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: