Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Visual Memory

A few posts ago I replayed the story of Daniel's "Secret Ability" of reciting a poem backwards. I have told many others this story including a few speech paths that I know. I was pleased (for some strange reason) to hear the amazement in their response and after a lot of spouting of reasons for this, they all come back to the same thing. "We don't know anything about the brain." (In that we know some, but there is so much that we don't know.)

I have always found Daniel's brain fascinating. Maybe it's because I love puzzles and am obsessed with them. I play Scrabble, Word Twist, and Scramble, obsessively on Facebook. I'll pick up any Suduku I see laying around, as well as a cross word. I like figuring things out. Maybe, besides the fact that Daniel is, ya know, my flesh and blood, that is one of the reasons I'm always trying to "figure him out". Will I ever? Probably not completely. Whenever you figure something out with him he throws out something new for you to wrestle around with for a while.

For that reason I've been watching the visual memory thing closer since the backwards poem moment. Here are some findings. First the cable guy was here yesterday (wait that has been every day for 3 days in a row and approximately the 1 millionth time since September, it is officially my part time job, waiting for the cable guy) Anyway, when he was "fixing" the internet everything got moved around. Upon Daniel's getting home from school, he unpacks his backpack and spreads it all over the family room floor (just to make me nuts) makes his snack, get's his water, goes to the basement and goes online. He ran upstairs and said, "mom, the internet explorer icon is GONE!"

"Gone?"I said.

"yes, it's missing", replies Daniel.

First, this is amazing communication. Eight months ago he would have just started screaming in the basement, followed by me running down to see if someone was stabbing him with a butcher knife from the sound of his panic! So I was proud of his calm observation. I was panicked inside thinking what did the cable guy do now? When I looked at the screen I pointed it out, "see Daniel, it's over here". "Oh thank you mom!!" he says happily. This also shows his rigidness that he couldn't just look over the screen and find it. It wasn't where it was supposed to be for goodness sake!!! So I stood there for a minute to see what he would do. He moved the internet explorer icon back to where it should be, then he proceeded to move every other icon on the page back where they should be. All 49 of them. I counted. Seven rows of seven, and if my 3rd grade math is serving me well, that's an array demonstrating 49. Does he use all these icons? Um no. I don't even know what 75% of them are for, but he knew where each one belonged! Interesting.

The other "memory" example that came up relates to Zachary built a fort in our basement with his friend this weekend. He invited Daniel in on Sunday night. I sort of made a big deal about Zachary being kind enough to share this wonderful fort. Daniel thought this was awesome. The funny thing is Zachary would usually kill to have Daniel interact with him. This realization just seems to be dawning on Daniel. He is communicating much more. So they spent about 40 minutes in the fort. It was stocked with flashlights, pillows and books. One of the books was "I Spy Christmas" They were reading through this book and finding things. I was smiling to myself thinking that Daniel knows where EVERYTHING in that book is. This gave me a flashback. Danie was 3, we were driving to preschool. He was upset, crying (ok screaming) ya know, the usual ride to preschool in those days. I'm hugely pregnant. Nightmare. I'm trying to calm him. I said, "let's sing a song". He said, "no, I Spy Christmas", and started reciting the riddles. I looked in the rear view mirror and he was not only reciting the riddles but pointing into the air at where the things were on "the page". There was no page in front of him because THERE WAS NO BOOK IN FRONT OF HIM. But he could obviously see the book like it was. So he was pointing to where they were on it. This freaked me out at the time, because well, he was 3 and at the time he hadn't yet been labeled as autistic.

My final example is of Christmas. Everyone has, of course, been asking Daniel what he got for Christmas. He would sort of sit there unsure of what to say and then say "bunny slippers". Which he did get by the way. As shown here. But he couldn't come up with anything else. This

was sort of bothering me because he got AWESOME things, an electric train set, a Wii, as I mentioned, it goes on and on. I'll guess we had 15 to 20 things on the list. So before school yesterday I sat down with him and we wrote it all down. I sent it to school to share with his para and his circle of friends group with the social worker. It was a cheat sheet so to speak, so he wouldn't sit there in group and say he only got bunny slippers! Last night he had another social group with a speech pathologist. So I realized on the way, I should have brought another list. So I just said. "Daniel when you talk about Christmas, what will you say?" Then he said, "I got an electric train set, a Wii. . . .. etc etc. The list we wrote out that morning. IN ORDER. Weird. I mean we know it is "helpful for him to have visual strategies". But this seems a little beyond that don't ya think?

So what do you think? Photographic memory? Have you ever read Temple Grandins book, "Thinking in Pictures??". I have, and I've seen her speak at conferences, twice. What are your thoughts internet? (ok I stole that line from another blog I read, dooce.com, but I've giving credit) Let me know. I'd love to figure it out.


Anonymous said...

You're right. Daniel's brain is fascinating.

I think this whole visual memory thing is very interesting as well. The computer icon story is amazing. I think my daughter Rhema may have a strong visual memory as well. I've noticed that when doing a puzzle, she only glances at the picture on the box once (as in the first time she ever saw it). Then she assembles the puzzle. I try to prompt her to look at/attend to the picture on the box again, but she refuses... as if she doesn't need to look at it again. All I can think is that because her auditory processing is so poor, her sense of vision has over-compensated - yielding perhaps a photographic memory.

Michelle S. said...

Thanks for coming by the blog. Your daughter is beautiful. Looking into that little face brought me back. Daniel is 12 and we are always finding new things about him. It's a process and it's important to learn how to use those strengths!!!