A powerful message, and an interesting video


Recently, this was posted on Ballastexistenz. An interesting enough post in its own right, or I wouldn't have been prompted to comment on it with my own thoughts. However, the one I actually want to talk about is one mentioned in that post. Namely, "In My Own Language".

Though the mention of that post had me terribly curious, I first saw it when I was needing to be careful of bandwidth usage, so at the time I had to pass on watching a video of unknown length. Fortunately, though, because I commented on the post mentioning it, I have gotten periodic emails reminding me of its existence, including one this morning. With only a few more days before the bandwidth resets for the next month, finally I could dig out the post she's referring to and watch the video.

It was absolutely fascinating to watch, and yet in some ways equally frustrating. As I mentioned in my comments to the first post linked, this communication barrier that presents such a problem doesn't exist only between NTs and autists, but even between autists and other autists. It's like all NTs are on one frequency, maybe five or something at most, and autists are spread across the other hundred or more. Autists on the same frequency, or at least the right frequencies, can communicate incredibly well. Even just among those using the same method of communication, though (generally typing, for my personal experience), I have met those who actually communicate better with autists than they ever could with each other. Attempts to cross those frequencies led to more gross misunderstandings and fiery explosions than any attempt to talk with an NT did.

This was not so violent an interaction as all that, but it was still one of not-quite-matching frequencies, I think. On one hand, it was fascinating to watch and did strike a chord in me... but at the same time, it was unbelievably frustrating because it was also just beyond my comprehension. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that it made my brain itch, and that's a rather aggravating sensation, mostly because I can't just reach in and scratch it. It felt like I should have been able to understand entirely, and I almost could, but much like when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, it was just beyond my ability to grasp and form into a complete thought.

The latter half of the video, which did include text, made a very powerful and very true point. There is far from only one kind of thought in this world, and the kind NTs display is actually the more limited. After all, one of the big differences is that NTs are much better at filtering, seeing what they want to see and reducing the world to only one small segment of what is actually there. The problem with autists is that our filters are either poor, non-functioning or just unusual. Many deal with overload, due to difficulties narrowing their focus down to include only as much as they can actually process. Where an NT filters for human interactions and information, I am just as likely to take in what the cat is doing and saying as what you are doing and saying. Granted I'm a bit of a crazy cat lady, but that actually applies to a slightly lesser degree with other animals too. In my mind and with my filters, animal conversations are just as important and worthy of notice as human ones, and can provoke similar responses at times.

(Dear god I accidentally closed the tab thank god that didn't all disappear... everyone take a moment to pray to our lord of computer whim and thank him for this miracle :P Remember kids, always save long internet posts)

The question of natural language in autists is a fascinating one, and I'm actually not entirely sure how to answer it myself. What is my natural language? I don't actually know.

My first reaction is words, particularly typing. I'm one of the very verbose kind of autists, and certainly I find IMs much less stressful than, say, phone conversations. I'm also aural in preference to visual, and tend to think in words. Pictures give me more difficulty.

However, it seems to depend a lot on what, exactly, I'm communicating. For example, my emotional vocabulary is much more deficient than the rest of my vocabulary, and I have vast amounts of difficulty packaging identity, emotions and people into boxes I can wrap words around. Never bother asking me what someone is like; it's not a question I can answer. They're just... them. Here, my primary language instead seems to be a non-verbal one painted in nebulous swirls of emotion and impressions, something which I think my empathic abilities contributes to. It actually distresses me greatly when a situation arises that I need to try translate this in order to communicate it to someone else, because it is a language with nothing even resembling an equivalent in English.

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