Asperger’s in motion
While there is no definitive “look” to autism, it is true it frequently comes with physical presentations such as clumsiness, poor manual dexterity, and joint hypermobility. It’s perhaps not obvious, but these can all exacerbate the sense of isolation many autistics feel because they can make us stand out and draw often unwelcome attention to ourselves.
Another side to the physical presentation is how our senses are affected by various stimuli. I'll cover that in a separate post.
How Asperger's has affected me physically
I've not escaped the physical effects of autism, although I daresay I've got off lighter than some.
I am extremely clumsy. It's a standing joke between me and Mrs EBG how I'm a walking disaster. I am forever prone to bumping into things, cutting and bruising myself, as well as accidentally damaging inanimate objects as I rhinoceros my way through life (yes, "to rhinoceros" is now a verb, because I just made it one).
Oddly, though, my spatial awareness is excellent. I can park my Land Rover in a space with no more than 6 inches to spare front and back. I don't use the rear-view camera, and barely use the mirrors.
Autism is strongly correlated with synesthesia, and this is certainly something I have to some extent because for me fitting objects into spaces (like parking cars or moving furniture around) is something I do by being guided by internal sensations rather than (consciously) visually. When the car is going into the spot correctly it feels right inside my chest.
But I can't explain it any better than I have. If I need to explain it to you, I can't; and if I can, I don't need to.
Sometimes autistics seem to ignore others' personal space. I think this is often through lack of spatial rathe than social awareness. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.
My gait is a little unusual, but nor markedly so, not to the point where I've been mocked and bullied for it like many autistics are.
You want presents wrapping? Walls painting? DIY doing?
Don't ask me, because I make a mess of everything I do. I knock things over, drop them, and generally fudge, fumble, and flounder in any endeavour where manual dexterity is a minimum requirement.
Back when I was a kid I was even told by a teacher I'd never amount to much in life because my handwriting was poor.
And there's no doubt it was.
Fuck, it still is.
I find writing by hand to be difficult, physically uncomfortable, and even painful. I have such poor manual dexterity the pen or pencil seems to assume a life of its own. My hand seems to jump and twitch at random giving my writing the appearance of a drunken scrawl, or maybe something left on the page by a crippled spider trailing ink.
It was so bad I had one teacher, a loathesome individual of a French teacher by name of Monsieur de Gaye (I think that was the correct spelling) focus the entire force of his spiteful and malevolent being upon me. For no good reason other than he was an authoritarian cockwomble, de Gaye insisted we write in with a fountain pen.
Alas, I'm left-handed — something else which is strongly correlated with autism — so using a fountain pen is difficult enough for that reason alone.
And as a manually un-dextrous Aspie?
The page inevitably looked like I'd filled my bladder with ink and pissed all over it.
As a consequence, I ended up having to rewrite work over and over again because even though it was correct, it was messy. My parents did little to intervene for far too long, and so I was utterly miserable at school for more than a year. I was 11 or 12 at the time.
Eventually even my folks could see it was having a detrimental effect on my mental health, and finally stepped in (I doubt things would ever get that far nowadays, and certainly not with one of my kids, that's for sure).
Just one example of how ignorance and casual bigotry can turn a natural Aspie trait into a living hell for us.
On the whole...
I think I've been lucky.
The prevalence of keyboards has made the need for handwriting largely obsolete, and I'm content in going through life knowing I'm unlikely ever to be a brain surgeon, artist, or tattooist.
To me lack of manual dexterity and clumsiness are just the cost of the business of living.
But some autistics are so badly affected physically they need constant care and cannot even toilet or feed themselves through lack of control and coordination.
Just something for you to think about when you're perhaps thinking autism is not such a big deal, after all.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate