Category: Dyslexia

No Visual Memory, Aphantasia?

Some time back I posted a link to a BBC news article on Aphantasia.

For me it describes what I have always called my lack of visual memory, that is, I cannot recall an actual “image” of anything. It happens as soon as I close my eyes. It’s not that I don’t remember what my wife looks like, I just can’t see a picture of her.

Even then that’s not quite true, like the Dyslexia I have, it’s not simple. If I try to see words they disintegrate into a jumble, however if I don’t try to see them I can read fine and often spell fine too, it’s almost like I have to catch my ability to process written words unawares. Ask me to spell a word and if I don’t think about it I’ll do quite well; if I pause, even for a moment, to think about it, I just can’t.

My visual memory is just like that. I am aware of it, just out of sight in the corner of my eye, but if I turn to see it, then it goes. So, as long as I trust it’s there I can function as if it is there, I just can’t try and visualise anything.

I know that Teresa’s hair is a brown colour, I know it’s curly and I know her eyes are blue, I know these as facts. However if I close my eyes, all I can do is imagine brown curly hair and blue eyes, I can’t see her face, other than the “facts” I have memorised, I can’t describe her to you at all. Yet, I know that I know what she looks like, I just cannot visualise it.

In general this is not a bad description of how my memory works, the information is all there, but the retrieval process needs a sleight of hand and an acceptance that impressions, a sense of what I saw or heard or read, is all I can offer. The stuff is there!

I often talk in autism terms about how neurotypicals seem to have an extra communication channel of which I have no understanding. In a sense the reverse of that feels true when it comes to my internal processing: I have this invisible communication channel to my visual and auditory memory which works “by magic” but I don’t know what it’s doing and I can’t see (or hear) what it sees or hears, and yet I can.

None of that makes sense, but then that’s my point, it doesn’t make sense if I try and explain it in words and pictures and yet it makes perfect sense to me, I just can’t explain why!

So, it is always a waste of time describing something to me hoping I will recognise it or asking me to describe it, it’s just not going to happen. No point asking me what was said in a conversation, I have no idea. And yet, I know that I know what was said and what I saw, I just can’t articulate and/or visualise it. I know I can use that information so long as I don’t worry about what I can’t do and focus on what I can. So I am very good at remembering a “sense” of something, even if I don’t outwardly recall it at all. My ability to remember that sense is often better than Teresa can achieve with her excellent verbal and visual memory and it is that sense that often helps me compensate for  that autistic inability to directly understand social communication.

So, put my “sense” of what happened alongside Teresa’s recall of events when we have been to the same thing (like our counselling course) and the sum of our recall is greater than either of us can achieve on our own. That sounds like a win-win to me.

OUPS Autism Video is ready

Following on from the presentation on Autism we did at the OU Psychology Society conference on Learning Difficulties, I said that Teresa recorded it, well, what actually happened was, …

On the spur of the moment when taking a photo at the beginning Teresa decided to Video the presentation on her mobile. It was an inspired idea but one we were unprepared for. So, it is hand held, varying audio and video quality, a fair degree of hand tremor (her hands got tired, understandably!), and all sorts of technical problems, …

But it’s there, I have done some simple editing to try to ensure that nobody else is in the video but me, however I am most definitely not a video editor so the quality of the editing is suspect too :-). Nevertheless we think it’s worth uploading it onto Youtube.

The Video of the presentation is here

A PDF of the slides is here.

A copy of the Video of the National Saxophone Choir that didn’t work so well is here.

A link to the scene from the Restaurant at the end of the Universe is here.

I’m sorry if you don’t always catch the words and there is a fair amount of talk that is not on the slides. We might generate a transcript one day and add it here, but until then, you only have to ask us 🙂

Oh and because the talk was about the difference between perception and reality I enjoyed making this.

Teresa’s perspective on the OUPS

As David has already said, upon arrival my eye was immediately drawn to the cocktail menu, but that seems fair enough given that I had boarded the train at Penzance at 6.45 that same morning, arrived in Huntingdon at 2.30 p.m. and then embarked on a two-hour drive to Warwick. Never let it be said that I am not dedicated to our cause 🙂

The cause is to offer an alternative view to the one often expressed by academics. For example, one speaker at the conference spoke about separating autistic children out from the mainstream pupils. Perhaps at the furthest end of the spectrum this may be necessary, but ‘autistic’ covers a range from severely disabled to high-functioning Asperger’s – and in any case, surely the primary goal of care should be integration?

Integration. Good word. Integration, in our view, is not about merely coaching autistic individuals to function in the neurotypical world. It is also about educating and coaching the neurotypical world, opening its eyes to this very different way of thinking and processing, thereby enabling both sides of this currently gaping divide to develop a common language.


Finding a common language has been crucial for David and myself. For a long time I did not understand what was going on in his head. His reactions to the things I said and did made no sense to me. I was in despair. Learning about autism has opened the door just a crack for both of us. We know this process is not a quick fix, it is a lifelong effort.

So, after David performed onstage we mingled in the bar where I found myself in conversation with one woman after another, each of them willingly declaring their husband/partner to be on the autistic spectrum. We shared and drew comfort from our common experiences, both the troubles and the triumphs.

Two years ago, I felt unbelievably alone. I did not understand what was going wrong in my relationship with David. Nor did I know what to do about it. I felt alone but worst of all, I felt helpless.

I do not want anyone else to feel that sense of desolation, and neither does David. The bar at Warwick was full of shared experience and the more David and I talk about this subject, be it at conferences, seminars or via Facebook posts and blogs, the more we come to realise how widespread is the struggle.

It is time to find a new language. Time, as one of the people I spoke to in the bar at Warwick said, to ‘take off the blinkers’…event …

OUPS Talk about to start

About To StartTeresa commented on my Facebook timeline:

“David about to begin his talk for the OU psychology society’s conference. Bit blurry but hopefully a video to follow :-)”

Sufficiently blurry that I’m not concerned that the identity of anyone else in the picture (including me) is discernible 🙂

That said I think Teresa’s train journey back to Cornwall may be getting to her as that is the last slide not the first, so I think I’ve just finished!

Hopefully the Video will look better


Arrived at the OU Psychology Society Conference in Warwick

Really this is just a test that I have worked out how to hang all the pieces of WordPress, Facebook and our Website together, it may take a tad of fiddling before it works, so bear with me.

Mind you being dyslexic and I see the word “bear” and all I can think of is the animal, I’m stumped if it’s the same word as “please be patient”, oh well, I’m sure you’ll work it out 🙂

I am studying for an OU degree in Social Psychology and just finished my 1st year, I joined the OU Psychology Society as that seemed like a good thing to do. Since the annual conference this year was on Learning Difficulties it seemed appropriate amongst all those experts to talk about what it’s like to be at the other end of all that research and diagnosis.  I started studying Psychology to learn to communicate in “their” language about what it’s like to live as and with people who are different – in my case that happens to be Autism and Dyslexia, but there is much more than that.

Anyway, Teresa came up from Cornwall and I met her off the train at Huntingdon (where I work and spend far too much of my time) and we drove over to Warwick. Both tired and hot, we showered, shaved (well I did that) and changed and headed for the bar, well you would, wouldn’t you.

The conference was held at the Radcliffe Centre at Warwick University and the facilities were first rate, better than many hotels I have stayed in, Teresa and I even got a double bed. So off to the bar, Teresa spotted a cocktails menu and her eyes lit up, I found the draught real ale, mine did too :-). As it happens it took forever for them to make Teresa’s cocktail so she ended up with a free Hendricks Gin – lucky girl.

We sat in this cool courtyard with our drinks and hence the picture. The conference was yet to get going, so report on that another time. Teresa videoed my talk so hopefully after some more technical faffing, that will appear.