Autistic strengths and weaknesses of function
Find the best way to understand everything!
I have been spending time examining the ways I learn. I am beginning to understand all the best and worst ways I deal with the world.
I spent more than 65 years not knowing that it was near to useless to attend a lecture or live demonstration of any technique or process. I simply can not absorb the information presented.
I spent more than 65 years never understanding that what I heard and saw in lectures, live demos, and other audio or visual presentations such as television, video, or podcast would be wasted time for me.
I spent 65 years wondering how I could be so stupid, and how come I didn’t
seem to “get it” or understand what was evidently plain to others. Any social interaction or gathering was nothing but confusion, chaos, misunderstandings, frustration, and disappointment or humiliation or both to me.
I finally found out , through neurological testing once I knew of my autism diagnosis, that my sensory processing in all things audio and video, and especially in a combined format was only 30 percent or less functional. That is very very low! Finally I understood.
Try this. put on a pair of sunglasses, tear a tiny hole in a paper napkin and cover the lenses of the glasses so that you can only see the bit of light and image through the hole. Then put on earplugs, the kind that muffle all sound. Now go watch a movie or a video you have never seen or turn the radio on and listen to it without raising the volume . How much did you understand?
That is what most of my life experience has been like! No wonder I ‘didn’t get it’!
In order for me to learn, and to understand, I must read the information and look at diagrams, line drawings or simple photos in order for me to truly absorb and process information.
I will always struggle to understand real life interactions with others, or anything I observe (think of baseball games at the stadium, a concert or an opera, a lecture or appearance by somebody you admire) Real time is always too fast for my processing. It is how my neurology works.
Do you know how the neurology of your autistic children , autistic parents, spouse or friends works best?
Like my parents, peers, siblings, bosses, co workers, and teachers all those years ago, are you thinking I am being stupid, obstinate, willful or deliberately mean when in truth I do not understand what is expected of me, why, nor understand what might have just happened to create the upset situation I have somehow caused?
Neurological tests show I have high average intelligence… it proves I can learn.
But I also have real definable handicaps to understanding most things around me that happen “in real life” or “in real time” around me. Think of how this affects me every day. Interactions at the grocery, post office, doctors office, with neighbors, spouse and family, any ordinary interaction for you is filled with social hazards for me!
Sensory processing is how we receive any information, make contact with our world, or understand
what is happening around us. Sensory input is how we interact with others, with how we learn.
I have become convinced that knowing my strengths is the best way for me to proceed from here forward in light of my autism diagnosis.
Now I wonder about all the ways other autistic people process information. It seems that most autistic persons are highly visual. Movies, live demonstrations, videos can all be helpful. If the person has audio processing struggles, or is not visual, but is able to process audio spoken or sung words, etc best, learning techniques can be adapted. Not only learning, but what of every day life? What if the person whose best strengths are visual could use visual reminders of things needing to be done, of schedules or lists or to learn new ways to do things? How can this strength be put to work for better successes in every day living?
What if the person whose strengths lie in hearing and audio input could use those to learn, to deal with lists and reminders, to find new ways to do things? Recorded information, books on tape, audio reminders on phone or hearing/listening devices would boost learning and performance. How else could tools that aid audio processing help every day?
People whose strengths are in physical performance, or related to scent, tactile information, or other ways of processing the information accessible around them could all be aided and supported better by finding ways that utilize their strengths.
I am especially concerned with children being forced to participate in meaningless rituals of social and traditional ways of ‘teaching” and other interactions, when in many cases very little benefit is to be gained. I struggled through out grade school. I was constantly scolded, punished, chastised for not paying attention when indeed I was trying very hard to understand what was being presented. It was demeaning and frustrating and I simply did not understand why I could not listen and learn. I was a very unsatisfactory pupil, and very unhappy almost always. I was completely lost! And I was trying so very hard to be good, yet getting scolded and demeaned almost continually. Nobody knew!
I got very little out of school until I was in 6th grade and the lecture method of teaching was augmented by assigned reading. I finally was able to read the assigned chapters and understand what all of the spoken lectures and demonstrations were about. I finally began to do well in school classes. Because my visual and audio processing lags so, I was never good at and never will be good at social interaction on a face to face, ‘real time’ basis, nor on the phone…… but because I get most out of reading and writing, I can still have a decent social interaction with people on the internet or by email. We can exchange ideas and information because I can process what I read at my own speed and do not make others or myself uncomfortable with my odd reactions, expressions, appearance, or easily misunderstood demeanor or emotional or flat expression in my spoken words. I do not get anxious to respond within moments to spoken requests, questions, statements, etc. I can take my time to understand the words in print, and to formulate my responses in print as well. Perfect media for my situation and particular strengths and weaknesses.
I urge parents to look deeply into learning the best ways to reach your child. The same for spouses, caretakers, teachers, and others interacting with autistic folk. By changing the methods you use to communicate, teach, interact, express yourself, you may find you change the attitude and outlook of the autistic person/s in your life. Find new ways to do everything , keep trying until you get positive responses.
It will mean all the difference in both your lives to find the best ways to make the “real” world’s input make sense and to share information.