Blowing noses and perception of learning


After a few years of rather messy and gross experimentation, I have, at twenty-five years old, finally figured out how to blow my nose.

It’s interesting to note that:

(a) Most people figure this out much younger.
(b) It is likely to now be taken as a given that I’ve been able to do this since the age most people have, rather than at the age I learned it.

Although it is not given the importance that, for instance, speech is given, I notice that learning things works like that. Autistic people who figure out speech at the age of twelve, fifteen, or twenty, get treated the same, at forty, as autistic people who figure out speech between the ages of one and six. Laura, who finally got complete sentences in her early twenties, now gets people disbelieving her about that because she’s nearly fifty and speaks superficially semi-fluently. Our entire pattern and rate of learning certain things is dismissed in the wave of a hand, we know it now so it doesn’t matter how or when we learned it, how we do it now, or how good at it we really are as opposed to appear to be.

But for now, I am finding the ability to clear out my nasal passages at will sometimes to be a major achievement, and the ability to do so into tissue in a reasonably clean manner to be even more major. Taking actions that involve the motions of internal body parts that are extremely difficult to model or understand, is much harder than other actions, and other actions aren’t the easiest either.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

9 responses »

  1. well done! It’s very odd, I want to congratulate you honestly, but almost everything I type seems very patronizing. Anyways, I think it’s great. I wonder if hallmark makes a card for this?

    Now I really wonder at what age I learned to blow my nose. I remember having to watch my Mom to move beyond the “just wipe it” stage.

  2. This is actually a very apt post coming after the one about ‘what not changing us’ means. It puts forward a good example of what you were talking about in that last post.

  3. You are a goldmine. No really, I’m curious as to HOW you finally learned to blow your nose? I have as lot of kids who could benefit from how to do it, but I’m not sure there is good knowledge base of how to teach such a thing directly.


  4. Basically a combination of picking my nose and exhaling in a particularly lucky manner at a particular point, then learning to monitor the sensations involved and control what I was doing to a greater extent, which involved a lot of highly unsanitary actions and strange hand postures, then starting all over again with tissue (and at first getting it all over my face instead of in the tissue somehow), and then learning to aim. But all of this was a whole lot of experimentation combined with some accident. I have no clue how to teach it.

  5. Now I’m curious how many people have had difficulty learning this
    skill. I had always thought I was pretty much the only person on
    earth who didn’t learn to do it in childhood. I was in my teens
    before I mastered nose blowing. At this point I can no longer recall how I figured it out either, except that it was one of those epiphany-type situations.

  6. Your description of how you learnt to blow your nose is quite similar to how I learnt to burp at will. I just accidentally swallowed air and then I learnt how it felt to do that. Someone trying to teach me was no help.

  7. i remember that one of the 2 reasons I was put back to 2nd grade (after attempting to enter 3rd grade from homeschooling, and mind you I was probably reading at an adult level) was that I was not able to blow my nose QUIETLY. Who the @#$% knew this was so important?!

    anyway, congratulations. and if you blow your nose loudly as an adult, hopefully there’s nothing they can do to you… Mine is still loud, if I want it to really work.

    PS: I think noseblowing and belching at will (which I still don’t know how to do!), must be like whistling (which many people can’t do, I think).

  8. I didn’t know how to whistle until I was about 30. People tried to teach me when I was younger but I didn’t get it. (The closest I came was SOMETIMES being able to make a whistling sound by blowing on a blade of grass held in a certain way between my thumbs.) Then I started exercising regularly … and during this time I was breathing heavily and holding my mouth in a certain way and produced a whistle by accident. (Good thing I was still wearing my hearing aid during exercise back then or I wouldn’t have realized it. I no longer wear my hearing aid during exercise because I discovered at some point that the sweat gets in it and does screwy things with it. Without my hearing aid, I can’t hear myself whistle–it’s too high pitched.) After a while of paying attention whenever I whistled by accident, I learned to produce it on demand — but only during exercise, when breathing heavily. Then with more practice, I got myself to the point where I can produce a whistling sound maybe half the time even when not exercising. I still can’t whistle an actual tune, though. I can’t really control what note I hit — and wouldn’t be able to identify it even if I could :-)

    I still can’t burp on demand, though. But then, I haven’t tried. And don’t plan to :-).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s