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Are You Weird?

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One of the most common things we worry about as parents of spectrum kids, besides getting them the hell out of our house someday, is whether they will be able to fit in with typical peers.  While we may not ever try to make them stop flapping or spinning because we respect them deeply, we still have that nagging feeling deep down that others will notice their unusual behavior and use that as a reason to tease or devalue our children.

Most people are familiar with the stim of flapping.  But I know that there are many other stims, as well as soothing/relaxing behaviors out there.  I decided to ask several other parent bloggers I know to describe some of the stims/behaviors in their homes, and the purpose they serve.

“Chronically picking at the insides/cuticles of thumbs, peeling anything where the surface is coming off, like bark off of sticks or paint and wallpaper.” Kristin, Running to Be Still

“Unable to concentrate unless hands are clean/obsessive hand washing.”  Jill “that nutjob with curly hair”, Yeah. Good Times

“Trichotillomania; preferences for numbers to add up to multiples of 12.” Adrienne, No Points for Style

“Twiddling fingers like they’re playing an invisible keyboard – it’s calming and feels like they’re shaking out stress.” Carmen, Stay at Home Crazy

“Typing words on the palm of the hand like it’s a keyboard; playing mental math games by assigning a number to each letter and trying to make a word add up to a multiple of 5.” Jessica, Don’t Mind the Mess

“Vocal stims/noises when falling asleep.” Amanda,Confessions from Household Six

“Twitching toes, both inside shoes and at bedtime to relax.”Jean, Stimeyland

“Chronic picking of scabs, cuticles, dry skin; scalp massages for the soothing effect; multiple blankets for weight.” Eileen, Autism With a Side of Fries

“Obsessed with using peppermint oil or Tiger Balm on the body as a sensory input; hot beverages when upset/anxious; pacing when stressed; removing and redoing ponytail when ready to meltdown.” Jo, Jo Ashline; A Sweet Dose of Truth

“Interlocking hands and moving fingers in a rapid pattern when excited or nervous.  Will also reach arms up and put fingers in hair in an attempt to hide it.” Maya, Maya’s Eye Photography

“Doodling with pen and paper.” Jen, Anybody Want a Peanut

“Vacuuming – the hum, movement and lines are soothing.” Lizbeth, Four Sea Stars

“Tapping thumbs and fingers together. Karla, Beyond the Dryer Vent

“Rubs feet together when going to sleep; cuticle picking; wall of pillows when sleeping; heavy blankets.” Anonymous, My Winter Butterflies

“Prefers crisp fabric, like denim or khaki, and fingers the fabric repeatedly.”  Patty, Pancakes Gone Awry

“Picking eyebrows and cuticles; chewing on hair or necklace; heavy blankets.”  Stephanie, On the Beans

“Rubbing fingers together; pushing hair behind ears; obsessed with word games.”  Marj, The Domestic Goddess

“Thumb-sucking; running fingers over eyelashes.”  Anonymous

“Thumb-picking; pulling at eyebrows.” Tim, Both Hands and a Flashlight

“Rubbing feet together at bedtime; face-picking.” Lexi, Mostly True Stuff

“Constant humming or singing; picking at cuticles.” Anne, Glass Half Full

“Oral fixation – chewing on straws, pencil erasers, pencils, gum; picking cuticles.” Niksmom, Maternal Instincts

“Typing on the keyboard very loudly.” Gabrielle, My Whac-A-Mole Life

After reading that list, you must be thinking, “Wow, how will those kids ever be functional adults with all those odd, quirky stims and coping mechanisms?”  And you’re right, there are some pretty unusual things there.  But the good news is that they are already functional adults, because the behaviors that each person described are their behaviors.  They are the quirks and routines of the parents, not the autistic child.

The people on this list are lawyers, accountants, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, computer professionals, housewives and writers.  They have families and jobs and therapy appointments and household responsibilities.  They’re your friends and neighbors.  In short, they’re YOU.  See, we all have habits and odd, quirky ways that we cope with life’s stressors.  Some developed in childhood, while others came later, when adult responsibilities took shape.

Our children are not so different from us.  It’s just that they haven’t developed the ability to “hide” their quirks as well as we have.  Flapping, spinning, repeating movie lines, jumping – none of those seems so “unique” to autism when you read the above list.  It seems that we all find ways to interact with our environment and process the sensory input in our own “special” way.

The bottom line is this:  stop CARING what other people think.  Our kiddos will make their way, in THEIR way, and at the end of the day all that matters is that they’re healthy, happy, and loved.  Anyone that would look oddly at our children is the same person that’s going home to drink too much, pick their scabs, or rock themselves to sleep.

We’re all pretty weird.  Some of us know how to hide it, and others are more organic.  It’s kind of refreshing, that honesty and purity.  Celebrate it.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

17 responses »

  1. I love this. I’m chock full of quirks. I constantly have things in my mouth. Chewing on straws, pen caps, ice cubes, I bite my nails. I pick. This list plus my own make me feel better for my kids.

  2. If you’re a weirdo and ya know it …. Pick your cuticles!….
    What? That’s not how the song goes?
    Time for a rewrite.

  3. So glad to know I’m in such good company!

  4. I’m a cuticle picker and a night time foot rubber and an inner cheek/inside of lips chewer. Pretty damn weird. I’m also a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a college graduate with an accounting job. Point well taken. Thanks.

  5. Ok… when you asked for this information, I was really wondering how you were gonna spin it. But now that I read your post — I LOVE IT! Thank you for the great perspective on things Flannery — I really need that this morning!

  6. So, so true! I rub my feet together to fall asleep and I massage my scalp when anxious or tired. I definitely have stims…

  7. When I picked up my son from school the other day, I noticed he was playing a tag-like game with some kids. This was unusual, so I asked him about it, and, based on his description, it sounded like he was the object of the game (rather than included in the game). However, he was really happy to be playing with those kids (who usually just tease or ignore him) so I tried to go with that and push away my thoughts of weirdness.

    But then, as if reading my mind, he said, “Mom, we are all weird in some way. That is what makes each of us special.”

    Of course, at that point, I felt like I was the one who had alot to learn.

  8. That is awesome! And funny, because I was reading the list and thinking about how many of those things *I* do…I didn’t see it coming that it was a list of what the parents do. Glad I am in good company!!

  9. What did you call me?????? Oh.

  10. Got me. Great post! Functional adults huh??? ;D

  11. Great post and better yet a terrific reminder. Thanks Flannery

  12. Oh my goodness. Thank you for posting this list of ‘weirdness’. My son exhibits many of these behaviours but until right this moment, I don’t think I’ve ever viewed them collectively. Thank you for adding another piece to my puzzle!

  13. From having PDD-nos, I really can’t stand my weirdness at times. At any given time I usually have some part of my body moving, except when i’m asleep “i think”.

  14. Reblogged this on JesseGarboden and commented:
    At any given time I will have some arm or leg moving.


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