Mike’s World

What is it like to be Michael?

autism sibling brother classroom

He doesn’t have language skill, as he has never spoken. If he thinks at all it is probably not in words. If Michael imagines, how does he do it? Is it visual? His visual equipment is not like mine. Mike’s eyes seem to be independent of each other. Sometimes he looks at me with one eye; sometimes the other eye seems to be the attentive one. I have proof of this in pictures. I seem to need proof, as I don’t have confidence in my own memories.

When you think about it, the only one we ever have the possibility of knowing thoroughly is our own self. We have a good chance of knowing a person with our same sensibilities (i.e., both having visual, hearing and other senses) and cultural backgrounds. Our inner self is only somewhat accessible to another and only then by empathetic, long-term, two-way communication.

What is it like to be Michael? I cannot begin to imagine.

4 thoughts on “Mike’s World

  1. My sister had very little language as a young child, and actually spoke her first full sentence at the age of 14, “Sick of mashed potatoes!” However, she has this incredible memory which goes back to when she was a baby. For example, she remembers the color of the linoleum in the kitchen of my Grandmother’s house and she was only eight years old the last time she saw it. She is 54 now. So, did she have language inside her head? Did she know what linoleum was even though she never said the word?
    My sister’s eyes are also independent of one another. She usually looks at me with her right eye, which I think is her dominant eye, but she also peers at me from the corner of her left eye when I least suspect it.

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    • Thank you for the comment, Anne. That is quite a first sentence for your sister to speak!
      I just finished reading An Anthropologist on Mars (Oliver Sacks) again. Temple Grandin spoke of her visual memory. I wonder if your sister had language before age 14, or if she remembered visually and applied her later-developed language to what she replayed in her visual memory. Interesting to ponder. I wonder what the mechanism is behind the independent eye phenomenon. Everybody is wired differently. Thanks again.

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      • I hope I didn’t mislead you. Barbara did speak before she was fourteen, but never a sentence, and never stating how she actually felt about something like mashed potatoes. If she didn’t want to eat them, she would have just spit them out. She started using words around the age of four, “yes, no, Mommy, Daddy,” mostly nouns. She still doesn’t get pronouns right, and most of her sentences are very short. “No go out.” My Mom taught her the names of colors but I can’t recall how old she was at the time. She is still very good with colors, but she only recognizes one letter, the letter B, and no numbers. Yes, everyone is wired differently. Barbara can’t bathe herself or prepare a meal, needs help with most basic daily living skills, but she can point to a photo of a man in a magazine and say “hair is black.” She also talks to herself a lot, and says “Stop talking to yourself” while she is talking to herself! Much of the self-talk is negative. “Truck smashed the pail.” “uncle Joe died.”
        She’s pretty amazing, my little sister.

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