do their homework, their parents and teachers might tell them that it’s their fault, they aren’t trying hard enough, or even tell them that they aren’t smart. None of these things are true! PDA is a very real experience, and it has nothing to do with ambition, intelligence, or ability. 

It often leads to a strong aversion to tasks that have obligations and expectations associated with them. In a moment when an autistic person is feeling trapped or overwhelmed by these demands, self-care can help them to regulate. They shouldn’t try to force themselves to “do the thing” when they are in a panicked state, but instead focus on calming strategies. Some people might find solace in sensory activities, like laying under a weighted blanket, while others might prefer physical activity or visual stimulation. They can return to the task later, when they are feeling emotionally regulated. 

Communication and Self-Advocacy

If someone on the spectrum is in the middle of a conversation and walks out of the room to calm themselves down, the other person might (understandably) be pretty confused. Expressing their needs and boundaries can help an autistic person to get their needs met while avoiding misunderstandings. That said, if the person is overwhelmed, they might have a hard time expressing their needs verbally. A signaling system can help. This can involve using visual cues, like a colored card or a reversible stuffy with a smile on one side and a frown on the other, to indicate when they need to regroup and recharge. Remember, it’s always okay to ask for support and take breaks when necessary.

In social situations, practicing self-advocacy can be empowering for people with autism. Communicating their preferences, such as the need for quiet spaces or clear instructions, can help friends, family, and even teachers, bosses, and coworkers support them. Educating others about PDA can foster empathy and understanding, creating a more supportive environment.

Navigating PDA in Children and Teenagers: Supporting Parents in Handling Demand Avoidance

Parents of children and teenagers with autism often face the unique challenge of navigating demand avoidance while trying to maintain a supportive, accountable environment. It’s essential to strike a balance between understanding and accountability. Here are some tips for parents to consider:

Foster open communication 

Create a safe space for your child to express their feelings and concerns without judgment. Remember that your reactions to their words hold immense weight in these moments! Actively listen to their experiences, frustrations, and ideas for what might be helpful. Approach these conversations with a curiosity mindset, and know your job is to understand and empathize with them here. 

Collaborate on strategies 

Work together with your child to develop coping strategies that suit their individual needs. Ask them what they think would help, and what they need from you that they aren’t getting right now. That can be a very scary conversation as a parent, but if you have the courage to ask with an open mind, your relationship with your child will grow much stronger over time. The strategies that you both come up with at first might not be the ones that work best, but trying things and re-evaluating on a regular basis shows your child that you’re both on the same team. 

Establish routines and predictability

While you’re having that open conversation about what might help your child, we suggest asking them if they would like their home life to be more predictable. If so, adding structure can help to reduce their anxiety, since they know what to expect. Visual schedules or timers might help your child anticipate and prepare for transitions and upcoming tasks.

Break tasks into smaller steps 

Sometimes a big task, like “clean your room,” might feel overwhelming. Your child might not know where to start. Breaking down tasks into manageable steps can make them more manageable. That might look like, “put all your dirty clothes into the hamper, then come back and I’ll tell you what’s next.” Celebrate small achievements along the way to motivate your child and build their confidence, if they indicate that they appreciate the positive attention. 

Practice flexibility

Understand that demand avoidance can fluctuate. If you and your child can come up with a few ideas for them to choose from, you’ll have options that you can try based on their mood or what kind of day they’ve had so far. Be flexible and adapt strategies as needed, recognizing that what works one day may not work the next.

Seek professional support 

Reach out to professionals specializing in autism and demand avoidance for guidance. There may be therapies that your child can benefit from, or you might find that parent coaching for you is most helpful. Professionals can provide personalized strategies and support tailored to your child’s needs.

Be aware of your own emotions

Everyone gets frustrated sometimes! But, if your frustration leads to an explosive reaction toward the child, you’ll also need to do some work to repair that relationship. If you keep an eye on your own feelings and take space before exploding, everyone will be better off in the end. 

Remember, supporting your child through demand avoidance requires patience, understanding, and empathy. Celebrate their strengths and accomplishments while providing the necessary support and accommodations. By creating a nurturing and accepting environment, you can help your child thrive while managing demand avoidance challenges.

Compassion, Understanding, and PDA

Navigating demand avoidance in autism requires an understanding, collaborative approach. Remember, every individual with autism is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to listen, learn, and adapt our approaches to meet the specific needs of those we support. Together, we can build a more inclusive and empathetic society that celebrates the strengths and accomplishments of individuals with autism.


A Roadmap to Recognition: Signs of Autism in Teenagers

If you’re wondering whether a teenager in your life has autism, you’ve come to the right place. If you yourself are a teenager wondering if you have autism, you have also come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover the signs of autism in teenagers – both what it looks like from the outside, and what it feels like on the inside. We’ll also mention some tips for what to do next if the signs feel like they align with your experiences.


Beyond the Stereotypes

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by repetitive behavior, differences in social functioning, and hypersensitivity to stimuli. It’s important to understand what we’re talking about before we talk about the signs, because a lot of what we hear in the media or in our culture about autism creates a stigma that is not accurate. It’s just a condition, like ADHD or Asthma, and we happen to think that autism is actually a wonderful gift. Support needs also vary widely from person to person within the autism spectrum, and no two autistic people are the same.

Signs of Autism in Teenagers

Social Communication and Interaction

Teenagers with autism often prefer direct verbal communication. They often miss their peers’ nonverbal communication cues, and sarcasm might be confusing for them. (Did they mean what they said, or were they being sarcastic so they meant the opposite of what they said? Why can’t people just always say what they mean?)

It might be difficult to interpret gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Eye contact might feel uncomfortable, and from the outside, they might avoid eye contact entirely or hold eye contact for longer than expected if they’ve been told they need to make eye contact with other people. Reciprocal conversations, where two people take turns talking about themselves and asking questions about each others’ interests, may not come naturally.

Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors

Teenagers with autism sometimes engage in repetitive movements or actions, such as hand-flapping or rocking. These behaviors serve a self-soothing or sensory stimulation role, and are sometimes referred to as “stimming” (from the word stimulating). They might also be most comfortable in predictable routines, and might say they prefer routine because they know what to expect. If their routine is disrupted, they might become distressed or could even panic.

Highly focused interests or fixations on specific topics are common among autistic teenagers. Their intense passions and deep knowledge about certain subjects often surprise others.

Sensory Sensitivities

Teenagers with autism often experience sensory sensitivities, which can manifest as over- or under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Certain sounds, textures, or lights may trigger strong reactions or discomfort. They might hate the grocery store lights, or not be able to focus if there’s a faint, distracting sound in the background while they work.

They may become overwhelmed by crowded or noisy environments. Some people actively seek specific sensory experiences, such as spinning or deep pressure, to regulate their sensory input. Deep pressure can come from a family pet or a weighted blanket or stuffed animal.

Executive Functioning Challenges

Executive functioning challenges affect things like organization, time management, planning, problem-solving, and transitioning. Teenagers with autism may struggle with completing tasks, maintaining a clean room, personal hygiene, and adapting to changes or transitions in their routines. They may find it difficult to prioritize tasks, manage their time effectively, and stay organized. These challenges can impact their academic performance and daily functioning.

Some teenagers might experience pathological demand avoidance, or PDA. Tasks that come with obligations or expectations can be particularly overwhelming in these cases, and it’s important to show compassion for yourself (teenager) or your teen (parental figures). For more about pathological demand avoidance (PDA) and autism, check out the linked article.

Potential Challenges in Identifying Autism in Teenagers

Identifying autism in teenagers can be challenging due to masking and camouflaging behaviors. By adolescence, we’ve learned that some behaviors are acceptable socially, and others make us the victim of criticism or even bullying. Coping mechanisms can help autistic teenagers to fit in socially, but they also can make it more difficult to recognize and meet their true needs.

Maybe they imitate movies, TV shows, or peers because they’ve seen those actions lead to positive social outcomes for others. If they “seem fine,” others might not believe them when they describe internal sensory difficulties or other challenges, but their internal experiences are very real! Additionally, social pressures and diagnostic biases, as well as gender differences, can impact the identification process.

The Importance of Early Intervention and Support

Early identification and intervention can drastically improve quality of life for individuals with autism. Appropriate resources and accommodations can empower them to feel comfortable in who they are and accomplish their life goals. Empowering teenagers with self-awareness and self-advocacy skills helps them navigate the challenges they may face and enhances their overall well-being.

Strategies for Supporting Autistic Teenagers

(Hey teenagers, this section isn’t just for your parents. Understanding what is helpful for you is an important step in the process of getting it!)

Creating an Understanding Environment

Creating an inclusive and understanding environment is essential for supporting autistic teenagers. Try out different communication strategies to see what works for them/you, and keep an open dialogue about how things are going. Some autistic teens appreciate clear and concise instructions, breaking down tasks into manageable steps, and using visual schedules for things like chores, homework, or extracurricular activities. It can also help to create a calm and predictable environment, minimizing sensory overload whenever possible. Giving them the opportunity to have quiet spaces or access to sensory tools, such as noise-canceling headphones or fidget toys, can support their sensory regulation.

Demonstrate Respect for Your Teen

reversible stuffed animal

A reversible stuffed animal is a great communication tool. While a teen is in the middle of something, they can choose whether they’d like to be approached by family members. If they place their turtle next to them with a smile, they can indicate to parents, siblings, etc. that they are comfortable being approached. On the other hand, a frowning stuffie indicates that they’d like to be left alone for the time being.

    Know Thyself (And Express Thyself!)

    Self-expression and self-regulation is key for autistic teenagers. Encouraging them to engage in their interests and providing outlets for creative expression can foster their sense of identity and boost their self-esteem. We feel this is particularly important because of the disproportionately high amount of negative messages autistic teens receive compared to their neurotypical peers. Offering opportunities to engage in activities that align with their passions, like joining clubs or pursuing hobbies, can help them connect with like-minded peers and build social connections.


    Teaching effective communication skills might involve a little more intention than with neurotypical kids. Encouraging open and honest conversations, practicing active listening, and validating their feelings and experiences can create a safe space for them to express themselves. We have a few products that can also help autistic people build communication skills. Most importantly, be patient and understanding, and allow them the time they need to process information and respond.

    Education and awareness play a significant role in supporting autistic teenagers. Educating family members, friends, and educators about autism can foster a more inclusive and accepting environment. Promoting acceptance and understanding can reduce stigma and create opportunities for meaningful social interactions.

    Teaching Two-Way Conversation

    conversation cards

    Autistic kids and teens have a tendency to “info-dump” on the people around them, which can be super fun. But, it doesn’t necessarily help them learn about their friends and build connections. Conversation cards are a great tool to help teach the skill of two-way conversation, and parents/caregivers can start by using them at the dinner table!

    Fulfilling Lives and an Inclusive Society

    By recognizing the unique challenges and strengths of autistic teenagers, we can create a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes their overall well-being. If you see potential signs of autism in your teenager, consider a professional evaluation. Remember, acceptance and support are crucial in helping them navigate the complexities of life. By embracing their uniqueness and providing appropriate resources and interventions, we can empower them to reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of autistic teenagers and foster a more inclusive society.

    autism, Social & Emotional

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