Paul Isaacs' Blog

Autism from the inside


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NAS Lambeth/A2ndVoice Workshop – Autism As A Fruit Salad & Sensory Perception Issues

This workshop is about Donna Williams’ “Fruit Salad” analogy of autism and sensory perceptual challenges and agnosias in the context of autism. Hosted by Venessa Bobb.

Further Information & Reading

What Is Autism?

Common Pieces In Autism “Fruit Salads

Sensory Perception in Autism

Paul Isaacs 2020


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Autism Bucks Workshop – Autism & Sensory Issues

This is the third workshop presentation is about autism and sensory issues, such as integration, agnosias and sensory amplification.

Further Reading & Links

Sensory Integration Disorder

Sensory Agnosias In Autism

Somatic Amplification (Common with Mental Health Conditions, Asperger’s Syndrome and Alexithymia)

Visual Perceptual Disorders In Autism

Body Agnosias In Autism

Pain Agnosias In Autism

Paul Isaacs 2020


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Autism, Information Processing and Coronavirus

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Note – This is from a personal perspective 

Alexithymia & Emotional Processing 

Not knowing one’s own emotional states means that I struggle to connect my conscious and unconscious mind, incoming information doesn’t filter into a connected thought, feeling and inner response which is marrying up with my inner states.

Visual Perceptual Disorders, Aphantasia & Mentalising 

Aphantasia is a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery.[1] The phenomenon was first described by Francis Galton in 1880[2] but has since remained largely unstudied. Interest in the phenomenon renewed after the publication of a study in 2015 conducted by a team led by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter,[3] which also coined the term aphantasia.[4] Research on the condition is still scarce.[5][6]

Visual learning is the most common form of accessing the information around you, I cannot  retrieve visual information and I do not have a “visual mind’s eye” this is called aphantasia. The aspects that I struggle with are visual fragmentation and simultagnosia (object blindness) and a residual level of semantic agnosia (meaning blindness). So watching the news and making visual-verbal connections takes time for me to access and apply meaning with my system which is largely kinesthetic in nature.

Tactile – Associative Synesthesia & Building Frameworks

There are many different types of synesthesia, but they may be categorized as falling into one of two groups: associative synesthesia and projective synesthesia. An associate feels a connection between a stimulus and a sense, while a projector actually sees, hears, feels, smells, or tastes a stimulation. For example, an associator might hear a violin and strongly associate it with the color blue, while a projector might hear a violin and see the color blue projected in space as if it were a physical object.

The way in which I build up frameworks is always on an emotive level I am unaware of my feelings from moment to moment, so I have to EXTERNALISE unconsciously in to text which can be creative in content, emotive and introspective and/or art work which can be abstract an metaphorical in representation. I am not a literal, logical processor of information and I do not have social emotional agnosia  that comes from disconnection of right hemisphere. So INTERNALISATION  comes from the marriage creative process as opposed to overtly factual and linear ones.

Aphasia & Language Processing 

Currently I am around 30 percent meaning deaf which means I can take in large amounts of information for a a short period of time, however I may begin to be flooded with a vast a array of language in which my mind cannot keep up with, it becomes distorted and slowly meaningless, so managing my time and input is crucial.

Conclusion

It is best for people to understand their own autism “fruit salad” and what works for them during times of great uncertainty and distress, build up a level of self-awareness or have someone around you that healthily acknowledges your challenges but still retains the autonomy and respect of seeing you as person.

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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How Autism and Visual Perception affect Train Travel

Looking to provide the best possible experience for all passengers, GWR is working in collaboration for a second year with UK Autism charity Anna Kennedy Online increasing autism awareness to help its staff improve in meeting the needs of those travelling with autism.

For many with an Autism spectrum condition, some of the more commonly experienced issues is increased anxiety and sometimes overwhelming sensory processing information as well as the need for structure and reassurance.

There are around 700,000 people in the UK living with Autism – that’s more than 1 in every 100 people. GWR is committed to making rail accessible to all, and disability awareness forms part of that commitment. This awareness programme is improving the way GWR delivers customer service, emphasising the need for a tailored and personalised service for all customers, that meets their individual needs and wants.

Anna Kennedy OBE, Chairperson and founder of the charity shared: “ As charity we are proud to be able to help raise autism awareness for GWR staff. As a parent of two young men travelling by train has always been a difficult experience over the years due mainly to my youngest son who has significant sensory issues.

What can cause distress for him are whistles blowing, crowded platforms and noisy stations, doors banging can be a bit full-on and cause him anxiety due to a sensory overload. By sharing information with all staff this will hopefully help create a less stressful journey for him and many other families.”

Pete Dempsey, Operations Management Trainer at GWR, who is coordinating and helping to deliver the awareness sessions shared: “At GWR we strive to ensure all of our customers receive a great experience and part of delivering that aspiration is recognising that passengers have a wide variety of different needs, and different disabilities. We are pleased to be once again work with Anna Kennedy OBE and consultant Paul Isaac’s”.

Paul an Autism Ambassador and consultant to the charity has a diagnosis of autism and also has difficulties with visual perception. Paul and Anna met with Peter and shared how his difficulties impact on train travel.

Please see some of the issues talked about at the meeting which was then shared with GWR staff:

1. How does visual perception have an impact on your travel?

Visual perception in the simplest form is the ability to recognise, faces, objects, people, buildings etc 70 percent of information is visual so if you have perceptual challenges in these areas and a lot of the cues are visual (trains, maps, stations) then you can understand from a personal perspective how difficulties arise

2. How does visual perception have an impact on your surroundings? In train stations?

Without my tints all I can see is contrasts, colours and pieces of my surroundings with the inability to “join the dots” and create meaningful contextual relevance to what is being seen. I rely a lot on placement (things having continuity), voice recognition, my own patterns of movements in a round the space and area I am going.

3.How does face blindness have an impact on travel?

When I met people during a journey I struggle with processing faces so that means that I can search for someone quite readily regardless of how many times I have seen them. So what helps is people approaching me first as I usually wonder and/or go around the place or stand waiting, I try to remember their voices patterns, accents etc as way of gauging who they are, I look at people’s gait and patterns of movement

What also can help is the person saying who they are stating their full name and a prior situation which we have met before.

4. How does object blindness have an impact on travel?

If one is object blind its the inability to “juggle” multiple forms of visual information at once rendering the person not being able to see things in “wholes” only “pieces” this can mean that what I struggle with is firstly getting the relevance of what I am seeing, my conscious mind is being enveloped.

5. How does meaning blindness have an impact on travel?

Seeing without meaning is a difficult concept for people to understand because the sensory organs (eyes) work despite the processing of information being blocked in some way. If someone cannot “see” with associative “meaning” that means that the person needs to bring things to “life” through other means such as touch, texture and odour in my case give me an association and thus a memory. The problem I have is that I can get lost in colours, shimmer and shine so when moving around my environment I have to use my conscious to not get “lost” in the sense.

6. Does it have and impact on processing maps?

It does because I cannot transfer the map and internalise them into a meaningful process that relates to what am reading in the association with were I am going.

7. Does it have an impact on your energy levels?

Of course that has an overall impact on other areas of my functioning such as language processing so I sometimes have to rest between stops if I have enough time.

Peter Dempsey and AnnaKennedyonline are pleased that working in collaboration GWR 3500 staff are expanding and improving their knowledge on social requirements for those individuals diagnosed with an Autism spectrum condition

Paul Isaacs 2019


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Autism, Meaning Blindness and The Phantom Rainbow Flask

Related image

Note This was from a personal perspective

There are times when I even question my own perception visual and/or otherwise and got the the point wonder of how I cam to this conclusion.

Noticing An Object With No Context? 

I was presenting a workshop around a week ago and in the room something every so often was catching my eye and intriguing me, its was shiny and rainbow coloured in presentation however I ignored for a while.

Interpretive Meaning vs. Non-Interpretive Experience? 

I was then talking about experiences of being object blind (simultagnosia) and meaning blind (semantic agnosia) and turned the the object of intrigue and held it and proclaimed and questioned  “what is this?” in about 5 seconds or more the audience explained that it was a hip flask!

It just goes to show that even on a residual level my visual perceptual challenges take me by surprise this were I made an effort to remember the object by touching the its smooth and bobbled surface.

Paul Isaacs 2019

 


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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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So What is Simultagnosia & Semantic Agnosia? In The Context Of Autism?

Note: This is from a personal perspective

Simultagnosia is a condition that effects the occiptal lobes of the brain this is where visual perception and processing is connected, it also can have an impact on visual association, language perception/processing and overall navigation of the visual world around you.

“Blindisms”

For me it meant not being able to access the visual world with coherence rendering me unable to access with my “eyes”and having to build up the visual world in a “non-visual” way such as.

  • Smelling
  • Touching
  • Sculpting
  • Licking
  • Tapping
  • Moving

This started early in my development with my Mum’s observations thinking I was both deaf and blind (which is a common observation with people with visual agnosias) I was imprinting through EXTERNAL stimulus to build up a representation and connecting through other sensory modulations to make sense of the experience around me.

“Mapping” A System

As I have got older and with more awareness of the condition I have system in place where I do not hide anything from my view and placement of objects are important in relation to their context.

Context & Relevance

I still have a level of context blindness which means that things that are not being used “lose there relevance” (what they are, their use and function in relation to the environment) I may mistake objects for other things entirely and/or be caught up in how they make me feel rather than what they are.

Paul Isaacs 2019


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Autism, Musings of a Faceblind and Object Blind Child

Note – This is from a personal perspective

As I child the lack of visual and facial coherence meant that the visual world didn’t pry for the bonding and connective meanings that relied of multiple visual stimulus’, faces meant nothing and visual association was hollow, flat and soulless so I didn’t apply the connections of “me”, you” and “I”.

Making Connections & Gestalt Perception

My first friend was “water” not the interpretive word but the emotional recoil that I gathered and like a friend it was there to give and take.

I would see the puddles, flush the toilets and knew from them what would come. A timely wave of energy which was a akin to expectation as the water flowed the twinkles of spray in the surrounding area and the light shards bouncing off the sun in the morning.

Transitional Objects

“Bear” was used as a transitional object he was large, course and scratchy and would sit next to me in the car when my parents went out and about.

Mirrors & “Me”

The Mirror in the bathroom and other places was a constant source of fascination it took me until 16 to released that “him” was “me” but I found it a comfort not to be alone.

Information Processing & Making Connections

On a pre-conscious level I was “sensing” and “tuning in” to an apart of myself which I wasn’t able to make the connection with in real time so it was slow process from infancy to mid-teenage hood.

Having a level of aphasia, visual-verbal agnosias delayed the process but I am thankful to have given myself a “project” to work on and to bridge the gap between my world, the world and other peoples worlds.

Sensing, Interpretation & “Meaning”

This was a feeback loop in which I was finding other through self and self through other (the sense that the person in the mirror was “other”) this brought upon the slow bridging between my internal world of sensing to a level of intereptation.

Paul Isaacs 2018