Health And Wellness

8 Subtle Signs You Or Someone You Love Has Autism Spectrum Disorder

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woman resting shoulder on man on the beach

"Is my boyfriend autistic?"

Behavior is a tricky thing. We learn so much about other people and ourselves from body language and how we act in certain situations.

If someone you love acts differently than most people, you might wonder what the cause is. You may ask yourself if they are on the autism spectrum.

If you can understand the signs of autism spectrum disorder in adults, you'll be better equipped in knowing how to react and behave in certain situations.

If you think you might have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), knowing what to look out for can help you get a diagnosis from a medical professional.

Not knowing what's going on with you or someone you love can be frustrating, aggravating, and can create a lot of tension and negativity.

In a piece on "Elephant Journal," writer Alex Myles says, "Romantic relationships can be complicated and frustrating for a lot of people, let alone those on the autism spectrum. Love, affection, and communication can be puzzling for everyone, but for those on the spectrum, it can feel impossible."

Here's a list of signs to look for that indicate your partner may be autistic:

1. He's resistant to touch.

When someone has ASD, they may not be as affectionate as you might like, and may act as if they're being tortured when you give them a spontaneous hug. It isn't that they can't show their love; it's that they must feel comfortable and in the right frame of mind to snuggle, hug, or cuddle.

"The brains of people high in autistic traits aren't coding touch as socially relevant," says Martha Kaiser, associate director of the Child Neuroscience Laboratory at the Yale Child Study Center.

RELATED: 7 Key Lessons For Anyone Who Wants To Find Love (As Written By An Autistic Guy)

2. He lacks social skills.

When people are on the autism spectrum, they have many challenges when it comes to social situations. They may avoid eye contact, talk about inappropriate topics, and have difficulty understanding the gestures, body language, and facial expressions of others.

People with ASD may avoid group events as much as possible because they have trouble making small talk and not knowing when people are teasing.

Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD said in an American Psychological Association podcast,

"I think difficulty with conversational skills, for example, makes it very, very difficult to develop meaningful and close relationships with people, whether they be friendships or romantic relationships. And difficulty picking up on social cues and understanding the perspectives of others, knowing how someone might actually react to something that we say or something we do. That sort of difficulty makes it really challenging for people with autism to develop these relationships."

3. He has unusual physical behaviors.

Some of the classic indicators of ASD are repetitive speech, physical tics, and looking anywhere else besides a person's eyes when speaking with them. People on the spectrum may exhibit unusual behavior due to difficulties they have in responding to their environment.

Behaviors may include unusually tense or focused interests, stereotyped and repetitive body movements such as hand flapping and spinning, repetitive use of objects such as flipping lights on and off, insistence on sticking to routines, unusual sensory interests such as sniffing objects, and sensory sensitivities including avoidance of everyday sounds.

4. He rarely gives declarations of love.

It isn't that they don't love you; they just don't understand why they need to repeat it over and over again. Besides, actions speak louder than words, and they're sure you'd know by the way they act toward you that they love you. They'd tell you if their feelings had changed, as they have no problem being brutally honest.

"Studies have shown that people with autism can have feelings that are stronger and deeper than those without autism," said John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye. "Yet those feelings may be invisible to outsiders because we don't show them. Because we don't show them or the expected response, people make the wrong assumption about our depth of feeling about other people."

5. He's extremely sensitive.

Most people on the autism spectrum are somewhat oversensitive. They have a tendency to take things people say literally and become hurt over jokes or even harmless comments. If you break their trust or are disloyal, they're done with you.

They do have a sense of humor, it's just they have one that's unique to them. Someone with ASD can be easily offended, and can rapidly become upset and distressed about things that seem insignificant to others.

6. He consistently forgets important dates.

For someone on the spectrum, they may not understand why there's so much importance placed on certain dates. If they want to celebrate or buy a gift, they can do it any time they want, not because a specific date tells them they're supposed to.

Myles says, "If birthdays, anniversaries, or other important events are overlooked or forgotten, try not to take it personally."

7. He resists changes in plans.

It may not seem like a big deal, but it can be very difficult for someone with ASD to cope with a sudden plan change. They have usually been thinking about the event for a while, and it's very confusing to them and can be another cause for anxiety. They like rigid routines and firm plans.

On the WrongPlanet forum, user Steel Maiden said, "If someone called me suddenly and asked me to change my whole day's plans, just like that, I would shout at them and refuse to leave the house. The change of plan would be far too traumatic."

8. He has frequent meltdowns.

Meltdowns can be part of the package with someone with ASD, and how they handle them is different from person to person. They usually happen after a buildup of tension or frustration and can come out of nowhere. They're almost always purely emotional.

Emma Dalmayne, an adult on the spectrum and a mother of autistic children, says, "When you have a meltdown, it's as if the world is ending. Everything is too much and you feel like overwhelming darkness has engulfed your very being. Irrepressible anger that may seem completely irrational to an outsider can be inwardly devastating us internally."

RELATED: 6 Myths About Autism We Wish You'd Quit Believing

All that said, it can be hard to see the signs an autistic guy likes you. 

Because people with ASD don't always naturally show affection or romance, it can be hard to tell when autistic guys flirt. 

But an autistic man can fall in love and will show you in his own way how he feels. Here's what to look for: 

1. He will try to impress you.

Like any other guy, a man with autism still has the innate urge to impress the opposite sex, especially if they like you.

2. He initiates physical contact.

People with autism rarely like being touched, so if they are the ones who are initiating it that's a decent sign that they like you.

3. He's willing to go to social events with you.

If someone who is autistic willingly goes somewhere that is uncomfortable for him to be with you, he likes you.

These uncomfortable places could be a loud social gathering or a hang-out where he doesn't know anyone. He doesn't want to be there, he wants to be with you.

4. He brings up his interests.

Autistic people are normally closed off to strangers, but when they feel comfortable around you or like you they will offer up their own interests, sharing a bit of vulnerability with you.

They may also spit of facts and knowledge that he has obtained to keep a conversation going.

5. He may become distant.

People with autism sometimes need a break from constantly being "on" around you. They also won't want you to see these breaks and so they may become distant and spend time away from you randomly.

It's not your fault. It's just something that he has to do.

Intuitive Facilitator Joseph Stasaitis says, "I have found autistic folks to be quite empathetic. They may not express or exhibit their emotions freely, but this can be misinterpreted as not caring. The autistic person may then very well withdraw to keep safe. Although craving love and intimacy they tend to lack the ability to pick up on social cues."

How to Date a Man with Autism

Dating someone with autism takes time, work, and effort. But that goes for any other relationship too.

The best thing to do when understanding how to tell if someone has autism, especially if it's someone you love (or yourself), you must learn to accept them and not try to change them.

It can be hard to deal with an autistic partner and you may never fully understand how the ASD brain works, but just because it works differently than others doesn't mean it's not wonderful and brilliant.

Being clear and openly communicative to your autistic partner is a good way to make your relationship work.

Stasaitis explains that to make a relationship work it "requires a potential partner being willing to be very specific and clear in all communications. You are basically interpreting what you say to them by clarifying your exact meaning. An increase in awareness for both people is important."

And, like with any relationship, having patience with your partner is everything. Allowing the autistic person time to process everything is crucial when in a relationship with someone on the spectrum.

RELATED: Am I Autistic? 17 Signs You May Be On The Autism Spectrum

Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and teacher who loves writing and performing personal narratives. Check out her website or her Facebook page.