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In order to understand autism you really have to try to understand a perspective that is unknown to you. Autism affects the brain. More precisely, it’s that autistic brains are different altogether. They perceive the world differently and also process information much differently.
To an outsider, you could only tell someone was autistic if they described to you the way in which they think. I’m going to tell you what it’s like for me specifically. Not everything may apply to all Autistics because it is a condition that has effects across a spectrum. But I believe many views would still be shared.
I view Neuro-Typical brains as viewing the world through a tunnel. In this tunnel you understand the world around you as it pertains to a specific context of time and perspective. Usually, the most common time-frame to view life from is your own personal lifetime and the perspective is obviously your own point of view. The thoughts that consume most of your time have to do with work, career, family, friends, social interaction, bills, vacation, and hobbies. This is what I consider “Neuro-Typical tunnel vision”.
An autistic mind recognizes the existence of this tunnel, but does not relate to it. I understand why it is important to you, but I don’t personally connect with this perspective. Nor do I relate to feeling confined to this particular tunnel. I view my environment from a much different point of view.
Because an autistic mind is naturally an “outside-of-the-box” thinker, it is not confined to the tunnel. It naturally wants to constantly expand it’s perspective and understanding.
Not to say a NT mind isn't also capable of this, but not nearly to the same extent. A NT will be able to expand their scope of perspective to reveal what I consider “enlightening subjects”. Math, Philosophy, Science, History, Politics, etc.. They may even become an expert in one, two, or several of these fields. But lack the ability to make connections b/w enlightening subjects, relate those connections with the tunnel, and/or fully grasp an understanding of the “bigger picture”. At some point, regardless of how smart you are, a NT brain views large volumes of information as overwhelming. It will naturally want to return to the tunnel vision. It is safe there. It is secure. Everything makes sense while your in the tunnel. Once you venture out of it, then things become less stable to your understanding of reality. It can be scary out there.
When an autistic brain expands its perspective to reveal the enlightening subjects, the way in which the information is processed is the key difference. A major indicator of autism is “intense preoccupation with a narrow subject”. What happens when I start exploring subjects and I find one that interests me is I grab that idea, create a tunnel around it, and put all my energy into understanding that subject inside and out. Nothing else matters when this happens. Friends, social interaction, hygiene, and even eating slips the mind.
Once I understand it, once I can relate it to other ideas, once I can put its concepts in a context of time that I can understand then, and only then, can I consider letting go and moving on. This is not always the case. Sometimes an autistic mind will become an expert in one of these fields and turn it into a career. Other times they will keep it as a reoccurring interest or hobby. My personal habit is to keep absorbing different subjects. Admittedly, sometimes I let go early, but they often reoccur later in my life and send me into another information binge.
What starts to happen when you keep doing this repeatedly with more and more subjects, is you begin to see you are constructing a new perspective in which to view the world around yourself with--A new level of context with which to interpret the world. Instead of now identifying with only your own personal life, you identify with all life. Instead of viewing the world through a time-frame of understanding as it relates only to your lifespan, you view the world as it relates to all of time. Instead of viewing the world as it relates to your own perspective, you can start considering all perspectives. When you are constantly operating from this point of view then the NT tunnel of reality becomes a joke.
You see it for what it is. It is a prison for the mind. The bars are not made out of steel. You are imprisoned with entertainment, distractions, and things you believe are important. And they are important. Because the tunnel of understanding from which you make that judgment from tells you it is important.
As long as the integrity and structure of the tunnel is maintained, you are willing to ignore things that should outrage you. Restrictions on constitutional rights, financial corruption at the highest level, NDAA, privacy, the TSA!, poverty, death camps. As long as these things don’t interfere with your tunnel, you are comfortable with turning a blind eye. As long as you can go party on the weekends, have a job, spend time with your friends, and have a bed to sleep in at night, then you are comfortable leaving the things that do matter in someone else's hands. Even if the people who you expect to fix these things are often the same exact people who cause these problems in the first place. If the very thought of that sounds illogical to you that’s because it is. The NT reality tunnel contradicts itself repeatedly.
I think a high-functioning autistic mind is capable of constructing a higher form of perspective, understanding, scope of expertise, and context for larger periods of time. I may be jumping to conclusions here, but I think an autistic brain is the next step in human evolution towards a higher form of intelligence. I’m not saying we are close to being there yet. And, I also don’t think the observable differences between the two brains are nearly as exaggerated as it could be one day.
I say this because an autistic mind thrives on access to information. The creation of the internet may have had a role in the identification of this trait, or the exaggeration of this trait. A genetic mutation that creates a brain capable of processing large amounts of information may not have been easily observable had there not existed an unlimited source of knowledge for that brain to explore to begin with.
This is why I believe we have yet to see what an autistic brain is capable of. The internet is still fairly new. The access we have to unlimited information is also still relatively new. Only two things would be necessary to see an even greater increase in the gap between NT brains and autistic brains. One, as medical professionals, as parents, as a society, the autistic tendency to enter tunnels of specialized information processing should be encouraged. Two, the delivery method for information, when perfected, will shorten the amount of time an autistic brain needs to stay in a specialized tunnel of interest.
Once we improve things such as search capabilities, quality of content, quality of sources, and accuracy of information, then I don’t need to spend months invested in a subject. I will need weeks, or days, or hours. You can see how this would quickly expand the scope of understanding for someone capable of processing information this way. Yes, this would also definitely expand a NT brain, but an autistic mind would take off exponentially and, well, leave everyone else behind in evolutionary history.
This is what human evolution is. It’s when a mutation encounters opportunity. Mutations happen all the time. Some good. Some bad. It’s when a mutation gives you a trait that is advantageous for your environment that we encounter some interesting results.