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
Paul Isaacs 2020
This is the third workshop presentation is about autism and sensory issues, such as integration, agnosias and sensory amplification.
Further Reading & Links
Somatic Amplification (Common with Mental Health Conditions, Asperger’s Syndrome and Alexithymia)
Paul Isaacs 2020
I presented video workshops on the system of sensing, coined by the late Donna Williams in the presentations I spoke and covered as follows:
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
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?
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
This books is a must read for parents, professionals and people on the autism spectrum
Stella Waterhouse has been a professional in the field of autism since the 1970’s with a whole wealth information that taps into the very soul with resonance and deep thought, she clear has a passion for getting the knowledge out there by presenting different aspects in chapters with detailed and accessible writing.
From detailed historical elements of autism, professionals and advocates on the autism spectrum written with eager candor, emotion and objectivity to the multi-faceted nature of autism broken down into accessible pieces.
The running theme in book contextual to the information based on the specific chapter is to give a human element that touches the reader, makes them think, reflect, perspective take, feel emotion and more.(with first person account and historical accounts).Woven with relative and factual elements (such as the brain and nervous system) that broaden the palette and overall sphere of information giving rounded, objective and fluidity the runs from page to page.
This is a refreshing book that achieves the very title it was given looking beyond the stale and liner 2D nature of autism and opening up a broadening 3D perspective that will no doubt help generations to come. Highly recommended.
Paul Isaacs 2017
Note: This is from a personal perspecitve and doesn’t represent all people on the autism spectrum with or without the co-conditions mentioned
These interviews were conducted at the NAS Conference in Telford – In these interviews I talk about visual perceptual disorders, agnosias and tinted lenses in the context of autism. I would also like to stress that everyone’s autism.
Paul Isaacs 2016
Note – That this is from a personal perspective of my profile and what makes up “my autism”
Here are all the pieces of my Autism broken down into bits and chucks with a personal perspective on each bit and personal strategies that have helped me over the years.
This is an issue with processing one’s own emotions it affects about 85 percent of people on the autism spectrum and is experienced on different levels depending on how one is affected and what moods create the issue.
For me emotions come outside in and not inside out they are an invasion a wave of energy that is uncontrollable, invisible and scary – negative emotions take longer to process and configure as well – for example it took my 3 whole years to process (emotionally) that I was being bullied at work everybody else knew I didn’t. I a wave of energy hit me that night as I cried uncontrollably with the realisation of what happened again it took 3 years. As a teenager I would tense my face up and self-harm in the form of knuckling my cheeks, slapping my legs and hitting my arms in confusion and disconnect.
Receptive/Expressive Language & Movement Issues (Speech & Communication)
There are many different forms of aphasia which affect both expressive and receptive communication
Sounds and language intermingled and became indisputable I would react with glee and find these “sounds” that people made and tilt my head in wonderment, perplexed and even intrigued by these “sounds” this was at pre-school – event now receptive language is difficult for me (words process back into sounds meaning deafness)
Swirling sounds and words in my head – I had problems with expressive speech for about the first five years I had no functional language in head for many years – I would have moments of clarity, moments of language which slowly progressed but no one saw because of my external behaviours I had limited words within my head which progressed – no one should be written off if they don’t have expressive speech, I heard things in the playground and slowly processed them and because of how I appeared it looked like I didn’t hear/understand.
At around the ages of 7/8 years old I gained functional expressive speech of (from a developmental perspective a 3 year old) – with the receptive and expressive language disconnect I had issues with understanding to express and equally expressing to understand. This lead to confusion with not only myself but others around me Speech Apraxia (Verbal Dyspraxia) also compacted the issue (coordination of the mouth and tongue and jaw muscles to extract speech) this was prevalent until late infancy in my CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) notes speech production was at times heard to understand.
Selective Mutism – (once functional speech was acquired)
During late infancy and early teenage-hood I had bouts of mutism (having the ability to speak but because of anxiety would not) this included – people who I sensed were non genuine, too much expressive language from speaker (meaning deafness) so unable to give an answer that was contextually correct.
In mid to late infancy I had what was termed a nervous throat this was to do with the “feeling” or an obstruction in my throat causing me to in a tic-like fashion make a loud “Hum!” and “ahem!” sound.
Sounds, patterns, themes, feeling, movement and experiencing this world, people and place. I don’t use elaborate constructions but do and sense in order to perceive, understand an process I don’t live in a world of literalism nor logic as basis of “concrete” understanding – even now that form of and basis of understanding things, people, environments etc.
I see faces (face blindness), bodies and visual environment as fragmented (object blindness) which also meant I could not see body language or facial expression , flat tursh and without depth or meaning (meaning blindness) not understanding self and other of what is around me for example it took me until 16 years old to understand that when I looked in the mirror firstly I was looking at myself (although I still get a level of disconnect) and that what “seems to be in front of me” is in reality behind me. My visual perceptual systems have layered effect on what I see and interpret.
Hearing sounds environmental with no on origin (auditory agnosias) hearing words as “sounds” (verbal auditory agnosia/receptive aphasia) missing tone, sarcasm, idioms not because of literalism but because of how much language I can process before I “hear” nothing.
Not being connected to my body means that pain is not recognised as well as a sense of my own body its inter-connectivity and its connection (as a whole form) around the world around me, I appeared odd to bouts of trauma having a tooth almost knocked out (an elbow to the mouth) was me with indifference to pain but shock and sadness at the blood (this element coming out of me) and a dislocated arm was met with anger and confusion because of the lack of movement not the pain. During times of mental illness I self-harmed both my arms not “knowing when to stop” and as a child I didn’t have knowledge of my fingers (my limbs also rolled into one another as if they didn’t exist).
Dissociative Disorders – Recognised in 2012/Revised 2014
In late infancy I started to dissociate as coping mechanism during these years and for many after taking myself away from both the situation and environment, persistent bullying during my educational and work years didn’t help the issue and I “created” personas (with strong reactionary personality profiles) to deal with this. I developed PTSD some years ago reliving an abusive incident that happened in my mid teenager years.
I started to develop OCD in my early teenager years this was persistent and would resulted in hand washing, placement moving and plug and switch checking, door-slamming and checking. Exposure anxiety was to do with an involuntary response to direct exposure interaction this would lead me to run away literally (or in my mind). Like many people on the spectrum I advocate the personhood first in the late 2000s I developed two distinct personality disorders (extreme versions of my “normalised” personality traits.)
Words swilling in my head I found them hard to process and strand together as words formed in my head over time I found it hard to translate them onto the page, the same with numbers which don’t swill in my head I found it hard to grasp numbers their meaning and their interpretation and their overall function.
Many foods would make me fill ill both in body and mind causing me to have brain fog, lack concentration and further hinder my processing and integration of information from my surroundings, language and sounds.
This can be related to anxiety it is the slow stripping of enamel making them look “smooth” and/or “chipped” in appearance I have this with many teeth on one side of mouth
Genetics – Developmental Agnosias & Minicolumns
Some agnosias, sensory hypersensitivity, sensory integration disorders and many other conditions and syndrome can be passed down and can be seen as congenital in nature how the brain has grown with genetic encoding – Neurologist Dr Manuel Casanova calls this Minicolumns please take a look at this blog about his research and findings
Donna Williams – Autism as a “Fruit Salad”
Donna is quite correct in letting the world know that autism is a “clustering” of different conditions (both neurological and metabolic systems), syndromes, personhood and personality extremes, environment, mental health and learning styles. No one person with autism is the same and that means there is a high level of diversity to their which is good.
Brain Injury Relates To My Autism Profile
Having brain injury at both has also had an impact on my autism presentation I was born premature and through placental abruption, cerebral hypoxia, silent stroke and damage the left hemisphere of the brain (which is related to aphasia, language processing, visual agnosias, simultagnosia, apraxias and visual spatial functioning).
I would say that these added factors has made my autism “Fruit Salad” more complex in nature and presentation – there are clearly other members of my are on the on the autism spectrum who have been diagnosed but their profiles are very different from mine in terms of presentation the mechanics.
Having an Autie Profile
Having an Autie profile in terms of presentation means I live in world (from a processing perspective) that is less literal, less logical and I use my sensory systems to work out the world I live in and I think it is important to know the mechanical differences between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and the people in between profiles of the two “Aspinauts” .
Every profile is unique in presentation so interventions, learning and communications will have to be person centred.
Personhood First? Why?
For all what is said and done I want to be known for my personhood first my autism comes along with me wherever I go, however it doesn’t define my being, it doesn’t make me what I am in totality (it affects how I perceive and processing the world). I love art, poetry, music, movies, fashion, drawing, being silly, bad jokes, dogs and want to know for those things first.
I hope this helps others. 🙂
Paul Isaacs 2014
“Having Visual agnosias as apart of my autism means I rely on textures, sounds, movement and placement rather than logic or literalism. I know I live in a different world perceptually than other folks on the spectrum.”
Paul Isaacs 2014
Note – This is a personal perspective of how I experiences Supermarkets
There are many ways in and strategies which I have used to navigate a supermarket over the years when I was a child I never knew what this “big colourful space” was that my parents used to take me to, I had no concept or connection with what it was as it was a bunch of fragmented images (that I would like or hate or get sensory “highs” from) noises that I couldn’t decipher and would like or dislike, kinesthetic sensory experiences were a way of connecting with the environment and experiencing the products in this fashion was very useful for me as it was building a bridge of connectivity.
So here is what helps me –
This helps reduce noise input not only do I have Verbal Auditory Agnosia/Aphasia (meaning deafness) I also have an Auditory Hypersensitivity which is greatly helped due to headphones – (imagine hearing every single sound all at once at equal volume) it helps me connect better with my surroundings and focus on the tasks of buying the products I can also get stuck on “words” and “sounds” that I hear which is also helped by the headphones.
These help and continue to help with processing visuals in light as I have Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome/Light Sensitivity they help with reducing light “over” visual information, I also have Visual Agnosias – Prosopagnosia, Simultagnosia, Semantic Agnosia (seeing things in bits, without “meaning” with a lack of depth 2D) this can cause problem with navigating surroundings. Although I still have these agnosias and don not have a “visual memory” it helps me navigate surroundings much better, with reduced light input, less fragmentation and more visual depth and “real time”.
I wear clothing with “pressure points” I have Visuospatial Dysgnosia (body disconnection) so I have tight bracelets round my wrists, my hair is in a tight bun/ponytail, tight fitted shoes – This gives me “anchor points” for my body to navigate around the “space” around me.
I still “see” and “hear” without “meaning” and in the supermarket I still like to touch to perceive and map my surroundings by remembering my patterns of movement around the store, however I believe in positivity and healthy challenges for myself and this is one of them. I hope this helps. 🙂
Paul Isaacs 2014
I have a lot of respect for her. A very lovely lady I saw her last October at the National Autistic Society she spoke about Autism and Sensory Issues which includes Sensory Sensitivities but ALSO Sensory Perceptual Disorders which she calls Sensory Agnosias – Agnosias can be an important part of a persons’s Autism “Fruit Salad” (Donna Williams) She covers many of them including Prosopagnosia, Visuospatial dysgnosia, Semantic Agnosia, Simultanagnosia and many more.
I also have a lot of respect for, a lovely lady also. She has written extensively from personal and professional views on the inter-linkage of Agnosias and how they’re with a person’s Autism profile. From her own personal memoirs, books, blogs and presentations and many years as an Autism Consultant.
Developmental Agnosia (n.) DEFINITION
1.(MeSH )Loss of the ability to comprehend the meaning or recognize the importance of various forms of stimulation that cannot be attributed to impairment of a primary sensory modality. Tactile agnosia is characterized by an inability to perceive the shape and nature of an object by touch alone, despite unimpaired sensation to light touch, position, and other primary sensory modalities.
Autism, sensory perception and agnosia by Donna Williams
Two Warrior Women Indeed 😉
Paul Isaacs 2014
I had the honor of seeing Phoebe Caldwell at two Autism Events and I was truly inspired and empowered by both of her speeches and the many years of wisdom and experience (over 35 years) with people on the Autism spectrum and people on the spectrum with Learning Disabilities.
DIVERSITY OF SENSORY & COMMUNICATION PROFILES
She offers an holistic lateral way of approaching people on the autism spectrum by looking at their –
It is a really positive way of engaging and interaction on a person-centred level.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAPPINESS
By tapping into the way in which the person on the spectrum communicates, interacts and how they perceive sensory information – then their personhood will begin to blossom and show, their happiness will begin to shine something which is so important and meaningful to every person.
I feel that looking at the spectrum as a diverse mixture of different profiles is really positive and the importance of happiness is equally important also.
Thank You Phoebe for Empowering so many people on the spectrum. 🙂
OLLY & PHOEBE COMMUNICATING
Paul Isaacs 2014