Autism Support
Autism Terms

Attention Deficit Disorder
Hyperlexia / Hyperlexia
Irlen Lenses
Mind Blindness
Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness)
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) 
Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder
Social Stories


Stimming, Stereotypies, & Strange Behavior

I do strange things  when alone, like pacing and shifting coins between may hands.  I  may talk  to  myself  and giggle  while  vividly remembering  or imagining  and  reciting the  whole  scenario  out, assuming  the roles  of different  people/characters (e.g.,   "Hey Beavis,  there's one,"  or  "Eh, what's  up Doc...." ). I  make a point  not do  to these things  in public, though if bored for  too long I may drift into day dreaming (and conversing - repetitively and/or echolalicly - with myself).

I  know  that at  least  some  of the  things  I  do are  things  I do  are self-stimulatory ("stimming"); I think there is a problem in that there are two different types of  behavior "stimming" and "stereotypies" which happen to largely overlap - unfortunately, some people now think that stereotypies are attempts  to communicate, and are  never stimming (and they're  WRONG). Anyway, I  can imagine  that someone might  do these sort of  things out of frustration caused  by not being able  to communicate (as opposed  to as an actual means  of communication) - I've been know  to beat my fists together for that  reason. Also,  I know that  some ways of  stimming (e.g., staring passively at a light  or a spinning object) may not involve "stereotypies." I think  people are  trying to treat  a diverse category  of behaviors (ie, "stereotypies")  as a  single monolithic  entity, and  thus failing  to see differences in  motivation or purpose. By  assuming simplistic models, when one exception  is found, then they all seem to jump  on the new bandwagon -and talk  as if there (external) views were absolute  (when there not - and are often INCOMPLETE or otherwise WRONG)!

Stimming may occur for  a variety of reasons, different for each individual and at different times. Some stimming may be done in times of high arousal, while  other  types may  appear  primarily  in situations  of low  arousal. Stimming may act as a way of compensating with sensory issues, as a form of entertainment, as an absent-minded habit, and perhaps for other reasons I'm not  thinking  of right  now.  (Some stereotypies  -  and a  great deal  of self-injurious behavior - may also be non-stimulatory purpose as well, such as out  of frustration,  as a form  of "displaced aggression"  toward one's self.)  For what  it's worth,  I have  found that  I can  often concentrate better (especially when tired  or too "wired") if I allow my self to stim a little  (I  don't usually  do  this in  public)  - most  often (though  not exclusively) by  rocking. It can be  fun, and I think  it's cute in others, especially kids  (some people may take  this as either a  protest or a sick joke, but I'm serious  here). Further, studies have shown that educational, occupational,  and   general  success   were  related  to   IQ  and  social skills/social  understanding  but  not  to  autistic symptoms  (presumably, behavior). Apparently, such behaviors don't need to be extinguished (other, practical training  might be better). It  appears that "curing autism" (ie, autistic  behavior)  is   neither  necessary  nor  necessarily  beneficial. 

I've read sources claim that autistic people may become absorbed in fantasy to the point of  assuming the role of characters and acting like them (sort of like method acting), and even of loosing track of where the act ends and reality  begins (hmmmm?).  These  acts can  be absorbing,  but they  do not replace  reality (at  least,  not for  me). They  are  fun, like  a child's play-pretend that continues its fascination into adulthood. I think the key to this  is absorption. I sometimes  take the voice of  someone I focus on, someone who  I "become" in my imagination. I hear  SOUNDS rather than WORDS (I then  must think  to recognize the  words), and can  often duplicate the sounds. (Sometimes I even forget a message, but remember the tonal quality, and can  duplicated it.)  If I am absorbed  in reliving, say, a  TV show, I will  recite it  to myself  verbatim -  and sometimes  in the voice  of the original  actors -  and  I may  do it  repetitively  many times,  giggly at amusing  moments  as I  go.  I  don't alway  have  to assume  the role  I'm immitating, however - I may just be reliving an experience where I observed the  situtation  (I  don't  feel  like  Yakko  to  imitate him,  but  I  am re-watching the  show in  my head.) Vivid  remembering/imagination does not equate  to being "out  of touch with  reality" (at  least not for  me) just because it  happens to have the  intensity or immediacy of  reality; I know whats  real,  and continue  to  monitor  reality. I  may  also access  more personal memories,  or invent elaborate day  dreams. This sort of imagining is very  pleasant, but tends to  frighten some people who  see it - I think they  are  mistaking  this  for  talking  between  multiple  personalities, responding to hallucinations, or  being extremely disoriented - but none of that is the case. 

Some  have claimed  that autistics  have (literally) no  imagination, which sounds  like  a clear   contradiction  to me.  How  can  a person  with  NO imagination  be  lost in   FANTASY  (rhetorical question)?  It's an  absurd accusation!
Source: Jared Blackburn - Taken from the essay My Inside View of Autism.

Because autism is due to unusual "brain wiring", it is not uncommon to have other neurological conditions along with it. Two little known sensory related conditions which appear to be more common in autistics are: 

Hyperlexia is an exceptional ability to read, not necessarily with any understanding of *what* you are reading. Hyperlexia's place on or outside of the autistic spectrum is a matter of much debate. Be that as it may, hyperlexia is a trait commonly seen in autistic spectrum disorders. Autistics with hyperlexia have a unique learning style and a better prognosis than those without this reading skill. Hyperlexia is often written off as a "meaningless splinter skill" but it is much more than that even if comprehension lags because reading can be a very useful tool for learning other skills and can be the doorway to language in general. Website: http://www.hyperlexia.org/

Also known as "face blindness", this condition impairs a person's ability to recognize human faces. It appears to be somewhat more common in autistic spectrum disorders, but is usually a result of brain damage. It is not the same as being able to connect a name to a person. In autistic people, what appears to be prosopagnosia may actually be due to lack of eye contact or social interest. 

stim Self-stimulatory behaviour; repetetive motor or vocal mannerisms engaged in by people with ASDs. They are usually used to either calm  or excite the nervous system and often as a response to strong emotion. 

perserveration An interest or behaviour that is intense and repetitive, the word is from the same root as  perseverance.

Savant skills Abilities which are acquired without deliberate teaching or study, such as music, art or mathematics. They are markedly above the abilities of most people and much more advanced than the person's overall IQ. Although associated with people with an otherwise low,
testable IQ, people of any IQ can have savant skills. 

Sometimes called "cross-sensory perception", synaesthesia is when input from one sense is interpreted in another. (eg. seeing sound, hearing light, tasting colour). It is very rare, but more common in people with atypical neurology, including those with autistic spectrum disorders. 

Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder
Semantic-pragmatic disorder is very similar to Asperger Syndrome and a common characteristic of people with non-verbal learning disabilities and hyperlexia. The condition involves deficits in social and nonverbal communication such as the give and take of communication as well as interpreting cues from body language and expression. While Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder itself is almost always milder than Asperger's, the vast majority of people with Asperger Syndrome have pragmatic language deficits and could benefit from the techniques for dealing with this disorder. Semantic-Pragmatic Disorder may be a variant PDD or it may be just a descriptive term for the language impairment in autistic spectrum disorders.

Social Stories
Carol Grey is the developed a technique known as "Social Stories" for helping autistic people learn about social behaviour, based on the ancient idea of telling illustrative stories. Her ideas are in her book of the same name, "Social Stories", and she also gives lectures and has a website. There is an annecdote from one of her lectures, reported by a group member on page 11: Becky and the Plant Sprayer 
Carol Gray's webpage is at:- http://www.thegraycenter.org 
With some examples of social stories at:- http://www.thegraycenter.org/social.htm 
Other links with social stories info include:- 
Source: alt.autism.FAQ (Compiled by Anna Hayward on behalf of the alt.support.autism newsgroups, November 2000)

Scotopic Sensitvity Syndrome (SSS) and Irlen Lenses:

Irlen lenses are thought to reduce light sensitivity and perceptual distortions. 
The timing of how the information is received by the brain is theoretically also changed which allows correct interpretation of visual stimuli. 
Source : http://autismalliance.org/treat.htm

I did a quick web search for people wanting info on Irlen Lenses. -  Melissa  (May 2001)

Irlen Lenses:
Helen Irlen developed the Irlen method which is predicated on the belief that certain cells in the retina are over-stimulated and send incorrect signals to the brain. Symptoms can include blurring of print, double vision, movement of print, eyestrain, etc. Donna Williams, autistic individual and author of Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere, writes about its results. The method starts with placing colored overlays over printed pages which are later replaced with colored lenses. These are thought to reduce light sensitivity and perceptual distortions. The timing of how the information is received by the brain is theoretically also changed which allows correct interpretation of visual stimuli. Source : http://autismalliance.org/treat.htm


My Experience with Irlen Filters by Donna Williams

Irlen Dyslexia Centre

Some Research And Other Papers Relating To Irlen Filters And Irlen (Scotopic Sensitivity) Syndrome (UK)

Irlen Coloured Filters for Reading: a Six-Year Follow-up 
Paul R. Whiting, G.L.W.Robinson and C.F. Parrott
Faculty of Education, University of Sydney 

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and the Irlen Lens System
Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon

From alt.support.autism:

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome ("Irlen Syndrome"), SSS
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome is a controversial theory, first identified in dyslexics, which is gaining support from the mainstream scientific community. Thought to be a problem in how the visual cortex processes information, it is said to cause visual problems, hypersensitivity to light and difficulties with depth perception. This leads to problems with literacy, apparent clumsiness, headaches and irritability; and indirectly to behaviour problems and low self-esteem. It can be misdiagnosed as dyslexia or ADHD and can cause significant problems, particularly for ACs, who are more likely than NTs to have Irlen Syndrome 

Treatment involves the use of special coloured lenses and coloured acetate sheets, that improve reading skill. For more information: http://www.autism.org/irlen.html Irlen (commercial) website 

Disclaimer: Although the Irlen organisation is most famous for marketing treatments for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, please be aware that there are many other ways of obtaining coloured lenses etc, including dyslexia organisations. This FAQ does not recommend or promote any particular source for the equipment. 

Selections from Auttys Dictionary

Generally, an agnosic can sense objects and forms but is unable to consciously recognise and interpret their meaning. Agnosia is a result of Neurological pathology and can be manifested in almost any perceptual/cognitive system. There are many forms, these include : "apperceptive agnosia" (visual perception), auditory agnosia (hearing perception), tactile agnosia (tactile perception)

Attention Deficit Disorder
A disorder characterized by hyperactivity, attentional deficits, and impulsivity. Although it is first manifested in childhood, it may not be diagnosed until later in life. It is a fairly common disorder and over the years various terms have been used for it and for disorders occasionally thought to be related. Included here are descriptive terms such as attention-deficit disorder (ADD)
A term used to refer to the context-boundedness of language. The deictic aspects of linguistics mesage are those elements that refer to time, space and the interpersonal components. Purely deictic segments in English are 'here/there', 'that/this', 'before/after/now' etc etc. . Dx or dx Commonly used to refer to the word "diagnosed"

A term referring to the repetition of words or phrases. Echolalia may occur immediately after the phrases have been said, or may be delayed and occur some time later.
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

Words are fundimentally sounds, which have socially recognised and specified meaning (ie : a dictionary definition). eg : A person who CAN speak and/or read words without ANY understanding of the words he/she is reading would be described as having Hyperlexia.

"A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory."