In “The Synaptic Self”, we learn that memory is accompanied by emotional components. The limbic system has long been associated with memory and emotion although some scientists believe that we should abandon the limbic system theory entirely (but then where does that leave us? Back to square one?). Emotion is what sparks our brains to record a memory. This reminds me of Floyd Skloot’s mother retaining an abundance of music; I can imagine her singing jollily all day at the nursing home. Songs were the last thing her Alzheimer’s erased. I am also thinking of Hazel in “The Missing World” because even though she lost a good portion of her memory, she still remembered Jonathan. I suppose this is in the realm of complex emotion, because we cannot really label the way this music made Lillian feel or what emotional attachment Hazel had to Jonathan, but generally, such strong emotions explain such strong memory.
In the psychology article (“Understanding of Emotional Experience in Autism: Insights from the Personal Accounts of High-Functioning Children with Autism”), they tested children on the higher end of the autistic spectrum to discover their knowledge of emotion. Some kids seemed to confuse embarrassment and guilt with anger and sadness and some interpreted happiness as surprise or being proud. It is not that they lack or do not have emotion; it is that they can not decipher their feelings or understand complex emotion. This is troublesome to me, in terms of memory. What kind of affect does this have on their ability to remember? What is important enough for the brain to absorb and what situations get discarded because there is not a strong enough emotional connotation? Autistic children suffer from tremendous disadvantages. You begin to mold who you are in youth, your social interactions depend on the transfer of emotion. Children respond to clear cut emotions and will probably gravitate towards someone who would be cheery all the time. What they might not respond so well to is a child who does not portray emotion much or very well. Again, because most children (sorry for generalizing so much) think in clear cut and concrete terms, they may automatically label that child as “weird”. On Wednesdays, I work in a second grade classroom with children who have special needs and I see this happening all the time. It kills me to see one boy outcasted because he doesn’t know how express himself properly. The rest of the class may not even outwardly feel opposition towards him, but they cannot relate to him in any way, so they all become distanced from him. Everything we took with ease as children, learning, making friends, developing personality based on everything around us and what we like or dislike, seems like it becomes a thousand times more difficult for autistic children.
The essays by Lyde Sizer were beautiful and honest. Reading a first person account of something is always very helpful. The main thing I wondered throughout the entirety of that reading was about the weight Lyde carried of her son’s disadvantage. Has Ryland ever articulated or attempted to describe his feelings about his disadvantages? Lyde seemed more embarrassed and ashamed than Ryland was (not that we saw too much of him in the essays). When Jay’s friend is gently playing with Ryland, Lyde is bothered by the fact that the flapping visibly enforces his autism to the world. Initially, I felt like it was a huge blow to her ego that her son was autistic. In relation, I think I would have to ask her if she has gotten close to other parents with autistic children since Ryland’s birth. I wonder if they collectively all went through the same grieving process. What are the things he responds to above all? Is his memory largely affected by his Autism? Does he have his own ways to show his emotions? How does he show his love for her?