This questionnaire is derived from the DSM-5 criteria with its own autistic spin. While the DSM-5 better acknowledges autistic people’s experiences of autism than earlier versions did, it’s still not perfect. Some autistic people may have trouble parsing what it says. This quiz may help make the criteria clearer.
There’s no need to tally up points (though I suppose you can if you want to). This isn’t an official diagnostic quiz, so there are no cutoffs. This is just here to give examples for the criteria. If you can relate to a lot, maybe tell your psychologist.
Part A: Social score
Part 1: Reciprocity with non-autistics
- As a child, others’ relationships confused me when I started school. It seemed like they already knew each other somehow.
- I used to think everyone else could read each other’s minds.
- I used to, or still do, not respond sometimes when people start talking to me.
- I used to, or still do, find it hard to start conversations.
- Sometimes I get confused about turn-taking in conversations. I don’t know when it’s my turn and I get tripped up.
- When I’m interested in a subject, I may monologue about it without realizing when the other person wants me to stop or change the subject.
- I avoid talking about my favorite things because I’m afraid I’ll come across as overbearing and people will get upset with me.
- People find my emotions unusual.
- They think I’m emotionless or cold.
- Or they think I’m unpredictably moody and too emotional.
- Sometimes I “drop off the face of the earth” when I am tired and I don’t contact my friends for long periods of time.
- It doesn’t occur to me to ask people for comfort when I’m hurt or upset.
- I struggle to make sense of others’ feelings, especially in unclear situations.
Most autistic people will not relate to every single one of these. Most, but not all, of these describe me.
Part 2: Nonverbal communication
- Eye contact makes me uncomfortable and I prefer to avoid it. I might “fake it” by looking at eyebrows, noses, mouths, or chins.
- Or: people tell me that I tend to stare.
- I don’t gesture a lot.
- When I was young, I didn’t understand pointing, even though my same-age peers did.
- My facial expressions appear very limited or very exaggerated.
- People think that I am sad, angry, or bored when I’m just showing my normal facial expression.
- My body language is unusual (or so I’m told).
Part 3: Relationships
- As a child, I didn’t know how to do imaginative play.
- Or, I only did it with other kids, and I just followed their lead.
- As a child, most of my friendships were with people much older or younger than me.
- Friendships with peers may have been arranged by adults.
- I have an unusually hard time making friends.
- I have gone through periods of time in which I had no friends at all.
- Now or in the past, making friends just wasn’t a priority and I was okay with being by myself.
- Sometimes I would try to make friends without it working out.
- I would hang out on the periphery of a friend group, trying to participate and copy them, but not fully understanding.
- I’ve never been “in touch with” current trends or interests. As a child, I didn’t understand what was so interesting about things that made other kids excited (like sports, boy bands, or fashion).
- Or I may have intentionally chosen “normal” interests or methodically researched trends (such as fashion or dating) in an attempt to fit in.
- I treat everyone about the same: family, friends, authority figures, and strangers.
- I show about the same kindness to strangers and acquaintances as I do to people I love. Just because I don’t know them well doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.
Part B: Repetition and focus
Part 1: Stimming
- As a kid, I liked spinning toys, such as a spinning top or the wheel of a toy car.
- I lined up my toys, and/or I line up objects sometimes when I let my mind wander.
- Now or when I was younger, I would make unusual movements like rocking (back and forth or side to side), flapping hands, and other movements that people thought were odd.
- I pace a lot. It helps me think.
- I fidget a lot in subtle ways, like tapping a pencil or shaking my legs. If I try to stop myself, it’s hard to stay focused.
- When I need to think hard about something, I don’t like to sit still. I’d rather pace, wring my hands, or do other repetitive movements that help me think.
- I repeat words and phrases for fun or to help me focus.
- Now or when I was younger, I would communicate by quoting TV shows, memes, or other points of reference.
Part 2: Routines, orderliness, and transitions
- I tend to like to eat the same thing for certain meals. If that is not available, it rattles me.
- I go through “phases” with foods. For several months, I like one food for a certain meal, and then I get tired of it and move to the next one to eat for several months.
- When I go to a certain restaurant, I like to order the same thing each time.
- Transitions aren’t easy for me.
- I get stressed if plans change at the last second. I need advance notice.
- Unpredictability scares me. Following a routine helps me stay calm.
- Transitioning between tasks is harder for me than it is for most people.
- I feel like I have more inertia than other people. It takes longer for me to switch from one task to another, which can be frustrating.
- It feels nearly impossible to start a complex or un-fun task.
- I’m a perfectionist.
- Small mistakes, like typos or objects out of place, catch my eye. I fix them if possible.
- I clean and arrange places that don’t belong to me when I am idle. It’s a nice thing to do.
- At a store, I may make time to arrange displays, move items that were put on the wrong shelf, or return others’ shopping carts. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to improve it.
- In public, I may pick up litter or kick stray rocks back to their designated place.
Part 3: Special interests
- I get extremely excited when I talk about my favorite things, to the point that other people can be surprised by my enthusiasm.
- I could literally talk about my favorite topic(s) for hours. The only reason I don’t is because most people don’t want to listen for hours.
- I can research my favorite topic(s) for hours on end, then do the same thing tomorrow and not be tired of it.
- I may have read (or intend to read) hundreds or thousands of articles and books.
- I like to keep an archive of information related to my favorite topic(s). This might be books on a shelf, collections of items, a bookmarks folder in my web browser, handmade spreadsheets or manuals, or something else.
- Having favorite topic(s) is a lifesaver for me. It gets me through hard times and makes me happy.
- If I lose my favorite interests and don’t have a replacement interest, my life feels empty and sad.
- Most people are not as passionate about their favorite thing(s) as I am. Everyone loves something, but the way I do it is more intense.
- Doing schoolwork is/was much more fun if my favorite topic is involved.
- Basically, I’m in love.
Part 4: Sensory input
Your sensitivity may be heightened for some senses and/or reduced in others.
- Sometimes when I am underreacting to something startling or upsetting (like a loud noise or a sharp clothing tag), people think I am overreacting.
- Hearing: My sense of hearing is amplified.
- Loud school assemblies, concerts, and events sound like torture instead of fun.
- Sometimes I feel scared or in pain when I hear certain sounds that other people don’t react to. Sports cars, motorcycles, blenders, vacuum cleaners, and other loud sounds have felt unpleasant or painful to me.
- Sight: My eyes are sensitive.
- Bright lights hurt my eyes. When going outside on a sunny day after being indoors, I may flinch and cover my eyes.
- I look away from flashing lights in movies. I hate looking at bright screens in dark rooms.
- Visual clutter can be overwhelming for me.
- Touch: I feel so many things on my skin and it’s not easy.
- Clothing tags and itchy sweaters can be unbearably uncomfortable.
- People think I am overreacting when I get injured, but it really hurts.
- Smell/taste: I’m easily affected by strong smells and tastes.
- I only eat “mild” food. This makes it hard to find something palatable at restaurants or cafeterias.
- I notice smells that others don’t. I struggle with overpowering perfume/cologne, body odor smells, and garbage scents that don’t seem to bother other people.
- I comment on how people smell.
- I have trouble knowing whether I am having a medical issue, because when I was little and experiencing sensory pain, people would always tell me I was fine. Now I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to suffer in silence or get medical help.
- When I get overwhelmed, I may have an outburst or shut down. The stress from this can last hours or days.
Reduced sensitivity & sensory seeking
- Hearing: Sometimes I can’t hear quiet sounds that other people can hear. They say I am too noisy. I just love loud music and loud sounds.
- Sight: Sometimes it’s hard to read. I like to stare at bright lights. I may have stared at the sun as a child until I learned it was bad for me.
- Touch: I can’t always tell if I’m being touched gently, such as if there’s a bug walking on me. When I get hurt, people seem really worried even though I feel okay. Sometimes I don’t realize that I’ve been injured or don’t realize when it’s serious.
- Smell/taste: I love strong flavors and scents.
- I might not realize injuries or danger because everything feels okay to me. Other people act alarmed and tell me I’m hurting myself by doing something too intense.
Part C: It was there from a young age
Autism doesn’t just appear later in life. If it’s autism, then it was there in your early childhood.
However, that doesn’t mean everyone noticed right away. It might not have been clear to everyone until expectations got harder and harder to meet. You may have masked your difficulties, trying to copy other people.
Part D: Disability
Autism is a disability. As an autistic person, you might have struggles in socializing, school, work, home life, and/or other areas.
You are neurodivergent. Society is built for neurotypical people, and the difference is big enough for you to have a hard time.
Part E: Other explanations
These traits aren’t better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay.
Part F: Not in the DSM-5
These traits are barely mentioned or not mentioned in the DSM-5, but they’re well-known as being related to autism.
- My mood can change a lot. Other people say that I have big mood swings or that my moods are unpredictable (though they make sense to me).
- I may have been asked if I have, or even been misdiagnosed with, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.
- Sometimes I get so upset that I cry and cry and can’t feel better. Or I may scream and throw things and say things I don’t mean. Or I throw myself to the ground and sob.
- People might say I’m being difficult, but I can’t help it. It feels like the end of the world and I don’t know what else to do.
- After I’ve had time to recover, I feel pretty normal again. I may feel embarrassed or ashamed of how I acted.
- People say I’m overdramatic or too sensitive. I can’t help that I have big emotions, and it feels alienating to know that other people don’t get it.
“Difficulty with transitions” is an executive function issue, but that’s not all there is to it.
- My room/desk/house is a mess.
- I routinely leave emails untouched for days on end.
- I struggle to keep track of assignments, even when I want to succeed.
- I may cling to a day planner or calendar app because I cannot function properly without it.
- I forget to take care of important tasks. This affects my quality of life.
- I run out of favorite foods, meds, or other important things because I forget to get more.
- “Deferred maintenance” is the status quo in my house (or it would be if someone else didn’t do these things for me).
- My devices (phone, tablet, electric toothbrush) routinely die because I forgot to charge them.
- I express a large amount of gratitude when someone does a “simple” task I had been forgetting to do. To me, it isn’t so simple.
- I subside on microwavable and other easy meals because cooking is too complicated.
- I might like the idea of trying healthy recipes, but they involve so many steps. If it can’t be done in 3 minutes, it’s not happening.
- People think I’m lazy or that I don’t try hard enough. I may have started to believe this.
- I have difficulties with impulse control.
- As a child, I would be on the outskirts of social groups, trailing along behind other children and mimicking their behavior.
- As a child, I pretended to be interested in things my peers liked (such as boy bands, sports, popular TV shows, or Barbies).
- I pretend I am not uncomfortable or in pain because everyone else seems fine with a situation and I don’t want to be an inconvenience.
- I have taught myself to mimic eye contact by staring at eyebrows, noses, mouths, or chins.
- I have consciously or unconsciously redirected or suppressed types of fidgeting to avoid judgment from other people.
- I feel very different from other people, like an alien trying to fit in among humans.
- I worry that if people knew who I really am, they would reject me.
- Sometimes I enter a state of hyperfocus, to the point I am unaware of my surroundings. I may not hear phone calls or people trying to talk to me. I may completely lose track of time.
- I started reading at an unusually young age.
- I find sayings like “putting all your eggs in one basket” or “the pot calling the kettle black” to be confusing.
- I like collecting objects.
- I think gender norms are silly. They don’t make much sense to me and I don’t see why people try to enforce them. If a boy wants to play with “girl toys” or a woman wants to wear short hair and flannel, I don’t see what’s such a big deal about that.
- My speech becomes very halting or stops working sometimes.
- People tell me that my behavior was strange when I was just doing what came to me naturally.
What to do with this
I’m not going to give you score cutoffs because I can’t diagnose you. It would be silly of me to say I know exactly what type of score makes you autistic.
The goal here is to give you a better sense of the DSM 5. Use this to understand the criteria and compare them with yourself.
Also, keep in mind that you probably won’t relate to every single sentence here. Some of them don’t apply to me. (I don’t have impulsivity issues, for example.)
If you relate to some of these, it doesn’t necessarily mean autism. There are other conditions that can be mistaken for autism: ADHD, nonverbal learning disorder (which is the opposite of what you might think it is), alexithymia, and more. For example, if you relate to the sections on emotion and executive dysfunction, it could be ADHD.
Please don’t jump to conclusions. You might end up missing out on some critical self-knowledge.
These questions are based on my reading, personal experiences, and interpretation. Please don’t only rely on me as a source.
- Official criteria
- Steve Asbell’s autistic masking quiz
- Steve Asbell’s thread on the DSM 5
- Yenn Purkis’ DSM 5 Rewrite
- A study including more examples
I’m not the only one writing about this. Other people can help you too.
If you think you might be neurodivergent, you might be wondering “what’s next?”
For starters, I have tons of wikiHow articles for you!
- How to recognize signs of autism in yourself
- How to distinguish between autism and other conditions
- How to tell your parents you think you’re autistic (for those who live with parents)
- How to be ready for an autism assessment
- How to cope with an autism diagnosis or how to cope with discovering you aren’t autistic
Please feel free to check out wikiHow’s autism resources. They can help you take the next steps.
I also have autism 101 posts if you’d like to learn more.
This is a long journey. Take it slow. Remember, you’re not alone. The Autistic community is here for you, whatever you find at the end.
What does autism mean to you? What percentage of the statements do you think you relate to?