Monday, August 15, 2011

Autistic Sense Of Self: Part 2 Pronouns and Consciousness

As promised, another post in the continuation of The Autistic Sense of Self.

One thing that I have noticed with autistic children is that they often reverse pronouns and refer to themselves in third person.  As a toddler, I called myself by my name often.  My verbal son never used the words me, my, I, or mine until he was 4 in a half.  He would say 'your turn!' when he meant 'my turn', or 'give it to you' when he meant 'give it to me' as well as call himself by his own name.  I think the name came after he began straightening out the pronouns a bit.  I'm not even sure that he recognized his name as him before then. (which may also explain why ASD kids don't respond to their name being called)  You can read more about the new studies scientists are doing with FMRI and studying pronouns usage and sense of self in autistic brains HERE .

This also may explain some of the Theory of Mind that autistics struggle with, as well.  If we don't recognize ourselves as distinguishable from our environments and other people it would be hard to understand that someone might feel different than us, or have feelings independent of our own thoughts.

I remember once when I was about maybe seven or eight I had a revelation dawn on me as I looked in the mirror.  I remember it very clearly.  I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and looked into my own eyes and for the first time ever I realized that the person staring back at me was me.  It's really hard to explain, but I'll try.  I could see that behind my eyes was a consciousness.  This sort of fluid stream of personhood that was Me. This was permanent.  I searched the contours of my cheeks, the depth of my brown eyes, my tongue.  These belonged to me.  These were mine. The person I saw looking back at me was in essence me and was me in my past, right now in my present and will be me in the future.  There existed a thought process of more than just a moment in time that I never knew before.  I could hear my parents and my brother on the other side of the bathroom door.  I realized that these people were attached to me in permanence, as well.  They existed in my past, present and future as my family.  There was a difference in this moment between dreaming and being awake.  I suddenly understood time as a concept, as well as how it related to me. Before then, I seemed to exist on fragments of time and consciousness.  The way a dream might feel, but now I was aware and awake.

It wasn't long after this incident that I began to understand that states of mind and emotions existed independently from my own.  At first, I felt that everything had feelings.  I worried obsessively about things like making sure that I played with all of my toys evenly, so they would not have hurt feelings.  I didn't want to cause anything to feel as left out as I did at school.  So, I began with my new found knowledge of time and ToM to become rigid in all that I did.  I lined up toys so I could make sure they were treated equally. I worried about how trees and the earth felt.  I began the extreme rigid behaviors that would fuel me for the next 20 some yrs with anxiety.  I began my insistence on sameness in my routines and well as environments.  Before then, it was more like my world was totally a sensory experience with a certain disconnect from one moment to another.  My memory and thoughts were more a sensory oriented and less verbal or even visual.

To be continued...

Sense Of Self Part 3