Not sure if this experiment proves that kids with autism see motion more vividly or see contrast more vividly, but the University of Rochester certainly seems to think that the difference is motion detection. Either way, this new understanding of the way autistic people view the world may help us understand what Autism truly is:
Enhanced Motion Detection in Autism May Point to Underlying Cause of the Disorder : Rochester News
“We think of autism as a social disorder because children with this condition often struggle with social interactions, but what we sometimes neglect is that almost everything we know about the world comes from our senses. Abnormalities in how a person sees or hears can have a profound effect on social communication.”
The experiment showed kids video loops of parallel lines which moved either to the left or to the right. Kids were asked to tell which direction the lines were moving in. At low contrast, when the darkness of the lines was only subtly more dark than the surrounding background, kids in both groups performed about as well. But when the contrast was heightened, autistic kids’ abilities shot off the charts, relative to their non-autistic peers.
The article goes on to note that people with autism often report sensitivity to light. Why then does this report focus on motion when the variable that is being adjusted is contrast?
I wanted to write one last post for the evening to mention one relatively minor point brought up towards the end of the debate. It was not something that affects me directly, but since my wife is a teacher who deals with these types of issues, it still offended me. I’m hoping to update this post with the video. I may have misheard.
Sarah Palin has a child with Down’s Syndrome. John McCain said she knows what it’s like to have a kid with Autism. Autism and Down’s Syndrome could not possibly be more different. One is a physical developmental disabiility and one is a mental developmental disability. They have about as much in common as a club foot has with color blindness. Even that comparison is simply inadequate.
I find it quite offensive that John McCain chose to use this line of discourse when he clearly does not understand either issue. It has the effect of drawing a line of false equivalence between two barely understood disorders when I’m sure those who deal with Down’s and Autism on a personal level would prefer clarity.
But again, this is not a personal issue and I don’t want to come off as too shrill. I just think it’s important to bring up.
Update: Here’s the video. He starts in at about 4 minutes, while swerving wildly between the lines trying to make his case for education reform. I’m not entirely sure what he thinks Autism necessarily has to do with education reform in the first place. It is true that Autistic kids have some extra needs in terms of their education, but it’s not because Autism is any kind of learning disability, specifically. And it certainly isn’t Down’s Syndrome, though McCain clearly seems to think it is: