mellowtigger: (brain)
[personal profile] mellowtigger
In 2004, I solicited help in exploring visual, non-sequential language for communication. I don't mean a gestured language like sign language, because it is also sequential. I mean a purely visual language such as the communication provided by the imagery within a painting. I even emailed a few language centers at different universities but without any success. I finally resorted to just leaving my thoughts on a webpage where it has sat unused for half of a decade already.

"Based on my experience at just being me, I have a suspicion that some autistics would benefit from a non-sequential language. I have to wonder if parsing thoughts into sequential meaning is just too difficult for some people, and perhaps that's why they remain mute. I have no objective evidence whatsoever for my theory, it is purely a personal musing."

Today I finally stumbled across some news that might support my idea.

"Their studies had shown that even during sleep, the brain does not actually switch off. Rather, the electrical activity of the brain cells switches over to spontaneous fluctuation. These fluctuations are coordinated across the two hemispheres of the brain such that each point on the left is synchronized with its corresponding point in the right hemisphere. In sleeping autistic toddlers, the fMRI scans showed lowered levels of synchronization between the left and right brain areas known to be involved in language and communication. This pattern was not seen either in children with normal development or in those with delayed language development who were not autistic. In fact, the researchers found that this synchronization was strongly tied to the autistic child's ability to communicate: The weaker the synchronization, the more severe were the symptoms of autism."

With failed synchronization, I would expect temporal relationships to be even harder to establish. I still insist that a non-sequential language could assist some autistics with communication. It would allow them to both receive and to generate information in any order or timescale. Typical grammar requires significant use of temporal planning to organize phrases and subject-verb relationships while waiting on the slow generation of mouth-sounds or hand-signs. Visual grammar would not require such cohesive planning. Instead, structure could slowly accumulate without any required sequence.

Without synchronization, there is only what I call "the long moment". Consciousness becomes the average of all the previous memories combined. Conversely, the present moment stretches to include great lengths of objective time. If you happen to be stuck in a happy moment, then life is bliss.  Background (trends of history and future) and foreground (present moment) offer little distinction. Single events blur in their specifics until they occur with enough regularity to establish their own kind of momentum. Only with regularity do thoughts acquire the mental weight to afford easy concentration. Irregularity (unpredictability) is a burst of unpleasant cacophony. Emotional understanding can't be achieved until fleeting emotions have been reviewed (relived) for long periods of time. Trees and sky are permanent features in such a world, but people are not. Viewed in the wrong time frame, human activity is terribly inconsistent.  Lived in the wrong time frame, a sort of consciousness is maintained only by deliberately ignoring the distracting mayflies (humans).

That's why I think a visual language is important. Someone could stare at a painting for days if necessary, absorbing the various pieces of communication continuously until enough signal has accumulated for understanding to finally occur.

I still want to create a visual language and try it out with a non-communicative autistic. I'm disappointed that I couldn't convince anyone at those language centers of the potential usefulness.


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