Monday, 29 July 2013

The Long And Short Of It - Memory

People are always telling me how good my memory is. To an extent they're right. I point out things that happened years ago, and everyone struggles to remember what I'm going on about. I remember conversations word for word, and massive strings of information, as long as I'm interested. But it's a bit of a double edged sword.

That's my long term memory, and I have to admit, it is really good. I don't remember everything, but the things I remember tend to be very accurate and detailed memories. I can still remember potting some plants in nursery, when I would have been 3, or having specific conversation several years ago. It also comes in useful for things like maths and physics, where I need to remember formulae and equations. It helps if I have an interest, and an interesting anecdote to go with it. For example, if I was doodling while trying to memorise a formula, to remember the formula I might visualise the doodle, and the formula would spring to mind along with it. Apparently, this is quite common in people with autism, but don't expect us to be able to tell you what we had for lunch three years ago on a Wednesday in July! Unless something interesting happened, in which case we could probably tell you.

Now, I mentioned it's a bit of a double edged sword, and it is. For all my good long term memory, me and other autistic people tend to have a terrible short term, or 'working' memory. Today when I got up, I decided to get my jacket before going downstairs. When I was picking it up, some things fell on the floor. I picked them up, left the room and was halfway downstairs before I realised I was cold and had forgotten my jacket. This is partly down to the poor short term memory, and partly because of how easily I am distracted. Put the two together, and I'm terrible at remembering recent things. Just now I was distracted by some clouds, and completely forgot what my next sentence was going to be. This is where the idea of the absent-minded professor probably comes from. It also makes organising things terribly hard...

This also partly explains why we have such trouble connecting names and faces. While I can normally remember a persons face after years, or their name, it's often hard to put the two together. This can be because when we were first introduced, and their name was thrown into the conversation casually, I could have missed it or been distracted, and so never committed the name to long term memory. With good friends (and family of course), this never happens, because the frequent interaction and emotional attachment ensures I never forget who they are. And I never want to! I've said before that without the support of my friends and family I wouldn't be where I am now.

Anyway, I hope you guys come back soon, have fun in the sun (if you have any!)


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