Mindblindness is the idea that an individual is unable to put meaning on the experiences on another person and therefore unaware of another’s mental state. There is plenty of research to support the idea that folks with autism have a certain level of mind blindness.
One of the ‘side-effects’ of writing this blog is that I’m really loving all of the reading and researching that I ‘get’ to do. I’ve always done a lot of reading about the uniqueness of my son – but this blog ‘allows’ me to spend even more time. I research with my husband, with Tucker, and with Estelle. We spend time talking about our realities and what we read. It’s truly been a learning and reflecting experience for all of us. My new love? Context Blindness.
Even when I wrote Day #144 and Day #189 I didn’t like the word ‘Mindblindness.’ It feels yucky. But, I get it – there will always be words that I don’t like, because autism is still relatively new. We’re all still negotiating terms and working it all out…
Does someone ‘have autism’ or are ‘they autistic?’ (I prefer ‘have autism’- see Day #35 I’m a Neurotypical)
Is someone ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning? (I prefer neither – see Day #204 – Spectrum Apologies)
Today I experienced something that describes our communication perfectly. Minblindness is the idea that he is unable to think about what another is thinking…that may be true. I LOVE the idea of Context Blindness and I think it’s a much better fit for what we experience daily in our house.
The idea of Context Blindness was first introduced to me in this article, Autism: From Mind Blindness to Context Blindness (http://autismdigest.com/context-blindness/). This article sets forth the idea that, “The human brain, through its evolution, has learned to interpret situations by taking context into account…On a conscious level context helps us think through how we should react and what choices, such as a birthday gift or a response, we should make. Context gives meaning to the stimuli our brains receive…Context blindness refers to a reduced spontaneous use of context when giving meaning to a stimulus. To put it more simply: the autistic brain thinks in an absolute way, rather than a relative, contextually defined way….Here is [another] example of context blindness: When the doorbell rang, the mother of a seven-year-old boy with autism asked him to open the door. He opened the back door instead of the front. His reaction was logical, but his choice of door was out of context.”
I was reminded of this article today. How does this manifest itself in a conversation?
Check this out. On the way to school this morning….
“Mom, we’re so getting ripped off with Taffy prices being like $2 or $3.”
“Taffy, mom. Taffy. I can’t believe how much we’re getting ripped off.”
You can imagine my confusion at this point…
Inside Voice: Where is the taffy? What taffy are we specifically talking about? Where did you see this taffy? Why are you so interested in taffy? It’s 7:50 AM…what is up with the taffy?!?!!? Are you hiding taffy in your room? Are you eating taffy for breakfast?
External Voice: “Tucker, I am just not following you.”
He says, “Forget it.”
If there is ONE thing everyone needs to learn about having these conversations it’s that you cannot allow these children to go to the ‘Nevermind’ or ‘Forget it’ route. It’s often difficult enough to engage in a true reciprocal conversation. So I NEVER let him get away with the ‘never mind’ or ‘forget it.’ Instead I continue to patiently engage him. This time by saying,
“Tucker, I want to understand what you are saying – but I am just having troubles following you. It must be that it’s too early in the morning. Can you please start at the beginning again. I really want to know. Please, help me.”
He sighs, often if I blame it on myself he’s more likely to continue.
“Okay. At the pool mom. At the pool Laffy Taffy is like super expensive and I know it’s not that much in regular stores. So, last June when we were at the pool – they are ripping us off.”
Inside Voice: Oh…of course – we are in April 2015 referring to something in June 2014 without any CONTEXT to help.
Outside Voice: “Oh. I get it Tuck. Thank you. Yes – that does seem excessive, doesn’t it!”
Then we went to Kwik Star and he headed straight towards the Laffy Taffy to check the prices on ALL Laffy Taffy pieces he could find. He was yelling at me from across the store…
Mom, the big hunks are $1.99.
Mom, the ropes are 3 for 99¢
Of course, there were three of us – so we ended up with three ropes. Quite a deal that taffy is…as long as you’re not at the pool.
Trust me, I know I will hear about this Laffy Taffy issue again – now that I’ve blogged about it I will have a MUCH better chance of remembering the context of the situation…or at least the jokes on the wrappers.
What was the name of the Headless Horseman’s Horse?
Sort of like trying to have a conversation when you are missing the context….