“A change in perfume can cause distress to a child with #autism”
Recently I saw this retweeted on Twitter and it brought back a flood of memories from my son growing up, from not liking a new haircut to declaring when confronted with me in a new item of clothing “it’s just not you!”
Fortunately my son copes better now with any changes in my appearance but persists in wearing old items of his own clothes that no longer really fit rather than any new item I have purchased for him! There are also certain t-shirts that he can no longer even put on that remain in his wardrobe as any attempt to throw them away causes extreme distress. He physically feels “wrong” when putting any item of clothing into a bin. It’s a feeling I can understand as I have to admit that I feel this myself and it stays with me for sometimes up to an hour after putting any clothing (including footwear) in a bin, it’s like the feeling of crawling skin but instead of my skin it’s inside me.
Thankfully we have overcome it to a degree as between the two of us it could have genuinely become an issue… there are those that probably think it is an issue considering my sons old t-shirts and my two double wardrobes that you can hardly squeeze anything in but that I, in reality, only wear about a quarter of! However I consider this an achievement, we no longer hoard my sons socks that are either too small or full of holes and I no longer hoard clothes that are more than 3 sizes smaller than my current size… well I had to apply some rule to the discarding of clothing and it seemed reasonable to assume that I would never shrink more than 3 sizes! On the down side my size has somewhat plateaued over the last few years so the two double wardrobes are no longer really containing all my clothing and shoe size never changes so I have far too much footwear!
But I have digressed from the original retweeted tweet “A change in perfume can cause distress to a child with #autism” and the sequence of thoughts this generated in me! So let me try and lead you through them, and I apologise in advance if we meander along the way!
Now, where had we got to… retweeted tweet… my son not liking my changes in appearance or style… my son’s dislike of new clothing!…
Now let me just clarify that last thought, my son will wear new clothes when purchased in line with the following criteria…
- He must have chosen them
- They must be in primary colours
- All labels must be cut out
- They must not have any wording on them that he deems inappropriate
Now you may suppose that point number 1 invalidates point number 4 as surely if he has chosen the clothing he will have assessed the suitability of any wording on the clothing? You would however be mistaken! What he may initially find humorous he will then decide is inappropriate for a certain audience or occasion and once that small seed is planted, it grows, until eventually it is inappropriate for all occasions and is left discarded in his wardrobe, but not so inappropriate that it overcomes his clothing/bin phobia until I force the issue!
Now here’s the link in my chain of thought so follow with me… Why does he change his mind? When he was little he didn’t! If he liked it that was it!
It started as he started trying to find a sense of self in his style as he grew through his teens, and that’s the problem with Asperger’s Syndrome, awareness that you are different and don’t fit in which causes you to try too hard to fit in. Like most kids on the spectrum my son just didn’t care about his appearance, he would wear something because he liked the colour or it had Thomas on it (one of his childhood obsessions guaranteed to make any item of clothing acceptable to him) but as his peers in secondary school changed, found their style, joined a group, became a type, my son was left wondering what the hell was going on while being acutely aware he didn’t somehow fit into their defined styles or groups or types. This was the start of a much laboured and as yet unfinished journey as he sought his style identity while having no concept of style! He liked Family Guy so step one was to buy a Family Guy t-shirt, which was later discarded as he discovered that what Stu said and made him chuckle didn’t correctly represent what he would say and was therefore deemed inappropriate. There was then a serious of humorous quotes t-shirts, these all made him chuckle in the shop as it was very obvious humour, shall we say “carry on style” or “toilet humour” and if your British this will definitely provoke an image, however in reality these quotes were tantamount to making a statement about his level of confidence, both as a man and a person, therefore they were deemed inappropriate. Then there was the added confusion of not being associated with the wrong group, as it turns out in particular he did not want to be considered a “Chav” as he did not agree with what he perceived to be their views. This meant despite the fact that he was more comfortable in track suit bottoms these were now deemed inappropriate and as his understanding of style is limited he couldn’t distinguish between track suit bottoms that were chavvy or just sporty and therefore “the baby was thrown out with the bathwater” as the saying goes. This led to a long search for comfortable jeans. I have tried to intervene at points, especially when I realised that his extensive collection of primary coloured clothing meant that he had somewhat the appearance of an oversized toddler! However no amount of persuasion can convince him that a primary red t-shirt would look less like he was a giant 3 year old if worn with a grey or black hoodie rather than primary blue or green one!
At this point my thoughts divert along the path of colour and what colours my wardrobe consist of, so here goes….
My wardrobe is predominately black! If I were to sort my clothes into colours there would be too many black items to fit in one of my two double wardrobes. Which, in point of fact, is one of the reasons I stopped sorting by colour some time ago and now have a system that includes tops in one wardrobe and bottoms and dresses in another with the more frequently worn tops in the wardrobe on the left of the chimney breast put on the left hand side and the more frequently worn bottoms on the right hand side of the wardrobe on the right of the chimney breast with the dresses in the middle and the never worn items on the left!… Well it makes sense to me anyway… Over the years I have tried to force myself on occasion, mainly initiated through comment from others, away from black and this has lead to a collection of grey items and neutral tones. I also now have a smaller collection of “one off” colours that I can manage to wear if everything else is black, for example a blue top with black trousers, a black cardi and black shoes.
This led to me thinking beyond the colours to the styles and realising that at 38 I am still trying to find mine! While friends I have manage to move with the fashion while retaining a sense of their own style I struggle to have any style! Which leads me back in full circle to my first sentence and my son declaring when confronted with me in a new item of clothing “it’s just not you!”
How strange to realise that he was right, even as a toddler, as I went out and tried so hard to buy a new outfit that was fashionable while correctly portraying “me” yet when I put it on it was like a stranger staring back at me from the mirror…
Who am I to comment on his journey to present himself as himself to the world while I still struggle to do the same?
At the end of the day what is wrong with him looking like a giant 3 year old and me looking like a middle aged Goth?
Maybe I should just let him be, encourage him to stop trying to fit in and just wear what he likes (currently anything with a star wars theme does the trick) and maybe I should do the same. Accept that my style has nothing to do with the normal concepts of style and more to do with the self imposed rules that every time I ignore in an attempt to be fashionable just leads to another unworn item of clothing in my wardrobe.
So here’s my list of rules.
- Buy black
- If black is not available then grey or neutral tones are acceptable and occasionally muted blues or greens
- Do not buy red, you may think it looks striking but you will NEVER wear it
- Buy V necks
- Never buy anything with a high neck as you will never wear it because you will be worried you’ll feel like you are being strangled all day
- Remember you’re more comfortable showing cleavage that covering your breasts so they join together and look like a monoboob!
- You are 38 so you’re not going to suddenly acquire the confidence to be okay with “skin tight” that’s the truth so just deal with it!
- Remove all labels before wearing
- Stop trying out new perfumes when you only want to wear paco rabanne ultraviolet and you only do it because you’re worried it’s more of an evening perfume than a daytime perfume, you like it so wear it!
So what if I looked like a middle aged Goth who shows too much cleavage and smells like she’s on a night out! That’s just how I roll… and yes the giant 6 foot 3 year old standing next to me is actually my 16 year old son!