Reminder – Tiddle Tum Auction ending tonight !

We are selling ‘Tiddle Tum’ by emailed Bids starting on the 19th Feb Jan at 9am (UK time) and finishing on 26th Feb at 9pm (UK time). 
Bidders are requested to please submit their bids by email, all bids are confidential.
The highest current Bid will be shown on this auction page of the website:

To keep up to date with the current Bid please don’t forget to keep refreshing your page.

‘Tiddle Tum’ is dry mounted onto board.  The Painting is acrylic on watercolour paper, 55cm x 75cm.

There is an option to get the painting mounted and framed by our framers and then sent using a specialist courier company.
Bidders are responsible for the transport cost, the framing option and Insurance of the painting whilst in transit.

If you are affected by your timezone or slow internet connection, please submit your highest bid by email well before the end of the auction to avoid disappointment.

How to Bid: 
Email Arabella at
and please include all of the below:
  • Your Full Name:
  • Username/Nickname to be used with your bid as reference online:
  • Address:
  • Telephone number:
  • Your Bid:

Iris’s New Painting ‘Eyebrook’


This week we have released Iris’s new painting called ‘Eyebrook’.   It’s named after Eyebrook reservoir which is somewhere that has been a favourite of Iris’s lately.

You can buy a print through her online shop here – Eyebrook Giclee Print

The Printer uses the very latest in art printing technology with fully calibrated photo-scanning, processing and printing equipment, they pay fastidious attention to colour balancing to ensure extremely accurate reproduction.  All of the profits raised from the sales of her prints go towards her ongoing therapies, education and some saved for her future.

Here are some detail images from the painting

detail-2  eyebrook-detail


Artistic Spectrum

Exciting News Everyone, a selection of Iris’s paintings will be on show at the Artistic Spectrum Exhibition in London from 16th (Private View) & 17th- 26th Feb (open to the public) to find out more info email


Original Painting Auction


Iris Grace Painting:  Auction of Kuendelea.
Good Morning/Afternoon,

We are selling ‘Kuendelea‘ by emailed Bids starting on the 22nd Jan at 9am (UK time) and finishing on 29th Jan at 9pm (UK time). 
Bidders are requested to please submit their bids by email, all bids are confidential.
The highest current Bid will be shown on the auction page of the website:

To keep up to date with the current Bid please don’t forget to keep refreshing your page.

Kuendelea‘ is dry mounted onto board.  The Painting is acrylic on watercolour paper, 55cm x 75cm.

There is an option to get the painting mounted and framed by our framers and then sent using a specialist courier company.
Bidders are responsible for the transport cost, the framing option and Insurance of the painting whilst in transit.

If you are affected by your timezone or slow internet connection, please submit your highest bid by email well before the end of the auction to avoid disappointment.

How to Bid: 
Email Arabella at
and please include all of the below:
  • Your Full Name:
  • Username/Nickname to be used with your bid as reference online:
  • Address:
  • Telephone number:
  • Your Bid:

Best wishes and kind regards,


The Story Behind the Painting

Iris is listening to her favourite African music while she paints, making me laugh as I watch her body sway to the music.  Cloaked in blue cotton with little tassels on her cape dancing to the beat.  Her arms shoot out this way and that as she works quickly from one side of the paper to the other.  Then disaster strikes! Her cape drapes into the paint and spreads it’s mark across the paper.  Iris is in shock, standing perfectly still for a while as I make a plan to help her.  First by trying to get as much of it off her cape as possible, she points to the paper and I give her a hug telling her that it will be alright, we will sort it out.  She is miserable and I have to take her away into another room to calm her down and we leave the painting to dry.  Later when all is well again, the cape washed and dried, she returns to her painting and I fill with pride as I watch her try again.  This time she uses the sponges to create different effects on the paper and a beautiful image grows and evolves before my eyes.  A dramatic and incredibly expressive painting lies before her on the coffee table in the kitchen next to the breville bje200xl juicer and the coffee maker.  So here it is, Iris’s Painting called ‘Kuendelea’ a Swahili name meaning growth and evolution.

The Paperback released today !


The ‘Iris Grace’ paperback is out today
To buy your copy click here

‘Different is brilliant . . .’

Iris Grace is different. From the moment she was born she found the world a strange and terrifying place: she neither smiled nor spoke. The doctors couldn’t help, telling her parents she might never be able to communicate – she’d never call them mummy or daddy.

But then Iris met Thula.

This special kitten and Iris became instant best friends. They did everything together – painting, playing, bathing, snuggling, sleeping, exploring. And then a miracle happened: Iris said her first words.

The story of the amazing bond between Iris and Thula is a heartwarming tale of finding hope and happiness in the most unexpected places.

Because different really is brilliant.


‘An astonishing talent’ Daily Express

‘A miracle’ Best

‘Astonishing, remarkable’ ITV News

‘Iris’s astonishing tale of talent and relationship with Thula is lovingly told’ Daily Mail

‘Iris Grace’ Paperback

I’m delighted to tell that you that the ‘Iris Grace’ paperback will be published by Penguin Books this Thursday 22nd September. The book tells our story, and is illustrated, Colour & Black and White photographs plus of course Iris’s paintings.

To buy the book click here 


Answers from the Spectrum : Noise

nuage mots mains merci

Question for the Spectrum: This week our question to the spectrum is from a mother who has been following Iris, her daughter is 7 years old and has sensory integration disorder and ASD.

‘One of our biggest challenges is loud noises. Dogs barking, kids yelling, fire alarms, cars honking, even people coughing or sneezing will set her off, she has been really annoyed by the fact of not being able to get the best car insurance for her car. I am wondering what if feels like to other people on the spectrum who also have sensory issues to hear these noises as my daughter has trouble explaining it to me. She says it feels like her brain is shaking and I can see it physically hurts her and it causes a lot of anxiety and stress if she feels a place we are going is going to be loud. Funny thing though as she can be extremely loud (screaming in excitement) and it doesn’t bother her at all. Why is that? I am so confused about that one. I would think her voice would also be a trigger but it is not at all. It is totally ok for her to be loud but not anyone else.

Also wondering what has helped people on the spectrum overcome the loud noises or is it even possible? Does it ever get a bit better? I just want to help my daughter by understanding it better and trying to find new ways to help her. Thank you!’

Answers from the Spectrum:

‘Your own noises come from yourself , it’s processing seemingly outside noises that’s hard. Also it’s because we can feel our own noises, understand what the feeling is that makes a scream or a sound where as we cant always understand why another would make a noise. Why are so many people talking and banging tea cups down. Etc.’

‘like there’s a million ants crawling under your skin. You zone in on that noise and hear it above all others.
Washing machines spinning and hoovers in the flats surrounding me… can’t handle it. often have to go out. it makes me feel like, all is doomed. like, i Should be frightened. Does get easier as you get older, but only for me as I have the understanding to put the noises in context and reason with myself that they are safe and ok.
a battle im bound to have this afternoon when my neighbour above does her washing. I dread it.’

‘I think the thing I’ve noticed with loud noises is that when I can anticipate them there not always so bad, it’s often when there straight out of the blue that irritate me the most like if I’m relaxed and reading and then someone stomps or drops something on the floor above my head, loud noises that I make will always be easier on me then loud noises made by others, because I can always anticipate them I always know exactly when there going happen. For anyone who hates loud noises like I do that’s a big advantage.

Getting use to working in a loud environment can help with tolerating louder noises to, or at least I’ve definitely noticed, I’ve worked at a cafe for almost 2 months now and I hardly even notice loud noises there anymore.’

‘Imagine you are next to a jet plane as it’s taking off. That sound would be physically painful, right? Now imagine your vacuum cleaner is that loud. What would you do?

Making my own noise (screaming as a child, humming under my breath) helps fill my head with a sound I control. If you get the right frequency it even helps cancel out the bad sound, like noise canceling headphones.

And as a child, why would my screaming bother the adults around me? They are obviously unaffected by much worse noises (the ones that bother me so much).

Noise is my biggest sensory problem. My hearing goes from ultra-sensitive to dull without warning, but most of the time it’s the first. As an adult I deal with it by knowing every sound around me. I _must_ locate and identify any new sound. (This annoys me sometimes as I didn’t really _want_ to stop what I was doing, but I just have to find the sound,)

I try to avoid loud or high-pitched sounds. I don’t use an electric blender; I wear noise-canceling headphones to vacuum; I don’t go to concerts, bars, loud restaurants, or places children frequent–since they are known for unexpectedly emitting high-pitched shrieks for no reason.

How does loud/unpleasant noise make me feel? It’s physically painful, makes my head throb, makes me want to curl into a defensive fetal position and cry, which as an adult you just can’t do in public unless you want a whole lot of unwelcome attention. It’s overwhelming and dominates my ability to focus and my ability to cope.

And knowing that about me, you would be amazed at how loud my workplace is. But I know every sound there. I know why it’s happening, how long each one lasts, and what each one means. So those sounds belong and are okay. Except the fire alarm. That one is so loud and painful it’s all I can do to leave the area instead of curling up and whimpering… not exactly what the designers of that sound had in mind!’

‘Screaming babies is the absolute worst sound in the world to me it’s like someone is scratching nails on a chalkboard in my head relentlessly, it’s an intensely painful high frequency sound wave thats slashing through my ear drums and going straight through my head, it feels like my brain is literally short circuiting. The best thing I can do when I feel like that is just keep my ears plugged go downstairs and read till my fried nerves chill out.

Some noises actually help me, especially with going to sleep. Every summer when we have to keep the dehumidifier running downstairs I keep it right outside my room at all times , not so I can have the air in my room cleaned first, the constant humming noise is just loud enough to block out nearly all the other noises in the house or at some  luxury apartments Norman OK, it feels like a protective sound barrier. Whenever it turns off for a few minutes I feel almost anxious though, every noise feels so much louder, it’s very helpful for falling asleep cause it blocks out all the other noises that would usually keep me awake longer.’

‘I describe it as having a cheese grater being rubbed vigorously back and forth across my brain. I can actually feel the noise vibrate through my whole body and it gives me terrible anxiety. It’s horrific.

I’ve often been told that I raise my voice a lot if I’m excited about something, though I don’t even realise. I think us being loud ourselves probably doesn’t bother us because we are in control of it and it’s not unexpected like other noise is.

I put my headphones in and listen to music to try and block it out. If the noise isn’t too loud but still bothersome, I’ll have my earphones in but with no music, just to dull the outside noise. I’ve heard from other autistic people that Alpine earplugs are good but I’ve yet to try them.

I’ve found that my sensory problems are getting worse as I’m getting older. Hypersensitivity is one of my biggest problems, I have really low tolerance for most things.’

‘For me, it isn’t so much the volume as it is that I have absolutely no ability to tune out the things that, for other people, are considered background noise.

It can be an issue with all kinds of noise, but it’s particularly problematic with voices – if someone has the TV on in the next room, it’s difficult for me to concentrate on anything but the noise from the TV. The only way it’s not a problem is in a place like a restaurant, where the number of voices is sufficient to make all of them indistinct.

Think of it like a photograph. For most people, only the object in the foreground is in focus. For me, it’s like there’s no difference between the subject and the background – it’s all in focus, so instead of a well-composed, artistic shot, it looks like a mess. I know I’m supposed to be looking at the person in the foreground, but my attention gets focused on the stuff in the background instead.

As far as the distinction between other people making noise and me making noise, I agree with previous commenters – I control my voice, so it doesn’t surprise me or steal focus from everything else that’s going on.

As far as the volume of my voice goes – well, most people subconsciously adjust the volume of their voice to the amount of background noise so that they can be heard. I’m going to take a guess that I’m doing the same thing, but because I’m so much more sensitive to the background noise, I feel like I need to talk more loudly to drown it out for my listeners.’

‘Music works wonders when mine is distressed because of sensory overload. We have an MP3 player with all her favourite songs and when she goes into meltdown it makes a massive difference. Noise blocking headphones are really worthwhile. My older son (15) now copes better but he was the same when he was little too.’

‘To me, it depends on the meaning of the noise rather than how loud it is. fire alarms and children screaming are both a distorted noise that means something is wrong, it is the same noise as a mechanical device breaking down or someone being in pain. if I can’t see the thing that is wrong, I assume that the world in general isn’t working or that my ears aren’t working. there are also noises I associate with unfriendly people because of past experiences, e.g. certain types of music, certain types of laughter. It especially freaks me out when peoples’ noises don’t match the situation e.g. when I am feeling sad and people are playing happy music. I’m also scared of silence for the same reason. In the genre/era of video games I’m used to, silence usually means either something awful is about to happen or the sound isn’t working.
I always have an MP3 player to hand so I can control the background music. I use a Samsung Tic-Toc because I can operate it without looking at it, it has very simple controls. I can’t just leave it running, it has to the be the right music track, and I might have to change it at a moments’ notice. I try and avoid situations that I know often have the bad sounds, such as crowded public transport. I have my phone on silent because phones freak me out for a variety of reasons, mostly bad past experiences with them. I’ve never found anything that works to stop the bad associations. learning new mental associations doesn’t really work. It’s another of the things I can’t do because people try and force me to do it, and a lot of the time I can’t control my mood or whether I can think positively about things anyway.

I should also mention that it works the other way round, certain music and sounds are euphoric to me. Sometimes I just have the music from games playing and meditate to it. I really love the sound of cats purring, but they are vibrations, not sounds, which according to my senses are a completely different sense.’

‘Two parts of this: first: If I go to a shop with sounds from kids screaming and advertising and stuff, I like to wear headphones and play music loud enough to make me able to fucus on one thing only. This is great for trains and public transport too. Usually makes people avoid starting random conversations too as a bonus! I can hear the fridge humming, the wind blowing and if you add dogs barking and shoes hitting asphalt, cars, roller scooters and what not to the mix it overstimulate my brain, even worse add flashing lights or lots of colours and movements… so I dont expect to ever get something like a drivers license. I cant even use a bike and focus on the rules and everyone around me at the same time. The other half part of this issue is that I feel sound like a physically item in my life, so a sound from me is ok, but a sound from the man living below me feels like part of him is on my area, and that is violation of my home. Feeling others sounds is like having them touch you on the skin and making it vibrate in your ears. I do prefer to only feel myself on my skin. So her liking her own voice is natural 🙂 ‘

‘The sound of people eating (chewing/slurping/crunching) makes me very agitated to the point of tears. I have very good hearing and can hear things louder than people around me. I dislike the sound of heavy breathing unless it’s my dog. I used to have to have a fan on 365 days of the year for many years as it was the only way I could fall asleep but since having a panic attack when I woke up in the middle of the night and the fan was really loud I have had to stop that routine. I’m extremely jumpy and get panicky when I hear sudden loud noises.’

‘For me it’s the little noises that upset me. When I was a kid, I used to live in a town with an air force base. Cold war time, so there were days when the fighter jets were screaming all day long. You couldn’t hear yourself thinking. Didn’t bother me at all. Nor did fireworks, motorbikes, cars, … Little noises though: if my younger brother wanted to get me mad, he just had to chew or slurp with a little noise. Still can’t stand that. Certain keyboards have an annoying sound. All kinds of ring tones (text messages, whatsapp messages) all day long. People doing things with their hands or feet. A typical office environment is very distracting and annoying. And it doesn’t seem to improve.’

‘The problem with incoming sound is that we have no filters, so it all comes in all at once, and we can’t process it, and the overload causes a cascade of other responses, like pain and fight/flight.

The only thing I have found to be consistently effective is in-ear ear plugs and music. The in-ear plug blocks all or most external noises, and the music helps to mask what does get through.

I find this to be a big help.

As far as her shouting, bear in mind that our own speech is relayed to our ears through our jaw bone, and not through the air – which is why our voice sounds so different when we hear it played back to us…’

‘It’s like sudden overload for me. Too many noises at once or too loud and I lose the ability to respond appropriately to the stimulus. Confusion, disorientation, frustration, it’s the information traveling into me can’t be processed in the correct order and I can’t make sense of it to respond. Say I’m at a restaurant and you’re the waiter and its a busy Friday night and we’re somewhere there are TVs and a crowd. I might hear two words from one person three beats from someone else’s headset, the whir of a motor and a tapping noise, the sound of silverware, sizzling, liquid sloshing, two or three different tv shows, and people breathing, and three words of a different conversation, cell phones going off, buzzers vibrating, all while you’re trying to tell me the special and take my order and I have no idea what you’ve asked me because I can’t sort you out of the rest of it. It can be physically painful. I also experience epidermal overload where my cloths feel like they are slicing through my body and to have both of these things happening at once makes me shut down. I actually will scratch myself till I bleed because I can’t stand how the clothing feels and when I get too upset I get the heaves and just start crying hysterically, the endorphin rush temporarily alleviates the pain of overload.

This is why I avoid concerts, bars, city’s and movies on opening weekends. Head phones help. I can be loud, and there are times I enjoy loud things but I have to be ready to removes my self or have an “out.” In a crowd headphones can be an out as can ear plugs.’

‘I think if the noise is unexpected or sudden I react or if I am having a “bad day” where there has been a lot of things to cope with. My family says I can be loud sometimes and not realise it. But it’s because I often can’t tell before the sound comes out. I occasionally speak too quietly too. Clubbing is hard for me because of the people, however I tend to get lost in the music if it’s continual. However, my friend popped a balloon in a club once and I had to leave because of that. It was just too much. When I go for a walk or to the supermarket I put on headphones so I have a continual noise that I can concentrate on to drown out the rest. Music has really helped me cope with a lot of noises and places I don’t like. I recently got the best watering system for my house, in this website you can find more information about it. ‘

‘yesterday a good metaphor came to me about noise.

This is only applicable to non-controlled noise (the noises that you did not choose to do or that are not consequences of actions you deliberately made).

It feels as if I were a fish and somebody was banging against the tank.
It makes you want to put your head back into your shoulder while closing your eyes.
Physically cringing.

This is a really tricky one because for example if at work somebody let the microwave ring for ages (one minute) after food is ready I start to get crazy and try to not be an ass about it but its hard. People always say “run for your food, Josephine is going to blow a fuse if you dont” even tho I try really hard to be super tolerant, they feel my frustration.’

Answers from the Spectrum: Clothing and Shoes

nuage mots mains merci

Question for the Spectrum: Everyday life for those on the Spectrum can be tricky where clothes and shoes are concerned, the materials, how they feel against your skin, getting the right fit, the different sensations…

How are you dealing with this?

What experiences do you remember from your childhood and do the clothes still cause daily problems?

Or has is got better as you have grown up?

What ways/techniques have you developed to get around this issue?

Answers From the Spectrum:

‘My work uniform feels horrible against my skin. So I put a long sleeved cotton top underneath and wear different trousers. I also hate suede and velvet as well as not being able to play with felt as a child. Slightly related, but I also can’t walk in heels. My lack of co-ordination has never allowed for it without falling over. This makes it even harder to fit in with other girls my age as they go out in heels and I can’t.  As a child I could never get shoes to fit properly. I only wanted clarks bootleg shoes of a certain type. Then they stopped making them and I refused to wear any others. Luckily I get to wear black trainers to work.  I feel physically sick when I touch anything I don’t like. I get shivers up my back too.  My work place are very good with it. They even let me have my hair down sometimes because it hurts if it is up for too long or I’m feeling particularly sensitive on that day.’

‘I had more sensitivity as a child but still have issues finding underwear that doesn’t irritate and I can’t wear things near my neck, high necked clothing, scarves and necklaces are all out. I can’t wear or sit on woolen things, the fibers poke me like tiny needles. Socks can still be irritating.  My daughter wasn’t diagnosed until she was 13 because I didn’t know about the spectrum at the time but oh the issues that we had every single morning about her socks!   Our family now all wear the same type of socks and the problem is not an issue (she still has bad sock days though).’

‘As far as I am aware I never had issues with any clothing as a child. It never affected me, there were certain materials I didn’t particularly like the feel of but it never used to cause me to have a meltdown.’

‘My grandmother still tells stories about when I was small – I would take off all my clothes and run around saying “naked baby!” She thinks this is hysterical.  What I really remember is that I’ve always been picky about my clothes – my family tried to give me clothes as gifts when I was a kid, but I usually wouldn’t wear them, I remember telling them to take me to an amusement park instead of giving me socks, and one time they actually took me to this place that had a really good theme park software, I definitely want to take my kids there in the future. Even with clothes that I pick out for myself, sometimes they’ll seem fine in the store but end up rarely leaving my closet.. On the other hand, if something is comfortable, I’ll wear it all the time – to the point of wearing my favorite sweaters day after day.  One thing that’s really changed over the past couple of years is that I almost never wear man-made fibres anymore. There are a couple of exceptions, but most of my clothes are cotton, and I have several cashmere sweaters that I inherited, as well as sweaters I’ve knitted for myself out of various animal fibres.  Another thing that I’m weird about is sleeves – I’m always cold, but most of my go-to shirts are tight, short-sleeved T-shirts. I’m okay with long-sleeved shirts and sweaters sometimes, as long as the sleeves are loose enough to push up.’

‘I believe I had more issues with this when I was a child than I have now at age 24. The thing is that I never got a diagnosis as a child (My parents did not believe that autism/mental illness was real ) so when I was a child I did not get any help and my parents thought I was a hysterical child.  I remember with clothes I could not wear anything too tight. Or with bottons (I did not like the feeling of bottons). Or anything too close to my neck. Wearing a scarf I was like no go and I remember we had battles about this when it came to clothes. I wanted to wear something soft always. Socks I *hated* them. I still do today.

When I think of this with clothes I believe it has something to do with ‘how it feels’ otherwise it makes me feel uncomfortable. My grandmother was somewhat understand about my need to wear soft clothes but we had battles about the socks. I always remember the happy feeling of walking barefeet. I also remember something else that is slighty offf-topic, but I also believe has something to do with ‘the feeling of it’ and fabric. When I was a child and today I still need to have the ‘right kind of pillow’. The fabric has to be right, and it has to be flat otherwise it is so uncomfortable for me and I cannot fall asleep. I remmber once my grandmother bought you know the thing you put around the pillow for me and it was stracty and itcthy for me, but soft for her. So I will admit – sometimes if I travel somewhere I take my own pillow with me, I know it might be weird but last time when we rented a beach house on twiddy rentals, I left home without my pillow and we literally had to come back and get it because we knew I was not going to make it trough my vacation without it.

So how do I deal with it today? Well I am a woman who so I do care about what I look like and I have a thing for feeling like a princess. When I buy clothes I touch it and see if I like the fabric if I do I try it on. I avoid the things like botton I can’t stand. I admit I only wear socks if I feel too cold. However i can still not wear anything like hats or scarfs . it is just a no go.  And bras too. My rule is i don’t wear to force myself to wear anything that makes me uncomfortable .’

‘Clothes are a huge problem. I don’t like ‘girly’ styles. I hate soft, drapey fabrics. I hate things that crinkle and swish. I hate dresses, skirts, heeled shoes. I hate fitted, clothes, ‘bodicon,’ or body conscious (close fitting, as the Japanese say)  clothes. I like loose, non constricting clothes and mostly rough cotton (woven or knit) and some wool. This was a huge battle with mom, especially, as a child, more I believe because she didn’t want me reflecting bad on her and her parenting than she really cared that I dressed ‘gender appropriate.’ She also always told me that my choice in clothes would hinder my adult life, which to some extent it has. I don’t do ‘business attire,’ certainly not gender appropriate business attire. I also prefer modest clothing and wouldn’t dream of flashing cleavage. In a business environment where we’re all urged to dress for success and where leadership and gravitas have a certain uniform, I’m probably not taken as seriously as my work product merits because I simply don’t look the part. This is disappointing, but it is what it is and I’m not especially motivated to change. I wear clean clothes in good repair, not always ironed, I admit. I never wear a dress or a skirt. At work mostly I wear men’s khaki pants and a mix of men’s button down shirts, women’s blouses, and unisex turtlenecks. I hate showing too much skin and often wear layers to correct, for example, open, wide necklines that show too much shoulder or cleavage. At home I wear baggy cotton sweats or cargo shorts with t-shirts, maybe a sweat shirt if it’s cold. I hate logo-wear, so much of my wardrobe is plain, dark solid colours. I also like ‘Bohemian,’ so have lots of arty-farty clothes, too. I have a huge collection of Birkenstock clogs and sandals. I’m not blind to style or fashion, but I have my own, idiosyncratic sense of what works for me in terms of aesthetics and comfort. Don’t even get me started on women’s underwear – not even going there! Cotton boxers and slip-on cotton sports bras.’

‘I’m also not fond of overly feminine clothes. I worry I’ll attract the wrong sort of attention to me. I think I’d probably do myself an injury if I tried to balance in high heels.’

‘I still cut the tags out of my clothes, and I can’t stand clothes that make noise.’

‘I need to wear my trousers tucked into my socks and my top tucked into my trousers. It feels unbearable if there are ‘loose connections’ like that in my clothes – it chafes, it lets in the cold and it looks awful. I can’t wear bras because they can’t be tucked in to other clothes, which can be a problem because the lack of support hurts me, but I recently discovered padded camisole vests which work well. I need to buy long-legged high waisted trousers so my clothes tuck into them. I mostly stick to jeans with shirts or t-shirts, sometimes long skirts over leggings if I can put up with the lack of pockets, with long socks. Finding suits that fit properly is a nightmare. I also don’t like any kind of solution that involves hiding the fact that my clothes are tucked into each other or finding clothes that don’t need to be tucked in, because I feel like I’m giving in to the pressure of people around me. I have had problems with family members, people at school and at work trying to make me change or hide the way I dress, they make me feel like I am repulsive and shameful.

I also can’t have tags in my clothing, which can be a problem as I don’t have the co-ordination to remove them without making a hole in my clothes. In general I can’t stand shopping for clothes. I find it very difficult to estimate whether clothes will fit me or if they’ll be comfortable. They’re just objects flattened out on hangers or on statues of people who don’t look like me, I can’t visualise how it relates to me wearing them in everyday life. People sometimes laugh at me when I make a mistake, so I find it hard to ask for help. I also can’t return things to shops because I lose all my receipts.’

I vaguely remember refusing to wear a certain sweater as a child, because the fabric made me itch. So cloths were not such a big issue. I still cut tags from shirts though, as they irrititate the back of my neck. But maybe everyone has that issue?’

‘clothes weren’t a massive issue for me. I remember having arguments with my mum because she used to insist I wore nightwear to bed, but I didn’t like wearing clothes in bed, and would only settle for silky smooth nighties that felt cold on me when I put them on. Obviously being older, I can decide whether I wear pjs to bed for myself! I also used to cut out the labels.  When I shop for clothes these days, it doesn’t bother me too much, and if I like the style I can often tolerate the fabric to some extent, but this is rare. I choose fabric and comfort over style.’

‘I remember very well tactile issues as a youth. I could only tolerate cotton against my skin and could not stand loose fitting clothes. If, during the summer, I had to wear a loose fitting garment, such as a button up shirt, or a suit, I always wore cotton undergarments to shield my skin. Being a bit warm was better than having to deal with the sensations of non-cotton. This does continue to this day actually although with age my reactions are a bit more mature.  BTW… during my brothers wedding a few years ago, I actually wore jeans and a cotton shirt underneath the tux… nobody noticed at all.’

‘I apparently can’t answer these questions without writing an essay, so bear with me!  As I don’t remember if I had clothing issues as a child I asked my sisters and my mom, who all said “YES! You had issues” and my sister recalled that I used to go around the house trying to pull my dress off over my head. I thought I got worse as I got older but perhaps it’s the same; I just remember now better than I remember back then. I know that my mom made a lot of my clothes (no tags in those!) and bought a lot of them second-hand, which meant they’d been washed to softness already, so that may have helped.  I don’t like stuff around my neck like turtlenecks or collared shirts, but I can wear a scarf as long as it’s fuzzy. I love fuzzy clothes/scarves/socks but they have to be fuzzy in all directions, not like velvet which only runs one way. It’s relatively hard to find fuzzy clothes that are fuzzy in all directions so mostly I go with smooth clothes. No nubby or bumpy fabrics (no corduroy, wool, jeans, etc) and nothing that catches in my skin, like felt (I forgot how much I hate felt until someone mentioned it in a comment and the mere thought made me shudder). I love clothing that has just a hint of spandex in it (like 1%) so that it flexes and moves with me rather than sliding across my skin.

All clothing must be washed before trying to wear it, as new clothes have a stiffness to them (even the soft clothes) that I can’t stand the feel of and have a tendency to have skin reactions to (rashes mostly).

Luckily for my clothing issues, several years ago I started getting really cold all the time, so I wear layers now in comfort even in summer and the layer next to my skin is a washable silk long underwear with a non-elastic waistband. It wouldn’t stay up without the other clothes, but I can wear elastic waistbands as long as they aren’t next to my skin. Some silk is nubby and nasty feeling, but this is really soft as long as you put it in the dryer and don’t let it air-dry.

Bras were also a major problem as most manufacturers seem to think we all want lace or netting in the side panels … ventilation, I suppose, but that rough scratchy feeling is unbearable. It also gives me a rash, so … I finally found some that had wide shoulder straps and were smooth all over. Unfortunately I need more and they stopped making that brand so I have to go clothes shopping and I don’t want to.

I don’t actually care how I look as long as my clothes are neat and clean. So if I match, it’s mostly because I wear the same color pants every day (black) and make sure everything I own goes with them. The person who mentioned that their clothes have to be tucked in–I do that to, only not quite as severe; but the outside shirt _must_ be tucked into the pants. Someone tried to convince me that you look slimmer if you don’t have your shirt tucked in but it just looks untidy to me, so I tuck everything in. And I don’t like the loose cloth at my waist/hips (depending how long the shirt is).

Shoes are always “walking” shoes–athletic shoes. I have a pair of boots for if it’s dreadfully wet, but rarely wear them and always bring my other shoes to change into. I finally found a pair of shoes I really like for work and I bought five pairs so I don’t have to go shoe shopping for years. They keep discontinuing the styles I like–I should be able to get the same style and the same shoe ten years later, I think! I have some shoes that have knit uppers that were designed for people who were barefoot most of their childhood (that was me) because that does something different to the shapes of your feet, and they are comfortable but not supportive so I can’t wear them all day at work. I have high arches too, like Iris, and I gave up on finding shoes that fit; I found an insert that makes the shoe fit and make sure I only buy shoes I can pull the original insert out of.

Socks–I can’t stand the seam at the toe of socks. Someone told me about gold-toe socks (it’s a brand, but they actually have gold colored toes on the white socks) which have a softer seam and those I can wear. All other socks have to be turned inside out to wear them (like the fuzzy socks I wear in the house).

Tags–these are weird for me because sometimes I have major issues with them (like I have to stop and go to the bathroom to turn the tag to the other side; since I wear layers I can do this with the layer closest to my skin and it doesn’t look strange) and sometimes I don’t even notice the tags are there. This is for the exact same shirt! On rare occasions I’ll be wearing something on the outer layer that I can feel the tag on, and then, well, I just flip it out, and to the coworkers who tell me “your tag’s sticking out” I just say, “Yeah, I know, it’s driving me crazy today.” (They’re used to me.) And some manufacturers have started printing the information directly on the shirt (coldwater creek does this) or putting the tag in the side seam down toward your waist where your underwear would keep it from your skin.

So mostly I get around my clothing sensation issues by being picky about what I wear and not caring if I look fashionable or not. I have a tendency to buy every color in that style if I find something I like (I have five dresses all the same style, just different colors). I hate clothes shopping because my “touch system” gets overloaded and I can’t tell if I actually don’t like the feel of that particular fabric or if I’m just overwhelmed, so I wear clothes until they wear out and do a lot of online shopping from places I know have clothing I like. (shirt woot’s shirts have a lovely soft fabric, for instance.) I really didn’t realize how much I structure my life around making sure I have clothes that I can wear until thinking about how I would answer this question. It’s just the way things are for me.’

‘When I was a child I couldn’t handle the feel of the underwear seams. One day my mother said “try them inside out”. Been doing it ever since. Same with undershirts.’

‘problem as a child, not so bad in the late teens to late 20s, then sensitivity increased slowly back to where it is now in my 50s (which i think is about where it was as a child.  Cotton for preference. silk is okay sometimes. no synthetics touching my skin because they make my skin itchy and prickly. i take out tags for most things before i can wear them. i check seams before wearing things (preferably before buying) because sometimes soft cotton is serged with prickly poly thread.

Can’t stand pressure around my neck; turtlenecks are evil!  Bras were always an issue because a) they itched and b) they hurt my shoulders and ribs. now that I’m homebound, i no longer even try to wear them.  Underwear: 100% cotton only, elastic must be covered or soft with no lacy.  shoes have been an issue since childhood; i still remember my grandmother taking me for shoes when i was 4 or 5 and the salesman insisting he’d brought “the right size” so they DID fit –while i cried because they hurt. my beloved grandmother let him have a piece ofher mnd, and we left with shoes that did NOT hurt. my feet are narrow at the ankle and very wide at the toes, and any pressure on the toes leaves me shaking and in tears. my sole footwear these days are emu books (a brand name of australian ugg type boots).’

I have to make sure I dont feel suffocated, so no turtlenecks – a huuuuge opening for neck please! and I dont like sleaves that touch my wrists either – so no sleaves unless they are very long and wide. I never wear socks and prefer to go barefoot, only wearing sandals when I go outside – even in winter and brah – those things are torture!!!  as a kid I wore huge stockings always cause I suffered from cold feet’

‘Omgoodness clothes are a mare!!! Shoes, socks,  13 years old and just wearing certain types of socks!’

Answers from the Spectrum, How to Create an Autism Friendly Workplace ?

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This has been sent in by many educators and employers, so I would like to open up the discussion to anyone on the Spectrum of all ages, from school/university to being employed. We would love your thoughts on everything from the interview process to how are instructions best given? Mentors, support, the architecture, space to chill if needed, lighting, room layout, materials used, noise levels ?

Answers From the Spectrum:

I’m 25, diagnosed as high-functioning/Asperger’s at 20. I don’t know how representative I am, but physical space is pretty important in a lot of ways. I don’t like having other people in my personal space, and I really don’t like having other people positioned where they can see my face while I work – I always feel like they’re watching my facial expressions while I work. And I like to have a space that’s mine – even if it’s just a space twice as wide as my laptop where I can keep office stuff without worrying about other people cluttering it with their paperwork.

So traditional lecture hall/classroom arrangements are very comfortable for me, especially if it’s a large enough space where we can all spread out. Being in a group of desks arranged for group activity while not actually engaging in group activity feels awkward to me. And working in a traditional cubicle would be just about perfect.

LIghting shouldn’t be too bright, and I personally hate overhead fluorescents. But it can’t be too dim, either – although my eyes are very light sensitive, so indirect sunlight is often enough to light a whole room brightly enough for reading. And a quieter workplace is more comfortable than a louder one, although quiet instrumental music is nice for making the noise of other people working less distracting. And workplaces where everyone wears earbuds all day long bug me, especially since the earbuds seem to be used as a substitute for physical separation or proper sound insulation.

In terms of instruction, you need to be absolutely clear. Don’t make assumptions about what I know or how I’m going to do something. And if you need to make a point, even if it’s critical, just say it straight out and be specific. You can be direct without being mean.

Workplace standards and expectations need to be clearly established; don’t ever assume that someone will just pick up on everyone else’s behavior and conform accordingly. In a lot of ways, the more institutionalized these things are – from rules and expectations to mentorships – the better, especially if it’s all written down so I can check the document when I’m uncertain instead of needing to ask for clarification.

And this might go without saying, but in the classroom, group projects are difficult on a couple of different levels. When told we were doing a group project, nothing relieved me more than being told that we’re being assigned to those groups. On an academic and social level, I think it’s better for students to have to interact with people outside of their social circle, and personally I never know what to do. I feel like it draws attention to my difficulties socializing to have to figure out which group I’m supposed to join. (I actually substitute teach, and if the lesson plan is nonspecific I always count the kids off by the number of groups I need and all the 1s are a group and all the 2s are a group and so on.)

And then there are the spontaneous “projects” that aren’t really projects, but just an in-class assignment that no one else feels like doing on their own. Think lists of math problems. I’d honestly rather work them all on my own instead of be forced to work in a group – and I’d rather you not draw attention to the fact that I’m working on my own instead of in a group.

Answer from an 48 year old male, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome 2 years ago.
Regarding Interviews:
Aspies are always honest. So interview questions like “Why are you the best person for this job?” are impossible to answer: I don’t know the other ca
ndidates, how can I possibly answer this question? Honesty can result in modesty, which is not a good quality when applying for a job. To open up an Aspie, ask for his/her special interests.
Regarding work environment:
Distraction = stress. Noise = stress. The current trend of large, open office areas is not good for Aspies. Private offices are the best.
Contact by phone = stress. Aspies prefer to make contact by media such as e-mail.
Don’t expect Aspies to show up voluntarily at informal get togethers. This is not ill will, such a get together is simply not an environment where an Aspie wants to be. Similarly, asking an Aspie to work on his/her network during such meetings is not productive. It will only result in stress.
Assigning some kind of mentor during an Aspies first weeks at a new job is good. The Aspie him/herself will have trouble making contacts, so a first solid contact would be beneficial.
Vague assignments = stress. Unambiguous, clear assignments are preferable. Sending an Aspie into a meeting where political games are played is asking for trouble. Don’t let an Aspie deal with people who have hidden agendas.
Structure = good. It helps the Aspie getting things done.

From a young Lady with Aspergers – I am a teaching assistant, so I suppose it’s quite interesting dealing with children, including those on the spectrum themselves (and I naturally find I get along with them better). Ive not told my workplace as I wanted to see how well I could manage, so I haven’t had any adjustments made. When I was interviewed, I had practised what I was going to say so much, and answered their questions from the script I had memorised in my head. When it comes to working, I can get overwhelmed by noise and I tire easily. They have noticed this and met my needs by giving me less duties so I can break more, and I know how to calm myself either by changing what I’m doing or moving around a bit, or find a job to do that takes me out the room briefly. I have my routines that I follow and they know this and it works well with the school environment. I suppose I’m lucky that I work in a place that understands the spectrum, and naturally apply any assistance to anyone whether they are or are not autistic.

I’m looking for work at the moment so it’s a bit of an obsession)
I’m mostly talking about an office admin job because it’s what I see myself in, I don’t know enough about other kinds of work to comment.
I agree that
an interview is not a good way to recruit a person on the spectrum. I’m not going to use the social skills in the job – I wouldn’t go for such a job as I know it wouldn’t suit me! A work trial or a non-timed or generously timed test would work better. Although it would be cool if they could invent a type of interview where you talk like a normal person so they know what your actual personality is.
I’ve had huge problems in a workplace with people assuming things about me from the way I act. I was sent away by an agency because I look like I really dislike the job and am struggling. I can’t control my body language at all. I can’t hide that I look stressed, where others would be able to, so people assume it’s because I’m unusually stressed rather than just being unusually honest about it. The stress often has nothing to do with the job, I have lots of intrusive thoughts and I can’t block out everyday worries when working. I’m used to just working in spite of the background stress. For instance, my body clock is not suited to office work, so I will be constantly battling falling asleep and dealing with waking dreams until I fall into the rhythm. It helps me to have music, which I can listen to quietly. I can’t stay awake in a meeting. I don’t really want to chat with people while working, most random people I meet scare me unless they have the same interests as me. For the same reason, I also don’t want to go to work socials. If I get used to the other people and they’re nice, I will open up to them in time.
I don’t find a normal office environment sensorily disturbing but I need to be allowed to behave more as I normally would when working at home. I can’t answer a telephone and I can’t go on a reception desk. I need lots of bathroom breaks. I need help getting out of a building if there is a fire alarm, I need to block out the sound so I don’t freeze up, but this means I can’t use my arms and so can’t open doors. I just can’t wear certain items of formal clothing, particularly uncomfortable shoes or trousers without pockets. My clothes need to tuck in tightly to each other or I can’t wear them. I don’t have the motor skills to stop my clothes getting messy.
In terms of actual work, I work best when I’m given a daily routine with specific tasks that have a clear start and end. Small tasks that I can realistically finish in a day will be most manageable, even if they’re obviously just the bigger task divided into smaller chunks. I also need indications of how urgent each task is. I need a period of time to memorise the job and someone around to ask for help if I don’t understand something or forget what I’m doing. I am very sensitive to feedback so it’s important to praise me for things you want me to keep doing, and be careful with negative feedback as I will obsess over it.
In my ideal role, I would train in more advanced systems over time and take on more responsible roles, which I would expect better pay for, but I wouldn’t be expected to go up in leadership ranks.

Wow, most of what has been written in the comments overlaps with what an introvert and a highly-perceptive person needs to make the workplace more friendly or even bearable.

Background: I’ve been working in the same position at the same multinational corporation for the last 18 years. I was not interviewed; I was called by the temp agency the autumn after I graduated college and asked if I was still looking for work (“yes”) and did I want a job “um, sure?”.  What I’ve observed in working for a company that is _not_ autism (or disability) friendly beyond that required by law: A company that wants to be autism friendly should think about “sound, sight, scent.” Put sound-deadening panels on the walls of places like breakrooms in order to mute the echoing of many people talking at once. Provide a breakroom without a tv, or, if that’s not possible, permanently mute the tv and turn on the close-caption for those people who want to watch it. Don’t use scent-coverups in the bathroom that any worker can access, because most people think if one “squirt” is good, 10 is even better. Ban perfumes/colognes/scented hand lotions. A lot of companies are already doing this due to allergies, but it would really help autistic people. It’s very difficult when my boss leans over to get a file from in front of me and I choke on her perfume. And she doesn’t actually wear an inappropriate amount like some people do.

As far as locations: an office with a door is ideal–it doesn’t have to have a window; we just need a space that’s ours. A cubicle is next desirable, followed by a desk. But even a desk is more desirable than sharing an office. We need an area that is ours, a place that’s “homebase” where we can retreat to. Noisy environments aren’t good, but if they are steady noise and not random, a lot of us can get used to that.

Rules and regulations should not only be clearly written and stated, but they should apply to everyone equally. If that means you have to write a different handbook for each department, so be it. It’s incredibly difficult to pick up on the unwritten rules that govern most workplaces. For instance, officially we are supposed to clock out for 30 minutes for lunch. Now that in and of itself is a problem even if you enforce it equally–how do you manage to never do 29 or 31 minutes? But the unwritten rule is, you can clock out for less than that as long as you don’t make a point of it or allow the people from manufacturing to notice, because they will complain and then HR will demand we all clock out for 30 minutes … for a few weeks and then it goes back to normal. The underlying problem there is that the company is trying to make one rule apply to many different situations.

Having a mentor, someone who knows the other coworkers and is willing to help you along, and someone to whom you can come with social problems (“this is happening, what do I do”) would be excellent. Unfortunately such mentors are usually unofficial and you have to find them the hard way.

But the biggest problem companies have with regard to becoming autism friendly is the attitude of the people in charge. This isn’t something you can regulate. Believe it or not, there is a prevalent, unspoken attitude especially among the older people that autism is a children’s disease and you magically get fixed when you become an adult, and anyone who can hold down a steady job and interact with people is just using the diagnosis as an excuse for bad behavior. “You should know better by now.” It’s an insidious belief that no one will admit to having but I’m coming to realize spreads through most of the 30 or older people at my work. Perhaps my job is unusual … I don’t think so.

One thing my coworkers and supervisors did do for me with regards to accomodating my autism is grudgingly, reluctantly, accepting my request to stop touching me. The men didn’t have a problem since the spectre of “sexual harrasment” lies over a male-female physical contact of anything beyond hand-shakes, and you don’t normally shake hands with your coworkers. It was the women who had this bizarre belief that it was a violation of their rights for me to refuse to allow them to touch me. I’m talking the arm-clutch during a dramatic re-telling of an incident; a shoulder tap to get my attention; a pat on the back that is literal. I _hate_ being touched, even through clothing. I almost got fired over it because my boss really got her feelings hurt when I was having a very difficult functioning day and she clapped me on the shoulder and I winced back and said “don’t touch me.” (This was not the first time I had requested that.) I finally figured out that people responded much better to “I don’t like having humans touch me” than “please don’t touch me,” no matter that the latter phrase seems more polite and to the point.

So companies who _want_ to be autism friendly need to understand that we all have different quirks, and usually if you can just work with that one main quirk, we can handle the rest. (By the way, the no-touching thing has become self-perpetuating. I believe my coworkers take a new coworker aside and tell them “don’t touch Josie” because I haven’t had to tell a new person for ages, yet no one even tries any more. It’s nice. But it took over a decade.)

Answers from the Spectrum, Stimming

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The term ‘stimming’ or ‘stims’ is short for self-stimulatory behaviour. We all seem to do it, whether it be tapping our feet, a pen or maybe twiddling our hair, if you look out for it you will notice most people stim. It appears to be a way of calming ourselves or aiding concentration. Stimming for those on the Spectrum usually refers to specific behaviours such as flapping, rocking, spinning, or repetition of words and phrases. Sometimes they can be more unusual and surprising.

Question for this week:

We would like to know from those on the Spectrum what ‘stimming’ feels like to you. Does it calm you? Make you feel happy? Is it a release of energy? Is it a way of regulating your senses? or expressing your feelings? What are the triggers or situations where you stim the most? Is this something you can control and would you want to control it if you could? Have you felt pressured to control it by others? How do you feel if you are asked to stop?

Please only answer this question/topic if you are on the Spectrum, if you would like to remain anonymous message me on this page or email me at and I will post your answer. Thankyou so much for your support and willingness to be involved, your answers will be incredibly valuable to us all x

Answers from the Spectrum

‘This is a good one!! Well I certainly stimm a lot! My forms of stimming consists of vigorous humming hand flapping and whistling, which is my favorite form of stimming and one I only started a few years ago to! I guess I find myself humming almost constantly when I’m out in public or when I’m out with friends.   But I also find myself using these types of stimulation alot when I’m alone to, just as much sometimes as when I’m out or with friends. When I first start hanging out with new friends I will stim constantly I will rock whistle and hum and repeat certain words the entire time I’m around them, but I will still do all these things when I’m around my closest friends to, it makes me feel great it helps when I’m anxious or it can feel helpful when I just don’t have anything to say:P ‘

‘I stim a lot of the time, even without realising but it’s most prevalent (not sure if that’s the right word?) when I’m on the verge of a meltdown. I have many different stims but the most frequent ones are shaking my feet/legs, rocking and scratching at my skin. I can’t control them and I’m not sure I would want to as they give me a focus when everything else feels out of control. I’d only choose to control the self injurious stims if I could.’

‘I was diagnosed before I was 2 and I didn’t know about autism until I was 16, when I started learning about autism it made more sense to me then anything ever had in my whole life! I’m 21 now, and I know! I walk on my toes all the time, I use to think it was just cause I loved cats so much:P’

‘The only time I’ve found myself suppressing these kind of habits is when I’m at work, there I feel more pressured to keep them hidden cause I don’t want my boss to think I can’t handle being in a busy environment. Humming and whistling while out in a busy environment does help me to feel more relaxed and helps to block out the noise or crowds but it doesn’t nesesarily mean I can’t handle those kind of environments. You get better at being in busy places the more you get out in them. There’s many different reasons I find myself stimming, it’s far from a negative, it’s a perfect way to release built up energy! And It’s perfect for helping to block out noisy environments, I hope no one feels they have to contain these sort of stimming habits, they help make everyday life a lot more enlightening I find. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at whistling in just a few years to:P  There’s one type of stimming though that I have to a very high extreme, it’s rocking, I can rock for hours on end, I rock while listening to music, it’s my favorite thing in the world, alot of the best feelings I’ve ever had we’re while rocking and listening to music. I’ve been like this my entire life and I’ve never known anyone else to have the rocking habit to this extreme. It’s the best way to get lost in ones imagination that’s for sure! ‘

From an 48 year old male, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome 2 years ago.
‘A difficult question, as stimming is typically something that other people observe. For myself, I have always been aware that I keep repeating certain melodies, songs in my head. I just do that. I don’t do it aloud, by the way.
When I started having relationships (in my late twenties), my partners noticed that I touched my nose a lot. They wanted me to stop that. Having been made aware of that, I have tried to reduce this behaviour, but I cannot stop it completely. How does touching my nose – or repeating melodies – benefit me? Beats me, but the fact that I cannot stop it completely, must mean something.
I have a colleague, who also has Asperger’s. He has the, for me annoying, habit of constantly moving his body and tapping his feet. He cannot sit still for 2 seconds.
It seems to be an uncontrollable urge, of which the benefits to me are unclear.’

‘I was only dxed last year, and i’m 53.  Some of my earliest memories are of stimming to calm and soothe myself: rocking, spinning, tiptoeing, tapping my fingers in patterns, humming, vocalising that isn’t quite humming, flapping my hands (both in the air or –to attract less attention — by opening and closing one hand hard and fast), jiggling my leg(s), listening to a record on repeat for hours (my poor mother! especially when the record was a 45 and i had it on for 4-6 hours during bad times! she didn’t mind nearly as much when it was an lp of ship noises or thunderstorms that i had on for hours.)  I can suppress them for a short period, but at a very high cost. generally suppressing them takes all my focus, so i won’t take in anything detailed visually, will have trouble speaking as well as understanding speech, can’t do anything productive.
Some of my earliest memories are of rocking and spinning. in primary school i was the first one out of class at recess and tore to the playground at a dead run so that i could stand in the middle of the painted double circles (for playing games with a large bouncy rubber ball) adn spin until my perception of them was that they rose up around me at waist height. as soon as they did, all my anxiety and distress from trynig to sit still and all my overwhelm from everything class seemed to melt away. when i couldn’t do that, i’d have what were called back then “bad spells” and cry and scream. my teachers were very good about letting me out the classroom door first, and so were the other children.’

‘Ah yes, I do the humming the same melodies (or certain sections of them) in my head thing. I used to play with a binder clip when I was in grade school. I tap my nails on a hard surface or drum my fingers. It’s usually a “hey, I’m thinking” or an “I need to concentrate” thing. It gives part of my mind something to focus on so that I can actually concentrate on something. I listen to music (pretty loudly…heh), too, because it calms my anxiety, especially in the car.’

‘It helps me with physical pain.’

‘I’m not sure if I stim or not. I need to sing background music, and also play it on my MP3 player, and generally make sure I always have music in my head through engraving lots of different tunes into my memory. it has to be music from games I’ve played, trying it with other types of music makes me feel sick. It is about context and mental association as well as the tune. Matching the right tune to the right situation helps the world make more sense. it also helps with blocking out unwanted sensory stimuli, as well as with my phobia of complete silence (I associate silence with things being faulty, either my own ears or whatever is supposed to be make the noise) and blocking out my constant tinnitus which drives me crazy.
As a school child I used to stim more traditionally, but I remember this being one of my phases of pretending to be more autistic than I am. It was kind of a cross between unconscious mimicking of other autistic children and acting a part out of duty, because I thought there was a certain way you were supposed to act when autistic and I didn’t want to do it wrong.’

‘The main things I tend to do are wiggle my fingers (as if I’m tapping a keyboard), stroke a section of my hair, or obsessively rub my finger nails (I like the smoothness and I dislike not wearing smooth nail polish). I tend to stim more when I’m nervous or anxious, and often use it as a subtle distraction from whatever is bothering me. I also tend to stim when I’m thinking or have a lot on my mind, just feels like it straightens thing out for me so I can think clearly, like my body needs to ‘think’ as well as my mind.’

‘I’m not sure where I might sit on the autistic spectrum, although I definitely exhibit some tendencies i.e. an obsession with symmetry, good verbal and maths skills, social anxiety, etc. I find my brain is constantly overstimulated. Tapping a pattern out, or drawing a pattern over and over again (my colleagues are endlessly amused to find my pattern drawings during meetings) helps to calm the over stimulated part of my brain and make me concentrate on the task in hand. It’s also very soothing.’

‘I didn’t know having music in my head was a form of stimming but I have that all the time. I wake up with a song in my head and it reruns all day. I’ve noticed it changes tunes less frequently the more stressed I am. I think it helps me block out distractions around me to let me concentrate, although sometimes it’s too “loud” and interrupts my concentration in and of itself.  I used to spin at home when I was little. it was fun to make the world be dizzy (I would ask my mom if she needed me to spin it the other way because although I never was affected in my walking after spinning, I’d observed other people were and so I thought I needed to slow the spinning of the world down so my mom could walk in a straight line. Obvious problem with theory of mind there!)  Sometimes when I’m on the edge of a meltdown I rock, but usually only when alone at home. I’ve always tried to avoid obvious physical stimming because it bothered me when teachers would constantly click their pens open and shut or people drum their fingers. The movement and sound just added to my own overwhelmed senses, so I tried not to do stuff like that myself because if it bothered me it probably bothered other people. (I thought a lot more about other people’s feelings than anybody ever gave me credit for. I just didn’t have the right information about what they were feeling!)  So the stims I do help me concentrate and/or calm down by blocking out external sensory stimulus.’

‘I have the music in my head too. It helps me cope with the constant brain chatter. But I never thought I was on the spectrum.’

‘That’s what I do, I only rock when I’m alone too, but I do it for many different reasons, most times because it just feels very relaxing.’

‘Sent this to my daughter.hope she responds,very interesting,I have seen this actually taught to my other daughter..who is not autistic…it really helped her with anxiety.’

‘I am 66 and was never diagnosed, but as the mother of two sons who both suffer with ADHD, I think I definitely have it, too, and I KNOW I STIM, too. It is a release of energy for me, and I feel so much better much of the time when I rock my body back and forward, or swing my leg, which is crossed over the other leg. It’s definitely done alot, and it’s not a concsious movement, but I do it alot of the time. It makes me happy and it relaxes me.’

‘Wow, I do so many of these things. Drown out the world with music, tap patterns/count with fingers or play air piano. Count patterns on ceilings floors and walls (tiny boxed wallpaper at my therapists office is getting old), rub my fingernails and twirl hair or constantly smooth the front section around my face. Constantly tap my foot/wiggle leg. So many of these. I don’t leave the house too much due to anxiety but I’ve gotten pretty good at making these things subtle except when I’m nearing a meltdown then they increase and I can typically have time enough to remove myself for the stressful situation or those around me who know me will help out because there have been times when I’m alone that it gets bad enough that I’m hauled off to a psych ward’

‘I didn’t have a chance to answer yesterday, but am happy see that I’m not the only one who vocalizes – echolalia ( I can be a scary good mimic) , sort of humming/singing (I prefer to think of this as scatting) – waves my arms around (I should have been an orchestra conductor), and sort of dances (but I’m a klutz, not really good at sensing my physical boundaries and location). I do this when I’m excited and overwhelmed (good and bad). It releases tension, rebalances my energy, and if I’m in a good mood and having fun, keeps that felling going. I try very hard not do do this at work, but end up “talking with my hands” anyway. I don’t care for the most part about doing it in public generally, but can be a little shy doing it around acquaintances who haven’t quite crossed the gap to friends yet. My husband is getting used to it – dare I say it amuses the heck out of him and for the most part me, too. I’ve also taken up a little bit of qigong that is very helpful since it has lots of repetitive shaking, swinging, and sweeping arm movements along with controlled breathing. For the most part feet are firmly planted, unlike tai qi, which is more flowing and graceful.’

Answers from the Spectrum, Eye Contact

nuage mots mains merci

We have launched our ‘Answers from the Spectrum’ project.  Each week there will be a question about life on the Spectrum. It is open to anyone who is on the Autistic Spectrum to answer and give us their views.  A chance to enlighten parents, carers, teachers and the public about how Autism is for you.  The questions will be posted on Iris’s Facebook page every Monday…/Iris-Grace-Paint…/609967369017975 , if you know of anyone who would like to be involved please do spread the word.  I would like this to be very much an interactive project, so please send in any questions that you might have to and I will add them to the list.  Thankyou.

Question for this week:

We know that eye contact is a very social type interaction. Some on the Spectrum actively avoid it and appear confused and anxious when it occurs. I have learnt that there needs to be flexibility and understanding while trying to engage in this way.
I would like to ask what it feels like ? Why this face to face contact is so uncomfortable? How could we make those situations easier? Or is this just another stereotype and as time goes by eye contact becomes not so much of an issue?

Please only answer this question if you are on the Spectrum, if you would like to remain anonymous message me on this page or email me at and I will post your answer. Thankyou so much for your support and willingness to be involved, your answers will be incredibly valuable to us all x

Answers from the Spectrum

‘eye contact makes me uncomfortable because it makes me feel threatened. especially with strangers/persons I don’t trust. sometimes I don’t know where to look. I’m also afraid to accidentally look at somone wrongly. I can make eye contact with certain relatives and my boyfriend. patience and understanding can make it easier. pressuring us to look at you is not makes things worse.’

‘I’m 25 and I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s at 20.I usually feel uncomfortable making eye contact with people, especially people I don’t know, because I have this feeling that the length of time I spend making eye contact is weird – like it’s too long. Sometimes I can make that work for me, like when I used to babysit and I needed the kids to take me seriously. That sometimes works as a substitute teacher, too.  In other settings, I tend to keep my eyes down or elsewhere in the room, only making eye contact briefly if at all. Prolonged situations where I’m sitting directly across from someone and interacting with only them are especially awkward, no matter who it is. (This is one place where group settings are actually easier, since no one is expecting to make frequent eye contact.)  I read a lot of novels, and I know that eye contact can be a form of flirtation or otherwise used to signal romantic interest, so I especially avoid eye contact with unfamiliar men to make sure I don’t get myself into an awkward situation.

As for making it easier… I think having seats arranged so that we aren’t sitting directly across from people makes things a little easier. Even if the seating is slightly offset, it makes me feel less pressured to make and maintain eye contact. And I’m personally a fan of people who put interesting stuff on their walls so I have something to look at.’

‘I’m not on the spectrum (as far as i know) but here is a video about eye contact from someone who is. They have a lot of informative videos.

‘I’m an Aspie woman in my late 50s. For me, eye contact feels very intense, invasive, and uncomfortable – I don’t seem to gather the same useful information as others from it and it’s something I have to engage in consciously. To me it feels a bit threatening and aggressive, but I’ve learned that for a lot of other people this is not the case. For them, it’s friendly and necessary. I do recognize that it is also a really basic way to acknowledge someone’s humanity and to show respect. In service situations, for example, I try hard to make eye contact. I don’t want to leave cashiers, counter staff, wait staff, etc. feeling like I’m rude to them because that’s not my intention.
However, I also recognize that some people use eye contact to be deliberately intimidating, “scary,” and controlling. I’m very susceptible to this – part of my chameleon characteristics of blending in and going along with a social situation in order to minimize unwanted attention on me – and I have to be on guard about it. I live and work in a busy urban environment where there is an expectable level of interpersonal aggression and violence. For this reason I must also pay attention to what’s going on around me. I can’t just blithely avoid eye contact in order to avoid social contact with random strangers because this could actually be dangerous. So, it’s a bit if a balancing act for me and I have to do my best to try to understand people’s intentions toward me.’

‘Im 40, got aspie label at early 20s. I have no desire to look into eyes of random people. It is like asking me to focus especially on the lightbulb on lamps, or always stare at the left shoe. The lightbulb will hurt my eyes and I forget about the shoes cause they just dont interest me. I wouldnt even stare at my cats eyes – it is rude and show domination and power. So thats my main reasons to avoid eye contact: I forget or I dont feel interested in your eyes – or I dont feel the urge to participate in mental battle of power.’

‘I find cats a lot easier and less stressful to be around in general.’
‘My son who will be 13 in May and verbal, answer to this question was, and I quote, ” I can see everyone’s emotions when I look in their eyes, like if they are sad or angry.” So he said he doesn’t look in anyone eyes he looks in between them.’

‘I found this answer incredibly deep. Wow. I’m not on the spectrum but reading this made me feel a heavy burden in my chest. They say the eyes are the windows to our soul and I’m sure there are some souls that must feel so threatening.’
‘Eyes are like windows to the soul. To expose mine feels like I am taking my clothes off in the middle of a busy shopping centre. So I don’t make eye contact. I have only ever been able to make eye contact with one person for a long period of time and that is my boyfriend, this I have always felt comfortable doing with him. No idea why. I also feel like if I was to see other peoples’ eyes it would be like they’re naked in front of me. Which gives me a situation that I’m not sure how to deal with. I agree with the idea of seeing emotions in eyes. Sometimes if I am struggling to understand the emotion being presented to me I may sneak a peak at their eyes to give me a clue. Doesn’t always help though, sometimes makes the situation a little more complicated. (I am a high – functioning aspie, aged 22, diagnosed last year)’

‘Wow, I have not been diagnosed, but this is exactly how i’ve felt about eye contact my entire life. I once had a coworker tell my ex at an after work function that my entire office thought I was shady and untrustworthy because I avoid eye contact. The coworker was someone I admired. It really hurt to know that my discomfort/vulnerability was being misread. This happened in 1997. Since then, I have made an effort to give eye contact when dealing with people who don’t know me very well. I don’t want them to think I’m a shady character. I still catch myself looking away because I’m so uncomfortable. It “hurts”. I believe my spouse is an Aspie and our daughter was diagnosed with ASD at 2 years old. My daughter and I do eye contact exercises and both have improved because of them. I do think it’s a fear/trust/vulnerability issue. She just started pre-K and she isn’t making eye contact with the teachers or students there. While I don’t want to make her do anything that makes her uncomfortable, I worry that her lack of eye contact may be mistaken for disinterest.’

‘My mum is very big on eye contact. She’s never understood why I can’t which used to make her shout at me and then would probably end with me in tears wondering what an earth happened. It has always been a struggle. Being diagnosed was the best thing I ever did. My mum does understand to a degree why I can’t now, but I am with you. It hurts to do it. Sometimes I feel like my eyes are burning if I do it or I feel embarrassed. My mum always used to take my lack of eye contact for disinterest. She doesn’t anymore because of my diagnosis. Your daughter should be okay, as she’s been diagnosed people are more likely to be aware of why she doesn’t. You are already being a brilliant mother just by doing what you’ve done for her so far. I wish I’d had a similar role model as a child. ‘

‘UK Aspie here! Eye contact is so intense it almost hurts. More than a few seconds induces the beginnings of a panic attack. I don’t understand both why and how people focus on the eyes for so long in a conversation. I feel completely raw and like someone can touch my insides and like I can do the same to them and it’s an invasion. Best way for me to deal with it is have something ‘busy’ to do with my hands, that I can watch whilst speaking/listening. I feel much more comfortable and safe then. Also, if I do need to make eye contact, a kind of ‘squint’ makes it less intense. Kinda just looks like you’re thinking harder. Haha!’

‘I am 30 and have Asperger’s. I find eye contact less something to actively avoid and more something that’s completely uninstinctive and very draining. my eyes want to look at lots of things, including things happening in my mind and not in the outside world. i’ve also got to divide my energy among my other senses and have enough left over for remembering what I’m doing and trying to handle my emotional reaction to things.. concentrating on one thing means either not being able to see the other things at all, so I walk into a lamp post, or letting the other things run wild, so my eyes start trying to see everything at once and have a migraine. watching the things in my mind is important too or I will start having very bad intrusive thoughts and have a panic attack.’

‘the things in my mind, yes! There’s always more going on visually for me than just what is literally in front of my eyes. I don’t need any consciousness altering substances to get to mental/intellectual/psychological/spiritual places other people yearn and search for… This is where a lot of my art comes from and I have such a hard time verbalizing it. In some ways I think what I experience every day as “normal” is a state other people hunger for. If they only knew.’

‘As an aspie girl who has only just discovered that I am on the spectrum at 20 years old, I do find eye contact uncomfortable. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the harder things for me, but I suppose that may be because I’ve never really gave any attention to whether I give eye contact or not.  However, I have noticed that I tend to look either at a persons mouth or above their eyes when talking to them. Something about eye contact does make me feel awkward and some what vulnerable. I’m ok giving it to children, but find other adults hard. I find other people trying to give me eye contact extremely difficult, as I feel as though I’m being scrutinised or judged, and makes me feel under some kind of pressure.’

‘I have Aspergers Syndrome but was late to be diagnosed, as I was told I had it when I was about 15, so I had already gone through most of secondary school and had a difficult time.  I definitely had a major issue with eye contact, as I felt like it was very personal. People say that the eyes are the entry to the soul (or something like that), so when I would look at someone in the eyes I would feel like I’m invading their privacy and I didn’t like that.  It also felt uncomfortable as I worried that I was looking at them for too long or too little and I didn’t want to look like an idiot.  I still have issues with eye contact, at 19 years old, but I can hold direct eye contact for longer than I could before. However, where possible I will avoid it.  Hope this has helped a bit, but I feel that everyone on the spectrum feels differently and dislikes eye contact for different reasons.’

‘I forgot to mention that at school it is the hardest time with regard to eye contact. I would constantly be reprimanded for being insolent and rude because I did not look at the teachers when they were talking to me, and as I wasn’t diagnosed until the last year of secondary school it meant I went through 4 years being misunderstood. Schools need to change their approach and realise that there is more to people than they think and it’s not just rudeness or insolence.’

‘This is so interesting! I’m not on the spectrum, but I do have ADHD, and I’ve always found eye contact very hard for all of the reasons mentioned.’

‘Hi, everyone!  I like the way you, Arabella (if I spell it out correctly!) refer to eye contact as a way of ‘social type of interaction’ rather than a social skill. And I like the way our friends say they ‘don’t like’ making eye contact rather than saying they ‘can’t.’
I feel good just by these expressions.  For me, who is a would-be high-functioning autistic girl (because I haven’t diagnosed with it yet), eye contact is quite a natural thing. I do it willingly as a way of communicating and I enjoy it.  You know, by saying this, I’m not trying to show how I’m closer to people living father from the spectrum.   I’m sorry if this makes you feel bad.
I actually feel awkward to say this here because I don’t have the eye contact problem very seriously.   But I just wanted to introduce my case, hoping to help introduce the diversity of the spectrum.  And thinking about what I do and don’t like doing helps me cope with my status of the spectrum because I’m sure I’m autistic to some extent.’
‘I am an adult (60) with autism and live on my own and work to support myself. it is and has always been a struggle but I am happy to do my best. I have always noticed I am very uncomfortable with eye contact especially with men and some boys… I would ask myself why and came to realize it was because of how I felt . I felt threatened by the energy I was facing and when faced with females it mostly seemed softer and gentler. later in my 20’s I realized also that I felt overwhelmed by strong personalities and that I was perceiving that energy directly and it hurt inside to maintain eye contact or physical presence… so I would isolate myself to find a peaceful place. I learned to meditate and this helped me a lot to comprehend what I was feeling. even with my close family I would be secretive and avoid contact and eye contact at times as I felt better by myself than sharing their energy in interactions. and yet I loved them… it was confusing to me and calmer to be on my own. social situations like parties have always been very uncomfortable, I would find I could speak to one person but not many… and when I am with groups or at work in ‘light’ social conversations or flirtatious people I run for the hills…eye contact not even an option!. also I notice when I am speaking or answering questions my eyes are going all over, looking around as I am thinking and answering. at one point I learned to speak in front of a group and I could do it well if I didn’t look at anyone in the face but above their heads until the thoughts were expressed then I could resume looking at the eyes in the group before going on speaking. thank you for this opportunity to share and learn from each other! I hope it helps many!!!!’

‘Found this very interesting! Eyes are the window of the soul I must say even though I’m not on the Spectrum. Was very shy growing up, would turn beet red if someone looked at me! More of a Chatty Cathy now!’

‘On the spectrum, and like other I find eye contact extremely uncomfortable. For me, it’s almost painful, so I hardly ever do it. However, I find I can look at eyes in photos and paintings without any problems. That’s made me wonder if there’s some neurological explanation.
I know that a person’s eyes are in constant movement; people with autism/Aspergers have highly-tuned senses and (perhaps) slightly different neurology; is this why we are so uncomfortable with looking at others’ eyes? We can subliminally detect the tiny, constant movements and are unsettled?
As I said, it’s a theory.’

‘It doesn’t help with the sensory issues I have, that it’s a constantly moving object I’m expected to track’

‘Not diagnosed or anything, but I personally have pretty severe social anxiety. Eye contact is uncomfortable, I don’t know why, it just is. With people very close to me I don’t have an issue with it (my husband and kids, not my parents). I actually learned from a book on management to look at someones forehead instead. Apparently it comes across as confident .I actually have been a manager and do well in a leadership position, which sounds completely crazy for someone with social anxiety.. but I find it easier to lead than to follow, as long as I know I am supposed to lead.’

‘Hi, my name AJ and I have asperger’s. I am 30 years of age. My autism makes me feel special, creative, and sometimes like like outcast. When people try to tell me I can’t win,or tell me I can’t do something. It empowers me me further. It me years to learn facial expressions and learn to make make eye contact. It was very hard to learn to get use to making myself get comfortable with this. But with me it was like evolution . I believe in one saying “life finds a way” ‘

‘From a 48 year old male with Asperger’s Syndrome (diagnosed two years ago): for me this is not a problem. In fact, I notice it when other people do not make eye contact. Having said that, I do not know if I engage in eye contact as often as “normal” people. I do not avoid it however. The only time I cannot maintain eye contact is, if a young beautiful woman looks at me intensely. I do not know where shyness ends and AS begins, or that shyness is a symptom of AS.
As far as I know, eye contact has not really been an issue when I was younger. Shyness has been, though.’

‘Asperger’s / high functioning autism, 38 yr old woman here … I find eye contact extremely intense and overwhelming. It literally wipes out my ability to understand anything else. I once told my boss, I can either look you in the eye or understand what you are saying, but not both. (She seemed to get more okay with my eye gaze avoidance after that.) Like a lot of the comments said, it’s more than just eyes, it’s like, I don’t know, a flood of someone else’s emotions, emotions I don’t understand and can’t interpret. Imagine if you were talking to someone and right beside you, two people were having a loud argument in a foreign language. That’s kind of what it feels like to make eye contact, only it’s visual, (obviously).  Constant eye contact is “staring” and thus rude; avoiding eye contact is “evasive” and “sneaky”, but no one will tell us what frequency is allowable! Is it 5 seconds on 2 seconds off? So I just avoid it. I’ve discovered at work that if we’re both looking at data on a piece of paper, no one minds if I’m not looking at them. Or if I’m working while I’m talking, and paying attention to my work (I’m an analytical chemist so paying attention to what I’m doing with my hands is important!) no one minds that I’m not making eye contact.’

‘I was always in trouble as a child for being rude, cos I didn’t look at ppl. For me, I was more afraid of getting into trouble, so I learned… I’m now 45, and if I had my way I would wear sunglasses 24/7. Another major hurdle for me, not a blessing, as NTs would see it – apparently I have amazing blue eyes (they look ordinary to me) but ppl always want to look directly into them, and stare for ages, but there is not much I can do about that. I’ve learned to say thankyou, but while others think I’m “lucky”, I find it excruciating. When you don’t look ppl in the eye, they think you’re hiding something or perhaps lying? It’s exhausting. After reading so many other comments, I suppose this IS a kind of a blessing in one way – I don’t have to ‘measure’ the eye-contact time so much, because the person I’m talking too usually looks away first.’

‘I have tried many different ways to avoid eye-contact, but NTs read so much into it. I’ve been labelled rude, ignorant, ‘up myself’ etc, you name it… It’s not fair that ppl make interpretations and it has made it very difficult in life to nurture my own strong sense of self, however, I have made it to an age where I’m learning to be my own person. Forums like this and others I’ve seen have helped me a great deal. I am wired differently, but I am not wired defectively.’

‘Allowing myself to disengage from the general uncomfort of eye contact allows me to scramble my thoughts and develop more coherent and socially appropriate responses to help me better blend into my environment. I just need a break from it. My eyes darting with the pings of my thoughts is freeing. If I’m forced to engage, I lose momentum toward an appropriate response. All in an effort to appear normal: the end game.’

‘I hope it is fine for me to contribute as a deeply-perceptive person who has been severely challenged by real-time social interactions for the barrage of sensory impulses they involve. I find the opposition that comes with direct eye contact rather intrusive and disruptive to my sense of coherence and flow – when I face others it physically feels confrontational, even overpowering at times. Not the case so much when we are side by side; or I am able to sit on my own on the side or at the back of the scene from where I can observe and/or interact with a sense of self-autonomy much more preserved. Non-oppositional strategies have worked wonders as they seem to allow the individuals’ spheres of self-regulation and control to co-exist more peacefully.’

‘For me, face to face eye contact feels like staring in the sun. So looking away or anywhere else is like putting on sun glasses.’

‘My son who is on the spectrum told me that words come out my mouth not my eyes so he is focusing on what I am saying therefore he looks at my mouth.’

‘I wasn’t going to reply, I am on the spectrum in a tenuous way but the boy who said he can read people’s emotions in their eyes and that is why it is overwhelming was dead-on right. I had a hard time as a kid making eye contact because so much was revealed in the eyes and it didn’t always match what was coming out of the mouth and was always too intense for me. I could even tell people’s life stories based on the eyes– personality, job, marriage status– which got me half-jokingly dubbed a psychic but I was never that. I just look and it is there to see for those who truly look and thus too much to process. The eyes ARE the window to much. I do it now because I have learned to control what I see and block the rest but it took YEARS of practice with no guide because I was the only one like me in my world that I knew of. This is why this page intrigues me so much. Iris is much like me but she has YOU and that is beautiful to see.’

‘You’ve completely nailed it – it’s the lies that come out of ppls mouths that don’t match what their eyes are saying’

‘It doesn’t even have to be “lies.” They are just saying one thing but that is not what they are thinking and different truths are revealed in the eyes. It was all upsetting for me as a kid.’

‘I vaguely remember the disturbing feeling of eye contact… it seemed to push me out of the moment… as if it forced my thoughts to glaze over making me feel a bit out of control. As a boy, my father helped me to learn to look into peoples eyes when in conversation. Now it is no big deal at all. Just took a bit of time for me to get used to it. (HFAspie)’

‘I wouldn’t think it’s something you can help or improve on?? Maybe I’m not trying hard enough! That’s what people tell me all the time about everything about being autistic. I wish they could feel it but I’m not sure I can fully explain because I don’t always know what feeling I’m having. I know I don’t “read” people by looking at their eyes or I’d be a better judge of character lol, it’s just uncomfortable with strangers ie: someone serving you on the till because it just is. It feels too personal for me, I always fall in love with a mans eyes first so it feels a bit inappropriate to look into other peoples. I look at people I know when I talk to them but I have become aware that I look away when I’m trying to think, the face is too distracting and I can’t focus my thoughts. If I have a one on one meeting I over stare till my eyes are sore because I don’t want to appear rude by not looking at the person and that’s super uncomfortable I get very cross by the stereotype that all autistic people don’t make eye contact, both my children do but they both look away when they’re confused or telling me a long story, I think like me they’re just trying to concentrate. At 38 I’ve also had a long time of people telling me I’m weird or they’re disappointed in me, if I don’t look at their face I don’t have to see that, I’m very visual and have awful visions of unpleasant things, incidents of loved ones looking at me, as I perceive, like they hate me, stick in my head and add to me feeling worthless and unloved. I don’t get a lot from looking at peoples faces or I get their expression wrong and while I’m trying to process it you can then see they’re looking at you with that “well, come on, answer the question or say something” face and that just panics me and makes an answer or comment less likely lol’

‘Years ago I had a conversation with a brilliant woman who also happened to have ASD. She quite obviously had a difficult time maintaining eye-contact and as my own twins had just recently been diagnosed, I took the liberty to ask her why it was so difficult. She very graciously offered me this piece of insight. She said, “Oh, you know exactly what it is like. When NT people look into someone’s eyes and tell a lie, you feel the same things that we feel, but we just feel it a lot stronger.” That revelation completed changed the way I looked at autism and myself. We all are truly on the spectrum somewhere and we are all capable of empathy for a person with ASD. It was this moment when I realized that I could “think” like my children, and if I could do that, I could also teach them.’

‘It’s not something I find goes away forever, certain people for me are easier to maintain eye contact with then others, I have one friend that I have no problem keeping eye contact with, but most my friends I usually will look away out a window or over there heads when I’m talking to them. I definitely find it harder to maintain eye contact with most people after I’ve spent long amounts of time by myself. It’s something that can come and go I find, some days it’s worse then others. I don’t worry if I find myself avoiding eye contact, I’m not being rude, it’s just easier to talk or tell a story sometimes when your not constantly looking at someone:P  I also notice a lot when I’m having a conversation about something I’m really interested in, I’ll get really into a topic and start rambling on about it, then when I finally look at who I’m talking to my mind will suddenly go blank and I’ll completely forget what I was talking about. That happens every once in a while, I always find it really annoying when it does:P’

‘I find it interesting what some people are saying about how sometimes words don’t match the eyes, I hadn’t really considered that as to why I have trouble with eye contact or who I can trust to talk to. definitely noticing lots of things up here I hadn’t really considered before, but definitely can relate to!’

‘For me it’s a sensory processing issue and there are a couple different issues: the first is that if i’m going to process spoken words i’m hearing, i need to block out as much other sensory input as possible. after my teachers insisted i look at their eyes when we were talking, i quickly got “but don’t stare!”. except i *can’t process what i’m hearing* if i have continual visual input. so i hyperfocus on one part of the face — and if it’s near the eyes (including forehead and nose) that reads to allistic people as being stared at.  One problem wth looking at other people’s eyes is that they move; they aren’t looking straight at me most of the time. and i track them and try to figure out what they’re looking at, which makes me lose the audio processing and mental processing (ie i can’t tell what i’m hearing and i forget what i was trying to say).  But if i do look into eyes that are looking back at me, i can’t help seeing the mini image of me reflected in them — and then i also lose what i’m saying/thinking/hearing, because there’s a tiny me in their iris! i’ve caught myself waving to myself far too many times over the years. (i’m 53).  In my 30s started watching people’s mouths. (in fact after my tbi in 97 that caused a lot of memory loss [since resolved], i thought i was doing some sort of lip reading beacuse i could only tell what people were saying if i could see their lips. it’s only the past 5 years that i’ve realised that by hypefocusing on the mouth, i’m blocking out most of the visual input — and if i hyperfocus hard enough, i can block out background sound and just hear the voice, too.’

I am a 47 year old female, diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome last year.


A degree of discomfort akin to pain
emergency bells ringing in my brain
Invasion, threat, I’ve seen too much
too loud too deep too great a touch
My cats know how to do this right
a soft glance is so much more polite
Then turn away and close your eyes
and maybe dream of house mouse pies

Tumpty Tum

AnimalsThe painting began with stomping elephants, lions and tigers on the prowl.  Iris loved seeing the footprints in the paint and would look up at me pointing at each animal saying their name.  She was inventing new ways to include her toys, making marks, shapes creating textures on the paper.  Now and again I heard her say ‘tum, tum, tumpty tum,’ I thought at first it was to do with her trying to make elephant noises as she plodded his feet onto the paper but later on I realised what is was from.  She has a book with a cd and we have also got her the app called My first Classical Music Book, it was open on the page called ‘People’, the people in this book were the composers, Brahms, Beethoven, Handel, Bach, Mozart, Adams, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.  There is a cartoon drawing of a composer trying to write a piece of music saying ‘Tum Tum, Tumpty Tum, Tiddly Pom…’ Iris was doing the same as she painted singing along working on her piece.  So I have named this one ‘Tumpty Tum’ it’s 55cm x 75cm, painted with watercolours and acrylics on watercolour paper. and a detail shot of the painting

Tumpty Tum

Detail of Tumpty Tum   Classical Music BookClassical Music Book Tumpty TumIf you are interested in a print of ‘Tumpty Tum’ please do email me, Arabella at We are offering free postage in July and here are the print prices 55cm x 75cm (same size as the original) – £127.00 ($217.93) 42cm x 56.5cm – £92.00 ($157.87) 33cm x 44.5cm – £57.00 ($97.81) 23cm x 31cm – £38.00 ($65.21) All of the profits raised from the sales of her prints go towards her ongoing therapies and some saved for her future.