I can mainly speak of my own experience here, but besides social awkwardness, Aspies and other autistics seem to have some measure of physical awkwardness as well. Very regularly I will accidentally kick a door frame that I am attempting to walk through. I have a bit of an odd gait, too, that earned me the college nickname “Duckman” and “Duck”, because I evidently resembled a duck, waddling down the quadrangle in the Corps area at Texas A&M. Other Aspies I know confirm similar experiences. One person described having difficulty setting objects down properly, like glasses of liquid onto tables. I know when I was younger I used to knock over such glasses accidentally and often, to much personal embarrassment. I have read that autistic people have difficulty sometimes gauging the position of their bodies in space. A metaphorical lightbulb went off in my head when I read in Asperger’s From the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome by Michael John Carley about how he always felt most comfortable in water as a child. Not that he was a particularly good swimmer, but there was something particularly soothing about floating in water, relieved somewhat of the burden of gravity and having to keep one’s balance and a general relief of his physical awkwardness. I definitely can relate to this. I took to the water quite quickly as a child myself and loved to swim; my parents and family friends affectionately dubbed me a “water bug” for my love of swimming. Only in reading MJC’s book, however, did I make the connection from that experience with water and swimming to my autism. I don’t swim nearly as much as a working adult, but I do still enjoy it. Like MJC, I did try competitive swimming around late middle school or early high school. In the initial tryouts I swam as hard as I could and still ended up dead last. I promptly gave up–that pathetic finish was so discouraging. If I’d finished in the middle or at least 2nd to last I might’ve pressed on, but to swim that hard and still end up easily in last place by a significant margin…nope.
This clumsiness mainly seems to apply to walking and moving around in space. Paradoxically, many Aspies seem to possesses some pretty amazing manual dexterity. More than once I’ve impressed my mother with my ability to put together tables, machinery, etc, quickly and efficiently. Me, I don’t see what the fuss is about, as I’m merely following the directions provided. I do sometimes bite off more than I can chew, such as ordering a bike kit from a retailer and trying to put it together myself–I was able to partially assemble it, but attaching the handlebars fairly stumped me and I had to wheel it into the local bike shop in Denton to finish it. Still, I did end up money ahead than I would have buying a completely per-assembled bike. I also feel very nervous about disassembling firearms for cleaning. I’ve always done it successfully but I’m always worried I won’t be able to get one back together and I’ll have to sheepishly approach a professional gunsmith to get it back together properly and safely. With proper training, I could probably be an accomplished armorer or gunsmith myself, but that takes time and money I simply do not have. Plus I’ve always preferred intellectual pursuits to working with my hands, even though potentially I might be very good at it. Alas, most intellectual pursuits are lousy at “paying the bills”, so to speak. I have a lot of “cultural capital” from my formal education and reading habits, but the exchange rate with real capital has been exceedingly poor in my case. Anyway, with practice and caution and deliberation, I am a bit less awkward, a bit more graceful…and I have from time to time enjoyed participation in martial arts, but I will probably always have my odd “duck-like” gait. So it goes.