Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | December 15, 2013

Cold and Stimmy

It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere where I live, and as it gets colder and snowier, I am reminded of an interesting conversation I had many months back with a fellow autism blogger, Bec from Snagglebox* about my response to cold. Obviously, everyone responds to cold differently, but I and another autistic woman I was talking with, both seem to have a similar response.

The thing with autistic people is that often our sensory systems are often out of whack. In my case, I don’t deal with cold very well. In fact, my body temperature is significantly lower than normal (when I’m at the doctors, which is a lot lately, they think their vitals machine is broken, because my temp is too low to register a lot of the time… makes for amusing conversations) and I’m always cold. And when I get even colder than usual, I’ve noticed that the amount of stimming I do increases, as does the magnitude of the stims. Often, if I need to stim, I can tap my fingers or toes, or swing a leg. But when I get cold, I curl up and rock. I wave my arms. I shake my legs, and I constantly wring my hands. In short, my tightly controlled tiny stims get bigger and less controlled. And I have a theory as to why this is so…

I have horrible circulation, especially in my hands and feet, and when I get cold, my stimming increases, and often becomes more involuntary. I think that in some cases, my stims are serving a purpose that is greater than just keeping me calm or expressing my feelings – it’s helping to keep my body physically regulated. It’s helping keep blood-flow moving better, and keeping my core body temperature closer to where it should be. It’s almost like some of my stimming is an adaptation to keep my body functioning and counteract the poor circulation. Evolution for the win!

Obviously, not all my stimming is related to thermoregulation, nor is this the case for all autistic people. It’s just an interesting observation I made. Does anyone else have a similar response to cold?


*[this no longer applies, but I’m keeping it for continuity’s sake. The post has been modified with permission] if you are this person (you know who you are) and would like to be identified and linked to, send me an email. I’d love to link to you, I just didn’t want to overstep and share something that I didn’t have explicit permission to share.



  1. I find cold especially unpleasant and will often swaddle myself in warm clothing, items, blankets, etc. I may stim more but it’s difficult to quantify. I definitely would rather sweat than be cold.

    • I’m very similar – layers upon layers of blankets, sweatshirts, etc.

  2. Definitely more rocking when it’s cold. Not sure about any other stims, will have to pay attention when it really starts freezing here. My main problem is that I overheat very easily as well, so winter for me is bouncing from one extreme to the other (get too cold, feel miserable, cuddle up under blankets or next to the radiator, overheat, feel miserable). I deal better with summers because then it’s more of a constant overheating, if that makes sense. But give me spring and autumn any time.

    (I have a low body temperature too, but not as extreme as yours I think. It’s usually between 36 and 36.5 C).

  3. yes,cold effects me very much,i have aspergers and M.E.i have e.mailed you in the past

    no reply from you.. e.mail

    we al so have in common phobia of vomiting

    mark,.. look forward too your reply________________________________ > Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2013 19:25:40 +0000 > To: >

    • Hi Mark 🙂 Thanks for your comment. You’re not the blogger I had this conversation with, but I’ll see if I can find your email.

  4. Reblogged this on Appalachian aspie..

  5. I have the opposite problem, so stimming tends to just make it worse, which is annoying 😦

  6. I was glad to read a post on sensory issues. I have always been hypersensitive to cold & hot. I must layer more this time of year. I can’t swim in water colder than 80 degrees (F). I am not deficient in iron. I deal better with cold as I can layer, which also creates pressure. Excessive heat & humidity makes me angry. Something in my brain just sees red. Thank God for air-conditioning.

  7. I have read most of your blog now, and I must say I am really glad that i did not grow up in the US, since the US culture seems so poorly adapted to Aspergers. I come from a family of what could be classified as Aspergers, if you classified by behavior and not problems, and I shudder when I think about how much harder my family would have had it in the USA.

    My sister and grandmother shows the same symptoms you do, but I know they never suffered like you do. If we take fiddling first, nobody has made a big deal about it. She was taught how to knit and do embroidery from an early age, and if that is unavailable, she usually spins something like a coin or a pen in her hand. As for my grandmother, she grew up in a time where women were expected to use idle hand to make something, like doing embroidery while drinking coffee, or walking and spinning or knitting at the same time.

    What you call sensitivity to cold, is also something I recognize in my sister, but from what she has told us, it is mainly temperature differences that is the problem, like a cold floor in a hot room or a draft, as that is virtually impossible to dress against. Normal cold is however not a problem, as she just uses many thin layers to keep the same temperature over the whole body. If she is away from home on a visit, she just asks for a blanket, but I know she suffered many years before she dared do this everywhere.

    Anyway, her is how to dress when it is cold, so you can regulate your temperature:

    This principle is as old as spinning, and the dresses used in Frozen is called a “stakk”, that is you stack dresses on top of each other, until you no longer freeze. Since women have worn long skirts since the dawn of time up north, I would no be surprised if it is easier to compensate for cold floors and drafts with them, than it is with pants.

    I meant to write more parallels, as I really wonder if my sister would have had your kind of troubles, if she had been brought up like you and lived in the US. She is now happily married, and have a small Aspergers son of her own. The main reason I really wonder, is that I have noticed that children (especially Aspergers) that were forced to eat something as children, becomes picky eaters as grown ups. If the parents however don’t rush it, and make alternatives the child likes, the child usually start to eat what the parents eat after a while. My nephew ate potatoes for the first time this Christmas, because he wanted to eat the same as another 4 year old relative.

    I don’t blame my parents for forcing us to try at least a little bit, even though they themselves were not forced to. They did what the “scientists” said was correct, and did not know that because of WW2, hereditary theories were more or less banned from all western universities. It still makes me angry, when I think about all the suffering the theory about cold mothers abusing their children into becoming autistics, have created.

    What really scares me after reading your blog, is the question to what degree the environment creates unhealthy degrees of autism, from people who otherwise would have seen their Aspergerian traits as something positive? Is the reason that some people with Asperger traits suffer little social anxiety, that they got to play with a mix of Asperger and normal children from an early age?

    It is a rough estimate that ones needs to read 10.000 pages of text to become a good reader. Some people will struggle so much with this that they never learn to read unless somebody spends extra time with them. Once they have gone through with this, it stops being true that those that learned the quickest, continues to be the best, and in stead it becomes those that continue to read for the rest of their lives.

    I reckon something similar is true when it comes to social skills, in that even those without a natural talent, can get to an adequate level, if they are just socially exposed enough. My father always said that one needs to remember that small talk is important, and actually became better at it than most. Not better than me though, who talked constantly and with everybody, and 9 out of 10 arguments I had with my dad, was over something I said. After I understood about Aspergers and their rules, the arguments basically stopped, as I could explain to him why the rules for him, and the rules for me, were different because we were born different. He must have known on some level, as he accepted it straight away. He also figured out where this we are all born equal bullshit, that made so many problems for us, came from, so it is safe to say that I had a fellow hater of “leftist religion” masquerading as science in him.

    It is not that I don’t understand that the ones caught up in this leftist religion in a way are victims as well, as they believe in the bullshit. What I have a hard time to forgive them for, is how they have eroded free speech in academia. Regardless of ideology, real scientists knows that it is free speech that secures that wrong theories are rejected, while it is religious dogma that needs protection from skeptics.

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