Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Autism Awareness Month–A Week of Thinking Logically

Happy Autism Awareness Month, everyone! By the end of April, I hope you will be more aware of the mentally different people you may encounter in life. (And yes, I know it's now almost the middle of April, but I had a permissions problem and couldn't log in to post for a while.)
First, let's think about logic. The first thing that comes to my mind is a computer. Computers seem very smart, but are actually very stupid. They can add a thousand numbers in a second, remember a terabyte of data (provided a large enough hard drive), and calculate the fastest route between your house and the grocery store. However, a computer cannot infer meaning from context, compose a well-written sentence or understand an idiom. If a programmer leaves out a comma, the compiler will probably throw a fit over "invalid syntax". But if I wrte lik dis, u stll undrstand!
Now, some autistic people can remember thousands of bits of meaningless data, or square any number in their head. I am not one of them; those people are called savants and are extremely rare. I do, however, think somewhat like a computer. To me, the sentence "Go do your work" is very different from "Go do your schoolwork", though my mother insists they both mean the latter. Upon hearing the former, I started tidying my room, and was scolded for not doing my math.
I don't say "Stay there," I say "Stay within a 5-foot radius of your current location" (this is particularly useful for brothers, who tend to wander off to the video game aisle at Target).
When people ask how my day was, I have to stop and remember; they don't actually want to hear all about it. I prefer concrete language, and well-defined terms; say what you mean. A good test is to ask yourself: "If I ran this through Google Translate, would it still mean what I want it to?"
Neurotypicals, your assignment this week is to think logically. Don't assume anything. You will find a lot of unknowns, but that's to be expected. And remember, you can pretend to be a computer, but a computer can't pretend to be you! (at least, not yet…)