I’m currently sat reflecting on my autism and how it all looks different now that I accept it. All the things I used to hate and fight against, I now love and embrace and I can see the benefits of them.
I was thinking of time perception and my lack of it and how it’s truly a gift and how I once thought it a curse. I decided to look it up, read some information about it as I’ve never read anything about it before.
I googled it and this article came up. It was written (I think) in 2014, (https://autism.lovetoknow.com/Time_Perception_in_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder) so hopefully things have improved since then but I was horrified to read what I read.
The article starts off well (in my opinion of course) but goes on to make some huge underlying assumptions, in my humble opinion.
It says, many people with autism experience fragmented or delayed time perception which can present challenges to social interaction and learning.
Apart from others, this assumes that their perception of time is the correct one and the only one and that autistic people must therefore be compared against them because they are the epitome of the perfect human being. And when they compare autistic people to them, because we don’t share the same perception of time, they are assuming that we are somehow defective and that we cause problems. What they really mean is that we cause ‘them’ problems. We don’t fit with their way of teaching and communicating so they must find ways to make us communicate like them and learn like them and that’s a bit of a problem to them, they would rather we were like everybody else and behaved and learned like everybody else. In their pursuit to ‘help’ us, they are also assuming that we want the same things as them. That what makes them happy will make us happy. Even though they clearly admit that we’re different, they still assume that we want the same kind of life that they have. Tied, like a ball and change, to their beloved perception of time, how to communicate and how to learn.
It goes on to explain what time perception is. It says ~ ‘Time perception is an essential part of the way people make sense of the world around them’ ~ this is simply not true. It is not an essential part of the way that ‘I’ make sense of the world around me and I’m a person, so why am I not included in this statement? Even if it were to say, this is true for ‘some’ people .....
It goes immediately on to say, ‘in autism, effected people have trouble processing the passage of time and may experience a delayed reaction to certain stimuli’. They are clearly assuming here that their perception of time, is the ‘correct’ and only valid perception and they are assuming that they are the ‘correct’ people, and furthermore, they’re comparing autistic people to non autistic people for the purpose of trying to make us like them or at least find ways to be able to communicate with us, based on ‘their’ version of what is correct. They’re assuming there’s a fixed and correct passage of time that one should stick to when responding to certain stimuli. I could write a similar article stating that nt’s are defective, that they have difficulty understanding the concept of now. That they’re so tied in with the idea of time that they live their lives according to the time on a clock. I could say their perception is faulty. But how would I know. I’m not an nt.
They go on to say that time perception is the way the human brain interprets the passage of time and that a ‘healthy’ brain can check incoming information and measure the passage of time. In autism, however, they say the concept of time is somehow ‘distorted’, although they say they don’t know why this is. But clearly they’re certain that our way of thinking is distorted and not healthy and that their way is the right way.
It goes on to give ‘four’ ways in which teachers and parents can ‘deal with’ autism time perception. Not one of the four ways mentions anything about the child other than to give it clear, short and concise instructions so they can follow along with everybody else.
What baffles me about this, is the assumptions that it makes. That autistic people are somehow defective and they’re (nt’s) are the perfect model of a human being. Their lives are ruled by time. Time is a constant threat to me but I don’t see it (my perception of it) as a ‘problem’ but rather a gift. They assume that it’s a problem. It’s only a problem when I try to fit into their world. But I no longer do that. I’m creating my own world, in my own ‘time’ and in my own way. So it’s not a problem.
I don’t have any answers. I’m not judging the advice given in this article, just the assumptions it makes. Is a lot of the information out there written from the assumption that autistic people are defective and that we don’t have a healthy brain?
I'd never heard about the idea of autistic people having a "distorted" view of time. I myself wear a watch 99.9% of the time so that I can always know the time. I definitely got told a lot when I was a kid though that I had a rubbish perception of time so perhaps that was me countering it. Around it being very important to nt's I see that. I mean it's linked to the whole way our society runs from jobs right down to meal times so it doesn't really surprise me that they think anyone that can't stick to their timetable can't function in their society. In their own way they do have a distorted sense of time in that it informs everything they do in their day ignoring other cues so lucky you and anyone else that steps beyond that to listen to what you want rather than what the times says.
For me my watch tells me how much daylight I might have left but also I think it tells me how I'm doing that day at fitting to "normal" people's clocks. It's not an important thing just more of a mild "pat on the back" if I'm quite close. My watch is simultaneously very important to know and yet means very little to me. It's odd...
Time perception is a very changeable thing, for NT and autistic people alike. Time spent doing something you love, or being completely focussed on an activity, seems to pass very quickly. Time spent doing something you hate or find boring seems to pass very slowly. But it's like that for everybody. Methinks they doth protest too much.
I suppose they may be referring to a difference in attitude towards the importance of being punctual, but again, it isn't a specifically autistic issue. I know NT people who have a casual attitude to being on time.
This is something that has always caused me great trauma, time! Why does it have to exist? Really why? Every reason I can think of is to ultimately control in some way,
I have very simplistic ideas on most things but living to a clock is by far the hardest for me,
Before time was a construct people woke at dawn or when the cockerel sang, They worked together to provide food and shelter to each other, when the light faded and the sun went down each retired to sleep, a basic community all striving to eat and be healthy.working together for all not just one boss.
Thier was a programme recently about revisiting the jungle, a journalist come explorer had visited a tribe in a jungle previously left alone by western Society many years ago and decided to go back and see how it was doing,,,short story was that it had all but collapsed! He unwittingly had introduced technologies previously unheard of by them, shown them how life could be easier for them, most had left the tribe for an easier life in settlements provided by the state, only a handful still visited the old camps,,, he sent the whole film crew away and stayed on his own with them, it rained for days, so they slept and went hungry until it stopped raining, he kept reporting to his camera diary how long it had been since eating, how many hours and days since the rain started, the villagers just accepted it as when it rains you can’t hunt, so go hungry, just sit it out, no clock watching, just life as it presented, one tribesman he had befriended refused to let him see where his family were living now, he hated it and was embarrassed that they had abandoned the life they had always had,
I survive purely to work,,,I work to live,,,but work is and always has been controlling others allowing each individual just enough so that they must return constantly, not enough to have aspirations of a better life without having to watch the clock. Only lottery winners get that option, even millionaires don’t as they must keep time to make sure the workers keep working to allow thier business to keep going.
Thank you BlueRay for understanding my mind, once again you completely see what I see, you voice your thoughts, I choose not to as my words are seen by others and I am told I lie, They refuse to accept the inner me, the hidden me not daring to put my thoughts out in fear of denial,
I have not posted for a very long time as I am monitored closely, My words used against me, I now exist, Not the real me, the me they tell me I must be.
All I want is happiness for all beings, way to simple an idea that, I must fit, wether it be dress code, time keeping, ability to work,saying the right things, doing the right things,
Take care all, I wish you all well and hope one day I will be me, until that time I will just read your words and nod knowingly for you are my tribe,
Yeah, I understand that and I do have my mobile phone which I use to tell the time and find out what day it is when I need to but the whole concept of time freaks me out. I realised that time was the cause of a lot of my anxiety. Or rather, the way that time is used in this country (UK) freaks me out and causes me anxiety. I’m better armed now that I understand it better as I too had never heard about or thought about time perception and autism until I started relaxing and realising that when I’m not thinking about time, I’m much more relaxed.
p.s. I love the fact that we’re so odd :-) it makes us so interesting, or at least it does to me :-) I don’t know what my world without so much ‘time’ is going to look like but my new approach to life is not to learn how to deal with situations I find difficult, but rather to avoid them altogether although with time, I know I’ll have to have some level of time structure but I’ll make it as minimal as possible.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. I find it reassuring that you can see the benefits of not sticking to times so rigidly. I was talking to my dad the other day about eating (I’m a raw food coach) and how people rarely acknowledge hunger for food and he said that he and my mum eat when they’re hungry. Which he immediately changed and said actually, we don’t eat when we’re hungry, we eat at set times!
Hi OrinocoFlo, that made me giggle - methinks they doth protest too much ~ I can be an absolute stickler with some things sometimes and can even p**s myself off with my level of intensity! Lol!
With me, I barely know the difference between a minute and 6 months. I can’t really visualise a situation when somebody says it’s in 3 weeks time or something, so I can agree to something which is happening in the future and be totally shocked when it is suddently upon me as I don’t really have a concept of time passing. I kind of only have one mode for time, and that’s now.
Same here LoneWarrior, time is probably my greatest cause of stress, anxiety and confusion. By the way, I think you need to change your name to warrior or something else warrior instead of ‘lone’ warrior, because you’re not a lone warrior now ~ you have a tribe now, you have a family, you’re no longer a lone warrior. I used to think I was a lone warrior and I was, until I got my diagnosis and now we’re one, never to be alone again.
My new approach to life, is not to learn how to ‘manage’ situations that I find difficult, such as sticking to times or standing in queues, but rather to create my life in a way that doesn’t include them. I’ve noticed that the more relaxed I am, the less tolerant I am of situations I had got good at ‘managing’. This made me realise that I wasn’t managing these situations at all. Instead I was simply forcing myself to learn to ‘fit in’ with the general gist of society while internalising all the stress and trauma of what these situations can do to me and this is no longer acceptable to me, on any level.
I nearly caused a lock down in the job centre the other day. There was a queue and I didn’t want to stand in it and I began to kick off ~ when this happens in the job centre, they lock all the doors, nobody can come in and nobody can leave until the police get there - they call it a lock down. Although I don’t want to be going around swearing and shouting at people, I was super pleased it happened because it is showing me that my ‘autism’ didn’t go away, I had simply got very good at toeing the line and now I am learning to relax, I’m not as ultra vigilant in these situations and meltdowns come more easily. I was seeing my autism worker that day at the job centre and although she could see my point that I was pleased that I’m no longer internalising stuff and trying to fit in, she helped me to look at the situation again and we devised a plan to help me not melt down in that situation without me feeling like I’m simply ‘fitting in’. So it’s all a work in progress just now but for me but exactly as you described, I want as little ‘time’ in my life as possible. My work may involve me working with clients and it most likely will involve that so I will have to have some level of time structure in my life on some of my days, but I am designing my days around my natural innate habits, which I’m currently in the process of discovering.
We get ‘there’ by taking baby steps and you’re doing that, you’re dressing more like yourself and soon you will begin to express yourself more confidently. That’s a process but don’t ever think you’re alone in this, because you’re not and there’s no time frame for this, other than the one that you set, it you set one at all.
That story you told reminds me of me. As I’m living off social security benefits, I often don’t have money for food and when that happens, I simply say to myself, oh, so I’m fasting today!!! I’ve been doing a lot of fasting recently, including dry fasts. It’s not true that we need food and water to thrive and I’m on the path to becoming a breatharian as I feel much better without food in me as I’m ultra sensitive to what goes in my body.
And truly lone’notlone’warrior, we can create our lives to suit us. We don’t have to fit in with the ‘norm’ and we’re not going to and we will win, because as you said, our intent is for happiness for ‘all’ beings and that comes from the greatest power of all, so we can’t not win.
I’m going to Whitby again next month, with my new autism group ~ I’ll take you guys along with me again and maybe one day we’ll all meet up for a trip out there or somewhere else :-)
That sounds very much like how my perception of time works, BlueRay. Whether I'm projecting into the future or recalling the past, I can't conceive of measuring the time intervals. Unless there are very obvious clues or records, I struggle to put my auto-biographical memories into chronological order. Have I been waiting for the bus for a minute or half an hour? Without a timepiece to note time's passing, I usually have no idea. Dinner time is when I am hungry, bed-time is when I feel tired, and when I follow my body's innate sense of daily rhythms, I'm always out of sync with the world around me (severe late onset insomnia has plagued me for my whole life, but I can sleep well when left to my own innate rhythms.)
The fact that the world around us seems to neither care about nor understand these differences is, I think, yet another example of a more generic problem. The study and treatment of autism are based almost exclusively around performing expected social behaviours, and matching those behaviours is deemed the only measure of success. There is very little attempt to understand that the social behaviours are not what defines autism; they are merely a consequence of the perceptual and cognitive differences which we experience but which cannot be observed externally. Most interventions take this approach too; they are deemed a success if we behave more "normally", but it is never questioned whether such interventions have negative consequences for the load on our brains, levels of fatigue and anxiety, or our self-esteem. As you suggest, they are all about making sure we don't scare the horses, totally disregarding our own internal sense of well-being.
That’s exactly like me Trogluddite. My first visit to the job centre was traumatic. To begin with, they told me to go to the yellow area, which I couldn’t find. I had a big overweight (not a judgement, just an observation) security guard running after me, all out of breathe and being totally scary - I was terrified and it turned out the yellow area, wasn’t yellow at all, it was just an area of a massive open plan room with a sticker on the wall saying yellow area. Then I was sat there when a worker came up to me because it turned out, I had been sat there for one and a half hours, way past my appointment time, because apparently nobody knew I was there but I didn’t have a clue I’d been sat there for so long.
Another clue came to me several years ago. I was sat drinking (alcohol) with a friend when he asked me why I was drinking. I didn’t normally drink but I thought the question was odd because I thought he knew I had a drink at Christmas. But I answered him anyway and said it was because it was Christmas and he looked at me in what I thought was astonishment, and said, but it’s April! He thought I was making up an excuse to drink, I was mortified that I didn’t realise it wasn’t still Christmas!
Now, armed with the realisation that I have no concept or perception of this man made time, with knowledge and acceptance of myself and with support, I am slowly creating my life around my own natural rhythm. My support worker (my first one, who could only take me so far) has been supporting me with this. She told me that even social care staff are now required to work a seven day week. She said times are changing which means I absolutely can pick and choose the hours I want to work based on my needs. And she says, so what if I need to take a week to recover from a social engagement, she says who’s to say that that’s not the best way to live our lives. My support workers support me in creating my life according to my needs while helping me build strategies to create harmonious interactions (when I have to have them) while at the same time, not compromising who I am. This is where I need nt support. I can see things they can’t see but they can see things that I can’t see and they’re helping me to see the things I need to see while at the same time, supporting my right to live my life according to my needs.
I told them, it’s not that I ‘can’t’ fit in although maybe I can’t anymore, since this burnout, but whether I can or can’t, I now simply refuse to. There is no benefit at all to me ‘fitting in’. It brings me no joy at all and in fact it almost destroyed me, so despite the current trend to see us as a success if we appear to act and behave like the majority of people in society, I no longer subscribe to that train of thought and I’m super excited and grateful to find people who support me in my endeavours.
As you pointed out, I think there is very little consideration given to our own internal sense of wellbeing when people are talking about us, which suggests they are basing their understanding on the belief that they are right, they’ve got it right and that they set the standard. Yet I look around and if they’ve got it ‘right’, then their right doesn’t match with mine because I see no need for conflict and wars and I see their world full of it. But I don’t see it as our world and there’s, it’s all one but I no longer chop myself up and shape myself to fit the current ‘norm’ and instead I follow my own norm and I’ll see where that leads me.
Henry David Thoreau - a hero of mine, who I wouldn’t mind betting was an aspie - said, ‘Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.’
I like that ~ I’ve never heard of him, I’m going to look him up now!