Competent, capable, different not disabled

Pluscarden Abbey


An alternative definition of autism


I am not a fan of autism being defined as a “triad of impairments in communication, social interaction and imagination” because I think these are effects and not causes. This definition leads people to treat the effects and not the causes, which is a big mistake. This is like treating tooth decay by merely removing teeth but not brushing the teeth or eating less sugar.


In my opinion, the order from cause to effect of many autistic traits is:


Gestalt perception, which causes

Overload, which causes

Monoprocessing, which causes

Missed information and delays, which causes

Social and Communication difficulties.


I will now explain:


Gestalt perception = a brain with no sieve


One theory is that autistic people have a “gestalt perception” style. Gestalt perception is the inability to distinguish between foreground and background information. According to Donna Williams (an autie), this is like having “a brain with no sieve” (Bogdashina, 2003, p46). You can have gestalt perception in all sensory channels.


Gestalt perception leads to information overload (being flooded with detail), because not everything can be broken up into meaningful bits. Whereas non-spectrum people, with their more reliable filtering system, will process important parts, us spectrum folk process parts which just happen to get our attention (Bogdashina, 2003).


Auditory gestalt perception leads to not being able to tune out one auditory stimulus whilst paying attention to another. I find it hard to hear in noisy pubs, because I cannot block out the background noise in order to attend to a conversation. People with more severe autism than me have an even smaller capacity for simultaneous processing. Such people might have to choose between listening to the words OR listen to the tone of the voice saying the words.


Visual gestalt perception means I take longer than other people to visually take in a new environment. I might miss huge and important details, like a giant sized lamp that I am standing right next to.



To contact, e-mail: debi@aspiedebi.com

“I’m not going to hear what this person is saying because when I look at his drawing, my ears will switch off.”


Me, trying to explain monoprocessing at work.