Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brainy days and grey matters

Yesterday was Brain Day on the blogs for me, as I read this post from Andrea at A Garden of Nna Mmoy followed by this post from Kristina at AutismVox, which both dealt with neurology and brain function. If you're a regular reader here, you may already know that Kristina is mom to almost-ten-year-old Charlie, who is autistic. Andrea is not an autism blogger, but - for me - her post had as much to do with autism as Kristina's.

I don't think I can summarize either Kristina's writing or Andrea's and do them justice, so please hop on over and read them.

Go ahead. I'll wait.





You're back? You read them?

See what I mean?

When read back-to-back, the two posts raise all kinds of questions for me about the nature of "mindlessness" and the nature of "mindfulness." Are they the same thing viewed through different filters? Or are they different things entirely? And what are their relative values? And by whose standards are those values determined?

I left a fairly lengthy comment on Andrea's post, but as she is not an autism blogger she said she felt ill-equipped to respond to it. I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks about any of these issues.

My comment, in case you didn't scroll down that far when you were reading:

This is a fascinating post for me on a number of levels, but primarily because my son has autism and language is a challenge for him. I wonder about his "internal monologue" - is it as constant as mine? Is it language-driven, as mine is, or is it altogether different? Is his internal monologue more experience-based, more driven by emotion, color, sound? (It seems to me that he is much more attuned to those things and experiences them more acutely than me, at any rate.)

So, then, I wonder - to what extent is Bud experiencing - really, genuinely EXPERIENCING - more than I am, with all my words spilling over and diluting the experience itself?

And then... what does that say about the way we look at and define "disability"?

You wrote: "I have, once or twice, used the opportunity of a long meeting in which I had nothing to contribute or a presentation to enter a mini trance, and then had a question directed at me--and the difficulty of understanding, first of all, that the sounds had meanings, and I was expected to do something with them; and then determining what those meanings were, and what meanings I should be directing back, and how; and the sensation of those words coming from a long way away, as if I were unconnected to them, and the sounds coming out of my mouth were unconnected to me, was odd, though not unpleasant ... Even the feeling of speaking is different, as if one's mouth and tongue and throat are thick. Speaking is effort."

And I wonder: Is this what my son experiences every day?


mcewen said...

I'm definitely with you on the 'switching off' during boring lecture / meeting and then being 'caught out.' That is exactly how it feels, like you're coming back down to earth, or back into focus.
Like you, I don't 'know' if it's a good analogy or accurate, but it helps me to think in that manner when trying to understand and interpret what's going on with the children.
Best wishes

MOM-NOS said...

mcewen - Just to be clear, the paragraph about boring meetings was Andrea's writing, not mine. I was just quoting its brilliance.

Credit where it's due!

Harvest Mom said...

The description of how the brain is put together (with the layers of frontal lobe on top of cerebellum on top of mammalian brain on top of reptilian brain)was an "aha!" moment for me. It explains to me why Jacob is so proficient in so many areas/at so many thing, yet so seemingly lost/confused in others. All the things he has difficulty with are in the frontal lobe.

What does that actually mean? Um, I'm not sure. But I think I have a better understanding of why.

MOM-NOS said...

Harvest Mom, I had the same reaction. Her list of things the frontal lobe controls reads like a list of Bud's areas of challenge. It seems huge - but I'm not sure what to do with it.

I was also really interested when she talked about drawing "the eye we imagine" instead of "the eye we see". It reminded me of something Temple Grandin wrote about not being able to conjure up a generic image. If Grandin hears "cat", she can't picture a generic cat in her mind - instead, she sees a slide show of actual cats she has known. So, with Andrea's eye example, I wonder - would Temple Grandin be better able to draw the actual eye she saw than I would, since she wouldn't be picturing a generic eye in her mind?

kristina said...

Thanks for the mention and the link to Andrea's blog! I have wondered about the same for Charlie---if think more in color and sound and feel and texture---if he thinks in music and song?

Mamaroo said...

I often feel that Roo is experiencing things more complete than I am. He takes in the whole sensory experience where I may just focus more on the visual and the auditory. What part of the auditory is also different. I believe he hears much more than I do. Like you say, kind of makes you wonder who has the true disability. The closest I feel that I can get to the level that Roo feels and experiences is when I am at the beach. I feel there I am able to take in much more than just a beautiful scenery. When I am at the beach I don't get so bombarded by words, but more just enjoy the full sensory experience.

Connie Deming said...

This all reminds me of the time my son typed, "Words don't hope," when he was eleven.
How flat words must seem to someone who experiences everything around him, inside and out, in heightened, expanded, sometimes overloading ways.
He wished we could "read" his thoughts the way he could read ours.

MothersVox said...

Thanks for heads up on Andrea's blog . . . that was much fun to read a new voice . . . This is a lot to think about, especially with what I'm thinking about over at Autism's Edges about working memory for auditory information . . .