Aspergers/autism is seeing a needle, and then a minute later possibly noticing the haystack.
This is so accurate it almost hurts.
I don’t understand this
it means you pick up on weird extremely esoteric little details about things while completely overlooking what seems most obvious to everybody else
like. someone asks a silly question and you think and give it a really serious comprehensive answer, while everyone else realizes it was a joke. or you have to do this really repetitive mind-numbing task, and you’re halfway done before someone walks by and tells you you’re doing it “wrong” and theres actually a much simpler/more common way to do it, which didnt even occur to you but seems self-explanatory to allistic ppl. that type of thing
Autistic brains analyse bottom-up, while other people their brains analyse top-down.
In one of the books about autism that I have, their is a picture that illustrates this perfectly. It’s an illustration of a forest with the trees vaguely drawn but all the little details like a mouse and mushrooms are drawn in great detail. The explanation next to the illustration was the following; When a person with ASD walks into a forest, his/her brain starts to collect information to create a context just all the other kinds of brains do, but the autistic brain starts at the bottom. First it sees the mushrooms, then some leafs, a bird flying by, the bushes, … Meanwhile the not-autistic brain in the same situation will notice the large group of trees first. The non-autistic brain will think “Ah a big group of trees, this is probably a forest”, and then goes on searching for details that confirms this and adds more information. At the same time, the autistic brain still doesn’t know it is in a forest, however, it does know it is somewhere where there are mushrooms and wild animals. The brain will continue to look for details until it finally reaches the point it notices the trees and other obvious signs you are in a forest.
TL;DR/ An autistic brain uses details to create a big picture of a situation. A non-autistic brain will use the general context to create the big picture.
This difference in processing information has some consequences, like @marxism-sjwism already mentioned.
Other occurring ‘problems’ are f.e.: doing tasks slower, getting tired easily*, becoming overstimulated when there is too much information, headaches, intolerant of bright colors/loud sounds/touch/smells/taste**, having difficulties doing a certain task because the details weren’t explained to you, getting stressed out because a detail changed in a situation***,…
*Because an autistic brain processes a lot more information than any other brain, it also demands a lot of energy from its body. Sadly, the human body can’t provide the energy this kind of brain needs. As a result, most, if not every, person with ASD gets tired quickly and needs hours, or even days, of relaxation to reload its batteries. Especially after big events like going to a party f.e. (I myself need a lot of sleep).
**Because the autistic brain gets its information from details, it has hardly any filters. When a non-autistic person is at a party and talking to someone, his/her brain wil cancel out other inputs so it can focus on the conversation. An autistic-brain doesn’t do this, or if it does, it isn’t doing a good job. When a person with ASD is at the same party, talking to the same person as the the person without ASD, he/she will have difficulties understanding the conversation and keeping focused, because the brain isn’t canceling out all the other information. The conversation a nearby group of people is having will be equally as loud as the conversation he/she is participating in. This also means that a person with ASD can get easily distracted. F.e.: I was talking with someone, when suddenly I could hear two people talking in the room next door. It was a muffled noise and I could not understand what they were saying, but it was enough to distract me and render me unable to keep focused on my own conversation, resulting in me forgetting what I was saying mid sentence over and over again. Anyway, worst case scenario, if there is to much information for the autistic-brain to handle, it will become overstimulated, and this overstimulation often results in a fight-or-flight reaction. This behavior is often illustrated in mainstream media by an autistic child who suddenly becomes unmanageable, crying, kicking, screaming, … often at public places like a supermarket. Not every person with ASD will throw a tantrum when becoming overstimulated, some shut down, some start crying (like I do), some get angry, … It’s important to understand that this person is not being an asshole because he/she wants too, or that the child is not badly raised. These people their brains have triggered a natural instinct and their is nothing they can do about that except obey it. Best thing to do is to remove them from the situation to another less stimulating environment where they can calm down.
***Last but not least, there is another important consequence of having a brain that gets its information from details: it doesn’t recognize a same situation when a detail is changed. This causes difficulties in many different kinds of situations and it can occur in many different ways. A person with ASD will find it difficult to drive a different (brand of) car than he/she is used too, because, even though it’s a car and all cars operate the same, small details like a different dashboard layout can be confusing and stressful. A more extreme example is when the barman in a pub you frequent always wears a red shirt, but one day he wears a blue one. The change in color is enough for the autistic brain to think this is a completely different and new situation and thus it operate as if this is a new situation. This is why people with ASD can be insecure in situations that should be no big deal. Or why people with ASD seem to forget how to do a certain task, or lose their shit while any other person quickly adapts, all because something is different. Or also why they keep asking for explanation on how to do a certain task even though they have been doing it for months.
All these things are mostly downsides of having an autistic brain but it also has its benefits. People with ASD notice details much easier and faster which can come in handy when doing certain jobs. They also make different connections and come to new ideas that others never would’ve thought of.
The work they do is often more correctly because they pay attention to details, include details, or want to make sure it is 100% the way it should be because their brain only takes peace with that. Consequently, a lot of people on the spectrum also have a high sense of justice and are good detectives, insurance agents, police(wo)men, lawyers, mystery shoppers, …
A brain like this makes these people also excellent at IT, gaming, art, music, programming, math, bookkeeping, science, sorting, systematization,…
Sadly, people on the spectrum are often still seen as a problem instead as and added value. Like Temple Grandin often says; The world needs to realize it needs different kinds of brains to work together to reach greater heights.
…wow. this explains sooooo much. thanks for the addition
Jumping in: Temple Grandin once described the thought processes of someone with an ASD, and it fits in with this and is SUPER COOL.
Imagine you ask two people to draw a dog. One does not have an ASD, and one has an ASD.
The person without ASD thinks about the word “dog” and draws a very generalized dog. The brain complies the symbols that make up “dog”, out of all the dogs they’ve ever seen, and you get floppy ears, waggy tail, four legs, long body, a doggo snoot, etc.
The person WITH an ASD thinks about the word dog and draws a specific dog. Their brains go through basically a visual file folder that holds an accurate picture of EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL DOG THEY HAVE EVER SEEN. From there, they decide on WHICH dog means “dog” to them at that moment, and draw it. That dog is a specific dog, with a name, who existed.
IDK man, but that is cool as shit to me
all these generalizations of “The Autistic Brain” are … well, about as bogus as overgeneralizations tend to be.
like, okay, i’m one of those [can’t see the forest for the mushrooms] autistics, but husband is more noticeably autistic than me and he is TOTALLY a big picture person. weird thing is, i get accused of being a big picture person all the time, because i know how much i hyperfocus on details and so i actively try to see the big picture.
this is just one tiny anecdotal example (the irony of which is not lost on me) of how these overgeneralizations leave out lots of very autistic autistics. husband is not the only big-picture autistic i know, but one of MANY.
also if you ask me to draw a dog i will draw a cartoon of a generalized dog. this may be partly because the detail dogs i see in my head are beyond my drawing skill level! ;)
Temple Grandin described autistics as if we all thought like her. newsflash, we don’t. the fact is that there is as much variation among autistics as there is among people in general.
others could probably explain better than me but i don’t know who has spoons right now so if you’re autistic and you want to add to this, please do.
Last commentator is right although usual caveats in ref. Finding Yourself in someone else’s narrative and going “that’s totes me tho” and feeling Better because of it and that being legit too.
If you ask me to draw a dog I will tell you to go and find someone who likes drawing, which is either a fundamental missing of the point or a lunge straight to the heart of the point: take your pick.
This is one of the many Things I Do, and I’m sorry for talking about Things I Do, but I can’t speak for the lived experiences of others and I try not to do that to people I actually respect. I wonder, sometimes, if that’s a theory of mind thing - if you have to make an effort to think as the other thinks, you realise that you’re stretching?
(While I’m thinking about Things I Do: the Thing about not being able to recognise situations when change has occurred? Yes. This is why I am terrible at finding things. I know where my keys go. They go in a pocket. Once I’ve checked every pocket I can find I have no fucking idea where else to look, because I have checked all the places where the keys go.)
I suppose another take-home from this is that aspies, autists and full spectrum rainbow warriors tend to be total woolgatherers. It… is hard, sometimes, to follow the connections between this thing and that thing, especially if some parallel process has fired it off because it’s finished thinking that thing through and there’s no other connection between this thing and that thing…
… and this is probably all stuff that happens to allistics too, because it always is. Every time I think I have a grasp of this diagnosable and definable condition I am told that no, that experience is neurotypical, try again.
A critical mass of these traits amounts to a diagnosis but none of these traits are innately Autistic Traits. I forget who wrote that paper on autistic behaviours (it’ll come up when I next have to write something about ASD and its theoretical/clinical ‘origin story’) but that was a major thing and this is a major trend within the various professional discourses: there are no behaviours which are unilaterally, always and forever, Things Only Autists Do.
I remember something which really sticks out to me, even 20 years on.
I was 10 years old, and flipping through a ‘spot the difference’ book. There were two pictures, very similar, of macaq monkeys in a Japanese hot spring. I picked out missing monkeys in the background, snow on one monkey’s head and not on the other’s, bushes changed, etc.
My mother leant over and went, “Yeah but you did notice it’s snowing in one picture and not the other?”