Sunday 15 April 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018 Day 14: M is for Mannerisms

BSL: mannerism
BSL: behaviour (sign on the left)

M is for Mannerisms

Thanks to Lisa and Hannah!

Mannerisms, or specific behaviours, are unique to each individual, although certain mannerisms are prevalent in autistic people in a way that they aren't in NTs. Such mannerisms include the following (list is not comprehensive):
  • hand-flapping
  • bouncing
  • rocking
  • echolalia (repetition of sounds)
  • non-NT speech patterns
  • stimming generally
  • non-NT eyegaze patterns
  • extremely precise use of language
  • scripting
I do all of them. Some of them help me regulate my body and sensory input; some of them calm me when I'm stressed, overwhelmed, etc; some help me to cope in situations that cause anxiety and stress. I do not make eye contact because it is physically painful for me and according to my diagnostic report, I close my eyes half the time when I am speaking and listening (now that I know this, I am aware I do it; however, I won't be changing it because there's a reason I do it - it helps me process).

I've always been pretty hyperlexic (yes, you can be both hyperlexic and dyslexic - it's perfectly possible to have the vocabulary but not necessarily be able to write or type out the words correctly) and extremely careful about the words I use; it's something people have often commented about me and as someone who works with words and languages, it's ideal and extremely beneficial! Every word has a very slightly different meaning, so I consider it essential use precisely the right one. Maybe it makes me come across as pedantic, but that doesn't bother me. As I've said before, we tend to value accuracy over things like people's feelings, so I would rather appear a pedant and have exactly the right word.

A lot of my mannerisms put together make it perfectly apparent that I'm autistic, and the same is true for other autistics as well. I think I sometimes subconsciously pick up on people's mannerisms, which is why I can often pick out other autistics in a crowd. Occasionally I fail, generally because the other person's masking is so heavy, but I'm usually pretty good.

Autistic mannerisms can seem odd to NTs, and can lead to bullying of us by NTs. I speak from experience - my linguistic pedantry, scripting, stimming and so on has contributed to me being marked out as different and thus an easy target. Yes, that was hard to deal with, and it's left lingering damage.

But there's nothing wrong with autistic mannerisms and there is no reason whatsoever why they should be suppressed. They're an aspect of what make us who we are. All humans have a unique combination of mannerisms; they're part of our identities.

I accept my mannerisms. I don't try to hide them because they are part of me and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Embrace autistic mannerisms. Don't hide them. Allow yourself to be authentically you, autistic. You're âûsome!

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