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Callista
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16 Oct 2011, 4:06 pm

Okay, I don't know how many of you have already hit on this idea, so I'll just throw it out there and see if anyone finds it useful.

When you listen to someone talk, the information has to be converted from raw sound into abstract information in order for you to understand it. That usually happens like this:

--Sound information gets processed by the ear and turned into nerve impulses, which your auditory nerve sends to your brain.
--The information--which is still meaningless noise right now--get stored in your sensory memory. Your sensory memory is a really short-duration storage which keeps hold of stuff while you subconsciously decide whether to pay attention to it. For some of us it's not subconscious; for many of us it's subconscious only partly.
--So, once you've decided to pay attention to a particular bit of information, you become aware of it at this point if you weren't already, and you transfer it to short-term memory. That's where you process it into meaning, by associating the information with whatever neural connections it sparks. So, if you hear the sounds for the word "cat", that connects with the idea of "cat" in your brain. Much of the time, you don't have any awareness of the "meaningless sound" phase because you automatically think of the idea of cat. It happens so fast you don't notice it.

So where this stuff jams up a lot, at least for me and I presume for many other autistics, is in the speed of the association of those sounds with their meanings. You try to keep up with stuff, but by the time you figure out "cat", you have already missed the next word, which you should have been processing all along. (Actually we process things in chunks, not single words, much of the time: Each word is affected by the words around it, as well. But, that's the general idea.)

One of my tricks is to deliberately delay processing those "meaningless" sounds. Rather than bringing stuff from sensory memory to short-term and processing it right away, I will bring the "meaningless" sounds into short-term memory directly, and store them as a string of noise rather than coded into words. Then, when I have the time, I can take those sounds and mentally re-play them, let them make connections at their own speed. For me, all it takes is an extra second here and there--the lag isn't even noticeable.

This is useful to me because, without it, I often find myself guessing at what the other person has said, misunderstanding things or just missing information.

I don't know how easy it is for people to learn this trick. It was pretty easy for me. I just realized that, when I hadn't managed to understand something, I could often still retrieve the sounds I had heard and interpret them at my leisure. But it might be helpful for others with auditory processing issues. Or maybe it won't be. But there it is.


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16 Oct 2011, 6:07 pm

Callista: You're so d*mn smart. :) I think this is a great idea for handling information being dissimenated by those who haven't a clue of how to 'market' their conveyances more oriented for brains that work via 'concepts' vs. 'slivers' and 'fragments'.


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btbnnyr
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16 Oct 2011, 6:46 pm

I sometimes use something like this to process language, both for listening and reading. Just suck in the stuff without trying to understand it and understand it in replay. With listening, the stuff usually has to be replayed to get the meaning from the words, but with reading, I just suck it in and my brain takes care of it in the hours or days or even weeks afterwards, so I end up knowing things without having tried to process the words. I think this is an autistic way of info processing. Even when looking at and seeing things, there is a delay between seeing something and knowing what it is. In one way, the lag is a disadvantage, because there is a lag, but in another way, the lag lets you think out of the box. For most people, it's like as soon you see something, you know what it is and it can't take on any other meaning, and you get locked-in to that meaning only, but for me and maybe other autistics, it's like you see something and you don't know what it is or think about what it is, so you associate it with something interesting and totally outside the box during the lag period, before you finally know what it is, so by that time, you have both the meaning and the association that captures some other meaning and you like thinking this way because it's fun. :D

It's funny, because when I was little, I used to not know what the heck people were talking about, because most of what they said was noise to my brain. But afterwards, I would recite the conversations verbatim for my parents, and they would use my recitations to figure out any hidden messages they might have missed originally.



btbnnyr
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16 Oct 2011, 7:14 pm

I have a name for this noise--->meaning replay: "Distant Replay", like "Instant Replay". I guess if you use the replay method and work on making the distant replay closer and closer to instant, then you will get better and better at speech processing in real-time.

I think these high-fidelity replays, loop-de-loop-de-loop, may be a basic autistic pattern of thinking. Like Temple Grandin's video replays that she wrote about in her books. I know that I tend to replay sensory stimuli at a basic sensory level rather than assigning lots of emotional or social meaning to the stuff going on at the time or afterwards. I'm not doing much processing through that social-emotional channel that NTs access automatically. Of course, this causes problems with socializing and communicating, primarily with NTs who think that way without trying to and with about as little choice in the matter as we have in our autistic patterns of thinking.



OJani
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17 Oct 2011, 3:17 am

Callista wrote:
One of my tricks is to deliberately delay processing those "meaningless" sounds. Rather than bringing stuff from sensory memory to short-term and processing it right away, I will bring the "meaningless" sounds into short-term memory directly, and store them as a string of noise rather than coded into words.

I think I do something similar sometimes. I just store the auditive pattern in my memory, and then, typically a few seconds later I slowly begin to decipher its meaning. I guess this process delayed partly because I have to deal with further incoming information, partly because of a mild shutdown state.

btbnnyr wrote:
(...) In one way, the lag is a disadvantage, because there is a lag, but in another way, the lag lets you think out of the box. For most people, it's like as soon you see something, you know what it is and it can't take on any other meaning, and you get locked-in to that meaning only, but for me and maybe other autistics, it's like you see something and you don't know what it is or think about what it is, so you associate it with something interesting and totally outside the box during the lag period, before you finally know what it is, so by that time, you have both the meaning and the association that captures some other meaning and you like thinking this way because it's fun. :D

I think it's a real advantage of autistics to have the ability to think outside the box. New ideas, more realistic and less biased way of thinking, associations where "normally" there isn't any.

What I would do when I have to deal with too much incoming auditive data that I can't process fully is selecting/distinguishing. I try to concentrate on the general outlines of the ideas that keep rolling on my ears, catch only key phrases and words. Sometimes I just genuinely don't know what the other person's talking about, and try to guess upon it. If it turns out that the said stuff wasn't important anyway, I skip it, and concentrate on the following, or make up questions for interruption and clarification that deflect the conversation to a more informative and/or decipherable course from my perspective.



ooOoOoOAnaOoOoOoo
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17 Oct 2011, 8:27 am

I process some words as mumbles. I don't know if they really are mumbled or if I hear them that way so I ask the person to repeat what they said in a conversation. If it's a lecture, why not just tape it and replay it again later?

The problem with storing it is time. I might miss out on important information that's needed right then or forget it altogether.

I am glad it works for you. It's good to come up with innovative ways to deal with things.



MrXxx
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17 Oct 2011, 3:48 pm

Holy CRAP, Callista!

I cannot believe how well this concept jives with an experience I've been going through for the past few weeks!

My father-in-law had a stroke a few weeks ago, which affected his speech tremendously. My hearing isn't the best anymore, so I already have trouble hearing every word anyone says in environments with background noise of any kind. Add to that the fact that AS causes problems with picking out one conversation out of many.

Now, my father-in-laws speech is slurred to a great extent, almost to the point that he sounds like he's drunk all the time. I often cannot pick out more than a few word per sentence when he speaks.

Yet, somehow, I am able to discern what his intention is. I can tell what he's trying to say just from those few words. I find am am better able to mentally "fill in the blanks" than I was able to hear all those details when he was able to speak well. When I COULD hear all his words, I had a harder time staying focused on the overall message he was conveying.

Over the past few weeks I have been wondering why and how I could be understanding him so well with his speech impaired so badly. Your explanation here has cleared it up for me!

Wow! Thanks!


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