Sunday, July 3, 2011

Inside My Autistic Mind

Since I am high functioning PDD-NOS, I view my mind as having two independent parts.  One part is the split between my rational/emotional mind that handles all my day to day activities from work, school, home life, and to a limited extent, my social life.  The second part is the autistic mind, which is more difficult to relate because I do not think with words through this part of my mind.  To put this another way, my autistic mind is "my own little world."  Repetitive movement, such as pacing, can tap into my autistic mind and at these moments I can enter vivid daydreams.

I have heard that some people think with mental images when they are in their autistic mind, others think in sequences or patterns.  Temple Grandin clarified this concept of autistic thinking in her book "The Way I See It" so I have generated the following ideas from reading that book.  When I am in my autistic mind, I think in sequences of related information. I can memorize sequences, such as music or movie quotes, with relative ease when I am in my autistic mind.  I don't like to claim that I can do this normally because the moment I become aware that it is happening while it is taking place, the process stops. 

Sometimes movie quotes stick in my mind and echo over and over again.  The quotes that stand out the most often relate to what I am feeling at a given moment.  It is much easier to recall facts, or movie lines in my head when I am in my autistic mind.  However, when prompted to communicate, the only thing that comes to mind are those movie lines, which does not help me in a given situation.  A strategy I have developed to push away my autistic mind and function in a work environment, for example, is to ask people to repeat themselves and verify what is often obvious information.  This allows me to network through my autistic mind come to a conclusion, or find a way to solve a customer's inquiry.  I side effect of this is people who don' know me very well assume that I am not as intelligent as I really am, which can't be helped, even if I don't like it.  The people who do know me, such as my parents or my brother, say that I often ask questions that I know the answer to and view that as a source of annoyance.  This also can't be helped.

One assumption that my autistic mind makes is that people and situations can be taken at face value.  In other words, my autistic mind assumes that people actually mean what they say.  This assumption is so deeply ingrained that no amount of self reasoning can convince my autistic mind otherwise.  Based upon this, I really do not understand sarcasm.  I can recognize sarcasm when it is used, but I really don't know what to say in response to a sarcastic statement because my rational/emotional mind is telling me one thing and my autistic mind is telling me something else entirely.  I can even use sarcasm simply because I understand my own intentions well enough.  However, my literal autistic mind is not naturally equipped to handle sarcasm, which doesn't do me any good in situations where sarcasm is used (quite often). 

Sometimes people recognize that I don't have a grasp on sarcasm, and decide to have a little "fun" causing my autistic mind to seize up and lean towards a sensory overload.  I understand that no one likes being messed with, but I take serious offense to such occasions because I will often remember the situation for a very long time afterward, whether I want to or not.  A simple occasions of "fun" when I dealing with my autistic mind can really mess up my entire day if I am at work.  My autistic mind would be confused, trying with all its might to understand a sarcastic statement that cannot be literally understood, leaving me with a sensory overload.  Sometimes I am able to stop this from happening, sometimes I can't.  I honestly don't see any "fun" involved whatsoever.

I hope that awareness of this concept of the autistic mind will make it easier for individuals with autism to function in the workplace by raising awareness of the thought processes involved.

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