I’ve got an autistic cousin who sparked a fascination with subject within my mother, as such I’ve heard a lot about autism already. In fact Rain Man seems to be on my mother’s TV on a monthly basis… Really. So I’m not going to be able to generate any genuine reactions to this, but I do still find the subject to be an interesting one, especially because the more I read the more I realize autism seems to have different levels.
I read both Aspie Rhetor’s blog, and Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures excerpt. And I felt a much stronger affinity for Grandin, largely because there was a message beyond being grouchy about politics and society in it. That’s not my department and so I prefer not to pen such ink. My main attraction to Grandin’s paper was actually the account of a different perspective of reality. The description of the ability to create, move and control complex structures: pan them, determine their stability, all those things that most people require computer software and hours of training to do, all within one’s own mind is one that never ceases to amaze me.
I can think in pictures, in fact I often do when I’m working on art projects or writing stories. But the thing is, what I experience is in no way as complex as what Grandin describes. If someone describes to me a scene that they think would work as a background I am going to draw interpretations from the words and then configure them based on my linguistic understanding. What Grandin describes is this inability to process the description as linguistic information and instead transforms it all into pictures immediately. I essentially view this as cutting out the middleman who arbitrarily translates the information in a way that he sees fit. And while I kind of envy that, I do know that there are drawbacks as well.
Largely autistic people tend to have difficulty communicating with us mixed info-processing types; they see and recall images (it’s almost as though their minds are, in some cases, completely built for this), we recall images, sounds, smells and often categorize them using words. We speak the description, they see it. It’s not impossible to communicate with autistic people: some of the ones I’ve met actually appreciate my tendency to be highly descriptive when I speak. But when you’re overly vague it seems the bother them.
I’m actually not certain where I’m going with this anymore… I guess if I’m to wrap this up; the way I’ve come to understand autism is that it’s really just a different way in which people’s minds process, store and retrieve information. While I can see why many people view it as something to be avoided due to communicative barriers and some awkward body language, I can’t understand why it’s being viewed as some terrible thing. I mean, a nervous tic or two every now and then isn’t even remotely close to being as annoying as more common things such as 2/3rds of men neglecting to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. I’m largely descended from Italians too, so body language like that really doesn’t seem to odd to me. But I digress. Those with autism clearly still feel emotions (Rhetor is quite clearly feeling looked down upon and cheated… And is rather angry about it) they still learn, they still think: they’re still human. I don’t see any reason to view them as some sort of defective product when, as Grandin’s story clearly demonstrates, they can be every bit as successful as the next guy.