Autism, the Alexander Technique, and Me
As a person on the autism spectrum, I have struggled with sensory issues all my life. My mother describes that when I was a child, she needed to “tame me to touch like a wild animal.” When people would touch me, it felt like an electrical burning sensation.
Over time, my parents learned that I could tolerate deep pressure, and I gradually became accustomed to their touch. Unfortunately, everyone else’s touch still felt so uncomfortable that as a child and teenager, I would avoid other people to keep them from possibly coming in contact with me.
Predictably, my behavior greatly limited my social interaction. My extreme sensitivity to touch continued through my teenage years and into adulthood.
By my early twenties, I had severe sensory and social problems that I was determined to solve. The resources in my small town were limited, but there was one person nearby who taught the Alexander Technique. On the recommendation of a family friend, I started taking lessons in 2003.
Because of my aversion to touch, I was initially apprehensive about taking Alexander Technique lessons. Despite my fears, my teacher’s hands-on work was soothing, and I gradually learned how to calm my overactive nervous system.
Over the course of that year, my Alexander lessons allowed me to begin integrating my senses of touch, movement, and balance. Further, without my constant sensory distress, I became increasingly aware of the social world around me.
Because of the benefits I had received from my Alexander Technique lessons, I decided to become a teacher. In 2005, I began my training with Missy Vineyard in Amherst, MA. Every day in the training course, I had little epiphanies about myself. As I learned how to put hands on and how to receive hands-on work, my nervous system became increasingly regulated. Touch became a comfortable sensation instead of a painful one.
I became graceful for the first in my life, after having sprained my ankles eight times as a teenager. And I discovered the conscious choice that I had in my actions when I became aware of the time between stimulus and response.
My success with the Alexander Technique motivated me to work with other people who had the same sensory challenges that I had experienced. Being a person with autism gives me unique insight into the sensory issues that people on the spectrum face.
Since I have had many of the difficulties that my students experience, I understand how they feel, and I offer solutions that address their specific sensory concerns.
Here are two podcasts I’ve done for the Alexander Technique Podcast:
How the Alexander Technique can help People with Autism:
Teaching tips for Alexander Technique Teachers who have Students with Autism:
I’ve written a book, Autism and Alexander Technique: Using the Alexander Technique to Help People on the Autism Spectrum which you can can order it from Amazon.com here or from Amazon.co.uk here
I currently teach the Alexander Technique in Pittsburgh, PA, where I specialize in movement education and sensory integration for people on the autism spectrum. I am also a professor at Point Park University, where I teach the Alexander Technique to performing artists. For more information, please visit my website: AlexanderTechniqueGuide.com, or refer to my book.
I just came across your site and enjoyed listening to your recording.
I have an adult son who also has Asperger’s syndrome ( high functioning) and I am presently exploring the use of Alexander technique and AS.
I am really heartened by your comments and feel this may be the missing piece that may be able to help him.
If you have any further insights/comments you can give me I would be delighted.
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