Monday, 2 November 2015

Autism Spectrum Part 2: Imagination

by Jack Rockett

Many people believe that people on the Autism Spectrum lack imagination but this is definitely not true. This is assumed because we find it hard to imagine unreal or unheard of circumstances but psychologists have discovered that our imagination is more based upon the world we live in, this does not limit is at all. They also believe that people on the autism spectrum live in their “own world” but I definitely live in the real world, I have just created my own world in my imagination. The reason why this is mainly presumed is because our imagination works in a very different way to the imaginations of neurotypical people but we are constantly seen not interacting in the way that people in the “real world” expect you to. Neurotypical people mainly have weak and playful imaginations and find it difficult to imagine certain things and visualise 3D objects in their heads. The neurotypical mind can created unrealistic and illogical objects and scenarios but many neurotypical people struggle when having to imagine real things when they are not in the room. Their imaginations usually have very limited boundaries however they are very good and imagining how other neurotypical people feel. The imagination of people on the Autism Spectrum is almost the opposite. I have the ability to visualise anything in my head that is within the real world very easily as it could all be real. However I have massive difficulty in understanding how other people see situations and knowing their feelings.

For most of my life, I have had no problem in imagining myself living multiple lives in many worlds that I have created and since I have been able to organise them all, I have worked out how to put them all into one world. Therefore, in my imagination, our planet has a few more countries added to it, of which one is where my alter ego lives, The Stompshire Islands. I have very clear images of how most of the towns in the Stompshire Islands look like and I have mapped out all of the country about 3 times to try and make a better version each time. This is due to my fascination with maps. I love drawing maps of made up places and this country gave me the opportunity to do this endlessly.

However, I don’t have some sort of super imagination, I do get writer’s block frequently and I have got it a few times whilst writing this article. I even got it when simply naming towns so I would end up naming towns ‘Hippie Small’, ‘Tabby’ and ‘Gobleking’. This is mainly due to my mind finding it difficult to construct language as my mind mainly functions with pictures and numbers. As a result, I had to rename all the awfully named towns after towns in the real world like Paris and Sydney. Even though I find it very easy to create buildings and plan out towns in my mind, I have never found it easy to create made up people as I know that they don’t exist. Due to this, most of the people that live in the islands are people that I know in the real world as it is far easier for me to imagine them.

As a complete contrast, along with having a huge imagination, I can be entertained with very subtle things. I find myself making whatever I can numerical and I commonly count paving stones in order to entertain myself whilst walking along the beach or the high street due to my mind being heavily based on numbers. This means that I only think in words if I want to say something specific but I will always think of almost anything in numbers.

Because I can get very easily stressed and overwhelmed by sensory overload, concentrating for too long etc., I enter my imagination to calm myself down. This means that I will enter my world for a couple of minutes even in a lesson to calm myself down and so that I can concentrate more efficiently. I will also do it in the middle of an assembly or whilst someone is talking to me as I get very easily distracted and I need to do it in order to stay calm.

Overall, my imagination is almost a place of refuge for me when I am bored as it is very easily accessible. To me, it is the idea of a perfect world in a very real setting and I love having the possibility to imagine myself in a ‘utopian society’ as I find it really entertaining. 

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