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Autism and Ticks


An autistic person may have several movements or gestures that are idiosyncratic and may perform some function to help reduce stress or to self-soothe. I don’t know how linked these movements are to the ticks of a person with Tourette’s Syndrome. My initial thought is that they may be in some way linked. Tourette’s can be described, somewhat reductively, as “misfiring” electrical signals in the brain causing facial, verbal or gestural movements that the person has no control over. These seem similar, in some way, to the movements of a person with Autism can display. For some, the person may rock back and forth, or they may play with their hands and so on. Are they linked?

My own ticks are, like everything else, rather minimal and I hardly they even notice them. It is when they are pointed out do, I then say, “ah, doesn’t everyone do that?” The answer is normally, “no”.

Firstly, when I am nervous or down then I cross my legs and they are constantly moving. I am sometimes consciously aware that I am doing this and other times I am not. When I am conscious of this movement I try and stop it, but I don’t know if I consciously start doing it. The movement doesn’t calm me at all. Nor does it release any stress at all. So why do I do it? It is just something I think I have always done but I don’t remember doing it before my wife pointed it out. Maybe I did do it or maybe it is relatively new and started due to a particularly bad bout of low mood. Which is really inconclusive.

Secondly, I will pull the collar of my t-shirt over my face so that it covers my nose. I do this an awful lot and it is normally when I am on the couch reading or watching TV. If I am watching football or I am nervous then I will do it. I am conscious that I do it and I am sure there is some complex psychological reasoning behind this. Maybe, the smell of my clothing, the smell of my deodorant or the fact that my face is partially hidden all provide a small sense of comfort; it is something that I just do. During the Euro Final last summer my child kept pulling my shirt down whenever it went over my nose, I found this caused me more stress than the actual match. When we started this autism journey it was the fist thing my wife mentioned. I have not seen anyone else do it nor have I heard of people doing it. It seems to be a peculiarly “me” tick.

Finally, though probably not, I run my hands through the remnants of my hair an awful lot. I don’t have an itchy scalp and it is not a dermatological issue, that I am aware of. I just do it. It was pointed out by a former Head of Department who mentioned it reference to the first lockdown and keeping your hands clean. I asked the wife if it something that I do frequently, and she thinks it is. I am very lucky to have an observant missus. Two unobservant people would not be a successful marriage.

I am sure they are several other things I do that non-autistic people do not. I am sure they are things I say or ways I act that I have yet to realise or to link to my apparent autism. The annoying thing about voyages of discovery is that they don’t end. You keep learning, keep discovering, keep thinking “I am not like the other cats out there”.

As always, if there is anything you would like me to cover please let me know.


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