some thoughts about thinking

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?

You can’t be what you can’t see – world autism acceptance day

If you had asked me September 7, 2010 to name any adults with autism, I probably would have told you I had heard a story about Temple Grandin on NPR once and seen a few tv clips about some various savants I couldn’t name.

Then on September 8, 2010 my son was diagnosed with aspergers syndrome. I wasn’t expecting it and I knew very little about it. I remember the developmental pediatrician at the time telling us about her husband, who has aspergers, as a way of helping to orient us. I remember looking around her office, somewhat desperately, trying to see a picture of him. I needed to see a face, to know what this would look like, to feel like my son could be ok.

The weeks that followed I read everything I could get my hands on by Temple Grandin, Dawn Prince-Hughes, and John Elder Robison. It was a life line for me to feel that Charlie was not alone, that others had made their way successfully in the world before him.

I needed to see these faces and hear these voices.

But, it’s more than that.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

-Marian Wright Edelman

It’s about my son. I don’t want the only things he sees associated with the word autism to be words like




I want him to see the faces, hear the voices , hear the stories of autism.

All of them.

He needs these voices to be there. He needs to know that he is not the first kid who would rather talk about the cosmos than play soccer.  He needs to know when he sits alone on the school bus and the kids taunt him for being weird, that he is not alone, that others have overcome this before him. He needs someone to ask for strategies when the rooms are too loud and the smells are too strong.

He needs role models.

He needs community.

Because no matter how much I love him. No matter how much I try to learn, to understand, there are things that I will never get.

And when those things happen I am grateful that there are people out there who can understand him. That there are open arms of a diverse and rich community waiting to receive him.

I am thankful for those voices.

So, for world autism acceptance day today, I’d like to share a few of my favorite voices with you. Posts written by autistic bloggers, some of whom I am so pleased to call friends.

There are so many other voices out there, I could not get to them all, but I would urge you, if you have a favorite I missed, to please link up in the comments.


The Third Glance: Words and My Diagnosis Story Part 2: discovery and understanding and The Third Glance and, ok, I’ve said it before, you should read the whole blog. Really.

Aspie Kid: Two Autisms about the difference between the public perception of autism and his reality and how that can make it difficult to identify as autistic publicly.

nominatissima: the very touching Letter to D about an autistic boy she met in a daycare.

aspie rhetorSocializing through silence

Autistic HoyaLetter to the parents of autistic children

Inner Aspie: Different Perspectives: Eye Contact

A Quiet Week in the House: My Childhood: Part 1  and The Fan, a story of how her mother helped her overcome a fear.

Just Stimming….: I think this post may have reached iconic status by now but in case you haven’t read it:  Quiet Hands and Dear “Autism Parents”

Lyssa and Me: on what it feels like to shut down A bad day and on what it feels like not to see non verbal cues, People are terrifying

The Aspie Side of Life: Hiding in Plain Sight

i have aspergers: What Does Asperger’s Feel Like

quirky and laughing: some humor, Harnessing Superpowers and Aspie Mom Flunks First Grade

Norway Aspie: more humor The social rules of an aspie -society

The Autcast: 50 Inspiring Autistic People of 2011