My Atypical Autism Traits – Part 1: Appearance and Personal Habits

So Twitter brought me an interesting link last week: Atypical Autism Traits. I thought I’d do a piece on which of these traits apply to me.

Appearance and Personal Habits:

“Dresses comfortably due to sensory issues and practicality”

I really struggle to understand people who deliberately wear uncomfortable or impractical clothes. Dresses and tops that expose the torso to draughts, shoes that pinch, bruise, rub or expose far too much skin to possibly be comfortable, clothes that are far too tight, don’t allow for reasonable movement… Why on earth do people wear them? I have, in the past, made the assumption that the people who wear such clothing are insensitive to the discomfort, but I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps they’re just more motivated? One of the differences between autistic people and allistic (non autistic but not assuming neurotypical), people is that autistic people are supposedly not sufficiently motivated by social acceptance as a reward for putting themselves out. Could it be that we’re just less willing to make ourselves uncomfortable just to present in the fashion that’s currently popular? I’d love to hear an allistic view on impractical and uncomfortable clothing.

“Will not spend much time on grooming and hair. Hairstyles usually have to be ‘wash and wear’. Can be quite happy not grooming at all at times.”

That’s a tricky one. Whilst my dreadlocks are quite wash-and-wear in the sense that I can roll out of bed, put a headband on and leave, they do require some upkeep. I chose them because I like long hair but I want the control over when I do my hair maintenance tasks, rather than having to do them before I leave the house. I find it quite easy to imagine that someone who has more spoons to spare might quite enjoy doing things with their hair, so this one’s not so much of a mystery to me.

“Eccentric personality; may be reflected in appearance.”

Multicoloured dreadlocks tick that box nicely. I like the things I like, and I refuse to hide what I like just to fit in. I like my dreadlocks, but they are still quite short, so I put some brightly coloured extensions in them to give them a bit more length. I liked wearing earrings, but found the metal ones irritated my skin. It only seemed logical that I should try stretching them a little to put other materials in them, which accounts for my 4mm plugs made from a variety of stone, wood, bone and horn.

“Is youthful for their age, in looks, dress, behaviour, and tastes.”

Yes, I can be quite youthful in behaviour. I’m rather prone to doing a “little girl voice” at friends when I want something or when I’m feeling playful. Looks? I don’t get asked for ID anymore, so I guess not. Tastes… not so much, I’m not into cartoon character underwear… but I do like colouring books. The rather more grown-up ones filled with intricate patterns are very relaxing.

“Usually a little more expressive in face and gesture than some other Autistic people.”

I talk with my hands. Mostly because I find sketching in the air helpful when trying to describe an idea, sometimes the words just don’t want to come out. I don’t think I’m all that expressive in my face, though. I often get told I should smile more.”

“May have androgynous traits. Thinks of themself as half-male/half female.”


“May not have a strong sense of identity, and can be very chameleon-like, especially before diagnosis”

Having a fluid identity is not the same as not having a strong sense of identity. I prefer the idea that I have a strong sense of my chameleon identity. Who I am encompasses so many things that it’s necessary to perform chameleon-like changes in order to give them all fair representation as part of me. And what’s so great about having a single fixed identity anyway? It’s very restrictive.

“Enjoys reading and films as a retreat, often scifi, fantasy, children’s, can have favourites which are a refuge.”

TV: Fringe, Grimm…
Books: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom…

“Uses control as a stress management technique; rules, discipline, rigid in certain habits, which will contradict their seeming unconventionality.”

Well, sort-of. Only sensible rules, ones that have a reason. Pointless rules don’t appeal. I’m not really rigid in my routines. It’s not all scheduled down to the minute, but I do like to have fair warning before having to go out, having people visit etc. I’m only unconventional in that I ignore rules and practices that I don’t see as being useful (unless they’re enforced with a reasonable incentive, and risk-benefit analysis indicates that they’re worth following).

“Usually happiest at home or in other controlled environment.”

At home I have the opportunity to grab an extra jumper or blanket if I’m cold, a drink or food (particularly since going gluten-free) if I’m hungry. I have all my preferred forms of entertainment close at hand. All of my tools for coping with my autistic symptoms are here, and I’m more in control of how many spoons I spend. With an autistic brain, who wouldn’t prefer an environment where one has everything they need?

Up next: Intellectual and Education

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