DSM-5: Truth And Consequences

During the past year, there has been a lot of controversy over the DSM-5, its upcoming publication, and its proposed revision of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders.

By merging all autism spectrum disorders into one, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the DSM-5 has freaked out different people for the same reason, that being who will be diagnosed or not diagnosed according to the newer, stricter criteria within.

Some adults are worried that they will not meet the full criteria to be diagnosed with ASD.

Some parents are worried that their children will not meet the full criteria to be diagnosed with ASD.

Some adults are worried that they will be too high-functioning to be diagnosed with ASD.

Some parents are worried that their children will be too high-functioning to be diagnosed with ASD.

Some researchers and clinicians tell everyone not to worry, that everything will be A-OK, and that the DSM-5 will diagnose just as many children and adults as does the DSM-IV.

Some researchers and clinicians tell everyone to worry, that everything will not be A-OK, and that the DSM-5 will not diagnose many many many children and adults diagnosed or diagnosable by the DSM-IV.

Studies are done, and papers are published, and some show the former, and some show the latter, and there is no general agreement over what will happen when the book is published and the criteria applied. On opposite sides of the DSM-5 Divide, the researchers snipe at each other, criticizing the methodology here and the agenda there, while the people affected by the changes, the autistic adults and children and the families of autistic children and adults, are freaked out and have no idea what or who to believe on an issue that is verry merry berry important to them.

Lost in the DSM-5 Diagnosis Rate Debate have been the criteria themselves, the proposed revision of the diagnostic criteria for ASD that is causing so much controversy in the World of DSM-5 Discord.

I don’t care about the DSM-5 Divide, Debate, Discord. My theory of mind is not good enough for me to understand these things.

I only care about the criteria themselves. My theory of mind, my autistic theory of autistic mind, is good enough for me to know what autism is, and whether the criteria will be good for diagnosing autistic people with autism and not diagnosing non-autistic people with autism, which are what the diagnostic criteria are made to do.

Here is the link to the criteria: DSM-5 ASD

Here are the criteria in HooomanSpeak, the profile of an autistic person from the perspective of a typical person who knows a little about autism from the outside, e.g. the clinician diagnosing autism, e.g. the researcher investigating autism:

(A) Deficits in social interaction and communication, meet three of three:

(1) Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging from blathering on and on and on about the same indescribably boring things and not STFU-ing when I make gooogly eyes at you to STFU to all-walkie-no-talkie when I call your name and make gooogly eyes at you to walkie-talkie to me (OMG! Why can’t you just act normal for once?)

(2) Deficits in non-verbal communication, ranging from not molesting my eyeballs with your eyeballs in a socially appropriate manner to not molestng my eyeballs with your eyeballs at all (OMG! Why can’t you just act normal for once?)

(3) Deficits in development of relationships, ranging from not knowing how to make friends or friends with benefits and suck up to people for selfish personal gain to not knowing that there are such things as making friends or friends with benefits or sucking up to people for selfish personal gain (OMG! Why can’t you just act normal for once?)

(B) Restricted and repetitive behaviors, meet two of four:

(1) Stereotypies, e.g. echoing with I say and doing it lots lots lots to annoy the begeebus out of me, e.g rocking back and forth and doing it lots lots lots to annoy the begeebus out of me (OMG! Why do you act so autistic all the time?)

(2) Routines and rituals, e.g. going to the same boring old people’s park for five minutes a day everyday, rain, snow, hail, frogs, locusts, plague, and nukular reactor and/or missile catastrophes, to do nothing there, because there is nothing to do there, but your parents made the mistake of taking you there this one time when they were suckers for your gooogly eyes that were not ackshuly gooogling at them to take you to the park that they falsely believed that you desired them to take you to and came to suffer the long-term consequences thatof, poor foolish hooomans who would have been driven insane by you, had they not been insane to begin with, e.g. keeping each and every object in the same location and orientation at all times and freaking out if those are changed at any time by any amount (OMG! Why do you act so autistic all the time?)

(3) Special interests, e.g. pursuing the same nevar-evar-ending dirt- and block-building projects with laser-like intensity and focus for hours and hours and hours day after day after day, e.g. poring over the same indescribably boring doorknob model numbers with laser-like intensity and focus for hours and hours and hours day after day after day (OMG! Why do you act so autistic all the time?)

(4) Sensory abnormalities, e.g. going berserker whenever the lights are turned on, e.g. going berserker whenever the phone rings, e.g. going berserker whenever the wind blows on your face, e.g. berserkedly smelling each and every object and hoooman in your path, e.g. developing a berserk taste for things that are not food (OMG! Why do you act so autistic all the time?)

From the perspective of an autistic person who knows a lot about autism from the inside, the criteria read more like this:

(A) Lack of typical social brrrainzzz

(1) Lack of typical social brrrainzzz (I ain’t gotz no normal brrrainzzz, nope nope nope)

(2) Lack of typical social brrrainzzz (I ain’t gotz no normal brrrainzzz, nope nope nope)

(3) Lack of typical social brrrainzzz (I ain’t gotz no normal brrrainzzz, nope nope nope)

(B) Awesome autistic things that I ain’t lackz

(1) Awesome autistic things that I love to do and can’t do without (They will have to spoooooool these things out of my brrrainzzz through my nostrils if they wish to rid me of them, yep yep yep)

(2) Awesome autistic things that I love to do and can’t do without (They will have to spoooooool these things out of my brrrainzzz through my nostrils if they wish to rid me of them, yep yep yep)

(3) Awesome autistic things that I love to do and can’t do without (They will have to spoooooool these things out of my brrrainzzz through my nostrils if they wish to rid me of them, yep yep yep)

(4) Awesome autistic spidey senses that make me a good (a) vampire, (b) eavesdropper, (c) barometer, (d) shark, and (e) vampire (I will suck out their blood and bite off their limbs if they try to spoooooool any of the above above above out of my brrrainzzz through my nostrils that will suck in the air that I will need to rid me not of them, but them other them, harharhar)

In addition, two other criteria must be met for an autism diagnosis to be made:

(C) Be autistic since early childhood.

(D) Have impairments in functioning caused by being autistic.

In multiplication, the diagnosis also comes with a severity level:

Level 1: Requiring support (DSM-Speak is so vague that no one knows what this means)

Level 2: Requiring substantial support (DSM-Speak is so vague that no one knows what this means)

Level 3: Requiring very substantial support (DSM-Speak is so vague that no one knows what this means)

DSM-Speak is so vague that no one knows how the severity levels will apply to real live hooomans, but what is not vague is that there will have to be some identifiable impairments in functioning and some identifiable accommodations for those impairments for an autism diagnosis to be made for a real live awesome autistic hoooman.

So what is so super duper wrong with the DSM-5 to cause so much Divide, Debate, Discord?

In my opinion, nothing is super duper wrong, nothing so super duper wrong to cause so much Divide, Discord, Debate.

The purpose of the DSM-5 is to define what autism is at the behavioral level, the only level at which we currently know enough about autism to be able to define it at all. We don’t know much about autism at the cognitive level or the neurobiological level or the molecular and cellular levels, but in order to know moar moar moar about these other levels, we have to do what we currently can, which is to define what autism is at the behavioral level, definitely and definitively, like how an autistic person acts, and how an autistic person acts differently from a typical person, and how different autistic persons act differently from each other, so we can figure out the moar moar moar interesting things, like how an autistic person thinks, and how an autistic person thinks differently from a typical person, and how different autistic persons think differently from each other.

As a definition of autism, the DSM-5 criteria for ASD are fine. They are about as fine as any other criteria that I have ever read. In my opinion, the criteria present a profile of an autistic person from the perspective of a typical person, require autistic traits that are fundamental to autism, and recognize that there is a variety of expression of those traits, a spectrum starting and stopping with the difficulties experienced by real live autistic people in a world not designed by or for them and the supports for those difficulties that can help moar moar moar of us do moar moar moar of what we need and want to do in our lives.

The DSM-5 definition of autism makes verry merry berry much sense to me, and it is verry merry berry close to the original definitions of autism by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, the ones that describe awesome autistic children in a way that makes sense and rings true to an awesome autistic child like me.

What will happen to the rate of diagnosis when the newer, stricter criteria are applied is unknown to me, but what I do know is that there is nothing super duper wrong with the criteria themselves.

My theory of mind is not good enough to understand the DSM-5 Divide, Debate, Discord. All I know is that criteria themselves make sense and ring true, based on what I know about autism from learning about it the way the clinicians and researchers learn about it, and understanding it the way that only an autistic person ever could.

To me, the DSM-5 does a good job of defining the truth of autism for the purpose of diagnosis. The consequences of the truth, I have no idea what they will be. Perhaps they will not be a big deal, as some say, and the rate of diagnosis will not change, not change much at all. Perhaps they will be a big deal, as some say, and the rate of diagnosis will drop, not necessarily the big bad snake-scaled fork-tongued monster that it has been made out to be.

But in my opinion, and from my perspective, the unknown consequences of the truth should not stand in the way of the truth itself. I support the DSM-5, and I think that the book should be published and the criteria applied. I think that the DSM-5 definition of autism, just autism, is superior to the DSM-IV definitions of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. In the DSM-5, I particularly support the diagnosis of autism and autism alone, no more Autistic Disorder (the Big Bad Autismism that will ruin your life and the lives of everyone around you) or Asperger’s Disorder (the Special Autistical Autistican Syndrome that is the same as autism to some who have it and totally different for others who do too) or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (the Confusing-B-U Confused-R-Us Catchall that is some kind of autism for some who have it and totally not for others who do too) to classify and class autistic people into categories that they may or may not fit, in which they may or may not get the help that they need.

In the DSM-5, autistic people are just autistic, strong, simple, and pure. The severity levels do run the risk of putting people into boxes, Levels 1, 2, or 3, but that risk can be reduced by recognizing that autistic people can move from one level to another as they grow up and learn things. Autistic children diagnosed at two-and-a-half at Level 3 can level up into autistic adults of twenty-and-a-half at Level 2, then thirty-and-a-half at Level 1. That is the true nature of true autism, that autistic children grow up and learn things, do more and need less, leveling up. If these are not what an autistic child is doing, then that autistic child should be taught and supported to do them, to grow up and learn things, do more and need less, leveling up.

Towards these goals, I hope that the DSM-5 will do a lot of good and not much bad at the first step, the diagnosis. To me, the criteria make sense and ring true, as they do to a lot of other autistic people too. Right now, that is all I care or can care about, the truth, and all I can do is to sit back, relax, and pop things, all food items, into my mouth, to handle the good and bad of it.

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Level Up: Learn To Read

When a child is diagnosed with autism, the first thing that the parents should do is to know that their child is autistic and awesome instead of tubular and typical.

The second is to teach their child to read.

It doesn’t matter how old the child is, whether one or two or three or four or more. If the child doesn’t know how to read, then the parents should teach the child to read.

Why should the parents teach the child to read?

Because reading is the key to language development for awesome autistic children.

It doesn’t matter if the child speaks or not, or points or not, or eye-looks or not, or nose-picks or not, or booger-eats or not, or functions hi, or functions lo, or IQ’s well, or IQ’s ill. None of these things are required for reading or learning to read.

Here is how to teach an awesome autistic child to read:

1) Get a picture of a thing, a thing like this:

Show it to the child.

Show the child a photograph of an apple or a drawing of an apple, the apple, just the apple, and nothing but the apple.

Don’t show pictures that have nothing to do with the thing in the picture.

2) Label this thing with the word for this thing:

Show it to the child.

Label the picture of the thing with the word for the thing to make the connections between the picture, the word, and the thing.

3) Say the word for the thing in the picture.

Say it to the child, and let the child say it, if she can.

If she can’t, then don’t obsess over it, and move on.

4) Get a picture of another thing, a thing like this:

Show it to the child.

For the same kinds of things, like fruits, use pictures, whether photographs or drawings, in the same style, so the pictures are the same, except for the things in the pictures.

Don’t use a photograph of an apple, then a drawing of a pear, or a pencil sketch of a pear, then an oil painting of an apple.

5) Label this thing with the word for this thing:

Show it to the child.

Use both photographs and drawings of the same things, some with lots of detail and some with details not.

6) Say the word for the thing in the picture.

Say it to the child, the word, just the word, and nothing but the word.

Don’t say words that have nothing to do with the thing in the picture.

7) Repeat, repeat, repeat, with moar moar moar things:

Show them to the child.

Use pictures of real cats and real rabbits instead of these skinny cat and fat rabbit figurines. These are Before & After pictures of me, how I feel in my mind before and after I go to McDonald’s. Physically, I always look like the skinny cat, but mentally, the fat rabbit makes me feel awesome and adorable too.

8) Take away the words for the things from the pictures of the things.

9) Let the child label the pictures of the things with the words for the things.

10) Repeat, repeat, repeat, with moar moar moar things, ten a day, twenty a day, fifty a day, a hundred a day, however many words and pictures and things that the child likes to learn in a day, a different number for each different child.

Labeling pictures of things with words for things, this was the first step of learning to read for this awesome autistic child. When I was toddler, around two years old, my mother got me a bunch of books with pictures of things and words for things. In the books, the words for things were matched to the pictures of things, and I learned to match the words to the pictures from flicking through the books.

Flick! Flick! Flick! I looked at the pictures and the words in the books.

Click! Click! Click! I took mental pictures of the pictures and the words in the books.

Sick! Sick! Sick! I memorized the pictures and the words in the books, all of them, after seeing them once, so once I had seen them, I knew them.

Tick! Tick! Tick! I learned the following:

I learned that the things in the pictures were things, each thing a whole thing that was a thing by itself. Some of the things were apples, and some of the things were pears. Some of the things were cats, and some of the things were rabbits. Each of the things was a thing, a whole thing by itself, and I learned what things were at the level of whole things. Otherwise, an apple might have been a red streak over here or an orange streak over there, and a cat a fur hair over here or a whisker tip over there. From learning to read, I learned to see things as whole things, and my detailed visual perception became organized, parts to whole, into a makesensical world of things that made sense.

I learned the words for the things in the pictures, what the words looked like and what the words sounded like. A word was a picture, *apple*, and a word was a sound, “apple”. My mother and grandmother read the words to me as I looked at the pictures, so I learned the picture *apple*, the sound “apple”, and the thing for the picture and the sound, all at the same time. From then on, I knew that the word *apple* written on paper referred to the thing that matched the word as a picture, and I knew that the word “apple” said in air referred to the thing that matched the word as a sound. From learning to read, I developed good receptive language, the incoming half of verbal communication, the half that is the most important for further learning of any kind.

At two or three or four or more years old, I did not learn the other half of verbal communication, the outgoing, expressive half that is not as important for further learning of any kind. At those ages, I did not develop good expressive language, because I did not know what communication was, how to do it, or how to use language to do it. Because I was autistic, I was born without a natural instinct to communicate, and I did not learn naturally what communication was or how to do it, verbally or non-verbally, at an age when typical children had all become masters of hoooman-to-hoooman communication.

However, if someone had taught me those things at those ages, what communication was and how to do it, then I might have been able to learn those things several years earlier than I eventually did.

At age eight, someone did teach me what communication was and how to do it, so I did learn those things several years later than I might have been able to learn them. Between the ages of eight and nine, I learned to speak to communicate, verry merry berry fast and verry merry berry well, while I had been mostly mute before. I think that I learned fast and well, because I already had a foundation of receptive language to build upon. From learning to read, then reading a lot, between the ages of two and eight, I had already filled my memory with things, pictures, and words, all of which I could then use, between the ages of eight and nine, to take the next step, use language to communicate, and become an apprentice in hoooman-to-hoooman communication.

To become an apprentice in hoooman-to-hoooman communication, what I needed was words, what I had learned early, and how to use them, what I came to learn later.

What I didn’t need was the following:

  • How to stare at hoooman eyeballs that I don’t naturally stare at (a.k.a. ABA)
  • How not to stare at spinning things that I like to stare at (a.k.a. ABA)
  • How to stare at hoooman faces that I don’t naturally stare at (a.k.a. ABA)
  • How not to stare at spinning things that I like to stare at (a.k.a. ABA)
  • How to stare at hooomans that I don’t naturally stare at (a.k.a. ABA)
  • How not to stare at spinning things that I like to stare at (a.k.a. ABA)

How to stare at hooomans, hoooman faces, hoooman eyeballs, and no spinning things are what awful autism professionals think that awesome autistic children should learn before they can be taught to learn anything else, anything so awesome, advanced, unautistic, and unretarded as reading and understanding language, the key to language development for awesome autistic children.

When I was little, I didn’t know how to stare at hooomans, hoooman faces, or hoooman eyeballs, but I did know how to read.

I often stared at spinning things, but I still knew how to read.

I even spun things a lot lot lot, but I read a lot lot lot as well.

My receptive and expressive cyclization were good, as was my receptive language, most of which I learned from learning to read.

Teach an awesome autistic child to read, early, late, and often, and her door to language development opens. Maybe she will learn to speak, or maybe she will not, but the chances will improve for her to communicate her thoughts and feelings, through speaking or writing, to the other hooomans wishing to know what is on her mind.

There is a reason that language exists, and it is because it evolved as the bestest way for us hooomans to communicate, mind-to-mind, with each other, regardless of how we each think inside each of our own minds. Autistic children want to be in on it too, but the typical ways of getting in on it often don’t work for us. For me, a different way of getting in on it did work, and this way depended on reading, reading, reading, the key to language development and everything else in the world of hooomans.

From learning to read, the world of hooomans no longer made nonsense…

…as does this to most hooomans not lucky or charmy enough to be masters of chemistry, mixers of chemicals, makers of chem-chem-chaos.

Instead, the world of hooomans started to make moar moar moar sense…

…as does this to this lucky charmy hoooman lucky and charmy enough to learn to read at two, then all of the above, too, to do.

Here is a new picture of me:

My name is Buns N. Burner, master of chemistry, mixer of chemicals, maker of chem-chem-chaos, and I could not have leveled up to master chemistry, mix chemicals, or make chem-chem-chaos without learning to read and read and read, words and pictures and things, to make the world make sense, until I screwed up, and something blew up, and I fled the scene of the crime, buns burning and ears on fire, Burrrrrrrn, Bunny, Burrrrrrrn!

Level Up

When I was little, I acted much more autistic than I do now. I was a classically autistic child, which means that I was socially aloof, uncommunicative, and non-verbal. I did the same things the same ways all the time, and I freaked out anytime anything was changed from its One True State of Being, that state being the state that it was being the first time that I became aware of it being any state at all.

Most of my autistic traits were towards the not mild end of the spectrum for those traits, so overall, I fit the stereotype of the classically autistic child who lived in her own world, did her own thing, and was oblivious to the world of the other hooomans all around her. With the other world, I interacted as the exception rather than the rule, the exceptions occurring monthly rather than weekly, daily, or hourly.

As an adult, I no longer act like the classically autistic child that I was. I am no longer socially aloof, uncommunicative, or non-verbal. Instead, I am social, communicative, and verbal, but in an autistic, not typical, way.

I am social in an autistic way, meaning that I don’t really like to socialize, and I don’t really want to socialize, and I don’t really need to socialize, but I know the idea of socializing, something that I didn’t know when I was a child and didn’t respond to my own name much of the time. I also know that my idea of socializing is not the same as most people’s idea of socializing. My idea, or ideal, of socializing is sitting in the same room with people I like while they are doing their own thing, and I am doing my own thing, and we are talking to or making faces at each other every fifteen minutes or so for a couple of hours at a time. A great place to do this is the library, where the librarian will shush you if you talk more than this awesome autistic amount that is just right for this awesome autistic way of socializing.

(Shhhhhhh! No talking!)

I am communicative in an autistic way, meaning that I am good at communicating about things I like, but I don’t really need or want to communicate about these things or most other things either. From my perspective, most communications are unnecessary, the more in-person, the more unnecessary. For me, communication is a last resort, which I use when I absolutely have to accost someone or other for something or other that I can’t possibly access myself. For example, I don’t ask people questions that I can answer myself. I only ask people questions that I absolutely can’t answer myself, not by googling or learning or thinking or thinking in the shower, a great place to think in an awesome autistic way, by the way.

(Water, water everywhere, and many thoughts to think…)

I am verbal in an autistic way, meaning that I can translate my thoughts in pictures into words to stream what is in my mind into other people’s minds for other people to know and understand, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but more well than ill more of the time. Unlike most people, I don’t have a stream of words streaming through my mind most of the time, so I only have a stream of words streaming through my mind when I turn on the stream from the source, which is usually a thought as a picture, detailed, clearstalcrys, and byoootiful. Unlike most people, I don’t use pictures as visual aides to supplement my verbal thoughts. Instead, the pictures are the thoughts themselves, and the words are verbal aides to communicate my thoughts to other people, source to stream, dream to course.

(Water, water everywhere, all frozen at the rink…)

Here is the source for this post:

Here is the stream for this source:

When I was a little, I was a classically autistic child who didn’t know anything about socializing, communicating, or lingualizing. I was socially aloof, uncommunicative, and non-verbal for a long time, which means that I didn’t know anything about socializing, communicating, or lingualizing, because I didn’t learn anything about any of these things in any of the ways in which typical children learn many things about many of these things, picking up on them naturally just by existing in a world full of hooomans socializing and communicating and lingualizing constantly.

Because I was autistic, the typical ways didn’t work for me, but I must have learned these things somehow, because I can do all of them today. I can do all of them today, because I learned to do them in my own ways.

From almost nothing to good enough, I leveled up. I leveled up in these things that I was not naturally good at and had no natural instinct to do, because I leveled up in my own ways, the autistic ways that succeeded after the typical ways had failed. If I had not leveled up in my own ways, then I would not have leveled up at all. Teaching a blind person to see with her eyes would not have worked to teach her to see, nor would teaching a deaf person to hear with her ears have worked to teach her to hear. Instead, teach her to see with her hands or hear with her eyes.

Like her, I leveled up in this way…

…the way in which a cat falls up.

Most cats leap up to land themselves onto your bed to slumber, purrr, and furrr their hairs and hairballs all over your covers and sheets. To do the same thing in a different way, this cat falls up to slumber, purrr, and furrr her hairs and hairballs between the pillows instead.

My course of awesome autistic development in my awesome autistic ways was different from the course of tubular typical development in tubular typical ways, and I will blog about these awesome autistic ways in future posts in this series, just in case they help other awesome autistic people do the same things the same ways time and time again.

Most importantly, I did not become social, communicative, and verbal from becoming less autistic and more typical. Instead, I became social, communicative, and verbal from becoming more autistic, from developing more of my naturally autistic cognition to do more things in my naturally autistic way.

One of the things that I like to do is blog about the things that I like to blog about, and I only learned to do that in the past year or so.

Here is how I blog in my own way:

Think some thoughts in pictures.

Make some pictures onpaper.

Make some pictures onscreen.

Translate from pictures to words.

Obsess.

Obsess.

Obsess.

Publish.

Slumber.

Purrr.

Furrr.

Dream about slurping up butterflies as a cat with a long frog tongue.

Sighhh…Maybe this is why my posts always turn into something terterly Jeepers Creepers.

Tick-Tock, No O’Clock

According to the professionals, autism is defined by two problems:

  • deficits in social interaction and communication
  • restricted and repetitive behaviors

Through behavioral modifications, these two problems are to be solved.

First, the restricted and repetitive behaviors are to be extinguished, so the autistic child does not act so autistic all the time. Second, the deficits in social interaction and communication are to be corrected by enforcing the correct social and communicative behaviors, so the autistic child acts more typical more of the time, as more as possible.

The poor autistic child, let us help her by making her act more like us, regardless of what is going on inside her head to make her act not quite like us to beborn with.

Here is my definition of autism:

  • no typical cognition, so no typical behaviors, duh
  • autistic cognition, so autistic behaviors, duh

From my perspective, what the professionals are doing through their behavioral modifications are these:

  • extinguishing autistic behaviors, a.k.a. getting rid of who I am without giving a shit what that is
  • enforcing typical behaviors, a.k.a. making me who I’m not without giving a shit who I am

I am against these behavioral modifications.

I am against modifying behaviors without regard for cognition.

I am against enforcing unnatural typical behaviors, most of which are completely meaningless to the children made to do them, regardless of what is going on inside their heads while they are faking their acts.

I am against extinguishing natural autistic behaviors, most of which are extremely enjoyable to the children made to stop them, regardless of what is going on inside their heads while they are being tortured.

When I was a child, I had very few typical behaviors and very many autistic behaviors. I had no socialization and little communication, and I was the walking no-talking definition of stereotypy. I was a classic case of classic autism, and I suffered from none of my natural autistic behaviors or cognition.

Instead, I enjoyed them.

I enjoyed not socializing and not communicating, because I was happy in my own world. I felt no need to socialize or communicate, and I neither knew what these were or missed them.

I enjoyed my restricted and repetitive behaviors, because I was happy stimming all day everyday, following the same routines 4evar and evar and evar, performing the same rituals 4evar and evar and evar, arranging the same objects for hours and hours a day, studying the same subjects for hours and hours a day, thinking and learning all the while, and not socializing or communicating while I was happy in my own world.

Everyday was like clockwork, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

My days were like a metronome, Tick-Tock, No O’Clock.

As an autistic child, I didn’t suffer from autism, because I enjoyed every minute of it.

Now, I still don’t, because I still do.

I still enjoy not socializing and not communicating, because I am still happy in my own world. Now, I know what these are, but I still don’t need or miss them.

I still enjoy my restricted and repetitive behaviors, because I am still happy stimming all day everyday, following the same routines 4evar and evar and evar, performing the same rituals 4evar and evar and evar, arranging objects for hours and hours a day, studying subjects for hours and hours a day, thinking and learning all the while, and not socializing or communicating while I am happy in my own world or the world at large.

While I spent most of my childhood being my happily autistic self in my own world, I spend most of my time now being my happily autistic self in the world at large. I balance the two worlds, the world inside and the world outside, and I am just like anyone else trying to make a good life and do good things, while being my happily autistic self.

From autism, I don’t suffer any more than anyone else suffers from being their normal hoooman selves, just as I am my normal hoooman self. I don’t suffer from my natural autistic behaviors or my natural autistic cognition. They are completely normal and natural to me, and I am always trying to make the best of them. I love my natural autistic behaviors and my natural autistic cognition, and I am always trying to make the best of them to make a good life and do good things.

Tick-Tock, No O’Clock.

Tick-Tock, No O’Clock.

Tick-Tock, No O’Clock.

I don’t suffer from autism, because I enjoy every minute of life.

As you can see, I also enjoy baseball, which brings me to this:

But I still enjoy every minute of it!

SplinterSkill SplintersKill

I despise the term “splinter skills” to demean the talents of autistic people as something other than the talents that they are.

When I was in preschool, one of my “splinter skills” was singing. In preschool, I spoke zero words, but I sang all kinds of songs. I sang them well, well above my age of three and much better than any of the other children at school. I learned them fast, much much much faster than any of the other children at school. I performed them strongly, so much so that the people who knew me only from my song-and-dance numbers commented that I was a natural-born performer who should become a singer or a dancer when I grew up.

In other words, I had a natural talent for music.

Because I was surrounded by people who knew nothing at all about autism, my talent for music was treated as such. My musical talent was recognized and encouraged, and I enjoyed participating in musical activities for many years, singing songs, playing music, being myself, and having fun.

Hear the music! Make the music! Be myself! Have fun!

Strong and simple and pure, that was all there was to it.

Had I been surrounded by people who knew something about autism, however, things would have been different, very different. Had I been surrounded by people who thought that they knew something about autism while knowing nothing at all about autism, things would have been very different indeed.

According to them, my talent wouldn’t have been a talent at all, not at all a natural ability of mine showing a natural intelligence of mine. Instead, my talent would have been a “splinter skill”, a strange inexplicable islet of ability in a deep dark sea of suck, the all-around sea of suck of Big Bad Autismism, in which any islet of any ability was a bizarro-world circus-freak thingamajigger that was not a mindful meaningful talent, but a mindless meaningless “splinter skill”.

Instead of singing well because I had a good ear for music, a natural talent, I would have been a child who had a “splinter skill” for singing inspite of not speaking.

(Yeah, whatever, she sings, but she doesn’t understand any of the words that she’s singing. She has impairments in receptive and expressive language, y’know.)

Instead of learning fast because I had a good musical memory, a natural talent, I would have been a robotic parrot who had a “splinter skill” for mimicking sounds with robotic proficiency.

(Yeah, whatever, she copies, but she can only ever copy, never create. She has a lack of imagination, y’know.)

Instead of performing strongly because I felt the music strongly, I would have been a socially aloof autistic child who had a “splinter skill” for emerging from her shell for a few minutes at low tide, high tide, or whatever height of tide caused socially aloof autistic children to emerge from their shells for a few minutes during the tidings.

(Yeah, whatever, she performs, but that’s just her being autistic and too socially oblivious to be nervous in front of an audience. She has deficits in social cognition, y’know.)

Some way, somehow, my “splinter skill” would have indicated some kind of deep dark deficit somewhere in my brain, and it would not have been thought of as what it was, a mindful meaningful talent that I enjoyed with all my mind and for all its meanings that were meaningful to me, a true talent just like any true talent that any typical child would have if they were doing the exact same thing.

What is the difference between a “talent” and a “splinter skill”, exactly?

Why exactly is something, the exact same thing, a “talent” for a typical child and a “splinter skill” for an autistic child?

What exactly is “splinter” about a “splinter skill”?

Is it that it is so very weird for an autistic child to have skills, any skills, that we have to call their skills “splinter skills” to indicate how very weird it is that they have skills, or is it that their skills are so weird, so very weird, that we have to call their skills “splinter skills” to indicate how very weird their skills are?

From my perspective, “splinter skills” like musical ability, artistic ability, mental calculation, and exceptional memory are some of the normal natural talents of some of the normal autistic people in the world. So are other “splinter skills”, even more “mindless” and “meaningless”, like memorizing baseball statistics, memorizing public transportation schedules, memorizing doorknob model numbers, and memorizing the patterns of black and white of the sunlight upon the squares of the window screen at different times of the day and year.

To me, there is nothing “splinter” about “splinter skills”, nor are they mindless meaningless rituals performed meaninglessly with mindless robotic proficiency. They are natural normal talents, and the autistic people who have them have brains that happen to have them, just as the typical people who have them have brains that happen to have them.

Of course I would sing well, if my brain heard each and every song, pitch-by-pitch, in all its details, clearstalcrys. That is a good ear for music, and it is a natural and common trait amongst autistic people, many of them untaught and untrained.

Of course I would learn fast, if my brain remembered music, pitch-by-pitch, in all its details, clearstalcrys. That is a good musical memory, and it is another natural and common trait amongst autistic people, many of them untaught and untrained.

Of course I would have a good eye for detail and a good visual memory, if my brain saw in the same way that it heard. That is detailed sensory perception, and it is yet another natural and common trait amongst autistic people. According to some hypotheses, it is a defining characteristic of the autistic brain. Therefore, any advanced abilities arising from one of the defining characteristics of the autistic brain are natural talents of the autistic peope with the autistic brains.

So what is so “splinter” about a “splinter skill”?

So nothing is so “splinter” about a “splinter skill”.

There is no “splinter”, and there are no “splinter skills”.

Instead, there are just skills, natural talents just as mindful, meaningful, and enjoyable to autistic people as the same are the same to anyone else of higher or lower functioning or higher or lower IQ.

I can sing songs and enjoy them for their sounds, their pure perceptual sounds, as much as I can do the same for the meanings of the lyrics.

I can read and remember words and enjoy them for their forms, their pure perceptual forms, as much as I can do the same for the meanings of the stories.

I can memorize doorknob model numbers, and I can recite them without knowing what they mean, and I can have lots of fun doing it too.

Actually, I don’t memorize doorknob model numbers, nor am I at all interested in them, even though I keep mentioning them on my blog. Wherever it says “doorknob model numbers”, think “baseball statistics” instead. I have an obsession with baseball statistics, as well as a delusional belief that my extremely enjoyable memorization of baseball statistics was partially responsible for the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007. The reconfiguration of atmospheric molecules caused by the increased respiratory rate of my lungs caused by the increased oxygen consumption of my brain caused by my intense obsession over Red Sox baseball statistics must have contributed something to Dave Roberts stealing second, right?

Right? Right.

Similarly:

Reconfigure [Big Letter, Small Letter] (SplinterSkill) = Splinterskill
Reconfigure [Small Letter, Big Letter] (Splinterskill) = SplintersKill

SplinterSkill? SplintersKill!

OMG, I knew they were ebil!

Down with SplinterSkill! No moar SplintersKill!

Talent 4evar and evar and evar!

(I admit that the talented singing bunny looks kinda sorta creepy, all kinds and sorts of creepy…insert Twilight Zone music here…)

How To Make Awesome Autistic Eye Contact

Autistic people make eye contact in a variety of awesome ways.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

The Shy

The Shy is a common form of awesome autistic eye contact during social interactions with people. It is rarely used during social interactions with animals.

Like typical eye contact, it involves eye contact with people. Unlike typical eye contact, it involves eye contact with people in places that are not their eyes.

Ohhh, wrinkly hands! Ohhh, wrinkles! I wonder what will happen if I poke them.

Ahhh, moley neck! Ahhh, moles! I wonder what will happen if I poke them.

People’s decorative accoutrements are another target of eye contact.

Ohhh, sparkly necklace! Ohhh, sparkle! I wonder what will happen if I swallow it.

Ahhh, glittering ring! Ahhh, glitter! I wonder what will happen if I swallow it.

The Shy is an all-purpose form of eye contact, used during all kinds of social interactions with people, whenever the awesome autistic person is being herself. As herself, the awesome autistic person feels no need to look people in the eye. She feels no need to look people in the eye or the face, because she has no special messages to send to people through her eyes. If she wished to send a special message, then she would send it directly, by speaking or writing it in words instead of making googly eyes, oogly eyes, or loogly eyes at people.

Therefore, the awesome autistic person looks people in places that are not their eyes during social interactions with people. Often, she looks down, her soft meek eyes cast down, softly and meekly, at people’s necks, boobies, and hands, as if she were terribly shy and unsure of herself, or a total pervert, which she sometimes is, but sometimes not. Overall, she gives the impression of being shy and meek, nervous and insecure, introverted and reserved, which she may be, but maybe not.

In other words, the typical model of social cognition does not work for autistic people. When applied, it does not provide accurate readings of the states of mind of autistic people. More often than not, it fails. Some autistic people who look shy are shy, but many who look shy are not. They are not looking people in the eye, because they have no natural instinct to look people in the eye. Some autistic people who seem introverted are introverted, but many who seem introverted are not. They look more inwardly focused and less outwardly engaged, because their lack of eye-to-eye eye contact gives this general impression of their personality type.

Applying typical social cognition to autistic people is like assuming that the Earth is the center of the universe and predicting the motions of the planets in the sky using a good old-fashioned geocentric model of the universe. The calculations are messy, and the predictions wrong. A bunch of psycho-social fudge factors are invented to explain the inconsistencies, but the equations still miscompute. Hair is ripped out, fists clenched and unclenched, and nails dug into skin. Finally, instead of considering that the existing model does not work and is wrong, the awesome autistic person is determined to be the one who is wrong, horribly wrong, horribly wrong and disordered and diseased, so there is no reason to conceive a novel model that works and is right, a model of autistic, not typical, cognition, to explain the behaviors of autistic, not typical, people.

Ironically, the autistic model is actually just like the typical model. Autistic people do the things that they do, because they follow their natural instincts, which is why typical people do the things that they do. Eye-to-eye eye contact is not a natural instinct of an autistic person, so it is not done, unless the autistic person remembers to do it on purpose for the comfort of others who need and want it to feel whatever they feel that makes them need and want it so verry merry berry much. For autistic people, it is unnatural, unnecessary, and irrelevant. It takes away from my view of other, more interesting things, and at the same time, gives me no value of its own. For me, there are few behaviors more pointless than looking at people’s eyeballs while interacting with people. During social interactions, I do it exclusively for the comfort of others, and I am considering dropping it entirely. I am tired of doing it, and I wish that I had never learned to do it.

In addition, I would like for others to stop looking at my eyeballs as well. Sure, my eyeballs are quuute, perhaps even irresistibly adorable, but does that mean that everyone has to stare at them all the time? Compared to the big Big BIG world with all its SMALL Small small wonders all around us, there is really not much to see in my eyeballs. My eyeballs are not really that interesting, compared to all the other, more interesting things all around me. Compared to all the interesting things all around me, my eyeballs are only interesting if something is read into them that is not there, like a bunch of psycho-social fudge factors invented for the application of a cognitive model that does not work for me. Unfortunately, this is how most people look at my fascinating, all-absorbing eyeballs, which is why I have often wished to wear a Darth Vader headpiece over my head to prevent the invention of psycho-social fudge factors for the application of a cognitive model that does not work for me. I will have to cut holes on top for my bunny ears, of course. And it would be nice if it came with a TV on the inside, a TV showing a variety of programming, including a real-time video of the person with whom I am interacting. There could be subtitles for what the person is saying to me, and picture-in-picture for me to watch other, more interesting programming while the person is saying the subtitles. Also, it must have air-conditioning. Otherwise, it would be too miserable for me to wear it. Darth Vader breathing noises are not required for any functional purpose like breathing, but they will be included as a decorative accoutrement for my personal enjoyment.

Everything will be muchos wunderbar when I have it, I am sure, but in the meantime, I will continue to use my other forms of awesome autistic eye contact during social interactions with people.

The Sly

What it looks like: The awful autistic person is being evasive, looking to the side to hide something that she does not want me to know. If she weren’t hiding something, then she wouldn’t be looking to the side. She’d be looking me in the eye instead. But since she’s not, she must be hiding something. Maybe she ate the last cookie in the cookie jar or pressed the big red nukular button to blow up another desolate empty plot of the Nevada basin and range province in her evil plot to blow up moar moar moar desolate empty plots of the Nevada basin and range province. She must be watched closely, this one, her eyes monitored for further unveilings of her enigmatic thoughts and thought processes. What a puzzling enigma she is. I will create a puzzle piece logo to use as the icon for my hidden file about her on my computer.

What it means: The awesome autistic person is attending to the person with whom she is interacting. Sometimes, she is listening, and sometimes, she is speaking. She is listening and speaking well, because she is looking to the side, not at the person or the person’s face or eyes. It is easiest for her to listen and speak, interact and engage, when she looks like she is not attending. In her mind are verry merry berry few thoughts about the big red nukular button or the Nevada basin and range province, but she wouldn’t mind talking about these topics as topics of conversation that are probably more interesting than whatever she is hearing and saying while looking to the side.

The Sky

What it looks like: The awful autistic person is being dismissive, rolling her eyes and expressing her contempt for me. If she weren’t contemptuous of me, then she wouldn’t be rolling her eyes at me. She’d be looking me in the eye instead.

What it means: The awesome autistic person is attending to the person with whom she is interacting. Sometimes, she is listening, and sometimes, she is speaking. She is listening and speaking well, because she is looking up, not at the person or the person’s face or eyes. It is easiest for her to listen and speak, interact and engage, when she looks like she is not attending. In her mind are verry merry berry few thoughts about her contempt for anyone, because she is not thinking about anyone at all. If she did feel contempt for someone, then she would let them know by rolling her eyes at them and telling them how much they sucked, the verbal and non-verbal messages conveying the same message at the same time. Otherwise, how could she know that they knew how much they sucked? What if they thought that she was just looking up instead? What a terrible miscommunication that would be. It would suck suck suck suck suck suck suck.

Soulless, a.k.a. Aspie Stare

What it looks like: Are you on drugs? Why are you staring at me with your eyes focused on a plane of focus halfway between your face and my face? Why are you staring at me with your eyes focused way way way behind me? I am not an ophthalmologist, and you are not staring at my ear while I am staring into your eyeballs through my ophthalmoscope. Stop staring at me like that. You look like a zombie with no soul.

What it means: I am not interested in interacting with you. I wish to leave your presence as soon as possible. I just thought of a new system to categorize my collection of doorknob model numbers, so I must leave your presence as soon as possible to attend to this extremely interesting activity. Please contact me by other means if you wish to communicate with me. I am not available to communicate in person at this time.

Soulmoar, a.k.a. Intense Gaze

What it looks like: Are you on drugs? Why are you staring at me with your eyes like you are trying to suck out my soul? Stop staring at me like that. You look like a zombie looking to suck out my soul and his soul and her soul and their souls, like you are trying to collect moar moar moar souls for your soulless no-soul self. It won’t work, y’know. Since you are a zombie, no number of moar moar moar souls sucked into your eyes will give you a soul yourself. That’s the definition of being a zombie, y’know, the verry merry berry. Stop staring at me like that. You’re creeping me out.

What it means: I am no longer interested in interacting with you. Several minutes ago, I was interested, but now, no longer. Whatever you are saying has become too boring for me to continue attending to you. I have lost interest in what you are saying to me, so I am staring at your face and eyes instead, looking like I am extremely interested in what you are saying to me. I am having to stare at your face and eyes, because I am extremely bored. I have nothing else to do. Unfortunately, when I look like I am extremely interested in what you are saying to me is when I am extremely uninterested in what you are saying to me. When I am staring at your face and eyes like I am trying to suck out your soul, I am not even hearing what you are saying to me, so I do not even know what you are saying to me. Please do not ask me any questions about what you are saying to me. Alas, I will not be able to answer them. I am terribly afraid that you will ask me questions that I will not be able to answer. Please pick up on my abject boredom and change the subject as soon as possible. Perhaps we could talk about zombies instead. When we are talking about zombies instead, I will look up and to the side, just in case you are a zombie trying to suck out my soul. Are you a zombie trying to suck out my soul? Please don’t be or become a zombie trying to suck out my soul. I am terribly afraid of zombies.

Speaking of zombies, I would like to recommend my personal favorite zombie movie:

It is called Dead Alive, set in New Zealand, and directed by Peter Jackson.

It is one of my personal favorite topics of conversation. I always make wuvly purrrfurrrt eye contact with everyone when I am talking about my personal favorite zombie movie with them.

Then, I suck out their souls.

Thinking In Sounds

I like to think in sounds as much as I like to think in pictures.

I like to think auditorily as much as I like to think visually.

When I see a word, I think of the meaning of the word, and I see the word as a picture, the shapes of the letters.

When I hear a word, I think of the meaning of the word, and I hear the word as sounds, pure sounds.

When I was little, I heard words as sounds more than I thought of their meanings. Often, I didn’t think of their meanings at all, so I didn’t think verbally at all. I thought auditorily, with words as sounds. Speech was sound as much as music was sound. The difference between them was that one put me to sleep, and the other woke me up.

Speech put me to sleep.

When I was three years old, I liked to hear the sound of people reading. I liked to hear my mother read to me from my little kids’ books, which told stories about frogs, princesses, princesses kissing frogs, frogs kissing princesses, and princes and princesses kissing, after the frogs had turned into the princes. I didn’t care about the stories in the books. I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t care about the plot. The pictures were nice, but I wasn’t totally enamored with them either.

Instead, I was totally enamored with the sounds. I liked to hear the sounds, the sounds of the words, the sounds that I heard, over and over and over, again and again and again, every time that my mother read me my books, many many many times. I knew all the sounds and all the orders of all the sounds in all my books. I knew them after hearing them once, but I liked to hear them over and over and over, again and again and again, the sounding of them each time the same as the sounding of them the first time, the time from which I knew the sounds of their sounding. To hear the sounds, the same sounds, was wonderfully relaxing, so relaxing that it put me to sleep, as stories should, with their sounds, their sounds, their byoootiful sounds…

…zzzzzzz…

Music woke me up.

When I was three years old, I attended preschool. At preschool, I had four major activities. One was walking in circles doing nothing while the other kids played side-by-side or face-to-face. The second was escaping or attempting to escape the premises early, late, and often. The fourth involved the bathroom, to be left to the imagination of the reader, and the third was turning into a Roomba® whenever the teachers turned on the music.

Whenever the teachers turned on the music, I turned into something that most closely resembled and captured the spirit of a Roomba®, of all the things that I can think of at the moment. I would sing and dance and ping and prance, bounce and pounce and spin and grin. I loved the music, and I sang, danced, bounced, and spun to it moar moar moar than all the other kids combined. I loved the music, all of it, and it didn’t matter whether it was old or new, this kind or that kind. If there was music, then I was a Roomba®, a verry merry berry quuute one.

Turn on the music. Turn on the Roomba®.

Vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom!

Spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin!

Dart here! Dash there! Oh no, you missed a spot!

Dart there! Dash here! Oh yay, you got the spot!

As with the books, I knew all the sounds and all the orders of all the sounds in all the songs. I knew them after hearing them once, surprising the teachers with the exuberant expertise that also confused them. The child who had never spoken a word to them was suddenly able to sing and sing well, learn and learn fast. To them, I sang the songs, word for word, right after I heard them, magically. To me, I sang the songs, sound for sound, right after I heard them, naturally. Sound for sound, I sang the songs, and I didn’t even know that the songs had words, or that some of the words in the songs were the same as some of the words in the books. In the songs, the words sounded different than they did in the books, so, to me, they were different. They were different and unrelated entities. They were sounds that sounded different.

How could sounds that sounded different be the same word? Ridiculous!

How could sounds that sounded different mean the same thing? Absurd!

What were words anyway?! What were meanings anyway?! What were words and meanings anyway? Nonsense!

Take them away. I don’t want them. I don’t need them. I don’t care about them. I care only about the sounds, the sounds, the byoootiful sounds, tone after tone one-by-one, or all the tones all at once.

I care about hearing sounds, and I care about making sounds. I don’t care about the stuff between the hearing and the making, the words with their meanings, the verbal communications, or the notes on their lines, the musical notations. For me, singing from a page of lyrics ruins the experience of singing, and so does playing from a sheet of music. I like to sing and play from the sounds themselves, the sensory experiences and pure perceptions undiluted and unpolluted by words or notes. I like to sing with my eyes closed, even in front of an audience, the better to focus fully on the sounds, the sounds, the byoootiful sounds. I like to play by ear only, from the sounds only, only the sounds, the sounds, the byoootiful sounds. On a sheet of music, I don’t know which squiggle is which sound, or what the strange squiggles mean. I don’t know theory of music, and I don’t practice music. I know only the hearing of music, crystals clinking, and the making of music, clinks crystallizing.

The sensory experience of sound, the pure perception of sound, the full focus on sound, these are what thinking in sounds is like for me.

When I am thinking in pictures, my mind’s eye is busy, the pictures flashing up, flying by, twisting and turning in space, and twirling and whirling like the teapots, teacups, plates, bowls, knives, forks, spoons, and candelabra from the “Be Our Guest” song-and-dance number of Beauty and the Beast, or the lobsters, crabs, oysters, flounders, sturgeons, stingrays, squid, and octopus from the “Under The Sea” song-and-dance number of The Little Mermaid.

When I am thinking in sounds, this is what I see in my mind:

I like to hear sounds and make sounds, strong, simple, and pure, pure, pure sounds, and a song-and-dance number down the street in the rain always clears my mind, clearstalcrys.

Song-and-dance numbers down the street in the rain, song-and-dance numbers through the fields in the snow, more people should do them. They clear the mind, clearstalcrys. I think that they could be good for world peace.

The Visual System (Part 2)

In Part 1, I gave an example of how I like to learn about a topic, any topic.

In my example, I learned about the visual system from a visual system.

In my experience, the visual system of the picture story is one of the most effective learning materials that I have used.

In my opinion, picture stories could be used to teach more kinds of people more kinds of things. In particular, they could be used to teach people academic subjects like neuroscience and functional skills like cooking dinner. In particular particular, they could be used to teach the same person both neuroscience and cooking dinner. In particular particular particular, that lucky charmy person could be me.

This picture story is about why picture stories work for me, and maybe others too.

For me, picture stories work, because picture stories have lots of pictures.

I learn well from pictures, because pictures are easy for me to suck into my brain and spew out of my brain. I am good at storing the pictures that I see, and I am good at retrieving the pictures that I store. In my brain, the storage and retrieval of pictures are eezy breezy, speedy feedy operations, and such has been the case for as long as I can remember. I have an excellent visual memory, and I remember most of the pictures that I see. I am better at remembering pictures than videos or scenes from real life. I may or may not remember a video, but freeze-frame it, frame-by-frame, and I will remember the frames, one-by-one. I may or may not remember a real-life scene, but photograph it, click click click, and I will remember the photographs, clickety-click.

I will remember the pictures in a picture story.

Remembering is a big part of learning.

Not only do picture stories have lots of pictures, but picture stories have lots of versions of the same picture. This is because the picture story maker is lazy, verry merry berry. To make a picture story, it is easier for the picture story maker to make lots of versions of the same picture than lots of different pictures. In my picture story about the visual system, I made fifteen different versions of the same flat cat to show the parts of the visual system, then a couple more to show the whole.

In my visual memory, the versions are stored and retrieved effortlessly, one-by-one, click click click. In my mind is a big book of pictures, and it is and has always been effortless for me to add pictures to the book, get pictures from the book, play with pictures in the book, and make pictures for the book. It doesn’t matter how many different versions of the same flat cat that I see. I like seeing them, over and over and over, again and again and again, repeat repeat repeat, and I learn well from them, click click click. Eezy Breezy, Speedy Feedy, Kreepy Keepy, my brain sucks them in to prowl, pounce, and purrr, happily ever after, in my big picture book.

I am a picture thinker, and thinking in pictures is my strength.
Moar Moar Moar, the moar pictures, the bester.

I like repetition, and repetition is my strength.
Moar Moar Moar, the moar pictures, the bester.

Picture stories work for me by using my strengths.

Alternatively, I could have been lazier, moar moar moar. Instead of making fifteen different versions of the same flat cat to show the parts, one-by-one, I could have made one flat cat to show the whole, the big picture. Then, I could have described the big picture in the text, the big block of text separate from the picture that the text describes, so I could have written a textbook instead.

I didn’t do that, because I hate that. I hate learning that way, from big blocks of text with few pictures, the text separate from the pictures that the text describes. I hate textbooks. I hate their text, and I hate their pictures. Their text is long and boring, and their pictures are ugly and cluttered. It is hard for me to learn anything that I don’t already know from the text and pictures of a textbook. There is too much krap in the text, and there is too much krap in the pictures. Reading the krappy text, all krapped all over with krap, is a krappy non-learning experience, and so is seeing the krappy pictures, all krapped all over with krap. Krap, there is too much of it hitting me in the face all at the same time from the text and pictures of a textbook. I prefer it to land on my head, one blob at a time, instead.

In a picture story, the krap lands on my head, one blob at a time, instead. Unlike the pictures in a textbook, the pictures in a picture story are simple, showing only one thing at a time, the one thing that I am learning about at the time. For each picture showing one thing, there is a blurb of text telling a few things about the one thing in the picture. If I want to tell a few more things about the one thing, then I need to make another picture to show the one thing about which I want to tell a few more things. For each picture showing one thing, I am only allowed to tell a few things about it in the text. This way, I can learn all the krap that I want to learn, blob-by-blob, and I can get out of the way of too much krap hitting me in the face, covering up my eyes, and shutting down my brrrainzzz, my beautiful precious brrrainzzz.

Picture.
Text.

Picture.
Text.

Picture.
Text.

This is the alternating pattern of pictures and words in a picture story, each combination of picture and text representing one concept at a time, the sequence of concepts telling the story of the system from the parts to the whole. It doesn’t matter what the system is, whether the visual system of the brain (qoooooool) or the chicken pot pie system (yum yum yum) or the pineapple upside-down cake system (yum yum yum) or the Thanksgiving Dinner Food Fest system (yum yum yum yum yum yum yum) or the gingerbread house for German class system (droooooool) or the Ramen noodle every night system (yum yum yum yum yuck yuck yuck).

From the parts, build up the whole, one part at a time.
From the parts, build up the whole, one picture for a part.
From the parts, build up the whole, one blurb for a picture.

In my general overview of the visual system, each of the parts was seen, one part at a time. The whole was built up from the parts, one picture for a part and one blurb for a picture. The whole was seen fifteen times, each time that each part was seen. By the end of the story, all the parts had been seen, one-by-one, and the whole from the parts many times, so the end, not the beginning, was where the big picture showed all the parts all at once in the whole.

See the parts, one at a time.
See the whole, many times.

See the whole from the parts, one at a time.
See the parts in the whole, all at the same time.

Is it burrrrrrrned into your brrrainzzz yet?

Into mine, it is.

For me, the visual system of the picture story works, for the reasons pictured in this story. Not only does it work, but it plays. It is not work, but play, to learn this way, because it is fun and easy and natural. When I am learning this way, there is nothing unnatural for me to overcome. There are no big blocks of text to read. I hate reading big blocks of text. There are no ugly cluttered pictures to see. I hate seeing ugly cluttered pictures. There are no people talking at me. There are no people looking at me. There are no people hovering over me. There are no people hanging around me. There are no people in my presence. I hate having people in my presence when I learning something. The presence of people interferes with the functioning of my beautiful precious brrrainzzz, and I learn much better alone and on my own, paper to brain or screen to mind.

Paper to brain or screen to mind, there are only pictures and words, strong and simple and pure. See the pictures, click click click. Read the words, clickety-click. Pictures and words, suck them in, Thhhewww, Thhhewww, Thhhewww, (frog-tongued frog-food sucking noises). Pictures and words, spew them out, Pewww, Pewww, Pewww (poison dart frog poison-dart spewing noises).

Thhhewww! Thhhewww! Thhhewww!

Pewww! Pewww! Pewww!

Mewww! Mewww! Mewww!

Unlike people, cats don’t interfere with the functioning of my beautiful precious brrrainzzz.

Instead, they help, and that is why they are all over the picture stories of my blog.

The other reason is that I am totally obsessed with them. I am totally obsessed with cats and brrrainzzz, and my one and only autistic savant skill is superimposing cats and brrrainzzz onto each other.

Aren’t they quuute? Aren’t they qoooooool?

Worries, if they’re not. I’m sure that you’ll be seeing them again…and again…and again…click click click click click click click!

The Visual System (Part 1)

I am a visual learner, and I learn well from pictures.

In particular, I learn well from picture stories, which are sequences of pictures and words in an alternating pattern:

Picture.
Text.

Picture.
Text.

Picture.
Text.

Recently, I have been learning about visual perception, and I would like to share what I learned in the way that I like to learn things. This is a general overview of the visual system, as shown and told in a picture story about the structures and functions of the eyes and the brain with which we see.

Naturally, it starts with a cat…

…a flat cat.

The flat cat is a plane through the brain, and we are looking at the brain plane from the top down to see the basic layout of the visual system.

In the visual system, seeing starts with the eyes.

The eyes collect and focus the light of the world as an image on the retina, a layer of photosensitive tissue at the back of the eye that serves the same function as the image sensor of a digital camera.

On the retina, the focused image is upside-down and left-right reversed, so the right side of the world is seen with the left sides of both eyes, and the left side of the world is seen with the right sides of both eyes.

In the retina, millions of photoreceptor cells absorb the light of the image, convert it into electrical signals, and transmit the signals to nerve cells that relay the visual data into the brain. Along the nerve fibers of nerve cells, the data travel out of the eyes, into the brain, and from the front of the brain to the back of the brain.

The journey starts with the optic nerve, the bundle of fibers that initially exits the eye.

At this stage, the fibers from the left and right sides of each eye travel together, and so do the data from the left and right sides of the world.

At the optic chiasma, the fibers split, and so do the data from the two sides of the world.

The fibers from the left side of the left eye go to the left side of the brain, the uncrossed fibers carrying the data from the right side of the world.

The fibers from the right side of the right eye go to the right side of the brain, the uncrossed fibers carrying the data from the left side of the world.

The fibers from the right side of the left eye cross over to the right side of the brain, the crossed fibers carrying the data from the left side of the world.

The fibers from the left side of the right eye cross over to the left side of the brain, the crossed fibers carrying the data from the right side of the world.

As a result, the fibers from the left sides of both eyes go to the left side of the brain, and the fibers from the right sides of both eyes go to the right side of the brain. Because the image on the retina is left-right reversed, the left side of the brain processses the right side of the world, and the right side of the brain processes the left side of the world.

This is the general pattern of left-right reversal with which the brain interacts with the body and the world.

Beyond the optic chiasma, the fibers travel through the optic tract, each set of fibers carrying data from one side of the world.

At the thalamus, the fibers terminate and transmit their signals to the cells of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), a structure of the thalamus that is specialized for visual processing, as other structures of the thalamus are specialized for sensory processing in other sensory systems.

In the LGN, the crossed and uncrossed fibers terminate in different layers, where the data are processed in different ways on their way to the cerebral cortex, the big folded sheet of the big hoooman brain, and the part of our hoooman brains that makes us hooomans particularly smart.

Following processing, the cells of the LGN project their fibers to the back of the brain, as the optic radiation between the thalamus and the cortex.

In the back of the brain, the fibers terminate in the primary visual cortex (V1) of the occipital lobe, the region of the cerebral cortex that is specialized for visual processing.

Here, the cells of the cortex process the data that have traveled all the way through the brain, from the literal eyes at the front of the head to the figurative eyes in the back of the head, into an internal mental representation of the external physical world.

How this is done is mostly unknown, but it is hypothesized that the visual data are processed at higher and higher levels of complexity as they travel through V1 to the rest of the visual cortex, from V1 to V2 to V3 to V4 to V5, and the rest of the brain, from the occipital lobe to the temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes. In addition, connections from the top-down, from the temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes, feedback into the occipital lobe to affect visual processing in the visual cortex.

What a mess! A hot mess!

I googled the meaning of this expression just now, and it fits a bit, I wit.

In one hypothesis of visual processing, different pathways through the brain specialize in processing different kinds of information about the world. According to the Two Streams Hypothesis, visual data travels in two such streams beyond the occipital lobe.

In the ventral stream, data travels from the occipital lobe to the temporal lobe, where objects are recognized, categorized, and attended, the better to spot, identify, and desire the catnip in your field of view, if only you could get there to use and abuse it.

In the dorsal stream, data travels from the occipital lobe to the parietal lobe, where objects are placed in space, and movements to them coordinated, the better to pounce, paw, lick, and chew the catnip in the cabbage patch under the mango tree. Do these species of plants all grow together in the same place for you to pounce and paw in crazed catnipped eggsitement? Who knows? Who cares, as long as there is plenty of catnip to be had by all, purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr?

The dorsal stream is also called the “where” pathway for its role in spatial awareness, and the ventral stream is also called the “what” pathway for its role in object identification.

So there you have it, the whats and wheres of the visual system and its parts, rinsed and repeated in fifteen different versions of the same flat cat, and built up from the parts to the whole in a picture story that is an effective learning material for me, and perhaps you too.

In Part 2, I am going to blog about why I like to learn this way, from picture stories onscreen or onpaper, what that has to do with how I see, think, and learn in general, and how this kind of material can be used by all kinds of people to learn all kinds of things.

Meanwhile, here is a summary of the visual system for your visual system:

Is it burrrrrrrned into your brrrainzzz yet?

No worries, if it’s not. I’m sure that you’ll be seeing it again…and again…and again…purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr purrr…