Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adults on the Spectrum: These are your Feet on Asperger's


When I first started working with adults on the spectrum there was no literature to refer to, and certainly no treatment guidelines.  It was a brand new frontier, and so exciting.  I haven’t lost that sense – that there’s an ever-expanding landscape of discovery when it comes to working with adults on the spectrum.  Part of the constant novelty lies in the complexity of the mind; our personalities and coping mechanisms emerge through a complicated interplay between environment and genetics.  Of course we all know this.  But most of us consider autism to be a strictly neurological disorder, with observable behavior manifestations.  After working with hundreds of adults, I’m beginning to have my doubts.


What emerges after working with so many adults on the spectrum are patterns.  These patterns reveal common threads between everything from client histories, to their private philosophical musings, to their choice of partners, to their sexuality, to the way they sit.  I’m not talking about anything near 100% consistency, of course.  But I am talking about unmistakable trends, the likes of which I’ve not seen in other populations.  I’ll be writing more about these trends in posts to come.

But for this short post I’d like to focus on one rather endearing trend: what adult clients do with their feet.  After seeing lots and lots of adults on the spectrum I couldn’t help but notice how they tend to sit.
Not all of them, mind you, just many more than I had ever seen when working with varied populations.

Since sitting in this manner is not socially sanctioned for adults (yes, even our sitting postures are guided many unwritten social mandates), it’s unusual to see adults, both men and women, sitting in this position.  Some of them let me take pictures of their feet.  I've got almost fifty of them! All the same position. It’s not a groundbreaking clinical observation, just a fun one, and one example of how people on the spectrum can transcend social expectations and teach us about ourselves.  Apparently sitting with your feet like this is really comfortable.  I’ve tried it now, and it made me remember how many comfortable things we give up when we enter the world of adulthood and social referencing.  The ability to be disconnected from social norms can cause problems - we hear lots about that - but it can also preserve behaviors that are timeless in their comfort and charm.

See our this post referenced on The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

heh - just looked down at my feet and guess how i am sitting.

Anonymous said...

Funny and a good way to think of annoying habits that make me fall down a few rungs on the social hierarchy. Thanks. B.D.

EnjoyHi5!Autism said...

Hi5!

Anonymous said...

Good article and I am always sitting this way but only when I am alone or in good company. My wife tells me to sit normally, as I also have a habit of crossing my legs in traditionally feminine style.

Donna said...

Wow! My husband is an Aspie, and he also always sits like this. I never thought anything of it...but as soon as I saw the photos I couldn't believe my eyes! I wish I could be in your shoes and have some more experience with Aspies so I can figure out how to help my hubby more. Keep writing, I love every one of your articles!

Loco Geologo said...

I remember being self conscious during high school and training myself not to sit like this. It's great being old now, sitting how I want and seeing I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

Donna- That is so refreshing and inspiring to hear- Keep the faith, our benefits outweigh our needs.

Martha said...

Is the right foot always on top regardless of "handedness?"

Cary Terra, M.A., LMFT said...

Haha! Martha I will have to look - I never thought to check!

Katerina Riabova said...

Footwear, too. I've noticed how many Aspies wear flip-flops. I think it has to do with sensory integration, but it is outside the social norms.

Azkyroth said...

Huh. I've been trying to train myself NOT to sit this way because I suspected it was contributing to uneven sole wear and long-axial torsional wear of my shoes, and possibly to gait or ankle abnormalities that were complicating my efforts to actively exercise via walking or running.

I never noticed it was actively uncommon.

Katie Bretsch said...

Yes, except with no shoes on, the bottom foot with the toes bent under. I think this is the feet equivalent of sitting on your hands.

Thea C said...

I sit like this too, and I'm NT. I'm left handed though, and my left foot goes on top!

Anonymous said...

I've long suspected that I'm at least borderline. I just added another item my growing list of Aspie traits.

cecil said...

I had a job in 1986 that I finally quit after my supervisor called me in to her supervisor's office to complain about among other things 'the way I sat when I did my work' .. the latest in months of complaints about my dress,'acting', and grooming was not up to phone company office standards even though I was the one who did the most work and was most requested to help technicians who called in from the field and could not 'see' me?

Tim said...

LOL are you serious? Actually I've never heard this is socially unacceptable, though it's how I often sit. Anyone who can truly confirm it's a faux pas?

suzymom said...

There is handedness and footedness, and they don't specifically go together. I have a left-handed and a right-handed daughter, but they are both left-footed. It showed for instance by the way they got off their bikes when they were smaller -- always on the 'wrong' side, where the oily chain is, so their trouser bottoms often got dirty. :-(

P Workman said...

Huh. I always thought I did that because of my hemihypertrophy. My right leg is longer and better able to reach the floor, my left is not, so I prop it on top of the right. Of course, it does bad things to my ankle, so I try to be aware of it.

I am, for the record, right handed and right footed.

thethirdglance said...

Hah! Left foot on top, but yup... either that, or I end up with both feet in my chair, my right leg down and my left leg up, feet together like this still though...

Anonymous said...

I sit that way. It may be worth noting that my feet are pronated--my arches are very low, so my feet tend to go inward. I overcorrect sometimes by supernating; turning my feet outward when standing.

Anonymous said...

I always sit like that. Ha!

Anonymous said...

I always get flack from my wife about sitting like this. Of course it's a social faux pas. I have been focusing on sitting and standing right since I can remember. I also eat funny and cannot figure out chatting.

Joe Hutchinson said...

Wait a minute--people actually CARE about the arrangement of other peoples' feet when sitting? Seriously? Don't people sometimes sit with their ankle resting on the opposite knee, or with their legs crossed? I'm completely confused as to why one would be more acceptable than the other.

I can understand the "logic" behind some traditional morays in different cultures, but this isn't one of them. I'm going to go put my elbows on a table now.

paul said...

Now I'm going to be looking down all the time at my feet and feel really weird.

I am definitely following your blog now though!

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...

Whoa. I'm not Aspie, just regular Autistic...and guess how my feet also are! I clicked on this from MamaBeGood. I am laughing so hard. I wonder if now that you have noticed this (which I never had) it will be taken up by the ABA police and beaten out of us, or maybe taken up by us an insignia. We need something other than the puzzle piece... ;)

Cary Terra, M.A., LMFT said...

Hi Ibby - actually that blog link concerns me, as it seems the author has completely misunderstood the nature of my post. Glad you understood what I was trying to communicate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful blog. I read it from start to finish, and learned so much. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into writing all of the posts. By the way, I am reading this in Singapore!

Angel Roe said...

Lol, I like how the first comment on here states exactly what I was thinking. I looked down to see how i was sitting too, and YUP!
Some of this stuff makes me crack up laughing (dont know why, it doesn't really seem THAT funny to me) but It's more one of those "ironic" kind of laughing spells. Because I have either been the one not understanding why i do certain things, or other people dont understand and critize me every chance they get.
And there's times I think certain things, but i'm not validated by others. Then I read exactly what I thought, but where someone else was in the same "shoes" (so to speak) as me.
I was going through some of my pictures on face book... I used to sleep like this all the time *points to my feet in the picture* (still do i think. lol)

https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/37522_421028733738_1545585_n.jpg

Let me know if the picture doesn't show, I'll try photobucket instead of taking it directly off of facebook. lol

Nicholas Boucher said...

I sleep with my feet against something and do this for comfort. I fall asleep "digging arches".

Nicholas Boucher said...

Or, can we call it intermediate reflexology?

Steven Dunn said...

Yes! Of course I do this all of the time but had no idea as to why. I really didn't care. But I have to do it bare footed.

Thanks so much for your blog.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if forcing yourself to adopt a different posture can change how your mind functions?

Anonymous said...

Just looked down - to my own stacked feet. My feet are on the spectrum! Great article. Thanks. Perhaps you'll consider writing a book.

Jake

Mrs Grumpy said...

I am right-handed, but my left foot is on top. But I only sit this way when I'm sitting at my computer. It's either that or with my feet o the 'feet' of the chair. Hardly ever on the floor. Downstairs on the sofa, I have a chaise which is "my spot" (channeling Sheldon there), so I don't ned to sit that way.

Anonymous said...

I would probably sit this way but my ankles are super-loose and would subluxate outward. But I have had the habit for as long as I can remember of sitting with my left leg on the floor and my right foot up on the chair with me, knee completely flexed so my heel is against my bottom and my leg is in the midline of my body against my trunk. When alone and in private, I sit like this while eating, if it's something "easy" like cereal. I am a late-life dx Aspie (about a year ago, age 41 then) and wonder if others have similar (or similarly not-discussed) postural habits.

Jeanne Medina said...

Right handed, left foot on top of right, but still prefer the left folded completely under my butt if I have the room. I ALWAYS ask for a booth at restaurants for this very purpose, as well as only going during off hours to avoid the crowd and ask for the booth farthest from the kitchen, so I don't hear the pots banging.

tonyprower@hotmail.com said...

Love your writing!

I don't think this is just a fun observation. I suffer from bad foot and ankle problems which may relate to toe walking as an infant. I get attacks during anxious periods and I consider that it might be possible that the anxious tension learned as a child has followed me into adult hood.

I don't have anxiety disorder, but like most people go through anxious periods. My mild Asperger's is a very pleasurable aspect of my life. My foot pain, however is not.

Bryce said...

That is how I often sit. I knew crossing your legs could seem strange or inappropriate for a man. I did not know crossing your feet like that was at all socially unacceptable. Is it really?

Hanne-Kari Havik said...

I am 46 years old, a Norwegian woman, and I also ALWAYS sit like that, in a Chair.

Hanne-Kari Havik said...

I always ALSO sit like that, and I have aspergers, AND I am 46 years old.

Anonymous said...

I usually sit like that bending the toe knuckles of the upper foot.
Funny.
I wonder why we often sit on our hands.

Anonymous said...

How funny! I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw this. Then I looked down and my feet were exactly like that!

lilium said...

I am a aspie woman and my rule is, one feet always have to be out of the floor, under my other leg, a chair, floating or like the pictures.

growing up i didn't notice that until my mother in law scold me to sit properly.

Angel said...

How intriguing, I too looked down and I was sitting like that. Hmm...

Angel Mind Retrofit said...

How intriguing, I looked down and I too am sitting like this! Hmm ...