Paul Isaacs' Blog

Autism from the inside


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NAS Lambeth/A2ndVoice Workshop – Autism & Language Processing Disorders Workshop

This workshop is about language processing disorders in the context of autism. Hosted by Venessa Bobb.

Further Information & Reading

Autism and Language A Journey To Functional Speech – Donna Williams

Wretches & Jabberers DVD Trailer

Paul Isaacs 2021


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Anna Kennedy System of Sensing & Mental Health Workshops Videos Parts 1 & 2

Overview

I presented video workshops on the system of sensing, coined by the late Donna Williams in the presentations I spoke and covered as follows:

  • What is the system of Sensing?
  • What is the system of Interpretation?
  • What is the system of “Ego”?
  • What is the “Real world vs. Hierarchy?” 
  • How the Nervous System Decodes Sensory Information.
  • What is Mergence?
  • Is it a place we all (human beings) come from?

The System of Sensing & Mental Health Workshop Part 1

 

 

The System of Sensing & Mental Health Workshop Part 2

 

Donna Williams Interview about the System of Sensing Autism and Asperger’s Experiences

NANCY BEKHOR:

The term, NONVERBAL seems to have a different meaning in the following two contexts of autism

1) Highly logical individuals, with so called ‘Asperger Syndrome’, who have difficulty with understanding the ‘non verbal’ aspect of conventional speech. This shows up, for example, as missing the ‘joke’ or sarcasm… basically where words themselves do not convey %100 of meaning intended.

2) On the other hand, the ‘non verbal’ realm, which you speak of in your book, Autism and Sensing, is a mode of information communicated by feeling, intuition, sensation… a place of art, ‘knowing without asking or learning’ (as with savants). Here the more typical individual has difficulty understanding.

Are these 2 different meanings or different degrees of non-verbal?

DONNA WILLIAMS:
They are definitely two different experiences entirely.

There is NONVERBAL LANGUAGE DISORDER (disorder in NONVERBAL language systems such as body language, intonation, facial expression) and being FUNCTIONALLY NON VERBAL. Totally different conditions. Though those who have one can also have the other or have only one of these… same as one can have blond hair and be short or one or the other.

Asperger’s & Social Emotional Agnosia 

Now Social Emotional Agnosia seen in Aspergers is a NONVERBAL LANGUAGE DISORDER and means people can’t naturally perceive any meaning to facial expression, body language, intonation unless overtly taught it. This leads them to compensate through logic, intellect and because they generally don’t easily sense this missing realm they develop high intellect rather than high ability to sense pattern, theme, feel.

Autism Sensory Perceptual Disorders & Language Perception Processing

By contrast those with significant sensory or sensory perceptual deficits are not necessarily impaired in the social-emotional realm so it is more natural for them to expand into that realm as a compensation for sensory or sensory perceptual deficits. This is whether because they are blind, deaf, deaf-blind or the perceptual equivalents of meaning deaf (verbal agnosia), meaning blind (visual agnosia) or both.

In other words human beings can be more or less sensing, but if they ALSO have significant sensory or sensory perceptual deficits AND they have no neurological obstacles to sensing (such as Social Emotional Agnosia) then they will be reasonably more likely to become more highly reliant on sensing pattern, theme, feel through whichever sensory perceptual systems are still intact.

So it HAPPENS that there is no sensory perceptual reason for Aspies to be FUNCTIONALLY NONVERBAL in the sense of being speechless. But those who have significant meaning deafness and meaning blindness may have significant struggles to acquire SEMANTICS to speech and will then lack the PRAGMATICS too. Depending on personality and whether they do or don’t additionally have Oral Dyspraxia, Speech Aphasia or Selective Mutism, those with significant meaning deafness/meaning blindness will often be echolalic. Many who have speech and communication disorders (including echolalia) will then be more subject to secondary Selective Mutism. So it HAPPENS that those most likely to become highly sensing as a COMPENSATORY ADAPTATION for significant sensory perceptual disorders will also be those most likely to be functionally non-verbal.

Saying that, SOME will develop fluent type-speaking and some have progressed to functional speech and still remain highly sensing.

Donna Williams 2010

Paul Isaacs 2020


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The System of Sensing, Inverted Trauma & Dissonance

The System of Sensing

Is a world a still live in its world before ego, before conscious mind, before self and other, before interpretation of your sensory world it is where things are FELT, first it is a world of pattern, theme and feel, it is ethereal, not quite tangible in a logical and literal sense but very much about togetherness and the mergence.

FEEL speak is experienced by all human beings its called being baby in which your nervous system is underdeveloped, its sensory systems are young and interpretation of these senses isn’t there.

For me being profoundly meaning blind and meaning deaf meant that I lived this system (and continue to do so) for a far longer time, this mean I could merge with things, people and places.

Sensing Emotions, Trauma & Dissonance

If some one was to MERGE with someone on a sensing level that is picking up on frequencies that the other person may not be aware of this can mean I can get confused about “self emotions” and “other emotions”, I have unknown awareness of someone because I can SEE them in all their rawness it is beyond cladding, false projection, lying an manipulation.

I can FEEL peoples energies and I can put them into two camps.

Connected With The Sensing World

“Straight & Grounded” these people’s feel speak is well connected, they are natural empaths (who may also be able to sense), their interpretive “speak” marries up with their “feel” speak, I sense fluidity and balance and my communication does in general flow much better because their isn’t dissonance. I tend not to overly apologise to these people, can be assertive and not be triggered by exposure anxiety.

Disconnected With The Sensing World (to differing degrees and reasons)

“Wobbley & Uprooted” these people’s feel speak is not as well connected, they may be extremely empathetic but disconnected from their emotions in some shape or form (information processing, trauma, personality disorder and/or identity crisis) or they they have empathy erosion, they may well have learned to overly rely on the “interpretive system” to hide from themselves due to trauma and/or be deceptive and overly use this “interpretive” system for personal gain.

So these people do two things with the empathics I MERGE with their trauma to the point in which it is MINE on a sensing level and/or if they have empathy erosion they trigger my exposure anxiety and “self” gets protected.

My communication style for both the empathic and non-empathic people in this camp is stilted, laboured, I tend to apologise more and there is less fluidity because the cladding usually contradicts the feeling. I usually “go along” with interpretive thread regardless of if I want to or not. I on some level feel great empathy for them many of them are on journeys in their own right and I have since learned that MERGEING can in turn cause PROJECTION in which I sense the dissonance feedback BACK to the person. This is what I call the mirror effect. (for obvious reasons). If they consciously interpret this they may think that is MY Trauma.  

This causes me great stress and pain and I can get emotional dysregulation.

Dissonance In People Who’s Perceived and Actual Self are Warped

I tend to “sense” people who lie, manipulate and who are superficial because that is based on the ability to use you interpretive system to “pretend” you are something you aren’t, these people can be lost, lonely, friendly, confused, lack a firm sense of self and on the other hand they can be narcissistic, selfish, ego-focused and shallow.

I have a real personal peeve with people whom lie (as a form of control, emotional manipulation). Because I can see it.

Paul Isaacs 2020


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Autism, Mentalising, Alexithymia & Introspection

Note – This is from a personal perspective

Language Processing, Alexithymia, Visual Perception and Mentalising

As a child I was unable to process language with meaning this meant that the ability marry words with association, then the ability to reason those words into a meta-reality (context and how they “looked”). I was severely face blind, object blind and meaning blind this meant the inability to visual internally my external world meant that I had to use my body to EXTERNALISE to INTERNALISE in other words I mapped out my world through placement, smell, texture, movement and taste.

Body Disconnection, Exposure Anxiety and Dissociation

I was unable to map out my own body, its parts, their placement in association with me or the outside world so I had a level of body agnosias which meant my body with FRAGMENTED as well as my vision and internalisation of receptive language. My conscious mind was seemingly blank as I subconsciously took in the information around me in but was unable to consciously piece it together despite the fact is was near hiding in plain site, akin to playing smoke and mirrors but with my own self.

Exposure anxiety rendered me powerless when confronted with “self” the awareness of my own self existence was too powerful for me to handle. So I disassociated, created characters (each assigned duties, personality types, communication styles) to handle the task of being exposed, mutism, echolalic litanies (once functional speech was acquired).

However I seemed to retain the ability to have introspection, the system of sensing still means I FEEL first and then have to unpick the interpretation secound.
The Self and Other Paradox

Fast track to know I had an experience in which I got to that level which I have described bearing in mind this had not happened in roughly 23 Years! It was shock was unable to do a shared self and other (which can last up to two hours plus), language was losing meaning, visuals where fragmenting (I made error of taking my tints off) and I was feeling detached coming out with stock phrases and it made me think about how I was then

So with help, kindness and assistance of friends and colleagues I was able to map and piece together my emotional states through three videos.
Loss

This video signifies loss that the emotional roller-coaster of meeting loss head on, the process of emotion, the realisation, the impact it has on you and other around them and the great sense of vulnerability that comes with it.

Light and Hope

This video is more metaphor and symbolical in its reverence with me the smoke that plums as he enters the arena is has a great impact on me as it represents hope through the darkness, as he walks to the ring a single light envelopes him which for me feels that light can be achieved in times of such darkness, the creating of light towards end is hope.

This Detachment of Self and Other

The final video to me represents my sometimes lack of ability to get a shared sense of “self and other” and “shared social” in which my conscious thoughts are not married up straight away with other and vise versa, when I LOSE the ability to keep the process becomes mechanical, artificial the automata represents this aspect and also ALL SELF and Casanova represents ALL OTHER .

Paul Isaacs 2020


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Autism, Alexithymia, Dissociative Disorders & Trauma

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Note – This is from a personal perspective

Overview

In secondary school their was an isolated incident of sexual abuse which I was subjected to, this happened in the changing rooms and I have documented about how I had to get closure on this incident myself.

Alexithymia and dissociative reactions are two strategies that have been put forward as coping mechanisms to alleviate painful emotions. Adult studies reveal an association between alexithymia and dissociation. In line with the coping hypothesis, it was predicted that the relationship between alexithymia and dissociative tendencies would be partly mediated by current levels of stress and past traumatic experiences. Dissociation may also be related to enhanced fantasizing, although alexithymia has traditionally been associated with an incapacity to fantasize

Jennifer G. Schnellmann PhD, ELS 2005

Alexithymia has a common overlap with some people on the autism spectrum, in which the person has problems identifying, wording and extracting inner emotional states, having a language processing disorder no doubt hindered my ability to express (word finding and word losing), visual agnosias of varying kinds and degrees which hindered my to get gestalt perception and mentalise and thus extract the information and process it accordingly.

But imagine that as an autie you get tolerated in a mainstream school of bullying, exclusion etc…. so you try your butt off to pass as ‘non autistic’ or at least mirror others…. but on your own out comes your autie self… and over YEARS the ‘acting normal’ self becomes an ‘alter’ and has its own abilities, its preferences, its dislikes, the things its invested in, the things its disinterested in (like all the ‘autistic’ stuff… because it would attract more bullying, exclusion, etc)….

Donna Williams 2012

Dissociation Disorder & Repressed Memories

Coming to terms with my dissociation is to understand where it came from so here is the a list of events that interacted and caused dissociation and dissociative personas which then in tern effect the association of the “core self” which then in turn had an impact on my psychological and emotional development.

  • I was traumatised by children and teachers using functional speech and language at primary school because I could not keep up with it on an interpretive level (this wasn’t done on purpose nor was this anyone’s fault or intention).
  • I was put into adult situations at primary school with no advocate or caregiver present (teachers arranging meetings about “negative” behaviour prior and after functional speech so dissociation, personas and exposure anxiety were triggered).
  • Having body and pain agnosias meant without clothes on and/or pressure points meant I could detach and dissociate quicker.
  • Having prosopagnosia secondary to simultagnosia meant I bonded with the “person in the mirror” in toilets and washrooms.
  • Secondary school involved the use of three personas all with splintering personality types, learning and communication styles and “tasks” both motivational and/or otherwise to “protect” on a subconscious level the “core self”.
  • Only became self aware of being “different” at 16 and later was using word “autism/autistic” at 18, however lacked a self-awareness of my challenges to others and didn’t consciously change and/or suffer from avoidant and/or social anxiety/phobia.
  • PTSD in adulthood and repressed memories of sexual abuse came in later adulthood through nightmares and flashbacks in a distorted and fragmented fashion due to visual perceptual and language processing disorders.
  • Outlets for Alexithymia and emotional regulation came up more prominently in adulthood through art, poetry and creative writing and aided my ability to mentalise.
  • Being Mercurial and Idiosyncratic meant I could create novel, inventive and “odd” ways of distancing myself from emotional difficulties and pain.
  • Being in the “system of sensing” for far longer and still retaining aspects of it meant I valued the world and would sense the energies around me beyond their set interpretive “meaning”.

Accepting What “Brought me to the Dance”

I have no doubt that I have been coloured by my experiences, they mold people, influence, guide them, help them and sadly sometimes destroy them.

I have come to realise the value in experiences regardless of these being positive or negative I still learn from them.

They’re my teachers my reflectors and I refuse to live a half life in which my destiny is to be defined by things that were out of my control and contextual to the knowledge (or lack of) at the time.

Paul Isaacs 2020


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Autism, Mentalising & Gestalt Perception

Note this is from person perspective

Gestalt perception can account for both strengths and weaknesses of autistic perception. On the one hand, they seem to perceive more accurate information and a greater amount of it. On the other hand, this amount of unselected information cannot be processed simultaneously and may lead to information overload. Autistic people may experience gestalt perception in any sensory modality.

Olga Bogdashina 2014

About a month ago I was a friend of mine who is a speech and language therapist who works with people with autism, brain injuries (associated with language processing) other other neurological conditions.

Visual Perception & Memory

She asked me about how I mentalise the world around despite having challenges with visual-verbal connections and the ability to “marry” words and images together. This made me think about how I piece my “world” together and what tools I have used to do so. So she suggested about a simple memory comparison which was to see in the mind’s eye a generic church figure which she could.

Sensory Associative Memory

I said that when I think of a church I think of the feel and texture of the grass, the feel of the aged stone walls, the loud squeak of the wooden door, the musky smell of the aged church. She said can you bring all the those senses (experiences) together. I said I cannot as I think of them one sense at a time.

There appear to be multiple pathophysiological mechanisms that result in apperceptive visual agnosia. These may be related to the misperception of shapes due to defects in representing the elementary properties of curvature, surface and volume149 or failure to integrate multiple elements into a perceptual whole.150 Patients with severe apperceptive agnosia usually have extensive and diffuse occipital lesions and tend to have residual field defects.151

D. Tranel, A.R. Damasio, in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2001

Conclusion

It’s clear that I have documented about having faceblindness, object blindness and meaning blindness which of course leads to “blindisms” in visual surroundings in which one has “context blindness” in which objects, faces and places lose their significance and visual-verbal meaning.

However it is clear from this conversation that the way in which I store memories through fragmented pieces of information bring about and evoke an emotional connection with what I am talking about.

Paul Isaacs 2019


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What if Life Was One Big Metaphor?

Image result for melting pot

Language and the use of it can be varied to the point that if you tried to think about all the language that people process and the variety of differing ways people interpret, receives, express, share, not share, avoid, connect, disconnect etc it is rather big and somewhat scary!

I can rote learn fun lines from advertisements, jingles, songs. Metaphors are some of these funny lines. I can learn metaphors as fun lines just like any other. And I commonly jumble them or use them in the wrong places, boldly certain I’m being linguistically creative and sounding like a total pratt. It is many the time I have looked at a supressed giggle or cringed at the overt ones as I fall over metaphors. I like metaphors, they are funny, but there’s a difference between learning language through rote and grasping, retrieiving and applying it based on interpretive understanding.

But to say Autistic people can’t understand metaphor is also a myth.

I may struggle with metaphors I haven’t had fully explained to me but boy oh boy… my entire life is like a metaphor.

Donna Williams

My late Grandfather was literal, pragmatic and had social emotional agnosia so he had a very linear, direct and conscientious in his way of expression. I have met others who are very much non-linear with their language tumbling, with neologisms, idiosyncratic and poetic . I have meet people who sense rather than interpret and other who interpret rather than sense.

It is in the end a massive melting pot of expression.

Paul Isaacs 2018


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Autism – The Crossover from “Sensing” to “Meaning”

Sensing vs Interpretation 2918 image

Note this is from a personal perspective.

Overview

Talking yesterday to friend about speech and language I thought it was interesting to see progression the inner feelings of someone who has gone through significant challenges in receptive and expressive language

A Whirlwind

I can remember a whole host of disconnected emotions that came flooding towards my person when speech slowly developed in terms of expression, a whirl wind of patterns, phonics and placements in my collective unglued memory and figured out by the age of eight a system of external placement, phonic placement and movement sequences that helped me connect with the outer world around me.

The System of System & Interpretation

However what was challenging from both emotional and integration point of view was taking a step away from the system of “sensing” (Donna Wiliiams 1998) a state of pre-consciousness, patterns, thematics and “feelings” that answered and questioned, that supplied and didn’t demand, that sang but didn’t shout, that gave and took in relevance of the moment it was captured. A place which “being” was the name of the game and “storing information” was redundant and futile.

It was a world in which in my own way I had found connects through external sensory modulation as explained so switching my “systems” was much a painful and frustrating experience as I can ever remember my connected chatter annoyed and scared me and the connected words would then bring upon the attention of connected response to which I was not readily to respond.

So was it like losing a friend? Well at that point yes I was making subtle yet significant transition into the world of interpretation, cladding, hierarchy and applied meaning for someone who was profoundly meaning deaf and meaning blind to those concepts.

It certainly makes sense why I wanted to “go back” into a world of “sensing” it was in reflection both a prison and sanctuary, solitude and disarray and home and wilderness all at once.

Conclusion

We (human beings) all come from the system of “sensing” however my personal experience is being “there” for a longer allotted period and many ways I am still there with reflective gaining and personal developmental progressions that have come with it.

Paul Isaacs 2018


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The Journey To Functional Language

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Note this is from a personal perspective 

Language Processing Disorder & Autism

There is a percentage of people on the autism spectrum who overcome a level of severe language processing disorder. I have been diagnosed with autism in 2010 at the age of 24. My trajectory was a wobbly one part of my autism was brain damage at birth (left hemisphere) which meant receptive and expressive language was impaired this was a RECEPTIVE & EXPRESSIVE APHASIA, I was sleepy baby and my Mum notices differences at about 6 months old. My language impaction was a mixture of neurological and in early infancy environmental.

Oral Apraxia, Language Retrieval, Trauma & Mutism

I had speech and language DELAYS as part of my language journey this included missing MILESTONES, and then I had TRAUMA which was do with having adenoidectomy and circumcision. I had ORAL APRAXIA which meant that words at times expressively where a jumbled mess. I was echolalic, echopraxic and echomimic TV shows and VHS’ you name it which consisted stored phrases, movements and sequences.

I had roughly between 80- 90% meaning deafness up till the age of 7/8 years old. When a level of functional speech which “my own” it felt stilted, “alien”, non-fluent and garnered from my perspective a lot of unwanted attention so I went into bouts of SELECTIVE MUTISM through my late infancy.

Visual Perception in Association to Language 

Visual perception had an impact of PICTURE/WORD association meaning I was largely kinaesthetic due to by object and meaning blind – SIMULTAGNOSIA and SEMANTIC AGNOSIA.

Now as an adult I would say I am residual being about 30-40 % meaning deaf, tinted lenses have helped my make simple but dramatic visual associative contexts although I still struggle to know the difference between a toaster and a bread bin! 😉 If someone speaks to quickly, background noise, doesn’t use gesture and/or objects of reference I may well pick up the words but not glue the “meaning” to them.

Residual Information Processing Challenges 

I have functional speech but it can still tumble and become laboured due to fatigue and residual aspects of ORAL APRAXIA and my social emotional world is tapped into INTROSPECTIVELY through art and poetry. I still live in a system of SENSING the unknown “KNOWNINGNESS” which means that I perceive far more than I know until it is “out there” on paper form then feed it back to myself and understand what is going on!

My mind is like confetti but I have overcome many obstacles due to autism, developmental delay, language processing and visual perception.

Paul Isaacs 2018


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Autism & Living With The Fallout of Language Processing Disorder

Note – This is a from a personal perspective
Early Years & Its Relation To Language Development

I was born in 1986 and with the impact of a premature nervous system, brain injury due to complications of a placental abruption, cerebral asphyxia/hypoxia, fetal distress which caused in turn issues with visual perceptual disorders – rendering me object, meaning and context blind and due to the left hemisphere injury receptive and expressive language processing disorder. The picture below is on me not long after I was born signs of being premature are evident by the colour of my skin which is jaundice, fisted hands are sign of the nervous system being impaired. My Mum also noted that I was sleepy baby a common factor in babies who have the sort of start to life which I did.

Premature 1

Overall I started to speak (with no build up and “missing milestones” look above) and non-verbal until 1989 saying three words, then from 1990 onwards I regressed and lost skills in verbal language this persisted in me being non-verbal so from pre-school onwards slowly I made monolithic sounds and was saying “loo-loo” (meaning “water”) I was non-verbal from birth 1986 until 1989 then from 1990 until 1992. I then gained functional speech between the ages of 7/8 1993/94 (of a 3 year old developmentally). – Paul Isaacs’ website

A “Language” Of My Own?

My first three words where included “nan” which I used say in big long streams over and over again I liked the sound of it rather than making the “connection” that the word had and associate relevance with regards to a title of a family member. The words was “f**k” which was used for the same purposes as above however the social emotional aspects for both my parents in terms of embarrassment and parental judgement was high. The next has a level of context it was “loo-loo” which was going to toilets and flushing them – I was addicted to my own chemical highs when looking at the water as it flushed flicking my fingers.

Paul 1995 - 1
Inner Words

Words and sounds swilled around my head but nothing was tangible nor meaningful with anything the additional problems I faced meant that I had problems with processing speech but also at using it at at functional level of understanding or comprehension. Looking back I was trapped in a body that wouldn’t obey my commands my verbal wants or needs at the same time (the conception of “knowingness” wasn’t there in many respects) so not only did I have speech delay but severe language deficits that ran well into late infancy. Living a world before typical meaning was in itself a cage I didn’t have language in head for many years it was kaleidoscopic, fragmented, ethereal and non-descript. In mid infancy I felt a frustration when words were expressively produced in manner which was clipped, stunted and not correct I remember feeling frustrated and detached. I believe words were within me but they the grip to get them is really beyond words to describe, but my parents always knew that they were within me. Paul Isaacs’ Website

Fast Forward To Now

Although I have gained a level of functional speech and many aspects of my “autism” would be in the residual range in terms of trajectory I still have challenges in these areas

  • Receptive language when people are speaking for larger lengths of time and/or people speaking in the background along with and/or including environmental noise.
  • I “sense” more than I consciously “interpret“.
  • I mentalise through “remembering” through placement, movement, texture and smell etc
  • I learn through being shown rather than being told.
  • Expressive language can become tiring when I begin to “lose words”.
  • Tinted lenses have helped me bring my visual world together but my “visual receptivity” is still in its infancy when it comes to a social-emotional context.
  • I type “feeling speak” far better and introspectively than I can verbally.

Paul Isaacs 2018