Lunch Bunch, Munch Hunch

When I was thirteen years old, I made friends for the first time in my life. Then, after several months of being friends with my friends, I realized that I was friends with my friends, Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa!

This is the story of how it came to pass.

When I was thirteen, my family moved across the country, and I went to a new school for the last three months of eighth grade. At my new school, there was a buddy system for new students to familiarize themselves with the environment and the people. On my first day, the school assigned me a buddy, and I followed her around for the whole day, going from class to class, and to lunch too.

At lunchtime, she ate with her group of friends, and so did I, meeting and greeting several new people on my first day at my new school. The next day, I ate lunch with them again, and the day after that, again.

Then, it was the weekend, and school was off for two days.

On Monday, I ate lunch with the same people, at the same time, in the same place, and again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. From then on, and for the rest of the school year, I ate lunch according to this routine, at the same time, in the same place, and with the same people, each and every school day.

Then, it was the summer, and school was off for three months.

Not only was it off, but it was over. Junior high was over, and when school started again, I would be going to high school, a Big Big Big Deal. The summer before high school, I goofed off and had fun. I did my summer reading for English class, watched lots of TV, rode my bike a lot, went to the library, played tennis against the wall, went on a journey of thousands of miles with my mother, suffered severe jetlag there and back, and had no contact whatsoever with any of the people with whom I had eaten lunch for the last three months of eighth grade. I didn’t talk to them, and I didn’t talk about them, and I didn’t think about them, and I didn’t miss them.

Then, summer was over, and I started high school.

On the first day of high school, only a few seconds after I arrived, huffing and puffing from riding my bike up the hill, I saw one of the girls from the Lunch Bunch. She waved at me, and I waved back. While I was locking my bike to the fence above the tennis courts, she came up and started talking to me.

The first thing that came out of her mouth was, “Where do you want to eat lunch?”

To me, this was the most natural thing that could have come out of her mouth. Most naturally, it was our destined destiny to eat lunch with each other at school, and most naturally, there was no reason for that to change with the change of schools. Most naturally, I knew the layout of the school by heart (or is that eye?), so I suggested a tranquil shaded spot outside the social studies building, not too far from the cafeteria, where we got our food, but not too close either, to avoid the cacophony of the popular, extroverted kids performing various ill-advised, self-injurious stunts in the arena near the cafeteria.

So we agreed on this spot, and she said that she would let the others know, and we parted ways on our way to First Period, German class for me. Outside the classroom, I committed my first social gaffe of high school by strolling up to the dark tinted window, plastering my face against it, and peeping intently into the classroom for reasons that remain obscure, but that served to distinguish myself as a freakazoid in the minds behind the pairs of eyes that peeped back at me, wondering why there was a freakazoid plastering her face against the window for multiple minutes instead of entering the room like a normal hoooman freshperson.

For the rest of the morning, the only other social gaffe that I committed was falling over sideways, desk, chair, and all, during the first five minutes of Math class, and the reasons for that remain obscure as well.

Despite these minor mishaps, I survived my first morning of high school with a minimum of physical and emotional scarring. At lunchtime, I went to the cafeteria to get my food. The lunch line was long, and it took awhile to get through, but finally, my food and drink safe, or as safe as they could be, in my clutches, the pizza greasing my palm through its paper plate, and the soda chilling my fingers around its cup, I zipped off, hurry-scurry, to my tranquil shaded spot outside the social studies building.

When I arrived, there they were, the Lunch Bunch, and I sat down and ate lunch with them, most naturally. Most naturally, I told them about my social gaffes, the Peeping-Tom International Incident of German Class and the All-Around Furniture Flip-Flop of Math Class, and we all had a good laugh together. Everyone laughed with me and agreed that these were the sorts of thing that happened only to me. The next day, again, except with a different set of adventures to talk over and laugh about. The day after that, school was off, because it was the weekend. On Monday, again, and again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. From then on, and for the rest of high school, I ate lunch according to this routine, at the same time, in the same place, and with the same people, each and every school day.

After only a few months of eating lunch with my friends at school everyday, I realized that I was eating lunch with my friends everyday at school…and that I was eating lunch everyday with my friends at school…and that I was eating lunch everyday at school with my friends…and that I was eating lunch at school with my friends everyday…and that I was eating lunch at school everyday with my friends…any and all of which meant that I was friends with my friends, and that my friends were friends with me, as was I with them, and they with me, Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa!

Actually, there was no “Whoa Whoa Whoa!” moment of sudden realization. Instead, it was a slow gradual process of slowly gradually knowing, until I knew, without a doubt, that my friends were my friends, and that I was part of a group of friends, all of us quiet, nerdy, unpopular, unfashionable, and lacking any boys on our minds just yet. Don’t worry, that changed within the month for one of us, and after the significant glances and tittering giggles had diminished, we referred to her Lucky Charms Prince Charming as “Mushroom Head” for the rest of high school and beyond.

So there it is, the story of how I made friends for the first time in my life, and along the way, came to understand the idea of friendship for the first time too. Before then, I did not know the concepts of friendship and socialization, just as I had not known the concept of communication only a few years before then. Alone in my own world, I had been perfectly happy, and I had no idea that there were such things as making friends and having friends and being friends, nor did I miss any of these things, these things that I did not know were things that existed or things that I could or would do one day.

But I am glad that I did.

Without friends, I was perfectly happy, and so would I have been forever, if I had not made any friends at any time in my life, but with friends, I was perfectly happy in a different way, with a broader experience of all the things that were possible in one hoooman lifetime, and with more hooomans with whom to talk over and laugh about the possibilities.

And to think, it all started with a Lunch Bunch…

…that crunched, slowly slowly slowly, into a Munch Hunch, Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…Crunch!

Here is another picture of me with one of my friends, this one I have met only through the vicissitudes of Cyber SpaceTime:

As you can see, we are hiding under our mushroom, away from the Sun that we both hate, because we both have the same mental disorder, RSAD, or Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, that we made up for ourselves to have. We hate the Sun, good weather, the Sun, good weather, and also good weather and the Sun. Most naturally, we are co-founders of the Bummer Summer Summer Haterz Kreep Klub and the Inclement Weather As Bad As You Wantzitz Fan Cam. Please contact us under our mushroom if you would like to become a card-carrying member of our venerable organizations and our friend too. If we recruit enough members and friends, then we will genetically engineer a gigantic mushroom to block out the Sun and bring on the next Snowball Earth epochalypse, this time for all eternity, always winter and never summer, 4evar and evar and evar!

As fun as it is to be an Evil MasterMind on your own, I have found, through my experiences of evil masterminding, that it is even moar fun to be part of a group of Evil MasterMinds.

There is something distinctly scintillating about plotting evil together.

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Reading The Mind In The Eyes: How Eye Feel

I like words that look like the things that they mean.

One of these words is “eye”. The picture *eye* looks like a face with a pair of eyes.

Based on the word, the picture, their meaning, and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, I created my own version of reading the mind in the eyes to express how eye feel.

I made this picture:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is angry.

Anger was the easiest emotion to depict. In the *eye*, the downward-slanting eyes and the tight lips give it away right away, not to mention the square irises and the color red. In real life, no one has square irises, but I think that they work in this picture to convey the emotion of anger.

The color red is associated with anger, as in “red-hot anger”. For most people in most situations, red-hot is pretty damn hot, but if you’re really really really angry, then you can upgrade to white-hot. White-hot anger is hotter than red-hot anger, because white-hot is hotter than red-hot. As objects are heated to higher and higher temperatures, they emit electromagnetic radiation of higher and higher frequencies. Red-hot objects emit lower-frequency radiation in the red range of visible light, while white-hot objects emit radiation over the entire spectrum of visible light, from red to green to blue, so they appear white to the human eye. However, both red-hot and white-hot objects emit most of their radiation in the infrared range, which is invisible, like 90% of the Titanic iceberg below the surface of the sea, or 90% of your anger that cannot be expressed in your *eye* alone, but must also involve the scratching out of your frenemy’s eyes, hisssssss, spit, claw claw, meee-ow, me-owww meee-owwwwwww!

Here is another picture:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is sad.

Sadness was also easy to depict. The poor little *eye* looks like it is about to cry. I feel sad for it, sniff sniff sniff. Notice the poor little eyes scrunching up and the poor little lips quivering. Aren’t you sad for it, the poor little *eye*? Sniffle. Sniffle. Notice the color blue, a light blue that brings to mind the running of water in interminable inconsolable cascades down the finely-sculpted features of the *eye*, poor little thing. Don’t you just wanna hug it and kiss it and make eberrything bester for it? Awww, nose-blow, wipe, snot, snot, snot, wipe.

In figurative language, sadness can be expressed as “feeling blue”. I googled this figure of speech and found pictures showing a dark shade of blue, a saturated royal blue that would not have worked as well as the light blue in this picture. Unlike light blue, royal blue does not bring to mind the moving picture of running water, which is the most overt expression of emotion on the sadness spectrum, but it does work for a generally low mood, which is what “feeling blue” is especially meant to express. On my personal spectrum of sad emotions, “feeling blue” occupies a teeny-tiny range, like the range of visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, and I don’t experience it much, but I do feel the stronger, purer, simpler emotion of sadness, as much, or more, than most.

I also made this picture:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is happy.

The mind is happy in a bright cheerful kind of way, hence the color orange for bright cheerful things. The *eye* is expressing a calm collected contentment, the kind of happiness that I feel when I sit down to watch a Red Sox game on TV, with my personal-size bottles of wine all around me to sip, in moderation, whenever a Red Sox pitcher walks a Skankee batter. Without the wine bottles, I feel anxiety, which is what I used to feel when I watched Red Sox games on TV, before I was blessed with the brilliant bubbly of surrounding myself with itsy-bitsy bottles of wine, happy snappy for the continuance of my sanity.

What the *eye* is not expressing is the stronger, purer, simpler emotion of joy. For me, joy is not orange, but white. Not white-hot or white-cold, but white, just white, with no other stimulus to complicate it. Orange is for everyday Red Sox games between April and September, but white is for the Red Sox winning the World Series in October, when the happy snappy is to be poured, not down the gullet, but over the head instead.

Another picture:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is scared.

Scared was not easy to depict. I drew several versions, but I was not really satisfied with any of them. Outside of horror movies, this expression is only fleetingly seen, so perhaps that was why I had so much trouble drawing it. It is only when the terrifying hair-faced onryo from The Grudge is creeping face-first down the stairs that you are wearing this expression on your face for an extended period of time, the whole time that the onryo is creeping slowly down the stairs, while you are standing at the bottom, eyes wide open and mouth agape, waiting for it to creep slowly down the stairs to suck out your soul and turn you into it.

Although this depiction is not the bestest, the color yellow adds a little something to it. When the whites of your eyes have turned yellow for any reason at all, you know that something is horribly wrong, and it would behoove you to be afraid, very very very afraid, scared, scared out of your mind.

I made this picture too:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is surprised.

Surprised was another difficult emotion to depict. In the *eye*, it was hard to differentiate between surprised and scared. I tried to do it by drawing the mouth with the corner turned farther up than down. I think that it works if you imagine yourself hearing the news that your mother, father, brother, or sister has just gotten a sex change operation out of the blue…

…O…M…G…

Yet another picture:

Can you read the mind in the *eye*?

In this picture, the mind is disgusted.

Disgusted was also difficult to depict, but I was satisfied with this version. The narrowing of the eyes and the twisting of the lips convey the emotion of disgust. In particular, the mind in the *eye* is disgusted with someone, not something. When you are disgusted with something, like a puddle of puke, or a bucket of barf, replete with the recognizable remnants of your McDonald’s Happy Meal within, your lips twist, but your eyes don’t stare. Instead, they scrunch themselves up, as in the depiction of sadness, to avoid focusing, clearstalcrys, on the disgusting volumes of vomit in their field of view.

It is only when you are disgusted with the disgusting behaviors of a disgusting person that you are disgustedly staring with your disgusted eyes, disgustedly staring at the disgusting person to communicate to them your disgusted censure of their disgusting acts. You are disgusted and displeased, and you want them to know it. Your expression of disgust is tinged with anger, as shown by the square irises formed from the narrowing of your eyes. Although square irises are not commonly…or uncommonly…seen in real life, they work in these depictions of anger and disgust, because they, being square, are edged, hard, and hard-edged, as are these emotions in real life.

Angry, Sad, Happy, Scared, Surprised, and Disgusted, these are the six basic emotions and emotional expressions of everyday life. As an autistic person, I feel them all, and I feel them all strongly, in all different situations, and with all different people and things.

Collect all six: Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Collect all six: How Eye Feel

Thank you for reading, minding, and collecting all six!

And remember:

Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! (Part 2)

In Part 1, I explained that I failed a basic, easy test of mentalizing at the same time that I passed a harder, more advanced test, following a pattern of performance that makes sense for me and explains a lot of my social behaviors as an autistic person.

I passed the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), and I failed the Sally-Anne Test.

I passed the RMET, because the RMET was an explicit assessment of social knowledge:

Look at pictures. Look at words.
Think about pictures. Think about words.
Match words to pictures based on social knowledge.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

While taking the RMET, I applied my social knowledge, explicitly, to answer the questions as quickly and accurately as possible. I tried hard to answer accurately, because I wanted to get a high score on the test, and I tried harder to answer quickly, because I wanted to finish the test, now Now NOW, to get my high score. The two questions that I missed, Question 34 and Question 35, both appeared near the end of the test, when I had become so abjectly bored with taking the test that I was no longer looking at the words, thinking about the pictures, or applying my social knowledge explicitly.

When I am not applying my social knowledge explicitly, I am applying my social knowledge implicitly, which means that I am not applying much social knowledge at all. Regardless of how much social knowledge I have, I don’t apply much of it, unless I apply it explicitly. I don’t apply it implicitly in the way that most people do.

This is one of the fundamental differences between autistic people and typical people.

Typical people have social knowledge, and they apply it, implicitly and automatically, during social interactions. Autistic people can also have social knowledge, and they can also apply it, but they apply most of it explicitly.

Turn it on. Keep it on. This is the case for autistic people employing social cognition, explicitly.

On. This is the case for typical people employing social cognition, implicitly and automatically.

For autistic people, it takes conscious effort to turn it on and keep it on, while for typical people, it takes conscious effort to turn it down or turn it off. Actually, I don’t know if it’s possible to turn it off, but if it is, then it would take a lot of training, practice, and effort for a typical person to unfollow their natural instinct, just as it would take a lot of the same for an autistic person to do the same.

Which brings me to the Sally-Anne Test and my performance on it.

Question: How did I fail the Sally-Anne Test?

Answer: I followed my natural instinct.

Here are my instructions for how to fail the Sally-Anne Test and be autistic and awesome too:

1) Pay careful attention to the basket, the box, and the marble to observe, understand, and memorize the sequence of events involving these all-important objects.

2) Pay careful attention to the all-important question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”

3) Point carefully to the all-important location of the all-important marble to answer the all-important question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”

4) Fail the Sally-Anne Test to earn your Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Badge for distinguishing yourself in such an autistic and awesome way.

Congratulations!

You are autistic!

What is easy is hard, and what is hard is easy! At least according to the standards of others. According to your standards, what is easy is easy, and what is hard is hard. According to all standards, what is easy is following your natural instinct, and what is hard is not.

To answer the Belief Question of the Sally-Anne Test, I had to unfollow my natural instinct to answer the Location Question of the Find-The-Marble Test. My natural instinct was to focus on the physical attributes of the marble, such as its movements and locations, instead of my mental attributions to the doll or myself, such as what the doll thought, what I thought, what I thought about what the doll thought, and what the doll thought about what I thought, assuming that the doll was not autistic and actually thought about what I thought, Jeepers Creepers, stab it, stab it, stab it, before it stabs, stabs, stabs you!

While taking the Sally-Anne Test, I simply forgot to think about these things:

  • What Sally thought
  • What Anne thought
  • What the test-giver thought
  • What the test-taker thought

If I had remembered, then I would have passed, because I would also have remembered that I was taking the Sally-Anne Test, not the Find-The-Marble Test, and that I was answering the Belief Question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”, not the Location Question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”

Here are the results of a study employing this experimental paradigm in three groups of children: (1)

  • 23 of 27 typical children passed, for a pass rate of 85%
  • 12 of 14 children with Down’s Syndrome passed, for a pass rate of 86%
  • 4 of 20 autistic children passed, for a pass rate of 20%
  • 16 of 20 autistic children failed, for a fail rate of 80%

1 of 1 autistic adults failed, for a fail rate of 100% autistic and awesome!

In a second trial of the experiment, the marble was moved from Sally’s basket to Anne’s box to the test-giver’s pocket, and all the children who had pointed to the location of the marble in the first trial also pointed to the location of the marble in the second trial. If there had been a third trial in which the marble had been moved from Sally’s basket to Anne’s box to the test-giver’s pocket to the test-taker’s pocket, then the children would have pointed to the location of the marble a third time, Finders Keepers, mine, Mine, MINE, My Precious!

In real life, the same pattern applies.

When I am talking to someone about something, my precious marbles are focused on the something, not the someone. I am thinking about the something, the parts of the something, and nothing but the something, not the someone, or what the someone is thinking. To think about that, I would have to remember to think about it, and most of the time, I don’t.

If I did, then I could, but my social knowledge is not really that advanced, despite my high score on the RMET. I know a few of the basics, and that’s about it. In a world where people are not walking around with photographs of their eye regions over their eye regions and a multiple-choice list of mental state words over the rest of their faces, I don’t really know Jack…and Jill went up the hill, and Jill went for the kill…

In real life, I don’t know what other people are thinking about me, themselves, each other, or anything else. The only person whom I have profiled to any significant extent is my mother, and that was only to avert, divert, and subvert the attention of her oculoptical-optocular modules, which bear a striking resemblance to the Eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, except that there are two of them, and they are programmed by nature to fixate their gaze, constantly and incessantly, upon me.

If I tried to learn as much social knowledge as I could, then I could. I have no deficits in the explicit acquisition and application of social knowledge, acquired and applied as any other kind of knowledge is. The difference between me and most people is not that I can’t learn and apply social knowledge at all, but that I don’t do it implicitly to the same extent, or in the same way, as others.

Most people learn social knowledge from socially interacting with people. I don’t. As a child, I didn’t, so I didn’t learn much of anything from socially interacting with people during the rare occasions when I socially interacted with people. Instead, I learned my social knowledge in other ways, not in the first person, but the third, and not from social interactions between myself and others, but others and others. I learned my social knowledge from reading books and watching TV, and that was how I had enough, by adulthood, to do well on the RMET.

Here are my instructions for passing the RMET and being autistic and awesome too:

1) Watch TV, lots and lots and lots of TV.

Watch cartoons like Jem, He-Man, She-Ra, Looney Tunes, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Collect pictures and videos from cartoons for your mental library of pictures and videos.

2) Read books, lots and lots and lots of books.

Read books like Little House on the Praire, The Boxcar Children, Anne of Green Gables, and the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series by Sci-Fi Grand Master Isaac Asimov. Collect words and sentences and paragraphs from books for your mental library of words and sentences and paragraphs.

3) Watch TV, moar and moar and moar TV.

Watch the made-for-TV movies on the Lifetime Movie Network (LMN), Television For Wacko Axe-Wielding Women. Pay particular attention to the movies in which the blissfully wedded spouses are constantly and incessantly plotting each other’s deaths while tricking each other into upgrading each other’s life insurance policies. Tune in for Pick-A-Flick Monday, Tainted-Love Tuesday, Wacko-Wench Wednesday, Tru-Movie Thursday, and Flick-A-Pick-Through-Your-Fiance’s-Face Friday. Collect pictures and videos of the eye regions of the nutjobs in the movies. On Wednesdays, tune out of LMN to tune into CBS, and pay particular attention to the totally hot profilers on Criminal Minds, as they apply the verbal labels for the mental states of the nutjobs on the show to the mental states of the nutjobs on the show. Based on your foundation of book-reading and TV-watching, learn to apply the verbal labels for the mental states of the people in the pictures to the photographs of the eye regions. Then, apply them to do well on the RMET.

4) Pass the RMET to earn your Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! Badge for distinguishing yourself, again, in such an autistic and awesome way.

Congratulations!

You are autistic!

What is hard is easy, and what is easy is hard! What other people assume that you can’t do, you can do, and what other people assume that you can do, you can’t do. You can learn and apply all kinds of social knowledge in the third person, from the stories that you read, and to the stories that you write, but it just so happens that you can’t remember to do it in the first person, during actual social interactions between yourself and others. It is not your natural instinct to do it, so you only remember to do it every once in awhile. How long this while is varies from you to you to you, so some people remember to do it a lot, and others not not not. How much you know also varies from you to you to you, so some people know a lot lot lot, and others not.

Personally, I know a little, and occasionally, I remember to apply what I know.

Therefore, I am both more and less impaired in social interaction than the popular false beliefs of autism hold to be true. I am less impaired, because I can learn and apply far more social knowledge than people think I can, and I am more impaired, because I can learn and apply far less social knowledge than people think I can in their, not my, way.

In non-social areas, the same pattern applies.

Autistic children, non-verbal, socially aloof, block-stacking, and hand-flapping, can learn and apply far more of every kind of knowledge than people think they can, as long as they learn, and are taught, in their own ways, explicitly.

Explicitly, that is how you teach someone something that is not their natural instinct.

Drawing, I did not learn explicitly. I knew how to draw as soon as I held a pencil in my hand. It was my natural instinct.

Speaking, I learned explicitly. Implicitly, I learned enough during the first eight years of my life to repeat, occasionally, what Bugs Bunny and the weather man said on TV. Then, I was taught, explicitly and in my own way, so I learned enough within a year or two to correct, argue with, and smacktalk my unfortunate parents.

Now, I argue with my mother about the number of eggs that I am allowed to eat per week. She believes that since she and my father both have slightly high cholesterol, that I am genetically endowed with a double dose of slightly high cholesterol, meaning that I will keel over and die of cholesterol poisoning if I eat more than one egg per week. Against me, she uses the fact that my cholesterol has never been measured. When I request evidence that I have high cholesterol, she requests evidence that I have not. Eggscuse me, I am going to get my cholesterol measured to provide this evidence in the future.

Meanwhile, I will continue to eat one egg per week. I can’t help it. No matter how old I get, my mother, with her oculoptical-optocular modules and real live hoooman eyes, continues to maintain a magical mental hold over me, and no matter how young I was, this hold was true.

In the absence of social cognition, when I would have failed each and every test of mentalizing that I was lucky not to take, this hold was true. It is such a strong, pure, simple hold that it needs no reading or minding to hold true. Contrary to scientific dogma, mentalizing is not required for the strongest, purest, simplest attachments of human to human, and mind to mind, each kind of mind kind of blind to each other kind of mind, but kind.

This washes clean another of the popular misconceptions of autism, that autistic people are incapable of love and human attachment.

Autistic people are capable of love and human attachment…

…strong, pure, simple, and nothing but.

References

1. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37-46.

Over-Easy? Hard-Boiled! Hard-Boiled? Over-Easy! (Part 1)

Last year, I took both the Sally-Anne Test and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), brilliantly passing one, and failing the other, also brilliantly.

I passed the RMET, scoring 34/36 on this advanced test of mentalizing, and demonstrating superior abilities in social cognition compared to the majority of adults.

I failed the Sally-Anne Test, answering the single question incorrectly on this basic test of mentalizing, and demonstrating severe deficits in social cognition compared to the majority of children.

For most people, this pattern of performance is inexplicably bizarre, but for me, it makes sense. In the context of autism, it is perfectly makesensical, and I will try to explain why.

First, the idea of mentalizing.

Mentalizing, or “mindreading”, is the act of perceiving and understanding the mental states of other people to interpret, predict, and manipulate their behaviors based on their cognition. One of its aspects is knowing what another person is thinking or feeling without that person telling you directly. Instead, they show you through their non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and tones of voice, and it is up to you to detect and interpret their cues, know what they mean, and interact with them accordingly in a socially appropriate manner.

For example, if someone is bored while you are telling them about your collection of doorknob model numbers, then you are supposed to know that they are bored from the expression of abject boredom on their face, and you are supposed to stop telling them about your collection of doorknob model numbers, so they can start telling you about one of their favorite topics to bore the begeebus out of you in turn. This is social-emotional reciprocity, and it is regulated through the expression and reception of non-verbal communications.

One of the cues that is considered critical for mindreading is the expression of the eyes on the face (not to be confused with the eyes in the back of the head, the evolutionarily-endowed oculoptical-optocular modules that female, but not male, parental units possess in their occipital vicinities to detect and inhibit all of your extremely enjoyable, but highly illicit, activities), and the RMET assesses mentalizing from the eye region instead of the entire face.

On the RMET, you look at a photograph of the eyes to answer a question about the state of the mind behind the eyes. (1)

Here is an example: Choose the word that best describes what the person in the picture is thinking or feeling.

a) impatient

b) aghast

c) irritated

d) reflective

Here is the test: Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test

According to the popular conception of autism, autistic people are incapable of reading the mind in the eyes, thinking about what other people are thinking, and socially interacting with people, so if you can do any of these on a test or in real life, then you are not autistic, and neither am I.

Which brings me to the Sally-Anne Test and my performance on it.

According to researchers and clinicians, the Sally-Anne Test is a much easier test of mentalizing than the RMET, which means that the RMET is a much harder test of mentalizing than the Sally-Anne Test. Therefore, anyone who does well on the RMET should be able to pass the Sally-Anne Test, and the majority of typical children pass by the age of four.

On the Sally-Anne Test, you look at two dolls named Sally and Anne. Sally has a basket, and Anne has a box. Sally has a marble, but Anne does not. Sally puts her marble into her basket, and the fun begins. (2)

After she puts her marble into her basket, Sally leaves the room. While she is gone, she loses her marble, because Anne steals it, moving it from the basket to the box. When Sally returns, you are asked a question, “Where will Sally look for her marble?”, and you answer by pointing to the basket or the box.

If you point to the basket, then you pass the test, because you have put yourself into Sally’s shoes to take Sally’s perspective. You have thought about what Sally thought to predict that she will look in the basket, where she thinks the marble is, because that is where she left it when she left the room.

If you point to the box, then you fail, because you have not thought about what Sally thought to predict her behavior based on her cognition. It is unclear what you thought instead, but what is clear is that you are incapable of mentalizing and severely deficient in social cognition.

In addition, according to the popular conception of autism, you are also incapable of learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar, and also, you are additionally incapable of learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar. In this scenario, you are autistic, and so am I.

Here is a summary of the popular conception of autism:

1) Pass the RMET. You are not autistic.

Autistic people are incapable of mentalizing or socially interacting or learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar. In addition, autistic people are incapable of doing or learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar.

2) Fail the Sally-Anne Test. You are autistic.

Autistic people are incapable of mentalizing or socially interacting or learning to mentalize or socially interact, 4evar and evar and evar. In addition, autistic people are incapable of doing or learning to do anything else either, 4evar and evar and evar.

Ummmmmmm…How do I fit into this model, exactly?

Eggggggg…How do I fit into this model, eggsacly?

Clearly, I don’t, and I will try to eggsplain why, as soon as I leave my room to return with my eggstremely enjoyable, but highly illicit, breakfast of brainiacs. I hope that you have read my mind to know what it is without me telling you directly. My mother only allows me to eat one of it per week, because she thinks that I will keel over and die of cholesterol poisoning if I eat more, and the reason that I will keel over and die of cholesterol poisoning is because her cholesterol is slightly high. Neither her eyes or her oculoptical-optocular modules are around right now, so if you’ll eggscuse me…

Meanwhile, I know what you’re thinking, and I’ll be thinking about what you’re thinking while I’m gone.

So while I’m gone…

…don’t lose my marbles!

Moar marbles in Part 2.

References

1. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 241-251.

2. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21, 37-46.

Linguistic Autistic

My language development as an autistic child:

I learned to read and write between ages 2 and 3. At this point, words were pictures and pictures for pictures, and I thought visually, not verbally.

I learned to listen and speak between ages 8 and 9. Afterwards, words were words, pictures, words for pictures, and pictures for pictures, and I learned to think verbally as well as visually.

Visual to verbal, I think, and I translate to communicate.

After I learned to communicate, I became a whole different person, or so it appeared. I was no longer socially aloof, and I began to respond to social overtures of others and initiate social interactions of my own. My parents were unfortunate, verry merry berry. Previously, I had been a docile placid child who viewed them as The Ultimate Authorities On Life, The Universe, And Everything, but after I learned to listen, speak, communicate, and socialize, their facade of expertise collapsed, and I began to correct them, argue with them, and smacktalk them. I became a mini monster, a verry merry berry quuute one, who forced my parents to go to the library with me, early, late, and often, for the express purpose of proving to them that they had just stated an incorrect factoid that must be inwardly rectified in their mental libraries now Now NOW, I mean now Right NOW, or else, the world was going to end, not with a whimper, but a bang, a verry merry berry big one.

Actually, what was going on inside my mind was much the same as before, but I finally learned that I could actually output it for others to know and understand, and that others could actually input what was going on inside their minds for me to know and understand. I finally knew and understood the concept of mind-to-mind communication, and I would not be the same person that I am today, a linguistic autistic, without having been taught, and so learned, to read and write and listen and speak, out of order, but not disordered, and not misordered, but in my own order.

I am glad that I learned to use language, because language is a powerful tool for thinking, feeling, learning, teaching, communicating, and socializing.

At the same time, I am super duper glad that I was, am, and will always be a predominantly visual thinker. I like pictures, seeing them and thinking them and making them, but I really really really like peace, quiet, and solitude, outside in the world and inside in my mind.

Autistic cognition, thinking in pictures without words, is peaceful, quiet, and solitary, so it is perfect for me.

How Red And Blue Make Purple

I am a visual thinker, and when I read, I see pictures for words, which is pretty typical, but I also see words as pictures, which is pretty, but not typical.

When I read the word “red”, I see a picture of the color red, and I see the picture *red*.

When I read the word “blue”, I see a picture of the color blue, and I see the picture *blue*.

For most people, red and blue make purple, and the same is true for me, but not in the same way.

Here is how red and blue make purple for me:

Start with *red*, *blue*, and *purple*.

Match *u*, *r*, and *l* to *purple*.

Rotate *d* and *b* to look like *p* and *p*, and match *p* and *p* to *purple*.

Match *e* and *e* to *purple*.

Uh-Oh! Ruh-Roh! Duh-Doh!

No Match! No Match! No Match!

Red Alert! Blue Alert!

1 2 many *e*!

But what if we arrange the pictures this way, lining them up, stacking them, and looking at them from the top down?

Problem?

Solved!

In chemistry, this arrangement of pictures is a quantum mechanical system with discrete energy levels occupied by the electrons of atoms and molecules, but I like to think of it as how red and blue make purple.

EFT The EFT

The Embedded Figures Test (EFT) is an experimental task on which autistic people show consistently superior performance in accuracy and/or speed compared to typical people, indicating differences in perception and cognition between the autistic and typical brains. (1, 2)

On the EFT, the subject detects a small picture embedded within a big picture, such as a triangle within a baby carriage, as quickly and accurately as possible.

Here is my version of the task, EFT the EFT:

On EFT the EFT, *E* is obvious, and *F* kinda sorta, and *t* too, as long as you don’t take the instructions literally (or is that pictorially?) to look for *T* instead of *t*.

In other words, you’ve gotta read between the lines, literally, pictorially, and figuratively, to EFT the EFT!

References

1. Shah, A. & Frith, U. (1983). An islet of ability in autistic children: a research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 24, 613-620.

2. Joliffe, T. & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Are people with autism and Asperger Syndrome faster than normal on the Embedded Figures Test? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 28, 527-534.

Read, Write, Listen, Speak

Question: Arrange the pictures into the story of how I learned to speak.

Answer: The Story of How I Learned to Speak

First, I learned to read…

…picture of rabbit to word for rabbit.

Rabbit!

Then, I learned to write…

…picture of rabbit to word for rabbit.

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Next, I learned to listen.

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!

Finally, I learned to speak.

Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!

I am a visual thinker, and I learned to read and write visually before I learned to listen and speak verbally. Although my sequence of language development was atypical, it was normal, healthy, and fun for me. Best of all, it worked, and I learned to speak and communicate between the ages of eight and nine.

Now, I am still a visual thinker, but I can also think verbally to speak and write my thoughts in pictures in words, and I thank my pots of gold at my ends of rainbows that I was taught, and so learned, to read and write and listen and speak, so I can teach others to read and write and listen and speak eggswell***.

*******

MySpeak is my version of the English language.

Translate [MySpeak, English] (eggswell) = as well

Thank you for reading and listening, and please feel free to write and speak MySpeak eggswell!

*******

The Theory Of Mindblindkind

The Mindblindness Theory of Autism states that autistic people have no theory of mind, cannot represent mental states of other people, cannot attribute mental states to other people, do not know and understand that the mental states of other people are different from their own mental states, are not able to put themselves into other people’s shoes to take other people’s perspectives, and have no empathy for other people.

Here is my alternative to the Mindblindness Theory of Autism:

The Theory of Mindblindkind, Autistic or Not

To a different kind of mind is each kind of mind kind of blind, and the key to see me from thee be for thee to see me be free.

Autistic or Not, we all have different minds to which we are all kind of blind, and the only way for us to know and understand each other is to unblind our minds to minds of different kinds and accept each other as we differently are.

My pie in the sky,

why try not thy,

and why spy not I,

aye, by thy eye?

Happily Autistic And Humbly Awesome

Greetings, and welcome to my blog about autism, its science and nature, and being happily autistic and humbly awesome in a world where autism and awesomeness are not always accepted as two of a kind, hooomankind.

Here is a picture of me:

This is what autism looks like.

As you can see, I have a huge autistic brain with hoards of autistic brain cells, and I hope to use my autistic brain and brain cells to be and do gobs of good in my lucky charmy life.

I am happily autistic and humbly awesome, and this is what autism and awesomeness are like for me.