Monday, May 14, 2007

Autistic spectrum

I wrote some time ago about one of my theories that puddings are an impediment to world peace. I mentioned a couple of other theories at the same time, one being that I believe all men appear somewhere on the autistic spectrum and Ms Melancholy has requested further information on this subject.

Before I post the results of my research, I feel the need to state the nature of my qualification on this academic theorizing. I am eligible to present the results of my findings, having read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” and having watched “Rainman.” Finally, I have relationships with various males, all of whom manifest definite signs of autism. This is the extent of my academic qualification (unless you count a Classics degree and a Fine Art degree. But, I should also declare that Husband has been campaigning for me to return my degree certificate to my first university since he claims I remember ‘bog-all’ about the subject and fail to give him any help in pub quizzes on matters relating to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece!)

When I started preparing this research, I thought I could profile 4 adult men and two children. But the evidence for my argument has proved so overwhelming that I have only the space to profile two adult men. We’ll call them Man1 and Man2.

Neither of these men has ever been diagnosed by anyone except me. Both men look like regular, normally functioning men from the outside. They are very bright, intelligent men who hold down high profile jobs. And yet there are indisputable autistic tendencies discernible.

“Some islets of particular skills or abilities or knowledge”
Man1 and Man2 are excelling in their fields. Did you know that the name ‘idiot savant’ was originally applied to the autistic syndrome? ‘Idiot’, needs no explanation, but ‘savant’ comes from the French verb savoir, ‘to know’ which refers to the extraordinary skills of some autistic people.

“Pre-occupation with particular objects”
Man1 has an abnormal preoccupation with all things music. He has secret and not-so secret stashes of cds all over the house. Please see small sample pictorial evidence, right. He has embraced the Ipod, but nonetheless demonstrates extreme emotional dependency on hoarding cds and purchasing secretly. Fifteen years of mouldy and unreadable NME (New Musical Express) magazines had to be pried from his possession because they were unreadable. Man1 was saving them because he might “need to look something up” one day.

Man2 exhibits interesting ‘total immersion hobbies’. This requires that he regularly discovers frenzied passions for new hobbies; he swears they are life-long obsessions and purchases all the equipment. He throws himself into each new activity: golf, scuba diving, skiing, etc.

“Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her ‘own world’”
Man1 spends many hours compiling cds for his friends. He plans this very carefully and writes out draft play-lists and then neatly (in his serial killer handwriting) copied-up final versions. See pictorial evidence.

Man2’s latest hobby has required less financial output than his usual pursuits: origami. Please see pictorial evidence. He demonstrates extreme anxiety when he discovers he is out without small or medium squares of foldable paper.

“Abnormal perceptual experience and failure to develop speech beyond a very limited level”
Wives of Man1 and Man2 have reported an almost complete inability to communicate face to face. Both men resort to sending emails and sms messages, even while sitting next to wives on the sofa during a film, or in offices along the landing.

“Appears not to hear you at times”
Oh, come on, how many men do you know to which this doesn’t apply?


BEAST said...

I feel the need to be the first commenter on this post. Having not developed my "speech beyond a very limited level", I will comment in text rather than telling you tonight.

There is nothing wrong with having an organised mind, if that extends to counting toothpicks then all the better. I'm sure everyone organises their CD alphabetically, or perhaps chronologically (cf. High fidelity).

So, Man1 and Man2 are in fact perfectly normal, and indeed rather than men being on the autistic spectrum, it is woman position on this arbitrary line that should be questioned. To illustrate the point, I have listed below (in alphabetical order of course) a few normal human traits that women appear to come somewhere short of the dividing line between autism and feminism.

1. Reading maps
2. Sense of direction
3. Thinking about really big (cosmic) or really small (molecular) things.
4. Use of a Playstation controller

Interestingly not only does the above alpabetised list consist of consecutive letters, but they also represent the longest consecutive sequence in written English words found in the OED. e.g. supeRSTUd and undeRSTUdy.

Of course there is only one other four letter sequence is common English use. Most "autistic" men would know this. But I'll leave it up to you ladies to find it.

Also, did you know "Eleven plus two" in an anagram of "Twelve plus one"

see you later in time for double jeopardy!

JJ said...

Autistic? Husband? Nah.

Helen said...

I know a man who should be studied. He always sends me emails about important items that we need to discuss. I will say 'lets discuss tonight' but he never does, simply reverts to discussing it on email the next day.

The other odd thing that he does is ripping up paper. Articles from mags/newpapers etc that he has finished with, receipts that has his credit card details on - he simply rips them into tiny pieces then leaves them in little piles all over the house. Is this normal? Organising things alphabetically has never crossed this mans mind, his filing cabinet is his ruck sack for work - can he ever find anything? Hmm.

JJ said...

They really are a funny bunch, aren't they? Why can't they be more like us? If we can't read the map, at least we'll stop and ask directions!

sheepish said...

Very amusing but of course the men won't see it, probably another autistic symptom!!! And my OH is left-handed which opens a whole new can of worms, perhaps your next research project could look into this?

Ms Melancholy said...

Oh, really fabulous post, and your qualifications are perfect. However it has scared me just a little because I think I might be Man 1. Hoarding CDs (check); arranging in alphabetical order (check); collection of NMEs that 'might come in useful' (thrown out only at my last house move at the insistence of husband); spending hours alone compiling cd compilations (check); keeping meticulous records of said compilations (check). However, I can also read maps and use a playstation controller. Perhaps I am really a man? Freaky!

High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation said...

The other four letter sequence is hardly in 'common' use (unless you count gymnophobia as a commonly used word). I don't know whether to admit to already knowing it and thereby position myself on the spectrum, or admit to looking it up, thereby admitting myself to be well and truly in touch with my masculine side because I can't see a red rag without charging at it. (Oh, and can't ask for directions either).

Man1 and Man2 are, yes, perfectly normal, because as JJ has so eloquently and entertainingly argued, all men are on the autistic spectrum. Therefore, it is 'normal' to be 'abnormal'.

Ms Melancholy, don't worry, I don't think you're a man. JJ has been kind about Man1's afflictions. Do you catalogue your running magazines and keep an impressive collection of jiffy bags "just in case"? Also, did you invent a publicity company so that you could solicit small, independent record labels for free CDs? Thought not.

JJ said...

Helen, I've had a thought! Try to get your man to make the little bits of paper into origami animals instead of little piles, it's much more rewarding!

Sheepish, husband is left handed too... mmm, must be something in that.

Ms Melancholoy, Mmmm, sorry about that, I've obviously given you cause to worry, the HPoP is right, I really was very kind towards Man1. He's much worse than I suggested.

High Priestess, regarding your first paragraph, I just wanted to say that apart from the sex bit and gender thing, I could've married either husband or best friend!

The Archivist said...

I can reveal that I am 'Man1'. And I don't think anyone has been kind. Particularly the turncoat who snook into my room and gathered photographic 'evidence' to posted on the interweb.

However rising above the sense of betrayal and violation, a few points
1. I'm comfortable on the spectrum
2. Welcome Ms Melancholy to the spectrum I hope you are comfortable here too
3. Small pieces of paper in a rucksack! Genius! Why didn't I think of that?
4. And JJ just one word: "desktops"!

JJ said...

Ah, yes, okay. These are my brain blurt kind of thoughts, Archivist:

3. Is that me or you?
5. Desktops? Yes, I’m not sure which ones you’re referring to. It could be the nice personal, predominantly orange items I have stuck to my desk area. Or you could be referring to the photos I take of textures which I use as desktop backgrounds on my pc. I’ve always considered these to be small idiosyncratic touches that demonstrate my creativity. (Frankly, I was just relieved you didn’t mention teabags!)
7. I have numbered my points to make you feel at home – this is a safe place, everyone is welcome here.

JJ said...

PS I am rather excited to hear that there is further photographic evidence to come from a more senior man in my life. Pictorial evidence of Man3's workshop are coming. Watch this space.

david santos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ChrisH said...

Hello JJ thanks for the welcome and the migraine sympathy. I used to run with a large group of women and one night I heard one of them complaining that her husband didn't communicate with her. Her fellow runner said, with authority; 'He's probably autistic!'. At the time I nearly fell over trying to run and laugh at the same time but your blog has made me wonder! ps Thank you for admiring the paintings - my husband is delighted! There's a link to his work on my blog if you're interested.

Stray said...

I know of a further source of photographic evidence for a Man4, but you'll have to negotiate with someone else to get the pictures ;)

I have to admit to making lists. Usually numbered. Always with checkboxes. And only being able to write on squared paper, ideally with a propelling pencil, but possibly with a black bic biro. No other writing implement is acceptable. [I sometimes even have scary serial killer handwriting].

I can read maps, think lots about very big or very small things, and I have excellent playstation skills, and I am prone to msn'ing people in my own house (or on the same sofa) and I do enjoy words like cremnophobia, and I have a very worrying collection of jamjars containing screws, nuts and bolts of various sizes, but I am definitely not a man because I have no trouble stopping to ask for directions when I'm lost.

Phew. That was close!

Great post :)

JJ said...

You can tell I'd never make the autistic spectrum, I had to ask husband what the first few prime numbers were, and even then I couldn't follow those instructions, as apparently the first one, is ONE. Ha.

ChrisH, OOoh, I like them: very lovely. I'll come back soon and check out the rest of your blog.

Stray, Really? Who I'm thinking? I had no idea.

I'm a listmaker too, but checkboxes, ooh that sounds rather exciting. Do you draw or do it on the computer? I even put a new 'to do' item even though I've done it, just so I can cross it out! And writing implements? No, that's not autistic, that's plain sensible: push up pencils, are the thing! Or writing implements are mood dependent...

Being able to stop for directions is very redeeming. I think that means you're safe...