Am I Autistic Or Just Shy? Let’s Tell Them Apart

The line between being autistic or being shy is not so clear that lots of people wonder: “Am I autistic or just shy?”. It is even harder to identify if you are the involved ones. Observing unusual signs of other people might be better in this regard.

Watching your kids growing every single day is obviously a pride. It is even greater if your children reach their own milestones and enjoy communicating and playing with their friends. 

But what if you notice some unusual behaviors (or at least one) in your kid when he/she engages in social situations? They are usually anxious or scared about communicating with others. I know some parents will think that your kids are just shy when she or he first meets strangers. And lots of kids behave like that too.

Many parents, on the other hand, wonder “Does my toddler have autism?” or “Is that just a sign of a shy or reserved child?”. It’s hard to say exactly that your kid is shy or just autistic. The reason is that both can exhibit similar behaviors.

So how do you identify the dissimilarity?

First, I’d like you to understand that being shy is a normal behavior in most toddlers, babies, or kids. You can catch a baby avoiding eye contact or looking down in social situations. They also tend to hide their head on your shoulders or even cry.

But those behaviors are likely to happen for the first time when your kids meet other people. If you encourage them to engage in that conversation, they will start “warm up” and slowly make conversation.

In contrast, children with autism usually actively avoid social interactions. Even if you raise their spirits or after they have had quite a long time with others, they still don’t want to talk with them. They incline to be alone rather than being with crowds.

One of the most significant sign of autistic kids is that they don’t look for their parent’s help in those situations. While shy children usually exhibit dependent behaviors like clinging to their parents, autism children don’t. Some might get anxious and avoid eye contact even with their moms, dads, or closest relatives.

What is the difference between being autistic and being shy?

Other symptoms that your kid might get autistic

Avoiding social interactions is just one of the common signs of autism. In fact, there are so many misconceptions about autism that you have to ask yourself: “Am I autistic or just weird?”. 

For example, many have the wrong conception of introvert vs autism. Introvert people are not afraid of socializing. They don’t face difficulty in communicating with others, but finding it great to be alone. 

That’s why noticing the signs of autism early will make it easier for you and your autistic child to overcome it. This, as a result, will help them achieve success. Depending on the spectrum that your kid has, symptoms can be different, such as:

  • They might exhibit obsessive behaviors
  • They might have tantrums as a cause of frustration, anxiety, irritation, etc.
  • They might do things alone and repeatedly
  • They might ignore or don’t imitate when you do some things like clapping your hands
  • They might have dangerous behaviors leading to self-injury
  • They might have language skills and develop them to some extent then stop talking

Wrapping up

It doesn’t matter if you or your kiddos are shy or autistic. As long as you have proper early intervention, their social communication skills will not be challenging anymore. 

I’d like to sum up the most important symptoms of shyness vs autism as follows. I hope it will help you quickly discern these two confusing concepts.


  • Interested in involving in communication or social situations but diffident about that
  • Worried or scared about engaging in social interaction 


  • Not interested in social communication at all
  • Might be anxious and terrified of social interaction’s results

I also want to give you advice as an autism mom. Try to be as calm as you can in any situation. If you are mad at your kids, things will get worse, either they are just shy or that is the sign of autism. They might have aggressive behavior that hurts you, other people, or themselves. 

Besides, spending more time playing with your children is another way to stimulate their communication skills. By doing this, you will increase their chance to interact with you. Gradually, you can see improvement, though it is really hard and requires a lot of efforts and patience.

If you notice one of the above stigmas or any uncommon behaviors, you should consult a pediatrician or a child psychologist about your kid’s conditions . The sooner the autism is diagnosed, the greater the success of the intervention is. 

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