A comment on Laurent Mottron’s piece in Nature caught my eye:
Along the way, I learned that I have several uncommon skills. I see patterns in all of that information, continually, where other people do not. It leaps out at me. And, I can pick out discrepancies at ten paces. Discrepancies are a breach in logic, and I find this jarring. No one else seems to notice such breaches. I am astonished that they do not. Once I pick out all that information, I connect it with any and all other information I carry mentally, rather like a connect-the-dot game. And memory is like a third hand to me. I use it with aplomb. Further, I learn by reading….seeing information in print. If I hear a lecture, or anything else, given verbally, I am likely to have gaps in my understanding. Give me high-quality printed information on my topics of interest (and I have hundreds of them), allowing me to focus, and I am in heaven.
Full comment here.
Hyperlexic autism is the other autism, the one ignored because of the focus on male autistics and their tendency to have a facility with numbers. All the autism scoring systems focus on obsessions with numbers and dates, difficulty with spoken language and incomprehension of metaphor.
The swathes of female autistics entering the blogiverse, their facility with the written word, is demonstrating that an ability to memorise phone numbers may be neither sensitive nor specific for autism. Pattern recognition doesn’t have to be dots on a page, or one non-prime number in a lineup of primes. Whatever our special area is, it’s likely that our pattern-recognising ability is contained within it.
At school I was known for making several rapid connections between pieces of written or verbal information and coming to a conclusion. Someone once told me my thinking was so lateral I lateraled myself out of the window. That confused me because ending up out of the window implied some sort of illogical conclusion, and my logical pathway was always impeccable. It wasn’t my fault that no one else ever saw it until I explained it to them.
One of my special skills is discrepancies in a story. Consider the following clinical case:
A girl in her mid-twenties comes to the emergency department with a history of dizziness and inappropriate laughter. From behind the curtained bay come intermittent bouts of loud laughter as the junior doctor assesses her. Some time later I see the junior writing another prescription.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Giving her something for dizziness. She’s had this for three weeks, seen three doctors already. I’m sending her back to her own GP.’
‘What’s the diagnosis?’
Shrug. ‘No idea.’
‘Mind if I go and chat to her?’
‘Be my guest.’
So I introduce myself and ask her to describe what’s going on.
‘For three weeks I’ve been so dizzy I’m finding it hard to walk.’
‘And the laughing?’
‘No idea why I’m doing that. I try to stop it, but I can’t. It just keeps happening.’
‘And when did it start?’
‘Three forty in the afternoon on the 24th September.’
That was three weeks ago. ‘Any medical problems normally?’
‘Take any medications?’
‘Been on holiday anywhere?’
‘Egypt. Got back three weeks ago.’
And I had the diagnosis.
Because everyone likes a challenge, I’ll leave it there. You’re not expected to get the diagnosis unless you’re a doctor or you watch a lot of House. But what is the glaringly illogical point in the history, and how does it tell me what’s wrong?