I’ve been thinking a lot lately about thinking. Or more precisely how we all think.
If we are keeping track of theory of mind deficits, then it should be noted until a few years ago, when Charlie showed me differently, I assumed everyone’s thoughts in their heads worked much like mine do.
But, then things like this happen, the other day, when we are walking to camp and Charlie brings up a time a few years ago when we were camping out in the woods. We were walking as a family down a trail, with our dog on leash several paces ahead. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see something large and brown, at my eye level, leaping out of the woods towards our dog. In that split second, all I could think was some wild animal was attacking the dog and I screamed. But, the animal just continued across our path in a blur and disappeared into the woods.
It was just a deer, Mommy, Charlie teases me for panicking.
Yes, it probably was.
No, it definitely was, Mommy. Just rewind the tape in your head and then play it slowly and you can see it’s a deer jumping.
I remind him that I don’t have pictures and movies in my head, so I can’t do that.
O yeah, right, he remembers and then giggles embarrassed for me and the frailty of my brain.
He’s been telling me about these movies and pictures in his head since he was about three. At first, before I knew anything about autism or Temple Grandin or thinking in pictures, I worried he might be crazy. That was my best clinical term for it because I had no idea why he kept insisting these things were happening in his head.
I don’t know if he thinks completely in pictures as Temple Grandin does. I look forward to him getting older and explaining it all to me more.
It couldn’t be further from what goes on in my mind. When I remember things there are rarely images that I can recall. It is generally my own voice telling a narrative of what happened as if it’s a book that I’m reading. In fact my blog posts are generally just me writing down the narratives in my head verbatim. It is difficult for me to picture the images involved in the memory, even when I really try, yet my internal narratives may have specific descriptions of those images.
So, my internal narrative may talk about a big German Shepard with a small red ball, but I can’t recall what that actually looked like through images in my head.
I use that specific example because I’d love you to click over now and read Thinking In Pictures: What does it look like? from An Autistic Blogs about Autism. I came across this post a few months back in my wanders through the blogosphere and it simply blew my mind.
I don’t know if this is how it works for Charlie. But , I was very struck by how she talks about needing to stop people and ask more specific questions. Charlie will have long pauses often in conversation before answering you. It is clear he was listening and paying attention but there is something internal going on with processing we don’t yet understand. Could that be flipping through images?
He also does a lot of the questioning about details that seem irrelevant and I will admit it annoys me often because it seems that he is missing the point of what I am saying.
But, since reading this post I have had much more patience for these questions. I don’t understand why they are important yet, maybe I never will, but I can understand it is important.
So, I’m curious, what does thinking look like to you?