Autism proprioception

Every day struggles with proprioception

I just sat down to type a few paragraphs and looking for a moment at the keyboard, I noticed my shirt was wet! I had just had a drink from a sports drink bottle and dribbled/spilled down the front of my shirt. This is an every day “thing” when I drink from a cup, glass, or bottle. Every day! Imagine how good I am at using a spoon with liquids such as soup? Many older adults were constantly in trouble for spilling, dropping, misjudging distances when sitting something on the counter or tabletop, etc., etc., etc.
Sometimes I just get tired of it all!!!!

I was constantly being scolded as a child for “not paying attention” to what I was doing and making a mess or breaking things, knocking things over or dropping them.

Even more than that, I was constantly running into things, furniture, people, walls, falling downstairs or up them.
I always had food down my front or my skirt. At least when I drank water the spills would dry without leaving a mark. I loved the water fountains at school.

I learned to leave milk, soup, and other messy things alone if I was wearing my “good clothes”.

It was not until I learned of my autism in my late 60’s that I learned that this experience is very common for autistic people. Clumsy! Inept! Uncoordinated! Careless!!!!
What a relief to learn that my physical struggles all my life were not “all my fault” and thoughtless, careless, stupid or worse!

I have talked about how uneven neurological development is the hallmark of autism. This also goes for the sense of proprioception, the lesser known (not one of the 5 familiar ones we were all taught about in school so many years ago). of the senses. Uneven development of one’s senses can lead to poor proprioception, giving struggles with depth perception, balance, poor coordination and much, much more.

Proprioception is the sense that tells us if we are right side up, sideways, or upside down. It is what tells us how much muscle we need to turn a door knob, push in a chair at the table, how much power to use to turn a key in a lock or pick up an egg without crushing the shell.

Proprioception tells us where we are in space, how close we are to any object or person/thing, how fast we are going, how fast something else is going whether approaching or leaving, etc, or if we are standing still, and proprioception helps us judge distances as we go there.

Same for things like brushing your hair or teeth, shaking hands, walking around furniture or a door frame without running into it. Catch a ball? Ride a Bike? use a skateboard, roller skates, jump rope??? Proprioception tells you how far to lift your feet and how hard to put them down, how much power to use to keep yourself going up the stairs or how much brake power to apply to keep yourself from going down the stairs too fast. If your proprioception is off, you will end up not being able to successfully do many “normal” things that most people take for granted.

Most of us have seen very small babies learning how to use a spoon. Most of us have witnessed children’s early attempts to walk or to negotiate steps.

For some of us, it is not a “learning how to do it” or a “being careful” or “watching what you are doing” thing, but a “my neurology fails me at times” issue.

For most people with standard neurology, these things are learned successfully and never much question about performance of most daily acts of living. Not so for people like me, who at age 68 generally prefers to use a straw with any liquid, who often must change clothing after a meal, who is constantly covered with bruises and constantly who often has sore toes from hitting the legs of furniture as I try to negotiate my own living room, bed rooms, kitchen, etc.

Uneven development of our neurology can result in day to day struggles and frustrations.
If you have been clumsy all your life, were scolded for it as a child and mocked or teased as a teen through old age, maybe this is one more sign that you may have an autism diagnosis, even if you never suspected.

2 thoughts on “Autism proprioception

  1. Oh, I hear you, Debra! I am constantly dribbling water too, especially when very thirsty, and walking into door frames. Strangely, I have an unusual ability to catch anything thrown to me, or anything I drop, due to lightning fast reflexes-which may be an additional case of unusual brain wiring. But I’m clumsy in every other way.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was always being told I was “careless”, and was hopeless at sports that required gross hand-eye coordination. Somehow my wiring skipped fine motor control. While I was forever being told that I “write funny “ mechanically, I have pretty neat handwriting and have been drawing since I could hold a crayon.

    Liked by 1 person

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