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Little Pink Coupe

"Duck feet" and "No - Wave Zone": My "Quiet Hands."

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Little Pink Coupe

I've been thinking a lot about the ableist expression "Quiet Hands" that many of us heard frequently from parents, caregivers, therapists, and teachers. I never really flapped my hands as a stim or repetitive "behavior," but I recently remembered two other phrases I heard frequently to signal that I was unconsciously conducting myself in ways that the NTs deemed inappropriate.

 

One thing that I've had all my life, without even being made aware of it at around age 11, was a tendency for my feet to stick out at opposite angles when I walk, or even when I'm standing still. Everyone, including me, seemed to become aware of it for the first time when I began OT and PT sessions around the end of fifth grade. My mom called the phenomenon "Duck Feet" - when I was a little kid, she had this old book from her childhood called "I Wish That I Had Duck Feet," about a young boy who daydreams about having an assortment of animal body parts, such as a tiger tail, an elephant's trunk, a whale's spout, and duck's feet (natch), weighs all the pros and cons of having these physical assets (his mother's furious reactions being the deal-breaker for the con part a lot of the time). By the end of the story, the boy decides he'd rather be himself.

 

After we realized that my feet tended to stick out at odd angles (think Charlie Chaplin and you'd have a pretty good idea of how it looked), my mother would often pay close attention to how I walked or how I positioned my feet when I was standing, and when I was walking or standing "wrong," she would lean next to me and simply whisper, "Duck Feet," and that was my signal to align my feet properly, however unnatural it felt to me. It simply wasn't something my body did automatically. Just as my parents and therapists thought it was "wrong" for my feet to stick out the way they did; so I thought it felt "wrong" for them to be perfectly parallel to one another. 

 

My point is, even as a young adult, I catch myself walking or standing the "wrong" way, and immediately straighten my feet up, as if I'm preparing for an inspection of some kind. I feel as though this is akin to someone who enjoys flapping as a stim and immediately drops their hands and becomes chastised when they hear or think of the phrase, "Quiet Hands."

 

Another thing I liked to do when I was younger (another thing everyone else thought of as "wrong" - it often seemed that there was little I did right in those days) was wave at people - not just a small, casual, hands up-hands down wave, a long, exuberant wave that involved my hand flying in all directions, like I was trying to flag down a taxicab. To shame this one out of me, my mom and therapists coined the term, "No - Wave Zone," which they whispered to me when they felt I was "waving hello" too much to people I ran into or was meeting for the first time. 

 

And, just as I still walk and stand with my feet pointed at odd angles, I also still wave at people...and most people actually seem to like it. They take it as an indication of my being approachable and friendly. I've never understood why so many adults in my life feared that they wouldn't.

 

Anyway, I was never told "Quiet Hands," specifically, but I just feel like "Duck Feet" and "No - Wave Zone" were my "Quiet Hands" equivalents.  

 

 

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Bruce

I guess I don't really have stims, unless you count biting my nails. Mum still goes on about that but I still do it!

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Kuribo [old account]

I was encouraged to stop two of my stims, but only because one was physically harmful and another could easily be misconstrued as harassment. I'm fine with that, but I agree that it's completely wrong to stop someone from stimming where no harm is present.

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The Id

Stimming wasn't a known thing when I was younger but my mother is an enthusiastic "don't-ist" so I can relate very much to your issue about using humiliation/shame to gain compliance.

 

I have also seen a boy about five years old with vociferous don't-ist parents who had so totally driven him to despair he had completely stopped talking. Whenever he did something that triggered one or both of his parents to start don't-ing they'd shout "don't do [whatever it is he just started doing] over and over until he gave up, then they'd go back into waiting mode until he did something else... Not surprisingly the boy had just been "diagnosed" as autistic. My mother wasn't quite that bad but she still left a fair dent in my ability to do things.

 

Do you feel that the shaming your caregivers tried to use to control your body movements was helpful or damaging to your emotional state overall?

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Nesf

The only stim I can remember being told to stop (if it is a stim) is feeling my face and picking the spots on it and the skin of my lips, because it leaves marks on my face and looks bad. I fiddle and fidget a lot too, especially with my hair, but I've never been told to stop it. That doesn't necessarily mean that people don't notice it, they probably do, they just don't tell me to stop out of politeness. I've been told many times that I have what people call a 'tic' which is just another word for a stim. I don't have 'duck feet' but my right leg goes off at an angle when I walk. I don't think it's particularly noticeable, or unusual even, but if I walk in snow you can see it in the footprints I leave behind.

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