Thoughts on processing speed

I told you that I’d come back and give you the other puzzle piece, didn’t I?  And it’s taken me a few days, I know.  I’ve been trying to solidify a third point or example in what I’m about to say… but my brain is stuck (oh, the stuck– that’s another subject for another post), and I can only thing of two.  I hope you don’t mind.

At least in terms of autism symptoms, I’ve been on quite an upswing recently.  Whereas I had been regressing for some time, losing skills and myself, somewhere along the way the switch flipped and I started to regain both.  Yes, I still stare at the floor half the time when I talk, and no, I’m no conversational genius.  Still awkward and quiet, too, as far as I know.  But those aren’t things that bother me to any great extent.  The meltdowns and self-injury and inability to communicate… that’s the stuff to be avoided, and I’m happy to say those areas are much improved as of late.

So anyway, another little quirk that hasn’t caught up with the rest of me is my processing speed.  I have seven ways to Sunday to cover up the fact that I often don’t know what’s going on around me… but the fact is, I often don’t.  Whether it’s conversation, motion and visual processing, or touch, it takes me a minute to know what’s happening, and often, by the time I’ve caught A, the rest of the world is already at G.

One way that processing speed affects me is with greetings and automatic responses.  If someone comes up to you and says happy birthday, you say thanks, right?  Or if someone asks “how are you?” an “I’m well, and you?” is called for.

Here in AutismLand, it’s a little different.  You may remember (although I don’t expect that you do as it was many eons ago) that I often say “thanks” when I’m getting off the elevator.  The person on the elevator looks at me like I’m nuts!  Or, if someone says happy birthday, my response is, often as not, “you too.”  How are yous get met with “thank you” as well.

What happens is this: The person says the greeting, and I don’t hear it yet, so I respond based on what I think they said.  I fill in the blank and answer “appropriately.”  Then, after I answer, I process what the person actually said and it clicks.  That’s where the oops comes in.  But, given that the person is usually fifty feet away by the time I’ve processed it, well, it’s to late.

My other processing speed issue, related to visual-motor processing, is escalators.  Now, I can usually do them.  If I’m really overstimulated, sometimes I ask for the elevator.  But even on a good day, those pesky things take me a minute.  I tell whomever I am with that I need extra time… and it usually takes me 3-5 steps going by before I can get on.  So, it’s not a long time that I need… but if the person behind me is expecting fluid motion, well, they might trip if they’re not prepared for me to stop.

I tend to think that some sensory integration work would help me with processing.  Sensory processing and processing speed, for me anyway, are all wrapped up together.  After all, the speed at which I process sensory input affects the extent to which I can integrate the input.  I don’t have space or resources to do much sensory work… and I’m also kind of lazy in that regard… probably the most helpful thing to me would be a weighted deep pressure vest, but that’s not happening due to cost.  I’ll have to get creative!  My favorite word!



One thought on “Thoughts on processing speed

  1. I just recently discovered your brilliant writings and I am absolutely engaged in you! I work with (elementary) students with disabilities and it is wonderful as an educator to hear the thought process behind some of the common characteristics. We always look for ways to help, to tap into the extraordinary abilities, but sometimes we don’t know how because it is different for each individual. What you mention about processing speed is in perfect time for me because I was just thinking about this last week as I waited patiently while a student was waiting for the processing to kick in. I noticed another teacher rushing her for an answer. I think sometimes the rest of the world is just too impatient and settle for less just to rush it along. Yet, if they waited, they would realize the genius lying within!

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