Is this autism or NT kid-stuff?

NT: an abbreviation for neuro-typical, a term often used in the autism community to reference those who are not on the spectrum.

Ever since my four year-old’s diagnosis of ASD over eight months ago, I find myself constantly wondering, “Is this behavior the effects of autism or just a kid being a kid?”

Self-doubt and motherly instinct are in a constant battle of wits these days.

I don’t just ask myself this question.  I ask my husband, my friends, my parents, my son’s army of teachers and therapists.  Naturally, I get a different response, depending on the person (and the scenario I’m describing).  Let’s see what you think:

Big C is head-butting a group of girls at school.    Autism or NT?

Big C suddenly asks, “What’d you say?” to virtually EVERY demand I place.   Autism or NT?

Big C told his Occupational Therapist very matter-of-factly, “I’m going to kill you.”  Autism or NT?

Big C has a sudden preoccupation with dying and is starting to say, “I’m dead,” though I am very certain he has no idea what this actually means.  Autism or NT?

Big C is having a destructive streak, ripping wall decals, blinds, and picture frames off the walls.  When asked, “why?” (which I’m told is really too advanced of a question for a four year-old in this type of situation) he merely replies, “I don’t like it.”  Autism or NT?

Big C is becoming defiant again, telling me, “No!” and back-talking me constantly.  Autism or NT?

Big C is obsessed with winning.  He has to be the first one up the stairs, the first to open the door, the first at every game.  When he’s not, he has an over-the-top screaming, crying, temper tantrum.  Autism or NT?

Big C is incapable of walking through the grocery store without running his hand along every item on the shelves.  Autism or NT?

While Big C’s 19-month old brother is eager to play catch with him, Big C would rather take the ball and run away, keeping it for himself.  Autism or NT?

While in the urgent care waiting room, our 19-month old son is content to sit and play cars, while Big C is literally trying to climb the walls, settling for my husband’s back, ripping the leaves off the fake plants, and taking the toy cars from his younger brother (now both are wailing), all while the older couple sitting in the waiting room gives us death glares.  Autism or NT?

Essentially, it’s all very muddled and confusing and full of blurred lines, begging the potentially more important question, “Does it matter?”

Certainly, getting at the root of a behavior can help, but in many situations, there’s no “fix” or “quick” solution.  My son is my son, autism label or not.  He’s always going to leave me in wondrous awe (and perpetual frustration).

Any other moms out there wish they had supernatural intuition?


Published by Miranda Keskes

I am a freelance writer, editor, and tutor with fifteen years of high school teaching experience. Helping young adults craft their unique writer's voice is one of my passions. As the mother of a child with autism, I also feel compelled to share our story, connect with fellow parents, and raise awareness for a diagnosis that is still quite misunderstood. Learn more at my business site,, and my personal blog,

10 thoughts on “Is this autism or NT kid-stuff?

  1. Oh yes, I know this one. From our perspective, we’re still crawling through the assessment process, so no diagnosis yet. So everything is “ASC or NT?” with the added edge of possible evidence for a diagnosis / guilt at blowing my 8 year old son’s perfectly average behaviour out of perspective in order to try and label him (depending on my mood).

    Always sticking his head in between mine and the thing I’m reading/looking at/working on – Autistic trait or NT? (I even had his eyes tested to rule that out – they’re just fine).

    Won’t let me finish an explanation of anything to his sister without interrupting to give his version – Autism or NT?

    Manic laughter = autism or NT?

    Seemingly complete overreaction to pain – autism or NT?

    OK, I better stop before I take over your comments page. Thanks for the post.


  2. My answer is… Yes. The only thing about this that I’ve figured out along this journey (my son is 15) is that although our kids are autistic, they are developing just as all kids do, with unique personalities and likes and dislikes and behaviors that make no sense and defiant attitudes that drive us crazy. Very NT stuff. Its just that it sometimes looks a little different (due to extra-sensory issues, or communication difficulties, or social impairments), it might show up later (aka developmental delay), and/or it might last longer (a bit more than a “phase” for kids who latch onto sameness and patterns). I, too, go round and round with these questions all the time!


  3. A most fabulous question. So many times, parents of allistic (NT) kids will say that what i am concerned about is just “normal,” “boy-stuff” etc and yet I think so much about context: sure, my best friend’s son, who is the same age as my autistic son, might also put his pants on wrong. But then the NEXT thing he does is not going to be completely misread a social cue, or have a meltdown, you know?
    Oh, I’ve got so much to say about this but must go to pick up…
    hang in there,


    1. Yes! You make such a valid point about the NEXT thing. It’s in that NEXT step that keeps us constantly questioning and wondering.
      Context is everything. My son doesn’t want to wear his coat outside. Typical, obstinate child stuff, but then he runs away and hides in the coat rack, all while screaming, yelling, and swinging his arms wildly. Sigh…
      Thank you for being such a loyal reader. 🙂


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