Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thinking in Patterns

Got the brain-seed to write this from Autistic Thinking, a new tumblr that I think is important.

No, I don't think all autistic people think in patterns. I'm writing, tonight, specifically about the way that I think.
Not what I think. How I think.

I think in patterns. It's usually through language of some sort (yes I consider mathematics to have a language, flavored by but not the same as whatever language is being used to define and describe it, no I can't describe it better than that because every description that's intelligible to anyone besides me would be communicated in one of the languages used to define and describe it.) It's not always through a language, just usually.

Sometimes it's through visual stuff, but this requires the visual stuff be physically in front of me. I can sort of manipulate an image in my head, at least along certain patterns (rotations, reflections, translations, stretching and shrinking, often moving parts.) But I can't create a mental-only visual representation, generally. (So I don't have pictures in my head.) So I can create cool geometric pattern-based art, as long as I'm actually creating it on paper or on a computer screen or drawing lines in the sand or any other medium where I get an image in front of me, and I can say if something looks right/not right in terms of matching a prior pattern, but I can't pull up the image of the prior pattern and I can't create a design in my head to draw later. In terms of the rotations, reflections, stretching and shrinking this means I am calculating where each piece goes after the transformation and then drawing it, but unless I actually draw it or match it to an already drawn one someone offered as a choice, I don't have a picture in my head.

The visual version of my pattern thinking is probably responsible for my pile of four-, five-, and six-leaf clovers. I see the patterns in how three-leaf clovers are, and then I see breaks in the pattern, and oh hey that's probably a clover with extra leaves.

Sometimes it's through pitches and timing, like with music. I can't recreate everything playing my head, not by a long shot, but if you could? A lot of times, I have essentially an audio recording of something in my head [only if I remember at all, which is really iffy. I have good pattern recognition thanks to my thinking in/through patterns, but this does not mean good, consciously accessible memory.] This relates to me and music, but it also relates to me and language.

And now that's language. That's where a lot of my thinking happens, though switching languages mid-thought is totally a thing. (Like even when I'm using English I kind of want to call things 委婉 (wei wan), which is a lot like subtle/indirect. I'm generally complaining when I want to call things 委婉, by the way.) My language is very pattern-based. If I'm writing a sentence that I've heard a friend say before, I'm very likely to be "hearing" that recording in my head as I write it. When I'm writing a story or a poem or an essay, I pull out sentence patterns and idea patterns that I've seen before. Not like the five-paragraph essay sort of pattern, that's one that my mind never seemed to get along with that well though I did know how to do it, but in terms of "these ideas fit together well" or "this word/sort of sentence goes well with that word/sort of sentence" or "this phrase and this idea work nicely."

Sometimes that turns into echolalia, and sometimes it's an echolalic style or echolalic language use without really being what most people mean behavior-wise by echolalia. (It's never what therapists mean, interpretation-wise. Never. Even when I am repeating the last word of a sentence or the subject of a sentence, it has meaning, and includes my having understood what was said.) Because sometimes it's a pattern of "I know how this kind of sentence works on that idea, and now I'm going to substitute my own idea in, with words to match." That's how I got the title for this post. That's how some of my poetry happens too. [Beware the choice! Beware refusing it!/You beware my choice. You should beware refusing it.] The first comes from Young Wizards, which is a series I love. The second? Those are my words. And the contexts, the meanings? I think they're different in pretty significant ways, but the word patterns are similar.

And then there's the actual repeating of words, shortly after the other person says them. If a person asks me, "Do you want X?" or "Do you X?" or one of many variations on that sort of question, it's not really a yes or no question for me. It's an X or no question for me. [Yes I call them X or no questions in my own head, pulling from one of the ways people talk about math, where X is a variable.] In terms of repeating the nouns from sentences in general, ones that aren't questions, it's more like how other people will say "yeah" or "uh-huh" or nod to show that they're listening. I'll noun.

Because I think in patterns like this, I tend to... think in patterns. Less so examples. I often need to be reminded to include those. [I just remembered that I should probably give an example of an X or no question, not just the models of how those questions are built.]  Sometimes I get asked if I want ice cream. I often answer  "冰淇淋!" (bingqilin) or "巧克力冰淇淋!" (qiaokeli bingqilin.) Those are "ice cream!" and "chocolate ice cream!" in Mandarin Chinese, respectively, though I'm leaving out tone marks here just like I did with 委婉 (wei wan) because I don't actually know how to type those. And also in terms of the examples thing: I will often have the pattern in parts of my memory that I can call up at will, but the examples can only be called up by very specific things, which usually aren't "being asked." Something that fits in the same pattern might call the memory up for me, even if I didn't know I remembered it, though.

The patterns get to be an issue in social situations, sometimes. Because I work in patterns, I tend to follow said patterns. Breaking a pattern takes effort. If I'm low on energy, I might not be able to, but that's also when I likely need to break script and push my own needs. This means learning new patterns is important, but that also takes energy. It's an interesting cycle, and I think I'm making progress. 

1 comment:

  1. Thinking in Patterns: an example-
    When my daughter, Moxie was 2 years old, she was playing in her little toy kitchen and had a storybook open in front of pretending to be following a cookbook as she stirred her play bowl w the toy wooden spoon.
    I asked what she was up to — she answered, "I am following the reci-Q" LOL I realized instantly she meant following the RECI-P but her brain had associated the alphabet to the word so instead of it being a reci-p it was a a reci-Q!!!
    This must be a thinking in patterns example!


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