People on the Autism Spectrum Have to Learn Information That Neurotypical People Already Understand Instinctively

by Marc Segar

I personally believe that the best key to overcoming autism is understanding it. Autism is caused by various biochemical processes that affect the way the brain develops.

For some time I believed that the brains of people on the autism spectrum were structured slightly differently so that there is a greater tendency for neuronal impulses to travel up and down (literal thinking) and a lesser tendency for them to move sideways (lateral thinking). This phenomenon would be spread throughout the whole brain rather than being local to certain regions. Experiments with neural nets on computer systems have shown that nets which emphasise up and down movement of information (like in autistic brains) give excellent storage of detail but show less ability to distinguish things. Nets which empasize sideways movement of information show excellent distinguishing power but are note as good at storage.

On the much larger and more complex scale of the brain, this means that neurotypical people are more aware of plot but people on the autism spectrum are more aware of detail. People on the autism spectrum are better at logical problems but less intuitive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people on the autism spectrum should have brilliant memories, on the contrary they can often be quite absent minded about certain things. The heightened sensory awareness and constant recall of extra details, many of which are unimportant can be a never ending source of distraction to concentration and learning skills. It can be especially difficult to pick up information regarding the culture one lives in especially in today’s Western society which I feel is suffering from cultural overload.

What I now believe is similar to the above but slightly modified. I now feel that perhaps the root cause of autism is an increased bias towards the re-assessment of previous thoughts (hence the repetitions and rituals). Consequently the capacity for intuition and context awareness is reduced.

To assess a social situation, one needs to pick up on as many clues as possible and swiftly piece them together. The final deduction is often greater than the sum of its parts.

Also, a difficult thing for an autistic person is ‘finding a balance’ and this may show its self at all levels of behaviour and reasoning. The ability to adapt to the ‘situation continuum’ and conform to the surrounding world is however an extremely ancient survival strategy which is most relevant in the social sector of life.

If I could explain Asperger Syndrome in just one sentence it would be as follows:

People on the autism spectrum have to understand by association what non-autistic (neurotypical) people already understand instinctively.

– Although it is often true that autistic people are better at picking up details this is only when making a conscious effort to do so and there may be great problems in picking up the right details.

– Also getting absorbed into ones own head-space every other moment can make it extremely difficult to ‘learn things on the fly’ which is the way most non-autistic people are used to doing it.

– It might be difficult to join in a conversation if you don’t have the general knowledge which is needed. The problem with this kind of knowledge is that there is no one source from which you can find it out but here are some tips:

  • General knowledge in conversations is usually about sports, pop music, films, politics, the media, TV, peoples computers, clothes, hobbies and going out. It is however rare to find someone who is an expert on all of these things.
  • Many teenagers and young adults who are into music put more emphasis on the pop stars than they do on the music they write. Sometimes they even select their partners on the basis of who they look like in the world of music or sport. Sometimes with this type of person you just have to accept that you may not be compatible and look for friends elsewhere.
  • With reference to this last statement, sport can also be quite selective. Sport is often a highly patriotic occupation in that people are friendly to each other if they support the same team but argue with and confront all those who support different teams.
  • TV, radio, magazines, libraries, video libraries and newspapers can help you learn about these topics. Also many leaflets which can be found in magazines give you a list of all the most popular albums, CDs and films. to force yourself to learn about things which don’t interest you, however, may be a waste of time since you won’t really want to join in with the conversations about them.
  • If you decide to teach yourself the general knowledge you need in certain conversations it is important that you also try to learn by listening to the conversations themselves, paying special attention to famous people when they are mentioned. This can make the learning process much faster.

Copyright Marc Segar

Related Articles:

iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone Apps for Social Skills

How to Encourage Observational Learning for a Person on the Autism Spectrum

How People on the Autism Spectrum Learn

How Do We Learn?

Social Development in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Face Perception in Social Development in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Complete List of All Articles on Autism Spectrum Directory


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