Autism

Alleviating worldly suffering along the way.

Re: Autism

Postby daelm » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:13 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:
Well you've shown that autistics are sentient beings


Please give me your definition of what makes a person "an autistic" rather than being a person with autism.




http://communities.washingtontimes.com/ ... on-autism/

http://web.archive.org/web/200707150551 ... _first.htm






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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:47 pm

daelm wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:
Well you've shown that autistics are sentient beings


Please give me your definition of what makes a person "an autistic" rather than being a person with autism.


http://communities.washingtontimes.com/ ... on-autism/
http://web.archive.org/web/200707150551 ... _first.htm


d


Thank you for these interesting references.
The Washinton Times article states:
"Without autism, they would not be the same person; therefore it is not something they have, but rather something they are".

I don't think that makes any sense. My understanding is that nobody is ever the same person.

So, I am wondering, if you think this is compatible, from a buddhist perspective, with the concept of no-self.

In the case of my son, autism is related to Fragile X syndrome. It is theoretically possible and someday may be actually possible, through gene research, to correct the conditions caused by Fragile X syndrome, in which case the causes of his autism would no longer occur, and quite possibly he would no longer have autism, and more importantly, would not be disabled by autism.

So, if the conditions which produce your autism no longer occurred, would you still have autism?
Would you still be the same person?

You bring up some very interesting points, and although I may disagree with you on many of them, I am learning a lot from this discussion.
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Re: Autism

Postby daelm » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:49 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Thank you for these interesting references.
The Washinton Times article states:
"Without autism, they would not be the same person; therefore it is not something they have, but rather something they are".

I don't think that makes any sense. My understanding is that nobody is ever the same person.

So, I am wondering, if you think this is compatible, from a buddhist perspective, with the concept of no-self.

In the case of my son, autism is related to Fragile X syndrome. It is theoretically possible and someday may be actually possible, through gene research, to correct the conditions caused by Fragile X syndrome, in which case the causes of his autism would no longer occur, and quite possibly he would no longer have autism, and more importantly, would not be disabled by autism.

So, if the conditions which produce your autism no longer occurred, would you still have autism?
Would you still be the same person?

You bring up some very interesting points, and although I may disagree with you on many of them, I am learning a lot from this discussion.
.
.
.



no offence intended to you specifically, but i find the requirement that i have to debate people who don't have autism in order to have my own experience validated as acceptable by them pretty onerous. i decided a while back that that was an unacceptable demand for someone to make on me and i've pretty much lived by that, with one or two exceptions. that's the reason i bowed out of the discussion up front. so, i'm not likely to accede to it now.

second, i didn't bring up points or try to, i just referred you to other people's discussion of the same topic you made someone else debate you on. my implicit suggestion for people who are engaged in debate about autism without actually having autism is to talk less and listen more. but this is a situational issue. the focus on autism medically tends to be limited to children, minors and so there are a lot of parents who now think that they are acceptable spokes-people for autistics having had to be that in various circumstances. this situation elides the fact that autisitic people don't vanish into the ether when they hit late adolescence, and that there are therefore a lot of adult autistics, in various stages of independence with developed ideas and clearly defined understandings of their condition. when parents meet autistic whose experience doesn't support the parent's preferred position, then it's these people who have to argue for the validity of their views and for the validity of their experience, with people whose default position tends to be "i have a child therefore...".

so, talk less and listen more is a good strategy. specifically, if people are really interested they should listen to adult autistics, where possible. Michelle Dawson is an exceptional advocate and there are others that are easy to find. Temple, for example, is a lovely example of someone growing into a more modulated, smoother autistic experience by simple virtue of getting older. if iw as a parent, i'd like my child's trajectory to be more like hers than not. Jane Meyderding used ton have interesting things to say. i'm sure there are others, if the focus is widened to include adults and their day to day experience.

Fragile X syndrome, as a genetic marker, for example, doesn't tell anyone a single thing about how to live as an adult. nor, worse, is it even clear whether it is causative, or merely correlative. so it's really really unhelpful. all that your question means is that if someone can in future eliminate it, then people will stop having experiences mediated by it. that's all. while they do have experiences mediated by it, they're autistic.

in fact, that's what the no-self argument you propose actually means and i'm not certain you realise it. there is no self at all, merely aggregates that allow emergent experiences to be mis-characterised as belonging to a "someone". when those factors include the lens of autistic cognition, then that person, conventionally designated, is autistic. when not, not. there is no other "self" that autism is a deviation of. they're autistic because that's what kind of cognition and subsequent experience they have. the fact that they are ultimately neither autistic nor non-autistic is utterly irrelevant to the conventional designation, since all such designations fall away under analysis. and frankly, until that person verified the truth of the Buddha's contentions themselves, irrelevant to their conventional experience. they will be human in the specific way they are until they are not.

the Buddhist "no-self" position that you think is the clincher is therefore pretty much irrelevant. there is no self apart from an incorrectly applied designation on the aggregates, and the aggregate of mental factors, for example, allows for all sorts of "non-ultimate" cognitive features. the totally pervasive every-day activity of assembling rays of light into tables and chairs, that have (spurious) dimension in both space and time- a feature of a chimpanzee nervous system (which is merely another way of saying "karmic") - is also "non-ultimate", just like autistic cognition. but i don't see anyone trying to have other people's experience of chairs and tables declared invalid before debating them.

autistic people have a dysfunction that plays a formative part at a crucial period in their maturation and development. consequently, they don't automatically become connected to others, networked if you will. because of that they are excluded from the massive amount of messgaing, and massaging and integration at a key moment in their development, that properly connected people are the beneficiaries of. and because of that they don't learn to organise, understand and read information that is socially structured (including concepts, often). in strong cases they struggle to varying degrees even to integrate sensory data ino acceptable basic objects, may struggle with sensory blending and suffer low-grade synaesthesia. they often cannot "screen out" sounds, textures and sights and learn idiosyncratically. in worse cases, this incapacity to integrate the assault of stimuli is mediated unconsciously by the sufferer through educing stimulus to a single repetitive stream that drowns out the rest, or through catatonia and retreat. in less severe cases, it manifests as a difficulty with change.

left alone long enough, experience provides someof the data they lack, and learning helps them to perform some of the functions that they didn't learn "automatically", "second nature" etc . and as in Temple Grandin's case (and mine), that allows for an adult life, that takes advantage of a cognition of a particular type without it first having to be approved for public consumption, declared deficient and ritual penitence being performed, before being allowed to exist side by side with a more regularly occurring cognition.

in general though, everyone tends to prefer their own opinions, so i usually don't bother this much, on this subject. hope it helps.



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Re: Autism

Postby Tenpa Gyaltsen » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:07 pm

in general though, everyone tends to prefer their own opinions, so i usually don't bother this much, on this subject. hope it helps.



daelm, I am an autistic person and agree with you. Thank you for taking the time to express yourself so clearly.
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:53 am

Thank you for your contribution to my understanding. I am always eager to take helpful advice from experts.

I hope that my son will someday not be disabled by autism, and will be able to articulate as well as you do, either in writing or in verbal speech.

Perhaps, as an 'insider' with first-hand experience, if I asked you about specific things, maybe you could give me some advice on how to understand and connect better. For example, he refuses to talk on a telephone, speakerphone, or use skype, although when he was younger he would do this. So, of course, he cannot call 911 in case of an emergency. Also, since he will not talk to people he doesn't know, he cannot tell someone he doesn't know about any emergency situation.

I would really like him to be able to do this, as it would help him to be more independent.
What would be your solution to this problem (I consider it a problem, because it disables him).

If I might ask, if it isn't too personal, what are the sorts of things that being autistic prevents you from doing?
Are you able to live independently?

:smile: Thanks again.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:02 am

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Last edited by undefineable on Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:18 am

Qian Zheng Yi wrote:I've never seen autism as a problem - people are all just very different - in different ways - one from another. :namaste:


I think all the differences between sentient beings present practical and emotional problems for them. The differences between Buddhas are not written of as either great or problematic.

Ignorance seems to be both the root of such separation and the amplifier of the problems it brings - In my case, Pride (along with fear that I'd again be unmasked as a terrible person) prevented me from properly living my life, because of the shame and humiliation I conceived in living among beings I took to be fundamentally greater and more real than me, in spite of all the commonsense humanism about living life to full capacity that I'd already taken to heart.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:29 am

Ah, Daelm, I remember! 'Autistic experience' - or not {Not to mention both (yes&no), neither (yes nor no), and whatever my lie beyond the 'four extremes'} _ _

Well I suppose now I see a 'full' experience of autism (bearing in mind that autistic experience by its very nature, due to the related peculiarities in brain structure, tends instead to congregate in 'corners' of the mind) as being an extreme version of what writers call 'the human condition'; a kind of spiritual Siberia, though without having a specific typical character. I'm interested in knowing what you define as 'autistic cognition', as I may be misunderstanding such terms to mean 'type and flow of thoughts', which strikes me as more a secondary effect of autism than fundamental to it.

So, the differences in autistic experience that we can point to are the kind of concrete broad-brush issues I'm sure you meant to allude to - Obvious markers such as not experiencing strong, fresh emotional impressions on the back of sensory input from other people, and so on and so forth. However, I'd like to flag up what I feel to be a couple of flaws in your argument:

in fact, that's what the no-self argument you propose actually means and i'm not certain you realise it. there is no self at all, merely aggregates that allow emergent experiences to be mis-characterised as belonging to a "someone". when those factors include the lens of autistic cognition, then that person, conventionally designated, is autistic. when not, not. there is no other "self" that autism is a deviation of. they're autistic because that's what kind of cognition and subsequent experience they have.


1) Here, you seem to be reifiying the five heaps/skandhas as a mechanical kind of Self, in the manner of materialist 'believers in science' who hold some or all brain activity to form, in itself, an entity worthy of that name. Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology, despite their providing all the raw material. Therefore, we don't find the idea of valid or invalid experience in dharma teachings.

This is something I'm still grappling with, and although I find it interesting that Temple Grandin does not, as you put it, integrate sensory data into acceptable (generic in her description) basic objects, the idea of failing to organise objects of perception in line with the 'middle' skandhas seems to leave intact the rich 'suchness' of actually having perceptions to begin with. Some of the Buddhist god-realms - in which perception is apparently much fuzzier - sound more interesting in this regard!

2) Also, it seems a bit 'High School' (as I'd say if I were American) to constantly over-emphasise the uniqueness or 'wierdness' of the way in which you or someone else experiences, to use your example, a 'chair' or anything else. In the final analysis there will be overlaps, albeit maybe just semiconscious, subconscious, or perhaps superconscious (i.e. intellectual) ones, as long as one treats conscious awareness as a single - albeit infinitely variable - phenomenon, as Buddhadharma does. It's symptomatic of our cultures to pry into these matters, but your being able to 'take advantage of your cognition' demonstrates that its 'public consumption' was never disapproved at the level of Society. I see a lot of people missing the forest of commonalities for the trees of separateness, but this really exemplifies the human intellect like nothing else, and its application has always been limited by the practicalities of exploiting the rich variety of human resources _ _
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Re: Autism

Postby daelm » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:35 pm

undefineable wrote:
Well I suppose now I see a 'full' experience of autism (bearing in mind that autistic experience by its very nature, due to the related peculiarities in brain structure, tends instead to congregate in 'corners' of the mind) as being an extreme version of what writers call 'the human condition'; a kind of spiritual Siberia, though without having a specific typical character. I'm interested in knowing what you define as 'autistic cognition', as I may be misunderstanding such terms to mean 'type and flow of thoughts', which strikes me as more a secondary effect of autism than fundamental to it.


there are no such things as "corners in the mind", there is no meaningful way to parse that phrase, and to use a phrase like that is specifically to diminish and belittle the sufferer's experience. the specific contention that autistic make is that their experience is whole and of a type. i.e. not something one finds in "corners", not a diminished version of non-autistic experience, not an incomplete experience, not a "wrong" experience. it is a suffering experience, as are all experiences in samsara. however, the fact that they are all suffering experiences doesn't make them the same experience - the experience of a concert-trained musician listening to the Goldberg Variations is different from that of an untrained teenager. similarly, the experience of an athlete kicking a ball is very different from the experience of a untrained person.

the common autistic experience is to have a layer of meaning and data never functionally appear - this layer may range from social data about roles, hierarchy, turn-taking, others' intentions and plans, to data (in cases of serious impairment) about the distinction between sights and sounds, the edges of objects and the context and experience of stimuli. (i, for example, used to have difficulty with sounds, where they were mis-expereinced as physical sensations and expressed as touch on the skin. this made certain conversations very difficult.) this makes for a world that is experienced more "nakedly" and less "contextualised". however, because of that, it also allows autistic people to form (or see) connections between things or events that a person who is more commonly wired would not. sometimes that is useful, and other times not.

in general, we can learn to derive these missing layers ourselves, and apply the missing meaning ourselves, to various degrees. often, in cases where the autistic person is not too functionally impaired, age and experience forces a layer of meanings simply through the passage of time. in some cases, where the missing meaning is at the level of sensory integration, the relentless attack of stimuli never allows that person an escape, and they may retreat into tightly controlled activities, like repetitive rocking and so forth. as has recently been discovered though, people adopting such defensive postures are not necessarily intellectually impaired and many such sufferers have become communicative when given facilitated communication tools.

subjectively, there is no way to describe this "missing layer" to someone for whom it is not missing. it is akin to talking to a fish about water. fish do not understand the concept of water, because it is pervasive. neurotypical people do not understand the extent to which they lean on, take for granted and utilize layer upon layer of meaning.



So, the differences in autistic experience that we can point to are the kind of concrete broad-brush issues I'm sure you meant to allude to - Obvious markers such as not experiencing strong, fresh emotional impressions on the back of sensory input from other people, and so on and so forth.


the horribly demeaning "marker" you describe is not actually a diagnostic marker of any type, fwiw. (the mistake it seems to represent - misunderstanding the autistic experience o empathy - was dealt with in the link i provided earlier in the thread.) nor is it my or other autistic people's experience. if anything it is your conclusion about an autistic experience and therefore speaks only to your conclusions, not to autistic experience.

autistic people often experience EXCESSIVELY strong, EXCESSIVELY fresh emotional impressions in the back of sensory data from other people - they differ in what they do with that, because they usually lack the commonly conditioned methods for organizing information into wholes that can be communicated to others, and that can be used to communicate with others. the reason that they differ is because their patterns of organisation of such information were either weakly formed, or not formed at all. and the reason for that is entirely mechanical - for reasons currently unknown to us, some people do not get connected when they are young and therefore are npt exposed to a host of influencing, moderating and conditioning messages and training. their structures for organization of meaning develop idiosyncratically. sometimes that is beneficial. sometimes not. in all cases, there is a situational disability, because these people have to interact with people who take such meanign for granted.

the commonest autistic experience, actually, is fear, because the world, shorn of its reassuring socially constructed context , is pretty scary. many common features of autism, such as catatonia, retreat, withdrawal, focus on repetitive stimuli and so on, are all simply ways to manage fear, by making stimuli controllable.


However, I'd like to flag up what I feel to be a couple of flaws in your argument:
1) Here, you seem to be reifiying the five heaps/skandhas as a mechanical kind of Self, in the manner of materialist 'believers in science' who hold some or all brain activity to form, in itself, an entity worthy of that name. Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology, despite their providing all the raw material. Therefore, we don't find the idea of valid or invalid experience in dharma teachings.


it's hard to know where to reply to this since here, as well as later, what you're saying bears no relationship except the superficial to anything i say.

to clarify: the five skandhas are agreed to be the categories of experiences, by all schools of Buddhism. similarly, all schools agree that a false notional self is imputed on the emergent activities as elements of the skandhas interact with each other. the Buddha described this as operating in terms of attraction and aversion, both at a macro level, that was attracted to and averse to "objects" and that therefore unwittingly reified them, and created delusion, and at a micro level, at the level of composite thoughts, emotions and patterns of thought-emotion. this micro level naturally extends to the creation of sensory data (such as colors and sounds) itself, from light and waves, though earlier schools usually tended not to take the analysis that far.

the Buddha also noted further that emotions and movements of mind were generated in response to the deluded world-view that arose on the back of this relentless activity, and that these (along with the world-view they were interactive with) gave rise to an experience called "suffering". he also suggested we try to stop suffering, and to this end schools have proposed various methods for firstly proving that this is what is happening (usually through meditations) and secondly stopping it (usually through a combination of meditations and behavioral interventions). there is no Buddhism apart from this.

the categorization of dharmas into these skandhas doesn't impose one or another way for them to be organized. it allows for different of ways for cognition to be organised and what we are referring to here as "autism" and "neurotypicality" is a nothing more than a way in which mental factors, in mainly the third and fourth skandha, are organised into meaning. such organization has different types, and just as a common language imposes a common type of organization on people (Chinese speakers and German speakers for example, may have fundamentally different strengths and weaknesses because of the effect of their languages, so the the absence of such common conditioning (for example) affords a different type of organization. the point of the autism advocacy movement is merely that neither is better, either is merely better at something, or worse at something. in all of this, there is no substantive conflict between modern cognitive science and Buddhist phenomenology. where modern cognitive science DOES conflict is ideological - it presumes that something called "brains" gives rise to something called "minds". Buddhism differs (in it's most simplistic form, Buddhism says the reverse.)

however, in terms of the inter-relationship of elements in and amongst such categories (since "category" is all that skandha means) this is as good as any other scheme and better than many. for our purposes - which is demonstrating that autistic experiences are easily located in the definitions of the skandhas, in exactly the same way that "musical talent" is, or "facility with numbers" is, or "spatial sense" is - this conflict is irrelevant.

so unless you mean something else by this: "Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology" than what you wrote, it's irrelevant. if all you meant was that enlightenment is the absence of defiled experience, then the answer to you is the same as to the other commenter. that's nice, but it's immaterial to a discussion about the validity and hierarchy of conventional designations. according to the Buddha, if it's "outside" the skandhas, no one cares. (this should be obvious: they're a definitional schema and therefore by defintion cover all experience.)

This is something I'm still grappling with, and although I find it interesting that Temple Grandin does not, as you put it, integrate sensory data into acceptable (generic in her description) basic objects, the idea of failing to organise objects of perception in line with the 'middle' skandhas seems to leave intact the rich 'suchness' of actually having perceptions to begin with. Some of the Buddhist god-realms - in which perception is apparently much fuzzier - sound more interesting in this regard!


i don't see any relationship between the notional god-realms and any type of cognitive style. i think that trying to find that type of one-to-one correspondence is a waste of time. i think that it does no justice either to the meaning of the Realms as path markers, nor to the meaning and complexity of organised mental activity. i also think that using the label "autistic" to try and make a dilletante's case for matching them up is actually doing harm to autistic people, since it treats autism, again, as a deficiency. it should be obvious that i and other autistic people do not regard autism as a deficiency - rather it is the predictable outcome of an impaired stage of learning, socialization and conditioning in childhood and is a direct consequence of the fact that human brains are born unfinished - they continue to develop outside the womb. because that socialisation and conditioning process is so key to human life, autism can be limiting and act as an impairment. often the limitations and impairments are such that they can be bootstrapped and functionally overcome. facilitated communication is one such bootstrapping mechanism. training and experience provide others.


2) Also, it seems a bit 'High School' (as I'd say if I were American) to constantly over-emphasise the uniqueness or 'wierdness' of the way in which you or someone else experiences, to use your example, a 'chair' or anything else. In the final analysis there will be overlaps, albeit maybe just semiconscious, subconscious, or perhaps superconscious (i.e. intellectual) ones, as long as one treats conscious awareness as a single - albeit infinitely variable - phenomenon, as Buddhadharma does. It's symptomatic of our cultures to pry into these matters, but your being able to 'take advantage of your cognition' demonstrates that its 'public consumption' was never disapproved at the level of Society. I see a lot of people missing the forest of commonalities for the trees of separateness, but this really exemplifies the human intellect like nothing else, and its application has always been limited by the practicalities of exploiting the rich variety of human resources


the kind of comment is why autistic people don't talk about their experiences. i finished "High School" in 1987 when i fifteen. since then i have lived an interesting,rich life, studied logic, chemistry and philosophy, been homeless, lived in poverty and wealth, and currently develop strategy for a corporate, where i translate layers of abstraction about goals into meaningful process architecture, models and ultimately artifacts. along the way i have been directly involved in close to a decade of partly-formal neurological investigation as a result of my own neurology.

so let's be really clear: i really, really, really don't appreciate being condescended to by a stranger who can't be bothered to pay attention to the things i say, but nevertheless wants to render derogatory judgements about them and me. the things i say are not random, they are specifically formulated to render the meaning that they do and in many cases are the fruit of lots and lots of thinking about a subject - at the very least, they are are considered, investigated and analysed. please respect that and reply in the same fashion, or don't have conversations with me. thanks.

as to the specific example you use - "to constantly over-emphasise the uniqueness or 'wierdness' of the way in which you or someone else experiences, to use your example, a 'chair' or anything else." - this is in fact an example i provided of how all human beings assemble discrete senory data into objects, in accordance with the normal laws of physics. it was not a reference to autism at all and you have here, as in other places, totally failed to follow what was written in your rush to classify me as childish. in general, in most cases where human beings communicate, there's neither over- nor under-emphasis of any experiences, there is mere description. so here's a lesson: when people describe their experiences to you, and they don't line up with your expectations, it does not mean the people are wrong. it usually means your expectations are wrong.

black people living in a world that favors white people don't have to prove to you that they have experiences and interactions specifically conditioned by their skin color. autistic people living in a world that preferences common social behavior do not have to prove to you that they are disadvantaged by that. you are fully entitled to resist that information, but this resistance is your problem, not mine and is something that you have to overcome, not something i am obliged to solve for you.

i hope it helps, because it really is the last i'll be writing on the subject. to paraphrase another autistic commenter, earlier in the thread, this thread makes me feel bad.

thanks

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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:34 pm

daelm wrote:there are no such things as "corners in the mind", there is no meaningful way to parse that phrase, and to use a phrase like that is specifically to diminish and belittle the sufferer's experience. the specific contention that autistic make is that their experience is whole and of a type. i.e. not something one finds in "corners", not a diminished version of non-autistic experience, not an incomplete experience, not a "wrong" experience. it is a suffering experience, as are all experiences in samsara. however, the fact that they are all suffering experiences doesn't make them the same experience - the experience of a concert-trained musician listening to the Goldberg Variations is different from that of an untrained teenager. similarly, the experience of an athlete kicking a ball is very different from the experience of a untrained person.


I was using 'corners' as a poetic metaphor, rather than literally, to imply a sense of the autistic rush to repeat essentially random patterns of specific experience as you explained yourself; I do not intend to 'diminish' or 'belittle' my own or anyone else's suffering, although I did use the term with a sense of trying to see samsara as a whole in a broader perspective. I've never even come across the idea of 'wrong experiences' outside my own somewhat warped mind, and have already made a suggestion as to why that idea should find little traction.

In other words, an autistic person's experience of studying, say, a piece of string, is 'whole', but just not the whole of what they'd experience if they didn't restrict themselves thus. Non-autistic people do this kind of thing more than they'd care to admit - How many people do you know who rush headlong into embracing every conceivable experience and mentation without fear?

At the same time, I feel my metaphor was apt, and based on your words above I'd further contend that autism induces a tendency to 'train' oneself in mental corners such as to gain a greater experience -more 'scientifically accurate' as well as somewhat psychedelic (i.e. more than complete)- of such details.
Last edited by undefineable on Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:54 pm

daelm wrote:the common autistic experience is to have a layer of meaning and data never functionally appear - this layer may range from social data about roles, hierarchy, turn-taking, others' intentions and plans, to data (in cases of serious impairment) about the distinction between sights and sounds, the edges of objects and the context and experience of stimuli. (i, for example, used to have difficulty with sounds, where they were mis-expereinced as physical sensations and expressed as touch on the skin. this made certain conversations very difficult.) this makes for a world that is experienced more "nakedly" and less "contextualised". however, because of that, it also allows autistic people to form (or see) connections between things or events that a person who is more commonly wired would not. sometimes that is useful, and other times not.


That first sentence summarises beautifully my findings of two decades, and demonstrated that talk of autistic 'cognition' is (as I suspected) about the processing of sensory information (the crux of autism) rather than specifically about thoughts. The problem with a 'naked' experience of the world is that there's very little world left when the social context -what we call 'relative truth' in Buddhism- has been left out, leaving -as you describe- a mental world that lacks the layers of meaning typical to the human realm. The best way for a non-autistic person to imagine autism as a 'core' experience would be to imagine 'no world' -floating off through dark empty space with no hope of landfall- except that the socially-constructed self that person would be unable to avoid imagining would remain and suffer. I suspect those who've experienced mental illness would have more luck with this, but without likely suspecting the calm and neutrality of autistic experience.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:16 pm

daelm wrote:the horribly demeaning "marker" you describe is not actually a diagnostic marker of any type, fwiw. (the mistake it seems to represent - misunderstanding the autistic experience o empathy - was dealt with in the link i provided earlier in the thread.) nor is it my or other autistic people's experience. if anything it is your conclusion about an autistic experience and therefore speaks only to your conclusions, not to autistic experience.

autistic people often experience EXCESSIVELY strong, EXCESSIVELY fresh emotional impressions in the back of sensory data from other people - they differ in what they do with that, because they usually lack the commonly conditioned methods for organizing information into wholes that can be communicated to others, and that can be used to communicate with others. the reason that they differ is because their patterns of organisation of such information were either weakly formed, or not formed at all. and the reason for that is entirely mechanical - for reasons currently unknown to us, some people do not get connected when they are young and therefore are npt exposed to a host of influencing, moderating and conditioning messages and training. their structures for organization of meaning develop idiosyncratically. sometimes that is beneficial. sometimes not. in all cases, there is a situational disability, because these people have to interact with people who take such meanign for granted.


Well I dunno where you got 'horribly demeaning' from, but remember autistics often find it hard to avoid upsetting other people - as I suspect most people do in web debate!

It seems you'd have reacted differently if I'd explained that the stong, fresh emotional impressions I was alluding to were of implied information - I'm well aware that we autistics as a 'race' typically find it hard to build up the kind of resources needed to resist being overwhelmed by displays of naked emotion - hysterical crying and so on. However, something subtle like boredom is typically missed; please bear in mind that emotional information is normally communicated in such understated or indirect ways in our societies. You suggest (above) I think that while some of the information may get through to the autist, he may not 'put it together' to form the normally-derived conclusion, or else may reach that conclusion and have no normally-derived responses.

I like how mystified you sound by the mechanics of autism's lack of connections - When the human brain is the most complex object in the known universe, the mystery is surely how it ever does connect up-?!The fact that there are any non-autistic humans is the best refutation of Murphy's Law that I know of _
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:05 pm

daelm wrote:
undefineable wrote:1) Here, you seem to be reifiying the five heaps/skandhas as a mechanical kind of Self, in the manner of materialist 'believers in science' who hold some or all brain activity to form, in itself, an entity worthy of that name. Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology, despite their providing all the raw material. Therefore, we don't find the idea of valid or invalid experience in dharma teachings.


it's hard to know where to reply to this since here, as well as later, what you're saying bears no relationship except the superficial to anything i say.


This is actually a trick I use in public debates - Since other of my debating partner's readers might only pick up a superficial level of meaning, I draw attention to that first and foremost.

However, what I meant to highlight is the question: Once you identify the skandhas (which in any case always operate in a unique pattern), what then? Trungpa Rinpoche spoke of an intelligence, 'tathagatagarbha', that draws them together and surveys them - Yet somehow, at the same time, this is not 'over and above' the skandhas but inseperable from them. My understanding is weak here, probably through lack of meditation, but it seems to me that the skandhas taken in the reductionist manner that they appear in through the lens of a western education cannot support liberation by themselves.

Even so, I accept one need not abandon classical materialism to accept 'emergent properties of the emergent property' (mind) such as overarching intelligence. In order for any set of skandhas to be apprehended as being sufficient for liberation, though, one's vision needs to be more holistic than the conventional image of intellectual activity appears to allow. Perhaps the better half of the second (pratyekabuddha) yana is about seeing what the skandhas can do for us, rather than purely analysing what they are? Perhaps, also, the Buddha's famous sutra on the 'unborn, uncreated' is about removing the rigid, atomizing lens that prevents us seeing the potential in our reality, rather than positing something that the rest of the Buddhist canon denies?

Otherwise, any interpretation of the skandhas, such as your uniquely (as far as I've read or heard) 'fundamentalist' one:

daelm wrote: they're a definitional schema and therefore by defintion cover all experience


seems to 'freeze' into that big bad Self again. Fields such as Cognitive Psychology could easily do this for a western version of the skandhas.

To sum up, the impression I personally get (incorrectly I'm sure) so far from your argument seems devoid of shunyata - Lots of 'monads' of definite, black-and-white/binary mentation,such as "I am definitely thinking of a definite pink elephant and nothing else!!", but no space behind, within, in front of or between them. I think this is why you argue for the word 'autistic' rather than, for example, extending the use of the word 'person' to cover all sentient beings. It's as if, like most non-practitioners, you're either dismissing or missing the 'nothing in particular' aspect of your mind and your world, so that your 'Self' is just a 'self' rather than completely invisible for you - created by the karma of past lives rather than pure willpower perhaps, but still very concrete.

daelm wrote: he also suggested we try to stop suffering, and to this end schools have proposed various methods for firstly proving that this is what is happening (usually through meditations) and secondly stopping it (usually through a combination of meditations and behavioral interventions). there is no Buddhism apart from this.


Buddhism doesn't, ofcourse, go to Advaita lengths of asserting 'we are all one' or some such nonsense in the search for liberation, but if, for example, there were no commonality between sentient beings, there would be no point in anyone listening to the Buddha because everyone would need liberating into a different 'place' - not just from different places. Some things in Buddhism seem to be taken for granted rather than being continually expounded (which would reify them); being a kind of 'commonsense' backdrop, I suppose the onus is on adharma to prove them wrong!

How Buddhadharma can benefit autistics is still an interesting question, and the answer appears more promising than it does for the nonhuman realms.

daelm wrote:our purposes - which is demonstrating that autistic experiences are easily located in the definitions of the skandhas, in exactly the same way that "musical talent" is, or "facility with numbers" is, or "spatial sense" is


That's a relief! From the way some autism advocates go on, one would think any Buddhists among them would be putting autistics in a third category of beings alongside Buddhas and sentients! This tendency comes about because, without adding shunyata to a basic grasp of anatman, we're left with self-objects -created by the outside world rather than self-created perhaps- which can't even attain enlightenment as they each seal off their own self-contained reality by virtue of their solidity.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:41 pm

daelm wrote:i don't see any relationship between the notional god-realms and any type of cognitive style. i think that trying to find that type of one-to-one correspondence is a waste of time. i think that it does no justice either to the meaning of the Realms as path markers, nor to the meaning and complexity of organised mental activity.


It's called banter and I never said I (an autist) was any good at it. It simply lightens the close work of intellectual activity for writer and (hopefully) reader alike. Anyhow, one of the four 'jhanas' ('formless trances') - as well as, I believe, one of the god-realms of the Formless Realm (within the overall God Realm) - is called 'The Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception'. Many have accused various religious scriptures of being politically incorrect, but I doubt any of the beings present there would take offense to the above label as a name for their reality. For me atleast, the name itself strongly implies its own inadequacy in describing the mental activity that goes on under its rubric.

daelm wrote:i also think that using the label "autistic" to try and make a dilletante's case for matching them up is actually doing harm to autistic people, since it treats autism, again, as a deficiency. it should be obvious that i and other autistic people do not regard autism as a deficiency - rather it is the predictable outcome of an impaired stage of learning, socialization and conditioning in childhood and is a direct consequence of the fact that human brains are born unfinished - they continue to develop outside the womb. because that socialisation and conditioning process is so key to human life, autism can be limiting and act as an impairment. often the limitations and impairments are such that they can be bootstrapped and functionally overcome. facilitated communication is one such bootstrapping mechanism. training and experience provide others.


I use 'autist'/'autistic' in the way people use terms such as 'paraplegic', but with an ironic nod to the fact that so few recognise the fact that autistics and normal people have anything in common with one another. I'm no dilettante in autism either - Although you've clarified that you are more severely autistic than me, I've devoted much of my time and energy since childhood to matters that center on (my) autism.

You've already explained how autism IS a deficiency in the literal (rather than any emotive) sense of the word, relative to the ordinary human condition, and that it causes fear. I choose to see autism as an extreme challenge to the human spirit, but as you're clearly distressed by the whole question, I proposed (since this is a mahayana forum) the tonic of shunyata - the idea that somehow no-one is completely pinned down by binary structure of their various 0s and 1s, however real those limits may be in practical application for a limited time. My level of understanding, as I've hinted, is unreliable, so don't just take it from me.

daelm wrote:the kind of comment is why autistic people don't talk about their experiences. i finished "High School" in 1987 when i fifteen.


What I meant to imply, in reminding us both of our teenage traumas is that we autistics tend to integrate and intellectualize everything we're ever told about being 'different', but the emotional power of those socially-mediated views is such that we tend not to question them. Granted, we are different, but when we get over it, we find there are clearly-defined limits to those differences, even though, lacking access to more than one brain at once unless we happen to be Bodhisattvas on the 10'th bhumi, we can never perceive with much precision hereabouts.
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:45 pm

undefineable wrote:

What I meant to imply, in reminding us both of our teenage traumas is that we autistics tend to integrate and intellectualize everything we're ever told about being 'different', but the emotional power of those socially-mediated views is such that we tend not to question them. Granted, we are different, but when we get over it, we find there are clearly-defined limits to those differences, even though, lacking access to more than one brain at once unless we happen to be Bodhisattvas on the 10'th bhumi, we can never perceive with much precision hereabouts.


I never met a person who wasn't different, who wasn't neurologically unique. So, where is the line of separation?
it occurred to me, thinking a lot about what you said,
that sometimes autism is a term used to refer to the result of certain brain activity
rather than the cause of certain brain activity.
the cause of certain brain activity results in conditions which are severely disabling to some people and not to others.
My son is moderately to severely disabled
and it just so happens that what he has and what you have,
somebody along the way gave it the name "autism"
But the two of you have completely different results. You can communicate and express your ideas. you may even be able to speak in full sentences. i don't know. That is rare for my son.

So, if you refer to autism as the results of brain activity, or the perception of brain activity, the way your senses perceive things, for example, wouldn't that vary from person to person a lot?
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:27 pm

i _ _ currently develop strategy for a corporate, where i translate layers of abstraction about goals into meaningful process architecture, models and ultimately artifacts.


You're clearly a quality kind of guy then, and unlikely to appreciate being talked to at all by the likes of me, hence your bold comments. I take it this paragraph was also in reply to PadmaVonSamba's last post.

What I find most interesting and saddening is that you seem to have taken personal offense to my suggesting that autistics and non-autistics share a common being-ness that your posts didn't point to. In the same way, I didn't suggest any veneration of you and your words; you then assumed that I was making derogatory judgements about them and classifing you as 'childish' (not an impression I've ever found in your writing), now I inform you I was not.

Debates about the nature and function of the skandhas are to be expected on a Buddhist forum, but involving autism really makes them too emotive for the good of either of us. My style of argument, although it managed 1'st-class marks at Uni, is always weak on evidence as I tend to argue on the back of potential implications and impressions of what was written; this is why in this kind of situation offense will be taken by whoever I'm debating. Although I conceded our 2009 debate on e-sangha at the time, I don't think there's any debate left here now, except the one on the scope of the Buddhist skandha-model that I am completely unqualified to continue any further. I feel your emphases reflect your individual experience, as you say, rather than the kind of deeply-held intellectual positions that you've explained you don't hold.

I offer you my sincerest apologies and best wishes on the Path.

the things i say are not random, they are specifically formulated to render the meaning that they do and in many cases are the fruit of lots and lots of thinking about a subject - at the very least, they are are considered, investigated and analysed


I hope to be recognised in the same way, though as of now (for obvious reasons of compassion) I will only initiate and defend any written discussions I'm involved in, rather than playing the 'challenger'.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:09 pm

In conclusion, Daelm, it's ironic that, without the sentence you wrote on your career, I could have written all of your long post with just a minor tweak to my preferred position. The only other thing I can think of is your reference to me as a 'stranger', as I don't see online communication as Personal in the way I'd have needed to if I'd made to have made that remark, even though I never debate unless there's emotional involvement for me. I've explained why my writing style can seem 'ad hominem' ofcourse.

In my replies to your posts, I missed (@least) one point through rushing:

there is no self at all, merely aggregates that allow emergent experiences to be mis-characterised as belonging to a "someone". when those factors include the lens of autistic cognition, then that person, conventionally designated, is autistic. when not, not. there is no other "self" that autism is a deviation of.

Here, you were clear in explaining that 'atman', to you, is the idea of a greater Self that possesses the (more specific) aggregates in the sense implied by Advaita Vedanta's atman-Brahman identification.

I don't think Buddhism puts the aggregates in the place of a Self in the way you imply. Instead, there are just emergent experiences which will -over many lifetimes- span the full breadth of samsara rather than remaining limited to a single narrow pattern as they appear to do for now, just as, for example, a rubber duck will bob up and down a large bath tub while the bather fidgets. The water in this analogy is shunyata, which -I've started to feel- provides us with the only home we need. In describing the way things appear to be versus how they are in all their Emptiness, Chogyam Trungpa said:

"The attempt to confirm our solidity is very painful. Constantly we find ourselves suddenly slipping off the edge of a floor which had appeared to extend endlessly. Then we must attempt to save ourselves from death by immediately building an extension to the floor in order to make it appear endless again. We think we are safe on our seemingly solid floor, but then we slip off again and have to build another extension. We do not realize that the whole process is unnecessary, that we do not need a floor to stand on, that we have been building all these floors on the ground level. There was never any danger of falling or need for support. In fact, our occupation of extending the floor to secure our ground is a big joke, the biggest joke of all, a cosmic joke. But we may not find it funny: it may sound like a serious double cross."


The interpretation of Buddhism in which mind is an even-more-concrete version of matter is not one I've read or heard from genuine teachers, and is directly contradicted by the experience of meditation. In this version, by logical conclusions Trungpa Rinpoche's 'floor' should never even appear to extend endlessly in the first place, and the consequence of the inevitable slip-off would be falling into an eternal hell of one's own solipsistic sub-reality/surreality. Please respect, Daelm, the fact that I probably felt just as hurt by this implication (which I read into your words and registered) as you did by my resulting 'stabs in the dark'. I'm a philosopher at heart, so I feel compelled to look into such possibilities with an open mind. If Buddhism is indeed a system of thought which 'pins us down' far more tightly than any other and if this reflects Reality accurately, then so be it, but I think you'll need the best of British luck (as we say) if you wish to prove this.
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:51 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:

So, if you refer to autism as the results of brain activity, or the perception of brain activity, the way your senses perceive things, for example, wouldn't that vary from person to person a lot?


Well I've explained before, I think, that I take a 'functionally' materialistic standpoint - In other words, if there's variation between people in how their senses perceive things, then there will be an exact and findable match for that in terms of brain structure and function. The same goes for perceptions of brain activities, but here it gets a bit tricky:

You see how Daelm and many others, despite being more autistic than I could ever claim to have been according to their own descriptions, are corporate high-flyers and so on whereas I have reduced myself to the relatively useless position of care worker for severe autists, despite my past musical talents? You see also how their (non-coincidental) defence of autism and autistics as positive artifacts (we live in an objectifying world by the way) leads them to such upset at my, your, and many others' pointing them in the direction of shared experience across the autistic divide?

What I'm trying to say is that while I and maybe you can see potential problems beyond just the practicalities of daily living arising for people of certain temperaments as a result of autism, the pattern you'll find across the board is that the more an autistic screens himself from the implications of his condition by positive thinking and so on, the more success he allows himself in life, the more he thereby contributes to the good of society, and -in return for the mental discipline I described- THE MORE OTHERS TAKE TO HIM. Interestingly enough, I've not heard of any autistics, successful or not, trying to minimise the differences between autistics and normals in the way you've been - Species symbiosis appears to be the watchword! Hopefully by now you have more insight into why this should be so.

I hope, for your son's sake, that you take on board what I've just said far more than you remember anything else I've written on this thread.
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:52 pm

is an 'autistic" a type of self, or a word applied to a particular set of aggregates?
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:00 pm

i _ _ currently develop strategy for a corporate, where i translate layers of abstraction about goals into meaningful process architecture, models and ultimately artifacts.


You're clearly a quality kind of guy then, and unlikely to appreciate being talked to at all by the likes of me, hence your bold comments. I take it this paragraph was also in reply to PadmaVonSamba's last post.

What I find most interesting and saddening is that you seem to have taken personal offense when I'd really just suggested that autistics and non-autistics share a common being-ness and that your posts didn't point to it. In the same way, I didn't suggest any veneration of you and your words; you then assumed I was making derogatory judgements about them and classifing you as 'childish' (not an impression I've ever found in your writing); now I inform you I was not, and that I see you as having made a more than worthy opponent in online debating. {By 'High School', I was referring to cliquishness rather than immaturity; I'm sure you're aware that -were you profoundly autistic- you might well be unable to make either inference.}

Debates about the nature and function of the skandhas are to be expected on a Buddhist forum, but involving autism really makes them too emotive for the good of either of us. My style of argument, although it managed 1'st-class marks at Uni, is always weak on evidence as I tend to argue on the back of potential implications and impressions of what was written; this is why in this kind of situation offense will be taken by whoever I'm debating. Although I conceded our 2009 debate on e-sangha at the time, I don't think there's any debate left here now, except the one on the scope of the Buddhist skandha-model that I am completely unqualified to continue any further. I feel your emphases reflect your individual experience, as you say, rather than the kind of deeply-held intellectual positions that you've explained you don't hold.

I offer you my sincerest apologies and best wishes on the Path.

the things i say are not random, they are specifically formulated to render the meaning that they do and in many cases are the fruit of lots and lots of thinking about a subject - at the very least, they are are considered, investigated and analysed


I hope to be recognised in the same way, though as of now (for obvious reasons of compassion) I will only initiate (and very-carefully defend) the position in any written discussions I'm involved in, rather than playing the 'challenger'.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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