I’ve talked at length about how other people’s body language can be about as decipherable to me as Klingon algebra, but the funny thing is, it goes both ways. Very often, my own posture and behavior are completely misinterpreted. It’s like me and the rest of the world speak similar but fundamentally different non-verbal languages. I say “danke”, they hear “dunk it”. (A disaster in the making if we happen to be playing with a sizable hunk of potassium near a body of water. Why would we be doing that, you ask? Because science!)
I therefore present to you; the Maximusaurus body language guide! (I can’t vouch this is true for all people on the autism spectrum, but I’m sure I’m not alone in these)
Tucking my arms in/hugging myself
What people think it means: I’m cold.
What is really means: Usually I do this when I’m in a triggering environment, and my OCD is going nuts like a doomsday prepper who got so high he thought the rerun of Independence Day on TV was a news report. It’s a way of avoiding touching anything by keeping my hands close. Kind of like that game where the floor is hot lava, except it’s “the world is hot lava”.
What people think it means: I’m anxious.
What is really means: Usually it just means I’m thinking; I think best when my legs are moving! I also don’t like sitting or standing still for long periods of time, so I’ll pace just to satisfy my hyperactivity. Like my dancing, this has led people to believe I am under the influence of amphetamines, (and ask me where they can score) but really, all it takes to get me buzzed is glucose. (Though I do have the occasional steamy fling with caffeine, and in the past, with her kinkier sister, alcohol)
Staring at the ground
What people think it means: I’m depressed.
What is really means: I’m either deep in thought, or carefully watching where I step to avoid dog dung and other assorted landmines. I remain convinced that sometime in my teens I offended the Godfather of the canine yakuza and that every day he sends a minion to lay barker’s eggs along the footpaths in my neighborhood.
Jiggling my leg while sitting/wringing my hands
While a lot of emphasis is placed on the difficulties people with autism can have reading others, it is often overlooked that sometimes it’s people off the spectrum who have trouble reading us. As each person with autism is different, however, there is no definitive guide to “autistic body language”. Just bear in mind that, like in The Labyrinth, things aren’t always as they seem. 😉