Information Processing, with a touch anxiety.

When neuro-typical people are in the world they find it far easier to hone in on specific sensory information processes. This is done by being able to process more than one piece of information with ease. When a piece of information is being processed at a nice speed it’s very nice and another piece enters, if you are neuro-typical your brain could leave it one side, process the information simultaneously or just tell it to bugger off.

If you’re like me, then you prefer to have information processed one at a time. When I’m processing a piece of information I like to take my time, but during this another naughty piece of information comes in, it interrupts the process and reset it, making the brain start all over again.

If this happens a lot in one day you are potentially going to have a meltdown or have one brewing. While in this state of mind of a potential meltdown brewing, in my life something sensory or a slight sudden change can set me off. I remember when I was 14/15 and I was really excited an Xbox game to come out. I was convinced that it would arrive on the Tuesday and it didn’t, well I just began to sob immensely.

The emotional impact was the same in that moment as it was when I found out my Grandma had died. I don’t mean that my Grandma was as important as an Xbox game, but what I am saying that sudden change of something that I was fixated on for a week was heart breaking.

Also when you’re at tipping point, and you get either a random loud noise or a sudden change to the face. This can create panic and potentially hysteria, to the point where you are literally running for your life, as if you’re being chased by a giant monster of Anxiety.

When I’m in this place I don’t run I just need as much as much space as possible, I will either leave or ask other people to leave the room and then proceed to ride it out. Possibly if I’m aware of what’s causing the anxiety I will sort it out if possible, but I will most definitely struggle to communicate.

The worst part about this as an adult is that you can feel somewhat pathetic as what makes you anxious, you may feel that if you communicate it people may think you’re stupid or a wimp.

A friend of mine whose also on the spectrum, said to me that he was finding his new full-time difficult. He then began to explain that he needed help with a lot of things at work as he found certain things difficult. The issue turned out to be not what he found difficult, but that he felt he was unable to ask for help because he was worried that people would think he was stupid.

Of course there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but from time to time I have been known to hear a stupid answer.

To help my friend and explain how asking for help regardless of the question isn’t going to make you look stupid, but it’s possible for you to look a bit silly if do not ask for help.

To help explain, let me tell you a story…..

Once upon a time, there were two beautiful, identical and very expensive houses that were situated next door to each other (what are the odds?). By some mystical coincidence the two men who lived in these, expensive, beautiful and identical houses both had a piano delivered. Now the pianos were of course exactly in same in size, weight and colour.

One of the men (man number 1) had invited some friends over so they could help him with the mammoth task of getting the piano inside. The other man (man number 2) had decided as he felt stupid asking for help decided to do it all by himself. Man number 1 and his friends got the piano inside with absolutely no trouble what so ever. To celebrate their victory of getting the piano inside, they all went on the front garden and had some beers.

When they were outside they noticed man number 2 struggling all by himself to get the piano inside.

Now let’s think about this, who looks the silliest??

Man number 1 who asked for help of his friends and he’s on his lawn drinking beer celebrating a job well done.

Or there’s man number 2 who’s stuck outside still trying to move the piano all by himself.

Mmmmmmmmmmm…… I’ll let you decide.

But being in that situation when you struggle to communicate as your nervous about approaching someone, as you Autistic can socially paranoid and afraid that people will automatically think the worst, and remember these kind of thoughts do not go away quickly.

When you’re at school and you don’t understand a piece of work you really should ask the teacher for help, but what if you are the only person in the class who doesn’t understand. If you’re Autistic this can raise your anxiety because in your brain all you are going to hear is, “why don’t I understand?”

If your anxiety is raised communicating is going to become more difficult, so if this was me I would proceed with the fart noises, using either my armpits or blowing on to my arm. My way of deflecting is to do things that are funny that make me laugh. These usually tend to be incredibly inappropriate for the occasion, thankfully I’ve grown up. You wouldn’t catch me making fart noises in a high anxiety situation, like a funeral.

In this situation you are perceived as “the naughty” child and if one teacher can’t get you to focus, you will then be passed on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. This is an example of the fizzy drinks bottle, so when the gets home the lid comes of and KABOOM!!!!!!

How Autistic Genius processes information???

When you’re Autistic you can potentially feel a lot more stress than neuro-typicals (this is people who are not on the spectrum). The world has things like; noises, smells and strange vegetation that have to be processed by the brain. So if everything is being processed, this makes everything information.

Just thinking about things this way makes me want to stop leaving the house, because there’s TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

“NO, Stop, don’t go outside, it’s everywhere!”

“What is?”

“INFORMATION!”

“ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!”

As you can see; just from looking at the exclamation marks and the capitol letters how upsetting too much information can be.

I know what you’re thinking, how come the same world upset a number of people when the majority of good folk manage just fine?

INSERT EXPLAINATION HERE:

Imagine that at the top of the brain there is a sieve, and all the information falls in to it. Of course, sieves can stop the unwanted bits/information from falling through. What I find is that neuro-typicals are able to filter out the pointless information, their brains almost organise efficiently what’s important, stores it and then it bins what’s not so important. So if you’re Autistic the information will be processed differently.

The Autistic way of information processing is something that’s very complex. Now the brain can present itself indifferent ways but for me personally this is how I see it. The filtering system in the Autism brain isn’t very good, meaning that everything is processed at the same level of focus. This can make it difficult for us wonderful Autistics to concentrate on one thing, as there might be background noise and other general annoyances that like to get in the way.

This means everything is being processed. The brain on this occasion cannot cope with that, but according to my brain I like to take things in one at a time. It’s almost like a conveyor belt where closed boxes of information are passed to me, when the box reaches me I stop it, pick up the box, look in the box, work out what’s in there, close the box, put it back down and start the machine for the next box of information.

Now that’s a lot to go through for a bit of information.

As an adult on the Autistic Spectrum my overloads or meltdowns tend to come from a build-up of stress. Picture the conveyor belt again, to keep me happy I like to know what’s coming and this is why routines are just THE BEST THING EVER. So when I open my magical information box, it would be very courteous of the world to not throw me a curveball. But for argument sake, the world has thrown its hammer down and said NO to what I want/expect.

As this very nasty, horrible thing that life has thrown you won’t be disappearing from your mind. As negativity tends to stay with us Autistics a lot longer than it should (how thoughtless). If this is the case, the machine may not turn back on for the nasty thing to move along, this meaning that when the other boxes turn up things are going to start getting messy.

The nasty box won’t move on because I’m so annoyed at this outrageous curveball, making me obsess over it. But while I obsess over it, more bits of information keep coming in for me to process.

Now there’s two options I can either say yes to the information coming in or say no to it all.

So boys and girls, who can guess which option I chose?

If you said yes…….you were wrong.

I will most likely say no to everything; so all the information comes in, but stays in the head as I refuse to process it. The more the information comes in, the higher my anxiety gets.

If the curveball was thrown at home, you’d be OK because no one knows you better than your parents. But if you’re at school and you begin to say no to everything, a teacher could perceive you as “the naughty child”.

On the other hand the child that says yes to everything is what I call a fizzy drinks bottle. So when this child says yes the bottle shakes. Then throughout the day he will say yes to a lot of things, as he’s afraid that no one will like him if he/she says no. When this poor child gets home he/she open the lid, now we all know what happens when we open a bottle of fizzy drinks after its shook.

KABOOM!!!

I assume that you all think I’m a hypocrite because I explained what happens when too much information is having to be processed by my brain, which then in turn makes it go bang. So ironically I explain this in a lot of detail, thus giving you too much information.

Echolalia – Something that Autistic people do!

Echolalia is something that you will probably come across when dealing with children and adults on the autism spectrum. As an independent 26 year old on the spectrum I most definitely still experience Echolalia.

Echolalia is originally two Greek words; ekho and lalia. The word ekho translates into the English language as Echo, and lalia into speech. When you put the English translations together you get a pretty good definition of the word Echolalia.

When somebody on the spectrum hears something in passing conversation, in a film, T.V shows or even music, there is a chance that they may repeat it. A lot of the time they may have no understanding of the context of what they are saying; this could mean that they are repeating things for comforting purposes.

For example, I often repeat quotes that make me laugh to help re-create the moment of when I first heard it as it always makes me laugh or smile.You may also notice in your child that they will watch the same silly ‘Stampy Longnose’ Minecraft video or have the same 2 seconds of a CD on a permanent repeat. This is done for the exact same reason as above, it’s comforting. Do you know how I know this? Because I still watch the same Monty Python, Saturday Night Live sketches or any other humorous content over and over again.Let me give you of an example of when I’ve been affected by Echolalia.

This story begins when I was very small maybe 3; my mother had a VHS of Lee Evans Live at the West End. On this VHS Lee Evans talked about the situation when you’re in a restaurant in England and you see/hear someone drop a lot of plates and they all go SMASH, somebody may utter ******.

Now, keep this Lee Evans’ story in mind, it will all make sense eventually.The year was 2004 and I was 15, my mother had told me that week that a lady was coming into my lessons to observe me as I was going through the autism diagnosis process. So that being said, I was in school, sat in the far right hand side corner of the science classroom, the lady who observed me sat in the far left corner and the teacher, being the teacher, was of course in front of the class to teach us.In classroom I was being my normal self, drifting in and out of daydream.

As the teacher was talking, he pulled out a drawer full of scissors, but unfortunately the draw decided to come out all of the way, fell and made a loud crashing noise: SMASH. Now remember the Lee Evans joke? You can only imagine what I shouted across the classroom! On this occasion I didn’t get into trouble, although the teacher I called a ****** usually shouted at me a lot. The lady who was observing me explained Echolalia to my teacher. My incredible head of year was very understanding and it was never spoke of again.

Echolalia on that occasion didn’t do me any favours; Echolalia can be a positive thing. You may ask how this can be.

A lot of the time people with autism struggle to socialise and communicate, in these situations we may produce Echolalia to help us get through these trying times. Echolalia can present itself in two forms,

which are:

1. Pre-Intentional Communication: The person will say or do something with no intention of affecting those around them.

This is where autistic people will use it for comfort and it ranges from anything from a word or just a noise.

2. Intentional communication: The person will say or do something to send a message to someone. This can be seen mostly from people who are protesting, don’t agree with something or are making a request. This will become a lot clearer to the person on the spectrum as they realise how their actions can affect other people.

The exciting thing about Echolalia is that it’s positive and no matter what stage of your life you are in, the transition from pre-intentional to intentional communication is a huge step.One of the ways I use Echolalia positively is using movie/TV quotes in the right context.

For example, if I’ve been told to not let anyone past me I immediately turn in to Gandalf from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and shout, “YOU SHALL NOT PAAAAAAAASS!”

If you’re like me, with Asperger Syndrome, you may understand why we have to communicate but feel unable to. For me Echolalia was a way of finding solutions to communicate by using ideas from other people. Using certain quotes allowed me to develop a sense of humour, which then expanded and now I can communicate effectively (well, most of the time).

When I realised it was possible to make people laugh, it became an obsession and I was convinced that humour was how you make friends. To some degree I was right as I do make friends and humour is something that I always use.This allowed me to become more pro-active in developing social and communication skills, as I saw the benefits of being social. Making people laugh is my favourite thing in the world. Echolalia is how it started – copying famous phrases from TV or films and then obsessively trying to copy their voices.

Now that I have seen the benefits of socialising and communicating, I have built up my powers. It is much like someone who gains fitness by going to the gym. To get better and stronger at socialising and communication, I have thrown myself into social situations. By being employed, doing amateur theatre plays, biting the bullet and by just getting through it – because it only gets easier.

Tom Bowes

Can also be read on: https://autism-connect.org.uk/users/blog/blogDetail/55b614736d852