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kraftiekortie
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25 Jun 2021, 8:30 am

I guess it depends on the autistic person.

I'm pretty good in practical math----but absolutely suck in abstract mathematics.



MrsPeel
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25 Jun 2021, 9:18 am

Mm. Apologies for the diversion, but it just occurred to me that the reason my daughter still has trouble working out the correct change (when buying things) is that most transactions nowadays are electronic on card. So it's too abstract for her. I need to get her using cash more often.



kraftiekortie
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25 Jun 2021, 1:44 pm

It's more like your daughter isn't forced to obtain the correct change.

People have trouble telling time on analog clocks-----because they don't have to--what with digital clocks and watches all over the place now.

I have found, since I've had access to things like Wikipedia, that I haven't bothered to memorize items which I certainly would have memorized earlier in my life. I always know that I can rely on Wikipedia to confirm an impression I've gathered, or to confirm an item of knowledge I conveyed to someone else.



QuantumChemist
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25 Jun 2021, 2:31 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
It's more like your daughter isn't forced to obtain the correct change.

People have trouble telling time on analog clocks-----because they don't have to--what with digital clocks and watches all over the place now.

I have found, since I've had access to things like Wikipedia, that I haven't bothered to memorize items which I certainly would have memorized earlier in my life. I always know that I can rely on Wikipedia to confirm an impression I've gathered, or to confirm an item of knowledge I conveyed to someone else.


Unfortunately that leads to reliance upon modern technology. I avoid the use of smartphones because I see too many that become dependent upon them to think. Even my students have been guilty of this in my classes. Their eyes bug out when I explain why I do not use them. My simple flip phone works just as well as fancy smartphones at making actual calls to other people. I have no need to learn how to text, as I can email with a laptop. In my life, I still want the challenge of needing to know stuff in my head.

As for clocks, I use a nice sturdy mechanical Bulova wristwatch to tell time. It has not quit on me after years in the laboratory with corrosive chemical vapors. There are now college students who cannot read analog clocks, as they just look at their phones automatically. They do not understand the concept of having an analog wristwatch, as it confuses them. To me that is sad. I feel really old now.



Fenn
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25 Jun 2021, 3:10 pm

My way of thinking about thinking of the abstract kind.
(you need abstract thinking to understand abstract thinking).
If I can experience it with my 5 sense then it is not abstract to me.
If I can reason to it from the experiences that I have with my 5 senses then it is abstract.

The example I use with my kids is this: You cannot touch a "3". You can see 3 trees, and 3 boys, and 3 cookies. We know that trees are not boys and that boys are not cookies (for one thing you can eat cookies). But we still say that the 3 trees and the 3 boys and the 3 cookies and we call that thing 3.

3 is abstract.

It is possible to have a personal strength in one kind of abstraction (math for example) but not another (geometry, or the relationship between "part" and "whole"). Time is abstract. I have a lot of trouble with time. But I am very good at geometry.

One of the DSM-IV criteria was "persistent preoccupation with parts of objects".
(Which is frankly just fun to say.)
I am very uncomfortable with anything I don't know the parts of - I want to know - I NEED to know. I always took my toys apart. Some people are not like this. I had a computerized toy as a kid and I wanted to know more about it. I learned about computers, and how they were made of green board and components and microchips. I learned how the microchips were made of semiconductors and different kinds of elements. I went to collage and took classes in physics and electronics and computer programming. I leaned about atoms and electrons and protons and neutrons and I wanted to know what they were made of. I learned about quantum particles and photons and . . . . A lot of people are happy just to see a toy as a toy.
The difference between me and that type of person is abstraction.


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ToughDiamond
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25 Jun 2021, 4:33 pm

MrsPeel wrote:
Gah, I'm confused.
Maybe when we talk about abstract thought we're all talking about different things.

I suspect "abstract" is a term for a whole menagerie of things - basically anything that isn't "concrete," which might account for the confusion. It's much better when one word has one meaning.

I still count on my fingers too. Yet I have no trouble buying things with a debit card (as long as the machine works properly and the provider hasn't blocked the card). When they were a new thing I didn't like the idea - I didn't even like the idea of keeping money in a bank. When asked why, I said that you know where you stand with physical cash because you can see what you have, and can't easily overspend. But now here I am, living an almost entirely cashless existence, and not minding at all. Maybe it just takes me time to get used to new ways of doing things. I'm conversant with many abstract processes, but I've expressed great contempt for some abstract things. And I still harbour a strong conviction that trying to figure out the meaning of life is a waste of time. To me it's a stupid question, trying to answer it is just chasing rainbows.



Joe90
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26 Jun 2021, 12:33 am

MrsPeel wrote:
On the other hand, my dyslexic daughter is hopeless with numbers and still counts on her fingers, whereas my autistic son has a fantastic grasp of mathematics. So maybe that does make autistics better at abstract thought?

Gah, I'm confused.
Maybe when we talk about abstract thought we're all talking about different things.


I'm hopeless at numbers too, although I'm not dyslexic. But I feel dyslexic when it comes to math.


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Dandansson
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26 Jun 2021, 5:07 am

ToughDiamond wrote:
MrsPeel wrote:
Gah, I'm confused.
Maybe when we talk about abstract thought we're all talking about different things.

I suspect "abstract" is a term for a whole menagerie of things - basically anything that isn't "concrete," which might account for the confusion. It's much better when one word has one meaning.

Well said!
How am I supposed to know what meaning a person is refering to?



Dandansson
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26 Jun 2021, 5:15 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
Railroad trains are tangible, physical objects. One usually doesn't think about the "concept" of railroad trains in everyday life. Though they might in something like poetry and other arts.

"Love" is never a tangible, physical object. Obviously, a tangible, physical object, or actions, can represent "love." But one is not able to see "love" as one physical object like a "railroad train" is a physical object.

But on the other hand many of us don't think of a specific railroad train when we hear the term.



Fenn
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26 Jun 2021, 12:49 pm

^ when I say "railroad train" I bet what most of you are thinking of is technically a "locomotive" or an "railway engine".

Tomas the Tank Engine is not a train - he pulls a train.

When my wife and I got married her dress had a train. It was extra long fabric that trialed out behind her. One of her sister's jobs was to make sure the train didn't get tangled, and looked good. She took her job seriously and was quite content that one of the jobs of "Maid of Honor" was to attend to the bride's train.

All of us use abstraction of one form or another every day. Language is abstract by its very nature. Words have shades of meaning. It is an over generalization to say that people on the spectrum are not good at abstraction. It is more accurate to say that people on the autistic spectrum can have specific areas of challenge with certain TYPES of abstraction.

My son is 20 and is having challenges with "part and whole" when it comes to some concepts in biology and chemistry. He is similarly challenged when it comes to come philosophy and theology classes. Not being able to "see the forest because of all the trees" is this kind of abstraction - similarly, not being able to "see the trees because all you can see is the forest" is another related challenge with abstraction. Keeping track of project goals while working on the project tasks is a related kind of abstraction. Keeping tasks happening while still understanding the project as a whole is another. Like a lot of ASD challenges these types of challenges might be ordinary in kind but extraordinary in size - someone on the spectrum may have a common problem, but just much bigger than most people.

I am a professional engineer. Project management and time management have been a real challenge in my career. My company sometimes hires professional project managers to work with the engineers. Sometimes, to save money, they fire all the project managers and try to get the engineers to manage themselves. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. I've learned to respect and even cultivate project managers. Some engineers hate them. The whole time management and project management thing is a specific area of abstraction that an individual might be very good or very bad at.

Frankly just talking about abstraction requires a lot of abstraction.


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ToughDiamond
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26 Jun 2021, 3:01 pm

Dandansson wrote:
How am I supposed to know what meaning a person is refering to?

Maybe the best that can be done is to think of "abstract" as just meaning "not concrete." I think trying to divine exactly what sub-definition they're alluding to is probably going to get into diminishing returns. It's probably enough just to muddle through and not to worry about it too much. I often get this idea that I have to understand everything "properly" or perfectly, but in the real world I don't think that happens much. I dislike having to live with such a mess, but I'm getting more used to it these days.