Words are my numbers and story is my mathematics.

That’s the easiest way I can explain why I don’t fit the ‘traditional’ autism model. I read what other people write about their experience of numbers, their beauty, the way they leap off the page in some real and amazing way, and it’s like encountering a blank wall. Numbers have never done that for me. In school I managed a basic level of algebra, but Sin, Cosin and Tan were a foreign language I had to learn by rote. I couldn’t see what they were for, or how they related to one another. Much of physics was the same – volts, watts and amps and the relationship between them are just letters on a page to me.

But give me story and everything changes. Words are how I navigate the world. My head is constantly full of conversation. Every piece of writing I encounter has to be read, considered, filed for reference. Unfortunately I don’t have an eidetic memory – far from it – and most of my recall is associated with fiction, not fact. But I love not just the stories words hold, but the individual shapes of the words, the way sentences and paragraphs are constructed. An awkward sentence or clumsy paragraph feels like tripping over a badly-placed paving stone. A wrongly used word (affect/effect, its/it’s) gives me mild nausea. Typos make me uncomfortable and unhappy (especially when they’re my own!).

How can I explain why a sentence should be constructed in a certain way?

Beyond the rules of grammar, there is a flow to how words construct a fictional world. I may not be that good at it myself, but a perfectly constructed piece of prose is like Mozart – every word in the right place. This structure can be smooth and predictable, or delicate and unexpected, like the slight atonal quality early church music sometimes has to our modern hearing.

Putting words on paper is comforting, familiar. I generally write directly onto computer, but when I’m on the road, settling down with paper and pen, there is a strange sense of rightness about it.

Maybe this is to most people like mathematics is to me – incomprehensible. But when a number person tries to explain to me the lyricism of an equation, I think I can in all honesty say, ‘I know exactly what you mean’.

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