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50 Shades Accomodating Autism Communication Sensory Processing Symptoms Verbal Written

50 Shades of Autistic Thinking, Pt 2: Verbal Processing

What could be more basic to human experience than…
Speech…?

Mebbe, just mebbe… I’m not precisely… human.

Every day, my nonautistic friends teach me desperately amazing lessons about my own autistic mind.

What could be more basic to human experience than…

Speech…?

Simply speaking & understanding…

Words?

Mebbe, just mebbe…

I’m not  precisely… human.

Most people simply can not… may not be able… to understand the impact of verbal processing difficulties for many #ActuallyAutistic & other folks…

It’s a weird form of quasi-deafness. Cognitive deafness.

I was talking with a dear one a few days ago… and it became clear that… as close as we are…

She had no clue how disabling the innocent-sounding “verbal processing difficilties” tag on my autism diagnosis is…

Processing language… spoken & thought…

Is a struggle for many autistic folks. And, for some, may not be possible.

I’m not referring to nonspeaking autists, or to folks who experience selective mutism… altho I suspect there may be connections.

I mean the ability to encode and decode meaning thru the symbols we call words and grammar. Something that humans evidently perform essentially automatically, without conscious effort.

My friend just didn’t get it.

Now THAT really amazes me.

Cuz I don’t understand spoken language effortlessly. Never have. Never will.

Altho I’ve learned to compensate well enuff that casual strangers, even friends, may NEVER notice.

And I’m not alone. Not even exceptional. Among autists.

But it shapes my life in primal ways.

And as I explain, I can be gifted at comprehending the written word…

But I’m a man drowning in a tsunami of confusion trying to follow everyday speech.

  • I dwell on two major themes in this series on autistic thinking… Our uneven intellectual abilities and our gross differences in mind from most humans. Both come into play when we talk about language skills.

Let me spell it out for ya…   s l o w l y . . .

There are entire industries based on things I can’t do because processing spoken language is so labor intensive for me.

  • Podcasts… Can’t follow em. Without playing sections over and over.
  • YouTube instructional videos… same same.
  • Audio books…
  • TV news…
  • Political debates…
  • Sermons/inspirational & TED talks/seminars/webinars…
  • Verbal lists…
  • Phone messages…
  • Song lyrics… that one hurts. I’m a musician and poet.
  • Movies…
  • Plays/musicals…
  • Classroom learning, grade school thru grad school…
  • Employer discussions, particularly criticism…
  • Talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral…

All virtually wasted on me.

I can understand at most 3 spoken sentences at a time. If two are short…

Because of the elaborate translation and proper-response thinking I MUST go thru to understand… and participate.

And I can retain at most 3 things in a verbal list. May be some kind of memory processing issue.

How do I deal…?

  • So I watch or listen to recorded material over and over to understand info… or enjoy art like movies or poetry. I don’t even attempt short stories or… shudder… novels any more.
  • I take near verbatim notes. Cuz if info goes through my graphic centers I retain it nearly eidetically. Even if i never look at the notes again. (I can frequently pull up the image of my handwritten note as a memory and “read” it, if needed.)
  • I repeat things under my breath over and over to remember…
    • I talked to myself incessantly in grade school classes, repeating what teachers & classmates say, because if I run thoughts thru my verbal (declarative) centers I remember better. (Later I became a class clown, partially to mask this.) I substituted note taking as a strategy in high school and university.
  • I interrupt friends, speakers, teachers, bosses, doctors… frequently. Not only am I impulsive, I have attention difficulties… I believe I learned early unconscious techniques to break conversation into bite-sized pieces.
  • Whenever I can, I choose to read text over audio or video howtos… Because I’m said to be gifted in reading comprehension.

I deal as best I can.

But apparently…

Even dear ones don’t understand the impact this weird form of quasi-deafness has on our autistic lives.

Remember…

21st Century human communication is increasingly audio & video media oriented…

A world harder and harder for me to participate in.

So, I write like I do because it mirrors how I think. Short, image, sensation & emotion-laden bursts…

To invite you into MY world.


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