Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Catching the Ball

I was down in Southern California this weekend visiting relatives. With travel and new places and new people I was really noticing my asperger’s syndrome a lot. At home my coping mechanisms are so routine and so practiced I don’t really have to think about them. But traveling I was very aware of all the things I was struggling with. One thing I noticed was how poor my physical coordination was under these circumstances. I literally did worse in a game of catch then a 4 year old. I think the base problem is a vision one. But not of perceiving  is there at any one time. If I have my glasses on then, as long as something stays still and I focus on it for a second, I can see it fine.  Of course most people can see things better when they look at them paused. But I seem to have a harder time using short cuts to get usable information out of a generalized glance or a moving object.
When I look at an array of objects, say things on a desk, I’ll look at each object individually, a box, a pen, post-its. But until I’ve looked at everything and have it all absorbed, I can give a generalized statement like there is no pencil. To do that I’ll have to look at each object and identify it enough to know it is not a pencil. If I know specifically what I’m looking, say a long yellow no. 2 school pencil, for I’ll be able to eliminate some things quickly, wrong color, wrong general shape. But if I could be looking for any pencil from slick mechanical to a worn down stub I’ll have to pretty much identify every object on the table in order to eliminate the possibility of a pencil. If someone moves one of the objects on a desk I feel like I have to re-identify not only the object that moved but also every other object on the desk, especially those around either it’s new or old position, before I once again feel like I’ve seen the desk. (This means I have a strong disinclination to move things around more than necessary.)
Moving objects are even worse. If I let myself truly mindfully look at them, I start the identification process but then objected has moved and I click over and start the identification process from the beginning, over and over again without every really absorbing the object I’m focused on. The background gives the impression of flipping between a zoom lens coming towards focus and away from focus without even having a stop on in focus. The whole thing is very nausea making.
Most of the time, especially in places I’m habituated to, I can manage to withdraw just enough attention that the identification process never fully engages and I can get my mind to accept using what I saw last second to take the place of fully absorbing what I see this second. This works best when the motion is slow or relatively far away so that less of my visual field is involved in the motion. Things that make it harder include watching something coming close to touching something else, as that makes the motion more attention grabbing, and also watching my own body move as that too tends to focus too much attention of the movement. I have a habit of putting something down on the counter by looking at the counter while I begin the motion and then looking away set-down. This cuts down on the queasy making visuals but can also lead to occasional spills.
Of course flinching my eyes closed at the sight of my hand reaching for a flying ball was pretty disastrous. Luckily the kids didn’t seem to mind that my only ‘adult’ like contribution to the games was things like saying that in a room with breakable object the ball should only rolled, not thrown. Even though I’ve come so far, all through the trip I was very aware of how my capabilities were more like the kids then like the adults.

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