Body Weirdness — Day 7 — 30 Days of Autism Acceptance — 2018 Autism Acceptance Month

Silhouette of a person taking a picture

Autistic Silhouette — Just Me Shooting My Shadow

Today (April 6th) I was having some thoughts about how my “body works” and how a lot of these things that apparently are “very strange” are actually quite common with autistic people.  So I think there are a number of different things that come up with that.

  • Unusual Gait
  • Clothing Annoyances
  • Pain
  • Hypermobility
  • Body Language
  • Changes Day to Day

I think that’s really an interesting list of things that are there, and I don’t really know if there are things to add to that or anything.  This is a lot more than some of the things to deal with, and this may actually end up needing to be multiple posts.  But let’s get started.

Body Weirdness – Autistic Bodies Behave Differently

This has been something that has been working through my mind for a while.  There are a lot of different things that I am seeing are very common amongst autistics which have to do with how bodies work, which I think actually may be very much part of autism, rather than something different that just happens to come along with autism.

This is not to say that people who have these “conditions” which are usually considered physical, or at least expressed physically have autism, but that people who have autism, who also have these “disorders” of the body may actually simply be a manifestation of autism.

Of course, this is just speculation on my parts, because I have not looked to see if anyone has looked at this, and not even at the level of individuals just expressing their thoughts on the topic.  But first, let’s look at these things that have physical manifestations that are common in autistics.

  • Hypermobility Syndromes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sensitivity
  • Sensory Overload
  • Sleep Issues
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Other Pain Related Stuff

That’s really a good list, though probably not anywhere near complete.  So the previous list, is partially mostly things which are so common as to autism as to be considered “autistic traits” while this list is more “co-morbid conditions”.  As you can see there are obvious overlaps.  And maybe some less obvious ones.  So, I guess let’s start tackling the first list.

Unusual Gait

This is probably one of the biggest things that has come to allow me to think that maybe some of these issues are not really issues which are separate from Autism, but are pretty much part and parcel of what autism is.

The unusual gait is “practically” a “diagnostic trait” not that it is specifically listed as a trait, but it does fall under “Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements” I would think.  Though I think in terms of me, there is something more going on here.

If I walk “naturally” for myself I will end up walking in a way which is “unusual” as I have body things which move differently in a natural way than is considered normal.  My left foot tends to rotate outwards, in fact that rotation runs all the way up to my hip (at the very least).

With my “natural” gait being something that is considered probably unusual, with another aspect of it being that it ends up being a bit syncopated.  That is it’s not a constant 1-2 at the same cadence, but that the cadence switches with one step being quicker than the other, and also that I often go through a cycle of 3 or 5 patterns of uneven twos (6 or 10 steps) which will give a different cadence through that.

So, I have a natural gate that is “unusual,” but I also have a tendency for the way I try to walk to “fix” that, as I have discovered that when I don’t work with awareness as to how I am walking, and trying to keep my body “straight” I have a tendency to injure, or increase my pain levels.

Clothing Annoyances

I have a lot of what I want to call “clothing annoyances”.  The stuff that can be really obvious is “annoying labels” and “poor material choices”.  But one that I have no idea how common it is, is “clothes just don’t fit right”.  I also don’t know why this might be the case.

So, the annoying labels thing I think is really common.  When I have bought used clothes relatively often there are labels which have been cut out.  Oddly, I find that more often than not, this is even worse for me than the labels when left in usually is.

I know that might seem really odd.  What I find is that when there is label cut out, what happens is that it produces a sharp edge where the label was.  Now I have removed labels, through removing the label entirely, rather than cutting it.  I don’t do this very often, as it usually isn’t bad enough that I need to.  What will often happen with that is the label starts to come detached, or fray, or something and they become even more annoying.

Only one case recently have I felt the need to remove a label right away.  It was a case where the label ended up irritating the small of my back as that was where it sat, so I did remove it, and to do so I removed the label by pulling the stitching that it was attached with.

What I think is probably less common (difficult to tell really) is sensitivity to the materials that are used.  I have found that certain materials are problematic for me.  Polyester can be really bad for me, it is uncomfortable, and makes me stink.  Which both are really not good.

Other materials I am not really so sure about, recently I have discovered that certain elastics seem to be really bad for me.  I didn’t know this was a problem until I bought several products from one place, and initially I thought that the reversing them, to not have the elastic directly against my skin would help (it does, but it still irritates), and I have found that other products from the same place with elastic which is encased also irritates in the same place.

Of course, I’m not sure what it is about this, because it is very difficult to find out what the elastic is made from.  I have also purchased products of a similar nature from another manufacturer that do not irritate me in the same way.

And something which I feel is “very odd” that it’s such a problem for me (and I’ve heard from a number of different people it’s a problem for them) is that “clothes just don’t fit.”  I keep finding that I will buy clothing and it doesn’t fit as I would hope.

I buy “leggings” which I find never sit where I want.  This feels like this shouldn’t be a problem I’m running into, but for the most point all “pants” I have bought have fallen “too low” for me, and I don’t know about this specific problem.

The other common item I wear is dresses, which I find all have something different wrong.  But a lot have been weird in how they fit in the shoulders.  I think this is possibly because my shoulders are just “weird” compared to what the design is for.

So, the clothes just not fitting feels like a “body weirdness” thing.  All these clothing things apparently are “body weirdness.”  Some of this is “sensitivity” to a lot of different things…

Presence of Pain

Pain seems to be a very common thing amongst autistics.  I’m not sure what more to say this, because a lot of different things come up here, and I probably can come up with a bit of a list:

  • Sensitivity to pain
  • Unusual triggers for pain (loud car driving by can cause pain)
  • Generalized pain (like fibromyalgia)
  • Areas of persistent pain (in cases it is myofascial pain)
  • Frequent injuring of self (possible greater risk, and clumsiness)

That’s another great list, and I’m thinking that maybe I can just dive in here.

Sensitivity to Pain

I have to say that many autistics seem to have a sensitivity to pain.  They have a low pain threshold for whatever reason, and may be in pain on a regular basis.  This actually often leads to a to having a high pain tolerance.

I know that both low pain threshold and high pain tolerance are things that I experience.

Unusual Pain Triggers

I know that for me, when I first discovered some of these things (I have found that a loud car driving by actually can cause me pain) I was somewhat surprised.

I was aware that these things can happen, as I had been involved with a forum where people would talk about it, but I didn’t know whether or not it happened with me or not.  I would speak of some things like “that was so loud it hurt” but I wasn’t really sure if it was something which was literally true or not.  Then I found out that it was.

I have other triggers such as smells and other things.  Though they may be chemical sensitivity.  But the “bright light” thing probably isn’t related to chemical sensitivity.

Generalised Pain

For me, I have pain “everywhere”.  I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and part of that is a “11 of 18 tender points”.  During the diagnosis process the clinician was going through, and by the time she had tested 12 of my tender points, said “I could do more, but you’ve met the criteria” so it was clear at that point that she didn’t want to put me through any more of that.

And honestly, there is something that I was feeling there, it wasn’t that bad for me.  Though it was probably worse for the clinician, as it seemed she really didn’t want to go any further.  I wasn’t surprised, or that it was really that “bad”.  It was certainly clear to me, but it was also “normal” for me.

So, I been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but it really just explained why I have “pain everywhere”.  I have heard that this is also common, but it’s something that I have experienced.

Areas of Persistent Pain

This is a little different.  I currently have a pain that has been “hanging about” for a good while, in my mid back on the left side.  This is really obvious to me that this is “too much” for me.  It keeps drawing my attention (well, it is almost always in my attention).

Another much more long lasting (but currently far less intense) is my right neck and shoulder.

Some of this pain seems to be classic “myofascial pain” and while I haven’t been diagnosed with “myofascial pain syndrome” or any variation of that, I seem to have it, and in a lot of cases I just don’t care enough (because it usually doesn’t help) to have another diagnosis.

I don’t know how common this is, perhaps because this seems to be something people don’t really know enough about this that people even look…

Frequent Injuring Myself

Some of this I do not really know what is going on, but some is really clear to me.  If I crash into the wall, or the corner of a table or something, I will have bruising happening.

Another issue is I am clumsy, and will often do things like cut myself while I am opening a package or something.

These are things that I know about.  I notice them.  I see the injury, and I know how it happened.

The other thing is I end up with things like a bruise somewhere that I have no idea how it happened.  Or honestly how it  could happen.

So, there we go…  The pain stuff…

Hypermobility

This is something which I have only recently started to look at.  I don’t really know what the deal here is regarding myself.  My leanings are that I may have some degree of hypermobility.

Hypermobility is where joints go “beyond” the range of movement which is considered normal.  It is something like “doublejointedness” which is what I was first introduced to, knowing people who could do things with their body which wasn’t just “higher flexibility” but rather that their joints would allow movement which normally doesn’t exist.

To some extent I think I have this, but I do not really have enough to worry that it is a problem.  Some of this is related to “collagen disorders” in some people, whereas I think there are other reasons.

For me, with things like martial arts, figure skating, gymnastics, I was told about avoiding hyper extending joints and that sort of thing, so I work very hard to avoid that.

The frequency of hypermobility amongst autistics seems to be rather high.  I don’t really know if this is something so common that the could be very much related, or not.

Body Language

This is a tricky thing.  There is some research which talks about “thin slice judgements” which is talking about judgements that particularly allistic (non-autistic) people make in the first few seconds, or even first few fractions of the first second about a person.

This is mostly based on body language, and this research has shown that a lot of people make a judgement about a person, that they have a very hard time “correcting” when presented with more information.

Right now I’m not sure I can say a whole lot more about this, but one thing that I can say, is that these thin slice judgements end up how a person will treat another person.  This means that when this happens and it is a negative judgement the person is negatively treated.

Changes Happening Day To Day

This is just based on personal observations.  I have been wearing the same undergarments (this likely will need to be talked about more fully later) for a little while and have been having a short period between times which I wear the same specific items (I only have 5 items in the “main set” and sometimes can go through 3 in one day (but honestly less frequently than previously as they work better regarding that)).

So, today I was finding that to be fitting “weird” and I couldn’t really tell what was wrong.  Eventually it settled out.  But I think some of that was that my body was just fitting the clothing differently.

So, it’s just a thing I have noticed is that sometimes one day some things seem to happen one way, the next day, it’s totally differently…

Wrapping Up

This is just some of my observations (and some of it has been related to looking at literature about these issues) about how my body, and autistic bodies in general can be “weird”.

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