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starkid
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20 Dec 2016, 4:58 pm

strings wrote:
Speaking as one whose career has been in the STEM area, I think my tendencies towards concrete thinking and abstract thinking are somewhat "compartmentalised." That is to say, in areas of human and social interactions I display all the traditional ASD traits of awkwardness, taking people too literally, and so on. These social areas are outside my comfort zone.


I don't understand; does social interaction require much abstract thinking? It seems to me that it requires far more concrete thinking than abstract: one is acting in the moment with specific people who have specific personalities and say and do specific things to which one is expected to respond directly and specifically. It's a concrete experience of seeing, hearing, and responding, not a theory or model that one has to imagine.


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20 Dec 2016, 5:11 pm

Do autistic people have trouble with abstract reasoning, or is this a misunderstanding of a brain process?

I'm a cliche that way, very good at languages, reasonably good with basic math. Give me a word problem, and I'm unable to turn it into mathematical language.

How many autistics with good STEM skills are good at expressing themselves in words? Can they use language skillfully while working with STEM subjects, or do they have to "shift gears" to do that? I feel that the part of my brain that can do maths is wordless. The absolutely most difficult subject for me is physics, because it involves complex maths and words, all the time.

Are STEM subjects really abstract? How much is concrete?


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20 Dec 2016, 6:03 pm

I see math as foreign language, a language that I cannot understand... Maybe those people who are good with math are the ones that can understand that language.... And language is abstract....I think...?


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strings
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21 Dec 2016, 12:02 am

starkid wrote:
strings wrote:
Speaking as one whose career has been in the STEM area, I think my tendencies towards concrete thinking and abstract thinking are somewhat "compartmentalised." That is to say, in areas of human and social interactions I display all the traditional ASD traits of awkwardness, taking people too literally, and so on. These social areas are outside my comfort zone.


I don't understand; does social interaction require much abstract thinking? It seems to me that it requires far more concrete thinking than abstract: one is acting in the moment with specific people who have specific personalities and say and do specific things to which one is expected to respond directly and specifically. It's a concrete experience of seeing, hearing, and responding, not a theory or model that one has to imagine.


I am uncomfortable in social interactions, and I adopt a rather literal and concrete way of thinking, maybe as a defence mechanism. So I cannot resist correcting people when they say "who" when they should have said "whom," I correct people when they say "in a word" and they actually said two words, and so on. I often fail to catch on to a remark that is intended to be sarcastic, because I take it literally. I like to see the rules being followed. My impression is that this kind of concrete thinking is not what is expected in a "normal" social interaction. I think when NTs interact socially, there is probably a more flexible set of rules, with many allowable exceptions.

Once I am involved in my own thoughts and my own work, I can follow the logic of the mathematics I am working with, and I can know that it follows a strict set of rules, and yet there is a freedom to explore ideas, and test new possibilities. Ultimately, it has to be tested against the concrete rules, but while looking into possibilities, there is a freedom to imagine "what if...". The equations don't talk back to me, and object if I take liberties. So I feel more at home, more comfortable, when I express myself freely in my work.



CockneyRebel
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21 Dec 2016, 1:21 am

I was never any good at STEM subjects. I've always been great at arts and crafts.


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21 Dec 2016, 7:52 am

Gwen,

You sound a lot like me in the types of subjects we like, ones in which we excel and those in which we struggle.



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21 Dec 2016, 10:02 am

As I see it, many NTs don't have enough concrete thinking to do well in STEM. And there are folks on the autism spectrum with too much to do well in STEM. There is a "happy medium" that allows some of us to do really well in STEM. These folks are likely to be under-represented here--if you have a good job and maybe even a relationship--your day is likely to be really busy.



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21 Dec 2016, 10:23 am

I did well in math when I was a child, when it still made sense. When it got to algebra, it was worse than learning a foreign language. (I got straight A's in Spanish). Everything was like an alphabet soupy mess. It was only through hard work and some help that I managed to get a C.



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21 Dec 2016, 11:33 am

I'm good at scientific and mathematical subjects because there are concrete rules. It's logical. Facts are facts. Also, it's interesting, so I do a lot of research and learn more. For this reason, I am also great at punctuation and sentence structure. People are not logical and can't be defined by any specific algorithm.



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21 Dec 2016, 12:55 pm

Marybird wrote:
I think the problem is not with abstract thinking but with understanding abstract language.
here is a link to a very interesting thread on that topic.
http://wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=222662

Thanks for sharing. This totally makes sense. I am pretty good with abstract thinking. I work in the software industry and am able to (fairly well) construct abstract models/designs based upon concrete "use cases". But, I am not so good with communication of abstract ideas. I do much better when the abstract ideas are communicated via pictures. Which is why I favor drawing on white boards.



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21 Dec 2016, 1:15 pm

I think that AS being associated with STEM goes back to Hans Asperger himself. He has been quoted saying that "A little touch of Autism is necessary for progress in the sciences" (or something to that affect.) I also think it may have something to do with a combination of Rain Man and the theory behind Einstein being on the spectrum that has caused a lot of NT's and aspies alike to associate AS with the STEM fields. I am a biology major myself so I am happily perpetuating the stereotype. I think that the reason why the STEM fields may appeal to aspies is the amount of concrete factual information and lack of nuanced subjectivity. I know its something I find comfort in. :P



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21 Dec 2016, 2:20 pm

Study: Autism, creativity and divergent thinking may go hand in hand

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The researchers said the results help explain why some of the most famous people with autism are in creative fields. Actress Darryl Hannah has been outspoken about her struggles with autism since she was a child. Tito Mukhopadhyay is virtually mute, but the eloquent poems he writes by hand or types out have provided a window into how an autistic person experiences life. And architectural artist Stephen Wiltshire has become well known for his ability to draw landscapes in exacting detail even after seeing them only once. In recent years, many have commented that a number of the titans of Silicon Valley, whose creative products are leading to perhaps unprecedented economic and social upheaval, also have autistic traits.


I do believe the rigid thinking and STEM stereotypes are causing creative autistics to be misdiagnosed or not diagnosed.


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22 Dec 2016, 8:29 am

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... wanted=all

The Little Professor Syndrome
By Lawrence Osborne
Published: June 18, 2000

Being creative requires that you be in the proper environment--you can't be creative if you are too stressed out from trying to be normal.

Learning may require a combination of inspiration, talent, and someone who can actually teach it. You may have problems with math because one of the three were missing.



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22 Dec 2016, 9:13 am

Interesting topic. I am good at writing (in English) and science (just finished a BSc, including a couple of major research projects, and have worked in a couple of labs). I can't write an in-depth reponse right now, but I can share a couple of reasons why I think some Aspies gravitate towards and are good at STEM fields. I like that you can measure things precisely (although this isn't always the case, and that frustrates me no end) and use statistical tools to measure how significant your results are. Because of the requirement for replication in order to have reliable statistics there's a lot of repetition, which might appeal to some Aspies (although not to me!). Finally, experiments often don't work the first time, or the second time, or even the 10th time. I'll get annoyed when I run into these roadblocks, but after swearing a bit to release the frustration, I'll keep going until I solve the problem. I'm sure I have my Aspie 'intense focus' to thank for that.

Overall, I think it's a bit of a cliche that Aspies are good at STEM. We all have a unique mix of strengths. For some, those strengths will add up to a STEM field. For others, those strengths will lead to something different.



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22 Dec 2016, 10:01 am

The only part of chemistry I did really well was the periodic table. I think this has to do with memory, one of my strengths. Trying to balance any kind of equation beyond the simplest one made me tear my hair out.



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22 Dec 2016, 8:54 pm

IstominFan wrote:
The only part of chemistry I did really well was the periodic table. I think this has to do with memory, one of my strengths. Trying to balance any kind of equation beyond the simplest one made me tear my hair out.


I think I can help you with that. One thing that I found is to approach it like a teeter-toddler, placing each type of element present in the reaction at the ends. You then put in the number of each element for each side to see how balanced it is. The side that is lighter on each element is the one you need to look at first (ie. the side is sticking up at you). Next, try to find the right combination of numbers to put in front of the element, ion or compound on that side to match the other one (to gradually level the teeter-toddler out). Remember that as you put numbers in front of groups that contain more than one element, you are affecting the number of all of the atoms in that group and side of the reaction. Practice working more and more of these types of problems and soon you will get better at them.

Many people that I have taught chemistry had a pre-disposition that it was too hard for them to learn. Unfortunately, if you approach learning like that, you will often fail due to mental roadblocks that you built. I tell my students to approach chemistry with an open mind and a willingness to learn. This requires them to forget how others told them that the material was "too hard". It does make a difference if they try this technique. I have successfully taught chemistry classes using this method to students who failed taking the same class two or three other times before (different instructors), so it can work if they apply themselves properly. Granted, there are cases where it will never go past a certain point (by limitations of the student's skills), but I try to watch for those as they come up.