Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fruit Loop

How is it that one Fruit Loop in your bowl of Cheerios stands out so distinctly, but drop one Cheerio into a bowl of Fruit Loops and it might take you half the morning to find it?
What would it be like to be that single Fruit Loop, especially if you are ‘color blind’ and don’t even recognize the fact that you aren’t plain brown?
Often when we are out and about, Steve will be so quiet and withdrawn that later on people won’t have even noticed that he was there. 

He might nod and smile at various conversations, without grasping the gist of the topic being discussed. Sometimes he misunderstands the subject and leaves everyone else wondering, ‘Where did that Fruit Loop come from?’
The mental images play a large part of my hubby’s thought process. In Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures she points out:
“One of the most profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing so poorly at verbal skills. When I was a child and a teenager, I thought everybody thought in pictures. I had no idea that my thought processes were different. In fact, I did not realize the full extent of the differences until very recently. 
Growing up, I learned to convert abstract ideas into pictures as a way to understand them. I visualized concepts such as peace or honesty with symbolic images. I thought of peace as a dove, an Indian peace pipe, or TV or newsreel footage of the signing of a peace agreement. Honesty was represented by an image of placing one's hand on the Bible in court. A news report describing a person returning a wallet with all the money in it provided a picture of honest behavior.
I have read a common explanation of this visual thinking in other Aspergers Syndrome material. It goes something like this.
If I were to ask Steve to go across the room to retrieve a book for me, he may hear the word “across” and visualize a large cross on a hill. This visualization step causes him to stop hearing my verbal request for a few words. By the time he tunes back in he only hears the word ‘book’. That singular word might trigger a totally different image for him of a cartoon character stepping out in an exaggerated stride (as in ‘keep on trucking’).
As my hubby’s Aspie mind struggles to figure out why I asked about hurrying to a cross on the hill, he will look at me with a totally blank expression on his face, causing me to repeat my request, albeit a bit louder than the first time.
Now Steve realizes that I am agitated and is struggling to figure out what he did ‘wrong’ as he thinks that I am yelling at him. Typically he recognizes only three emotions; happy, sad, and mad. I tend to live in a land of hundreds of emotions.
“I don’t see your ‘cross’ and why do I have to hurry?” he blurts in frustration.
“My book!” I say, pointing towards the end table near his recliner. “I thought that you could just pick it up for me!” I continue from my cozy nest on the couch.
“I’m not going to the library!” he retorts. “I was just going to watch some TV!”
At this point, reading his body language, I figure it would be much easier to just get the book myself, which I do. Steve glares at me in utter bewilderment.
“Oh,” says he. “Why didn’t you say that you wanted your murder mystery by Dick Francis?”
I stare at the title of the book in my hand - ‘Comeback’.
Uh huh. Wouldn’t that be fun to explain! “Would you please go get ‘Comeback’?”


  1. Now that's got me thinking about a few confusing episodes. No wonder it ended up in a mess. Thanks for the reality check. Sometimes its easy to forget when you are working on double duty and just say things without realising your audience. I need a piece of string around sometimes to remind me i have two Aspie's in the house. I agree with the three emotions.

    1. might be best to find the string yourself, my dear! lol...

  2. Ben from his blog Married, with Aspergers:

    1. Thanks: what you describe here is like an episode from my own life, especially the way I misinterpret my wife's raised voice when she's frustrated as anger, which triggers a defensive reaction from me.

    2. so true - i get frustrated w/steve thinking he isn't listening & speak louder - he gets frustrated with me thinking i'm angry "because of the tone of voice" - oh the circles we travel in... i'm slowly learning to do better!