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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


What Do We Think We Know?

Okay, you are at your computer now. Read this first, then without looking, go away. I mean it -- don't look after you read this:

It's a qwerty board question. What symbol comes after L? What symbol comes after U?

If you are like me, you can't answer the question. You can't SEE the symbols in your head (did you know the typewriter was invented first for blind people?). But I can type without looking. My fingers, taught how to type in grade eleven, learned where to go quickly without having to look. Yet, when my mother asked me the question recently, I was stumped. I couldn't answer without typing and especially without looking.

How is it that my fingers know while neither my brain nor my mouth can respond with the right answer?? Okay, when I learned to type, I had to learn deliberately. Yet for over thirty years now, I simply take the process for granted. I don't have to think about it anymore.

I got to thinking how much that might be like the way Adam might know things-- how he seems to just know, but can't always answer. I mean, if I had to think about breathing, I would be as sure as dead. Not responding or being unable to respond does not necessarily mean Adam is not aware and does not understand things. It also doesn't mean that Adam, like all children, isn't taught deliberately, either. Still, watching him over the years I have come to observe that he learns about things on his own in a variety of forms that are innate to him, and I suppose we all do come to know the world and experience it differently.

So, before judging an autistic person, really ask yourself about what you think you know. For if there is one thing I've learned is that what I think I understand, I really don't know at all.


Blogger laurentius rex said...

Same way as my fingers play the flute, no idea what the note is, my fingers know though :)

Reason that you don't know is not that you don't know but that you, do, however the brain being modular in its processing is being parsimonios about it and more efficient by keeping some parts out of the loop as it were.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Jayson said...

was reading posts. not sure how old adam is. when I was a kid I did not talk at all until 8. Started to get a little better in my teens. Im 30 now and classified pdd-nos from classic autism as a kid. I hope that Adam has a similar experience to mine. It is great that he is making friends.


11:17 PM  
Blogger A BCPSS Parent said...

This is the kind of thing that makes these assessments of comprehension so dubious to me. I'll agree that my son does a poor job of answering questions about what he has read. I don't believe that this means that his comprehension is bad, it just shows that his expressive language is poor. But somehow, if you can't talk about what you know the assumption is that you don't know much.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Adi said...

Freaky freaky freaky... I also type fast and blind and I had to finger the alphabet on the keyboard in my mind to get to the answers. That was a real brain suprise for me.

Yeah, and I really think that is a good analogy to use when explaining how autistic brains may be working, especially for those that think they know what is going on in that brain by measuring what comes out of the mouth.

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joy....jaysson.......will sound weird but neeed help this is so dumb to you an everyyone here but do not know what to do...would email but do not know your one. neeed help or what you think I should do!!!!!! sorry to soundso stupdi and wierd please do not be mad at me just that you understnad autims an no one seems to care like you even responded to my comments one EVER talks to me or responds....please email me and I do not know who else to talk to about this sorry if I am a big bother...if i am jsut forget i even


10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm from the other side of the world, in Kuala Lumpur. I have 4 kids. The 3rd one, a 7 year old boy Akram is autistic.

The problem with me, his dad, is to able to understand him and accept his conditions fully. He's non verbal, and has specific interest in certain tv channels, types of food, etc. sometimes with some tantrums, and all these without saying a word.

The other problem is that, the other 3 kids are very close to me. They too demanded attention from me.

Help me God.


8:52 PM  

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