Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity

But What if I HAVE to Remember: Random Thoughts From Aphantastic Autistic

I’ve written before how I can’t see pictures in my head.  It’s called Aphantasia, and some of us Autistics have it.  Others, think in pictures, and some of us think ONLY in words or ONLY in pictures.  It seems like the average person (thus, a neurotypical) can both visualize pictures and words, I guess?

At any rate, this break to relax I watched a lot of crime shows.  I like them a lot, and no, I don’t know why.  It probably has to do with trying to learn human nature, and my need to understand how the world of people works.

So, I was watching old Unsolved Mysteries shows and they were showing police working with a psychic.  It dawned on me then that I imagine part of why I don’t believe in that stuff is because I am incapable of picturing anything in my head, so the idea that someone can, is already foreign to me.  When I was a child, I assumed if I believed hard enough, I’d unlock my psychic abilities.  As I got older and more religious, I assumed they were all sinful.  Of course, there’s a middle path on this because the Bible does point out some ghosts and is full of prophecies so there’s room for some level of belief.

But heck, I couldn’t even be helpful if I were the victim of a crime.

Think of it!  The police always want to know what the perp or perps look like, and I’ve heard many a crime victim go, “I can’t ever forget that face!”  I do know, from law school, that false identification is common and it’s very common across racial lines, but people do have some idea of what someone looks like.

I can’t even describe people I know.

I don’t per-se know how I feel about this and in terms of disabilities one could have, not seeing pictures seems relatively minor.  But I envision situations when THINGS HAPPEN and it isn’t really that minor at all.

That reminded me how situationally-based disability really is, and for the most part, it doesn’t much matter whether I think in pictures or not.

But what if something happens?

Most people don’t even know not thinking in pictures is a “thing,” but increasingly, as we get to know the brain and what it can and can’t do it does trickle down sometimes into education.  We have these volunteers who come to read with the kids who had some training where they learned that not all kids make pictures in their heads when they read, so they shouldn’t assume it.  This gives me hope that other kids will figure out sooner than I did that teachers aren’t speaking metaphorically when they say “picture a sunny day.”  They literally do mean you should, in your head, make a picture of such a day because you can do that.

I can’t do that, and I guess the advantage of knowing that is that I can explain this to a police officer if I’m involved in a crime.

I just hope that he or she can understand that I’m not making this up.

3 thoughts on “But What if I HAVE to Remember: Random Thoughts From Aphantastic Autistic

    1. Not that I’ve seen, and I think a lot of it is that people honestly didn’t realize some of us existed because either 1) they thought with images coming to mind readily and always have so they figured everyone did (and teachers push this in school, so “of course” everyone does it and/or 2) they, like me, assumed it was metaphorical since so much of schoolspeak is metaphorical. Add to that how Temple Grandin, arguably the most famous Autistic ever, thinks in pictures. I am not sure if word-thinking is unique to Autistics because so often we don’t ever get diagnosed, so it’s hard to tell if it’s co-occurring or not. I do know when we talk about this on Autistic Twitter, there are a mix of people who get pictures only, words only, or both. Not sure if the neurotypical population is similar or not or if seeing only pictures or words is inherently neurodiverse.

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