“What is wrong with you?” is rarely a useful question. “How do you differ from me?” or “Who are you?” are different ways of approaching the other- as distinct from me, or as someone in their own right. How they differ is easier for me to understand, because I start from myself, and understand myself; but it might cause me to ignore important things, or see myself as the default. Anyway, I may miss parts of you which are too far from my own experience.
The intense world theory suggests how autistic people may be gifted, and how their gifts might be nurtured, rather than how they may be sick, and made as normal as possible.
Here is the Sally-Anne experiment.
Simon Baron-Cohen performed this experiment on autistic children, some of whom failed to answer correctly that Sally would look for her marble in the basket, not knowing that Anne had hidden it. He deduced that these children did not have a proper theory of mind, knowing that others felt and thought differently from themselves.
However, Henry Markram considered other possible explanations for the autistic children not answering the question correctly. They could actually be better at seeing into the minds of others. This is so disturbing that they develop strategies to avoid it. His theory predicts that all autistic children have exceptional talents that are locked up; an upbringing introducing them gently to a rich, diverse environment in a predictable way could allow those talents to develop.
The children are easily traumatised. Fear memories were so quickly acquired, lasted longer, were difficult to erase and over generalized… the neocortex could render the world intense, highly fragmented and overly specialized while the amygdala would dial up the emotional component of the intense world making it potentially extremely painful and aversive forcing the autistic child to take refuge in a secure bubble. Neural microcircuits in their brains process information more intensely, so that they see, feel and think more intensely. The infant brain should make and trim connections rapidly- that is why we sleep so much when we are babies- but the autistic brain develops these circuits too early, and does not trim the connections. Some microcircuits that should wait their turn to develop, develop too early and begin to dominate over the other microcircuits driving hyper-preferences, repetitiveness, idiosyncrasies and eventually making unlearning and rehabilitation very difficult.
Henry Markham claims this is a unifying theory, explaining all the observations. Other theories explain less, or are based on a view of autism as a form of mental retardation. We explain more if we can see something as good in itself.
However, here I read that the child subjects were asked three questions-
Where will Sally look for her marble? (The “belief” question)
Where is the marble really? (The “reality” question)
Where was the marble at the beginning? (The “memory” question)
What were the autistics’ answers on the control questions?
Here, there are alternative explanations of why the autistic children might have been recorded as failing to answer the belief question. Autism would be a disorder of communication rather than of empathy.
I want to understand others as I want to be understood- not disordered, but different.