The new RDI computer database has some great features, one of which is a series of ‘e-learning’ lectures. We watched one the other night (part of our homework assigned by our consultant) and were impressed.
Dr Gutstein was talking about autism being a chronic bio-psycho-social condition, where for whatever reason (and there are many possible reasons, but nothing conclusive yet) the brain doesn’t make the normal multiple connections between its different parts.
He showed a great example of an autistic savant, Stephen, whose amazing gift is memory and reproduction of maps. He was taken for a helicopter flight over Rome for a few hours and then spent three days drawing everything he saw – tiny winding streets, rivers, highways, landmark buildings and apartment blocks in meticulous detail, even down to the number of windows in the Colliseum.
He made the point that wherever Stephen goes, all his focus is on buildings, architecture and street layouts. His brain can really only make one major connection. But neuro-typical people make lots of different connections.
Putting myself in the same helicopter, I might think about the fact that this is my first time in a helicopter and I’m nervous, and I wonder how long the flight will last, and Rome is a lot bigger and busier than the city I live in, and I remember once going to Paris, and Rome is quite different from Paris, and I never learned enough ancient history because I hated the teacher, and even now I can hear him giving out detentions left right and centre....
What RDI is trying to do is to help autistic people make that variety of connections.
So when Bright Eyes and I see a bird in the sky, I might say aloud, “Where’s that bird going?” or “Wow! He’s flying high” or “Hey – its’ white, just like a cockatoo” or “I wonder if he can touch the clouds”. I wouldn’t say, “Look at that. What is it?” because that only reinforces the one connection he has already made.
I found it really useful concept to broaden my daily interactions with Bright Eyes. We’re watching another one tonight. Looking forward to it!