Laura's Reviews > Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Animals in Translation by Catherine  Johnson
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's review
Sep 04, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: currently-reading

It is interesting to see, that, from an individual who lacks the capacity to think abstractly, that "people become more radical when they are thinking abstractly. They get bogged down in permanent bickering where they've lost touch with what's happening in the real world." This is a crucial distinction between an autistic perspective and a neurotypical perspective of the world. Perhaps, the autistic individual lacks the ability to utilize the questionably adaptive defense mechanism known of as denial. If the filter of denial is removed from the rose colored glasses, is one then more able to perceive reality as it is? The abstractions, then, are impossible, because there is only the reality of it, which is always the reality of a given individual, animal, or group. Does then that make the autistic more empathetic? Studies have shown that empathy "lights up" certain parts of the brain. We also know that the neurology of the autistic individual is quite different from that of a neurotypical individual, and, probably even the functional studies reveal different areas of the brain to "light up" given different stimuli. I have always believed that my patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are more empathetic that the general population. When I then made the association between the "spectrum" of central sensitization syndromes and the "spectrum" of pervasive developmental disorders, I did not appreciate the overlap of hightened empathy between PWCs and autistics, but, it makes SENSE. As a SENSE (empathy) wouldn't it stand to reason that between the two groups of individuals that experience a SENSITIZATION of the central nervous system and intensified perceptions (light, sound, touch, etc.) that empathy, as a SENSE, would, also be heightened? This would perhaps explain the autistic's ability to perceive and understand animals by the heightened sense of empathy (such as Temple Grandin writes of in her book.) Would I trade my ability for abstract thought for the ability to see the world for what it is, without the option of supression, repression, or denial as questionably adaptive defense mechanisms? Perhaps. In fact, sometimes I'm kinda right in the middle. I do, much prefer the concrete thought, which I find to require much less energy, than the abstract, unless I am meditating. To me, I find the continual need to assess closely an individual's tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and context of conversation (If I can rememember what it was about)in order to discern a sarcastic remark from the truth. It seems like the more I practice, the easier it is, but, I find it to be an annoying waste of energy, kind of like writing with my left hand, if I have my right one available.

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