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/
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heh - just looked down at my feet and guess how i am sitting.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Donna- That is so refreshing and inspiring to hear- Keep the faith, our benefits outweigh our needs.
Is the right foot always on top regardless of "handedness?"
Haha! Martha I will have to look - I never thought to check!
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.
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.
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.
I sit like this too, and I'm NT. I'm left handed though, and my left foot goes on top!
I've long suspected that I'm at least borderline. I just added another item my growing list of Aspie traits.
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?
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?
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. :-(
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.
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...
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.
I always sit like that. Ha!
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.
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.
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!
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... ;)
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.
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!
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)
Let me know if the picture doesn't show, I'll try photobucket instead of taking it directly off of facebook. lol
I sleep with my feet against something and do this for comfort. I fall asleep "digging arches".
Or, can we call it intermediate reflexology?
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.
I wonder if forcing yourself to adopt a different posture can change how your mind functions?
Just looked down - to my own stacked feet. My feet are on the spectrum! Great article. Thanks. Perhaps you'll consider writing a book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I am 46 years old, a Norwegian woman, and I also ALWAYS sit like that, in a Chair.
I always ALSO sit like that, and I have aspergers, AND I am 46 years old.
I usually sit like that bending the toe knuckles of the upper foot.
I wonder why we often sit on our hands.
How funny! I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw this. Then I looked down and my feet were exactly like that!
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.
How intriguing, I too looked down and I was sitting like that. Hmm...
How intriguing, I too looked down and I was sitting like that. Hmm...
How intriguing, I just looked down and I too was sitting like that. Hmm ...
How intriguing, I looked down and I too am sitting like this! Hmm ...
alors ça c est amusant lol, je n'avais même jamais remarqué que je m'asseyais comme ça, et encore moins que c'était "bizarre"
I almost always keep one in my chair, but this is a nice second best... And I always thought it was because I was only 5'3"!
im NT - and just tried it - feels odd.
I sit like that!!! OMG!!! My mother was always mad with me because I sit like that and get my shoes dirty!. hahaa
My husband did the same way as you. We shyly had to work on him not crossing his one leg under his butt while sitting in the car. He kept getting the seats dirty... He note sits with his feet just like the pictures.. All the time, in private... In public he stretches them out so he's not tempted to sit on one leg
Wow, almost woke my 2yr old laughing at this post. I sit like this most of the time, and often swing my legs in this position when in tall chairs(my legs are on the short side). In addition, i sleep like this, and as i read this post in bed on my phone realized they are tucked this way now! So funny and refreshing to read so many posts describing pieces of me ive never seen put ito words before. The snipping, outsourcing, even such a small thing as my feet. Its like being handed an owners manual to myself 28 years too late. Thank you, and to join the chorus please write a book!!!
I sit like this too. I also tend to sit with a foot/leg up underneath me, or even cross-legged in chairs.
So true, and thanks for pointing it out because I would never have noticed.
It's not really as complicated as people are making it out to be. One type of body language is natural, expected and appropriate for one set of people, another kind of body language is natural, expected and appropriate for another set of people. The problems only arise when people 'perform' the wrong kind of body language in social situations and certain other people like to try policing others out of behaving naturally. It doesn't work in the long term and only creates a lifetime of social anxiety and self-consciousness, which only causes more of kinds of behaviours that all this so-called therapy is supposed to be preventing.
I also like to sit with my hands between or under my thighs, especially in the car (22yo male)
ive just started looking into this asperges thing, but i do sit like that too, gosh
I have to come back to this page every few months or so, just because it amuses me and reminds me of the rest of my tribe.
I'm intrigued about the "crossing the legs in a feminine way" thing that's been mentioned though. What would that be?
If my legs are further in front I often put one upright, on the top of the other upright one sp that they're kind of stacked. I've always done that.
My boyfriend, who i strongly suspect has aspergers, always sits like this! I read this article yesterday, and made a point of looking at his feet when he came over. And yeah.. sure enough!
I started doing this at a very young age, after being constantly told not to bounce my feet so much (I remember tapping them all the time). This is me holding my feet down. Quiet feet!
I'm a 47yr old Aspie and my partner is also on the spectrum and we both sit like this.Interesting reads from someone who really gets the Aspie aspects.I too would love you to write a book.
So this is why the outer part of my left calf & ankle are stretched out & sore...
I think a cross at the ankles is more common than a sole to instep contact. But, I'm only an amateur foot watcher.
I'm so sad I don't have a foot-stack comfort tolerance. Maybe if I had found that arrangement back when my leg only weighed twelve pounds or so, I would have preferred it. I have to lose weight...oh, just had a thought.
::tries again without putting pressure on lower thighs from arms and torso::
Not bad when I am not crushing my lower foot with my other foot.
Just had to give it a go.
I grew up in East Asia, so pretty much all of the delicious places to eat had floor pillows. My thing (and I live in the US again now) is sitting with my legs crossed--one ankle on top and the other on bottom. Especially in restaurant booths.
It's usually my right ankle on top. I'm ambidextrous. I heard about strokes at a time when all my friends (classmates, let's be real, here) were breaking their dominant arms falling from the treees they chose to climb. And I figured if I didn't start training my left to be as good as my right, I might sorely regret it one day. So, twenty five years later, here we are.
I used to sit like this until my workboots got in the way. All of your posts are vindicating for me.
This... This is so weird and fascinating.
When I'm very nervous, usually when I'm waiting the bus or something, I sit like this. It makes me feel safe, somehow.
Well, recently I've found out that I might be on the spectrum and started searching about some things I do that no one else I know does, and everything I find seems to confirm this, and now, while searching about how aspies rest their feet, I see photos of people doing the exact same thing I do. It makes me believe I'm not so weird after all.
I know this is an old post but I just had to comment. As someone at 54 who is close to self-diagnosing ASD it's things like this that help me to see this more clearly. I do this constantly at work and I am always having to wipe the dust off the bottom off my slacks. I also do this when I am standing up, have to catch myself. Thanks for the insight
I am pretty sure I have sat like this at one point or another, sometimes sit with one leg tucked almost behind my butt(at home of course). Interesting pictures, showing it in different types of footwear. The one in cowboy boots is especially interesting, as I think it would be hard to sit that way in those.
I'm not diagnosed but I strongly suspect I have Asperger's, everything I read about it seems to be the story of my life. I'm 40 and I always knew I was a bit different but a few years ago I came across an article on Asperger's and a light bulb went off. Anyway, funny how something as simple as sitting can be different with Asperger's.
I have always crossed my feet like that also. I just came across this post from this long ago and I fit right in. I am newly self diagnosed ASD, apsie.
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