Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First Understandings

Older Journal Entry
My first understanding came as to place. “Kitchen” meant eat. “Crib” meant string no more. "To go" meant torture because my Mom would take me daily to a special school where they would practice ABA on me I did not understand. They would attempt to teach me – what I don’t know. I learned my own lessons there instead. I learned if you sit and stim on the chair with a hole in it, the potty, then pee as soon as they take you off, you never have to do any work. School taught me that peeing alone could rid you of the expectations people thrust on you. It was a lesson I practiced a lot as a child. I learned if you pattern a response you still get enough juice to drink. And I learned if you laugh for Lisa she will tickle you. I loved Lisa and she is a story in herself. And I learned if you play dumb people will assume you are dumb and leave you alone – well most people. (Mom is not most people, but that too is another story, one of awakenings for me.)

One day a man came. He was the first thing in my life that actually made sense to me. It was a rule he taught me – do it, and escape. I learned I could retreat to my autistic home without fear of intrusion if I did what they wanted. "Come here" called me out of my home. "Go play" rereleased me to it. It was control he offered me. A gift that let me keep my autistic home pure from invasion. In my autistic home I meditated and talked to the light. In my autistic home my identity was intact as a soul. I could endure all manner of torture in the world if it meant being able to return to my home in end. I could go to the world then back to my world as a place of pure light and love.

Only I found that the world was not all bad. At times it was full of tickles and love. At times it was full of beautiful color patterns. When little, I used to entertain myself on the kaleidoscope of color formed by the world.

I can not tell you when things started to make sense for me just that it happened. Not all at once, and even now, not all. Where I could not work them together I learned to channel my senses one after the other. I would see then hear, or hear then look. What I saw was still a false impression. But at least it was a start.

Nothing in color made sense to me. To see color broke things into pieces. But I could match to shape or object if the color was solid. I am aware now of some of the programming that was done on me, its goals. To identify objects and pictures is one of the first programs in ABA. It is done as a match, “put with same”. I had the innate ability to match to shapes of solids but what I was matching held no meaning to my eye. 3D to 3D matches I could do, but it was meaningless. 3D to 2D and 2D to 3D was initially a failed attempt. The form I matched to, the outside shape had no match in the 2D representation. Eventually I learned to match to a 2 dimensional outline of 3D objects and visa versa, but this was never the ultimate goal of the lesson. Everything else was a failed effort. Color broke things into pieces and color blocked content. Not until my mother realized this did she finally stop trying to teach me to match pictures of objects. Even now, I can see parts or I can see the whole, but to see parts within the context of the whole remains lost on me. It is a huge disability.
I still spend hours on my own looking at magazine pictures to match them to the 3D world around me. Photographs are the least confusing for me. I learned to read by matching letters on labels largely because the letters held more meaning than the pictures. To see things as a whole unit is how I had to approach things. Mom just reminded me that I learned my color words by embedding them in the color. Another autist might respond to embedding the color in the word but not me. For me to see the word in color would have hidden the content of the word. Theirs is another issue. Each issue has its own appropriate learning technique. Mine was largely a visual processing issue.

Not that my auditory system functioned correctly at the start either. Sound was originally without meaning or direction. To hear a twig snap, or water flow or laughter; it was all one huge background noise to me. A dog's bark held the same significance as your words. Both alerted me to something yet unknown. The first word I understood was my name. My mom would soothe me singing it in my ear, over and over again, after the car accident. I lost my sight for a time because of the car crash. It let me focus on another sense as having meaning. Without the crash I sometimes wonder how long it would have taken me to figure out that sound had meaning.

I also had motor issues which blocked my demonstration of understanding of meaning. A single motor action I might be able to do. Chained actions were an impossibility.
I was a nonperson physically as a child with all that that entails. My tactile system's failings left me without the sensation of a physical body. Think of a ghost trying to get its bearings to move. I was a nonentity in the world. I lived a thoughtfilled existence though.

I smelled my way through familiar things. Most smells mixed to nauseate me, so I would mark things with my own scent.

Reading saved my learning. I could sight read words long before I understood what the alphabet was for. I thought the alphabet was just one huge word. This is my beginning. I had far less than most to work with at the start. But I had my intellect as resource and stubborness as drive.

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