Doing Things Differently

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(I wrote this last night, for the blog carnival thing, am posting it this morning.)

One great example of that was found tonight while helping Laura do photography. I was worn out to the point where voluntary body movement was slowing to a crawl. I was the only one of us remotely capable of getting a couple calendars down off the wall we’d hung them on. Laura cannot climb things, period.

I knew that with voluntary movement I was screwed, I could not climb something. But I have an excellent climbing autopilot — put me in a climbing situation and it nearly always turns on. So with the voluntary movement I tipped myself over towards the thing I was starting to climb on. As I expected, this activated my “climb” instinct and I climbed up (stepping fairly agilely onto the arms then back of a couch and balancing there), grabbed the two things, climbed back down, and froze again.

That’s a good example to start off an entry on doing things differently, which is the topic of the next disability blog carnival.

Sometimes I see it as, there is a great reservoir at the back of my head somewhere. All the information goes into it. Thinking, moving, perceiving, anything.

I can, for instance, read a book. And I will not be able to answer any questions you have about the book right after I read it. I will not have any particular understanding of it that I can pull out. (Unless it’s a very specific kind of book.) But within hours, days, months, or years, all the information pools in the back of my mind.

Then, I cannot pull out that information at will, but when a topic triggers it, I might spit out entire paragraphs of whatever I had been reading, or else even paraphrased, the ideas will come out.

I have been taught, and taught, and taught, life skills, over and over again, in various programs designed to teach people life skills. The stuff from the programs doesn’t stick. However, since having more hands-on assistance in the shower, my body has picked up the pattern and can now rinse itself and do a few other things.

My most natural way of looking at the world is through patterns of sensation and movement through space and spatial stuff in general, not through the clunky world of words or word-like symbols that most people seem to use. If I stick to those things, there is a lot I can perceive that most people have trouble perceiving. Including socially.

By “including socially”, I mean that when I am around a group of people, their voices may turn into the sound of water, their movements may all sort of blend together, but in their movements I see patterns not only of individuals but of the people interacting within a group, and the individual’s place within the group, and their effect on the group and the group’s effect on them, and on each other. I see this particularly well when not trying to understand what they’re saying to each other.

I know this goes against all the autism literature, but there’s at least one great failing in the tests that use language to assess something that I, for one, cannot do at the same time as language, and in fact have no words for. How can they test a skill they don’t know that exists in the first place? How can they test a skill in language where a person cannot do it while also doing language? If I am using language I am pouring all my effort into that.

It’s when the deliberateness and super-consciousness and direct symbolic contemplation and all that other stuff comes in that I get lost and confused. Deliberate movement can be totally not there, but automatic movements will still be if triggered. Same with deliberate memory, deliberate perception of things put into categories, etc.

Many times I have to use the deliberate whatever-things to drag myself to the next non-deliberate whatsit to keep things going. (This is one reason I have so many things to do at any one time, because I never know which one will allow doing something that day, so I rotate.)

So there are many times when I am doing the same thing superficially, but coming at it from a totally different angle than most people do. And there are many times when I am doing something lots of people don’t realize is possible to do. I know I have written about things like this before, but this really is the main way I do things differently. There’s a lot more detail, but I can’t, deliberately, fill it in right now. Go figure.

Now off to submit this.

(By the way, speaking of stuff getting done, I know I owe several people emails at the moment. To the person I owe the particularly long email: it’s long (I hit page down 20 times to get to the end of it in my email program) and getting longer, I’m working on it every day. The person who wrote the biography I posted, I’ve meant to send other emails to for awhile. Etc. I also seem to be neglecting a couple close friends at the moment, email-wise. But I haven’t forgotten people.)

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

3 responses »

  1. I can, for instance, read a book. And I will not be able to answer any questions you have about the book right after I read it. I will not have any particular understanding of it that I can pull out. (Unless it’s a very specific kind of book.) But within hours, days, months, or years, all the information pools in the back of my mind.

    Then, I cannot pull out that information at will, but when a topic triggers it, I might spit out entire paragraphs of whatever I had been reading, or else even paraphrased, the ideas will come out.

    I just explained this (to an extent) to my boss when we went out for lunch today. I read things and then I remember them… but it sometimes shocks me what I know, because random facts get triggered and I don’t even realise I know things until that happens.

    The rest I do understand, to an extent. The “chaining” phenomenon, where if you do one thing, then you naturally move on to whatever comes next in the chain, and so on and so forth. I have little chains like that built into my days and am continually working on developing more.

    But it’s all about learning yourself well enough that you can do such things and find success in what you’re trying to achieve.

  2. Thanks for sharing this — it was both intriguing and poetic. I don’t think I can see the social patterns you’re talking about through direct observation; NTs seem to require videos slowed down and watched over and over again in order even to glimpse these patterns. I’m thinking specifically of sections of Malcolm Gladwell’s book BLINK about the human social dance that happens regardless of explicit verbal communication, everyone making tiny movement in synch with each other… I was astounded and fascinated to read about it, but I’ve never really been able to *see* it.

    Huh. You’re right, it really does beg the question of who is qualified to “test skills,” and how, and what skills to choose to test in the first place.

  3. Hi amanda, your appearance on tv inspired me and let me know so much about the autistic people i’ve met. I’ve been told im about 5% autistic myself, although i consider myself a fully functional individual i had a number of problems as a kid, thought patterns, obsessive compulsive rituals, and ADHD.

    My question is about the paranormal. I’ve had a number of unexplainable events in my life: I can sense the presense of other people or animals; usually sensitive enough to tell how big the life form is and sometimes direction, I can sometimes read the surface thoughts in other peoples minds; never by force though only when i don’t expect it or i am very relaxed. I am very interested to know if you have ever had similar experiences. In your TV segment you said that meaning was already known, I immediatly thought of this as some higher form of communication and it seemed like this was played down in the broadcast as foolishness.
    Any response or comment is welcome.

    P.S. I think you are very brave to allow so many people a window into your life.

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