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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My imaginary trip into Janey's mind

I try all the time to figure out what Janey's mind must be thinking, to get a better idea what it would feel like to be her.  Lately, I've been using analogies of a library or a computer to try to get her unique way of thinking.

The library first----I picture myself walking into the library that is Janey's mind.  The first thing I notice is how many books there are.  There are books with lines from pretty much every video she's seen, every song she's heard, every conversation she's been present for.  There are books all over.  So, I try to look up a subject I want to read more about, and notice that there is next to no cataloging system.  No computer guides, no card catalogs, no librarians at the desk to guide me.  There is maybe a very general guide up on the wall to the rough area the books I might need are, but that's all.  So I wander at random, hoping to find what I need.  Frustrated, I mutter out loud "Where's the books about kings?"  Suddenly, a pile of books appear before me.  They all contain information on kings---there's one about We Three Kings, one about King Friday, one about the King of Joke-a-Lot, one about Burger King.  None of them might have what I'm exactly looking for, but I can recite a lot of lyrics, or suddenly get hungry for onion rings, or request a video out of the blue.  While I'm trying to figure out what to do next, there's a noise I don't expect.  Maybe it's a fire alarm, or a truck outside, or a crackling paper far away, but I hear it, and it distracts me from any more looking.  It's very distressing, not being able to find what I want, and I give up and cry.

Or the computer.  Janey's mind is a computer with a huge hard drive.  It's crammed full of hard info---as much raw information as any 8 year old would have, and more than many.  However, there are several problems.  The processing speed of the computer, the ability to connect and manipulate and interpret the data, is hugely slow.  It's like a 286 motherboard with a 1TB hard drive.  There is also only the most minimal of search engines.  It works like the old ads for Bing search used to, in making fun of Google---you search for "cat", and get all cat information from anywhere "The Cat in the Hat!"  "Cats at my house!"  "The Cat that Looked at the Queen"  "Cattails!"  It's also very hard to add certain kinds of information to the computer.  It has trouble storing pictures, much preferring audio files.  The greatest strength of this computer, though, is its music files.  They play more smoothly than almost anything else. The computer freezes up often when you try to do too much at once, and needs rebooting.  And programs that work one day might not the next, depending on what subroutines are running.  The computer is prone to viruses---if you type in commands in a harsh tone, or let it run too long, or vary the power, it just won't work.

These are guesses.  I don't know if either of these analogies are anything like Janey's mind, but I think they might be.  I use them to try to figure out how best to help Janey.  The crucial thing both mind models need is a better working search engine.  I need to figure out how to let Janey access what she knows.  I need also to minimize noise or viruses or anything that will slow down her systems.  I need to let her make use of the areas that she has in excess---to help her use her auditory memory and musical memory to help find information, and I need to find a way to help her increase her visual skills.  I need to try, slowly and gently, to do some construction and organizing at the library or some upgrading with the computer, to help her still be the same Janey I love, but to build on what she already has.


Roxy Simmons said...
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Sakurafleur said...

Fantastic - I have had similar ideas about my daughter's way of processing, but have not been able to put it so eloquently! I am going to show this to my nearest and dearest, plus my daughter's therapists. Thank you for writing this!

Sophie's Trains said...

Interesting as always :) I think you are spot on too. As an aside, both libraries and computers are places we associate with knowledge and information- I think its a very positive way to look at Janey's mind (and other autistic kids too!)

Zoe said...

Great analogies! Thinking about whether/ how they extend to my almost-2-year-old is kind of fascinating and also gives some interesting ideas about possibly why he does some of the things he does.

Jess said...

How very creative you are! I really enjoyed reading this!