Waaaaay Too Long!

It has been along time! Lots has happened, but I will start with the first major item.

My lovely K was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome 2 years ago. Asperger’s is now included on the Autism Spectrum and is not a separate diagnosis. The following is the best explanation that I have seen. After 2 long years, she is finally considered “stable”. She still has her quirks, which I love, but the high and lows are less dramatic.

L 🙂

Aspergers: The often hidden social disability

I think what neurotypical people (especially teachers and parents) need to realize is that part of the main reason why people on the spectrum have difficulty relating is the neurological differences. Our brains have strong neurological connections between the different brain centers that allow these centers to simultaneously communicate with each other. This is what allows us to process multiple information simultaneously, most of which is at a subconscious level, requiring minimal mental energy.

On the other hand, for people on the spectrum, the neurological pathways between the brain centers are not well developed, making it harder for the centers to communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to process multiple information simultaneously. Whereas we rapidly process this information, at a subconscious (intuitive) level, people on the spectrum have to process “sequentially”, a little at a time, at a conscious level. They have to think through what we do intuitively without thinking. They can eventually arrive at the same understanding, but it is going to take longer (delayed processing) and require a lot more mental energy (since they have to consciously process it).

This drastically effects interacting with others (relating). When we interact with someone we have to rapidly process multiple information simultaneously. When listening to the others we are processing the words they are saying, the context for which they are spoken, the tone and inflection in voice, facial expressions, physical gestures, and body language to understand what the person said and meant. We rapidly read all this information to understand the person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. At the same time that we are processing what the other person is saying, we are formulating how we think and feel about it, plus how we are going to respond back. At the same time we are replying back, we also are reading their nonverbal cues to see if they understand and are staying interested.

In order for us to focus on the topic of conversation, we have to process most of this “nonverbal” information (facial expressions, body gestures, fluctuation in voice, etc) subconsciously, with minimal mental energy. This allows us to relate with others without much effort. However, for people on the spectrum, they have process bits of this information sequentially and at a conscious level; thinking it all through. Since they cannot process this information simultaneously the processing is delayed and often inadequate, making it difficult to read the “big picture.” To try and keep up with the conversation, they can process a small portion of this information, often missing much of the meaning. Sometimes by time the person has processed what was said and formulated a response to it, the interaction has moved on to different content. Consequently, between not getting all the information and having delayed processing, their responses are often out-of-sync with others. For the person on the spectrum, this can be very mentally and emotionally draining. This inability to rapidly process multiple information simultaneously is a major reason for many of the social struggles that people on the spectrum experience.

Although this is common for everyone on the spectrum, for children with aspergers this deficit can be difficult to read. They can be very bright but still have this processing problem. This is hard for people to understand. They assume that since the child is bright and very verbal, that they must “intentionally choose” to misinterpret instructions and act differently than others. Much of the aspergers is a hidden disability; masking their difficulties. That’s why awareness training for significant people in the child’s life can be important.

From Autism Discussion Page, Facebook