Tag Archives: language

Sometimes This Happens

I sat down this morning to write up this week’s Take a Test Tuesday post. I took the test last week and I have my results and some notes written up so I wasn’t too concerned about leaving it until Monday to get it finished. Then, thanks to Tumblr, I discovered 2048.

The good news: I’ve gotten the 512 tile twice and I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of beating this thing

The bad news: There’s not going to be a Take a Test Tuesday post this week

This happens sometimes. Discover something new, accidentally lose a few hours, rearrange expectations for the day.  In this case, I think it’s part stim, part perseveration.  But sometimes it’s a new special interest or a new aspect of a special interest.  Whatever it is, I’ve learned to stop (eventually) and ask myself what I’m not doing and why. Because this kind of time loss tends to be a sign that I’m avoiding something, at least in part.

The answer this morning is obvious. Writing is becoming harder and harder. I find myself writing less, putting it off. The frustrating thing is, my desk and my drafts folder are strewn with ideas for posts. I want so much to write, but the mechanics of it are increasingly making it a slow (if you’re curious how slow, this took me close to 45 minutes to write and edit), difficult process. I’ve also started to lose my feel for words, which is a bit scary. I write by how language feels and these days it mostly feels flat and lifeless. That’s making my writing increasingly literal and (to me, at least) boring.

Okay, so this post took a strange turn for the morose but I’ll leave it because it’s part of the breadcrumb trail documenting my language difficulties.

I’m going to give myself this week off from posting, I think. My daughter and her boyfriend are coming to visit later in the week (yay!) and we have lots of fun things planned. I’ll be back next Tuesday with a test for us to puzzle over. Until then, good luck getting that elusive 2048 tile.

ETA:  Got the 2048 last night 🙂


Uncooperative Words and Where I Go From Here

Something strange is going on in my brain. Aside from the usual strangeness, I mean, which I’m quite used to. Back in March I wrote about my missing word problem. Over the past few months, I’ve developed some funky new issues with writing:

  • The missing words are no longer just small words like a or the. Now I also skip right over important words, and sometimes pairs of words. A particularly bad sentence might have three words missing.

  • Sometimes I repeat phrases, typing things like “I was about to about to change directions.” Those are fairly easy to catch when editing.

  • Verb forms have become interchangeable at times, which results in me sending ridiculous texts like “I’m exciting to see you” and mixing tenses in paragraphs.

  • Contractions are occasionally problematic, specifically leaving off the apostrophe and what comes after it.

  • The weird word substitutions continue, perhaps more frequently, definitely in more obvious forms. Also substituting homonyms like to/too and you’re/your, even though I know the correct usage and it drives me bonkers when other people do this.

  • My spelling has become erratic. In some writing sessions, I backspace over every third word, often more than once until I get it right. The biggest problem seems to be the letters coming out in the wrong order. Yesterday I tried to type Walmart into my GPS and I had “mwla” before I realized that wasn’t going to get me to where I needed to go.

This all adds up to making writing–from a blog posts to one sentence emails–very frustrating. Even a single line reply on Facebook will end up with some glaring–though not to me–error. In spite of multiple proofreadings. In spite of taking my time and being extra careful.  Continue reading Uncooperative Words and Where I Go From Here

Autistic as a Reclaimed Word

Most adults on the spectrum prefer to be called autistic, rather than a person with autism or a person who has autism. The general consensus is that autism is not a separable entity. To be “with” something or to “have” something implies that we might somehow be able to rid ourselves of that thing and still be the same person, much like someone who has been cured of a physical illness.

I have always been autistic and always will be. If I was not autistic, I would be a completely different person. My autistic neurology affects how I experience the world and how the world experiences me. I am autistic. This feels very simple and logical to me.

It is not, however, always as simple for others. I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the autism community (which is different from the Autistic community) find the use of autistic as a label offensive or at least uncomfortable. The primary argument is that “autism doesn’t define” the person that they are reluctant to call autistic (often a family member).

Inherent in that argument is the belief that autism is a negative attribute. Why else would someone be averse to being “defined” by a trait? Would we say, “don’t call Tommy intelligent because his intelligence doesn’t define him” or “don’t call Katie blue-eyed because her eye color doesn’t define her.”  Continue reading Autistic as a Reclaimed Word

The Case of the Missing Words

I’ve mentioned my “missing word problem” here before. You may have noticed it in reading the blog or my comment replies–my tendency to skip over a small but necessary word when I write. This is more than a simple problem with typos, which I can easily catch and fix when proofreading.

The mystery of the missing words had proved intractable enough that I’d given up on solving it.

Until now, that is! I’m reading “The Mind’s Eye” by Oliver Sacks and right there in Chapter 2 is a potential answer: aphasia.

Aphasia is a disruption in expressive or receptive language. It can be as severe as a complete loss of understanding of language, including the inability to speak or think in words. (Aphasia usually affects all forms of language, not just speech.) “Global aphasia” often results from a brain tumor, stroke, traumatic brain injury or degenerative brain disease.

However, milder forms of aphasia are characterized by:

  • difficulty in finding words (especially nouns, in particular proper nouns)
  • a tendency to use an incorrect word without a change in sentence structure

In discussing notable case histories of aphasia, Sacks mentions the English writer Samuel Johnson, who experienced aphasia after a stroke at the age of 73. While Johnson eventually regained the ability to speak, he “made uncharacteristic mistakes, sometimes omitting a word or writing the wrong word” in his writing and correspondence.


Adding Up the Evidence

I omit words when I write–more often than the average person it seems–at a rate of about one missing word per one to three hundred words, more if I’m tired (yes, I’ve started keeping track).

The missing words are small but important, like not, an and the. I need to proofread multiple times to catch them, often in an alternative format, because my brain likes to help me out by pretending the missing word exists and skimming right over the omission.

I sometimes use the wrong word without noticing. In writing, it tends to be a word that is close in spelling or sound, though not necessarily in meaning, like bring instead of brain. When speaking, my substitutions are more entertaining. For example, last night The Scientist was using a kitchen towel to clean up a mess.

“Put that in the dishwasher when you’re done,” I suggested helpfully.

He looked at the towel and frowned. “You mean the washing machine.”

Right. That’s exactly what I meant. And what I thought I’d said. This happens a few times a week and I rarely notice that I’ve done it until someone points it out. It’s more common when I’m fatigued or in a setting with a lot of distractions.

I have trouble with retrieving words, especially names of people and things:

“I’ll recycle the, the  . . .” I’m staring at the newspaper and pointing at the newspaper and I cannot for the life of me come up with the word for it. All I have is a blank–a tangible, almost physical hole in my mind where newspaper should be. “I’ll recycle that that  . . . thing after I finish reading it. $%&*! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THINGS?!”

I’d been attributing the increasing frequency of gaps in word retrieval to getting older. It’s frustrating, especially when I’m trying to find the right word for a written piece and it refuses to surface. Sometimes it will be hours before I can come up with the word I’m looking for; fortunately I’ve learned how to set the problem to process in the background. This often results in me randomly exclaiming things like “dichotomy!” at inappropriate times.

Is Aphasia the Answer?

If this is indeed mild aphasia, then I finally have an explanation for some minor but annoying language difficulties. Perhaps my auditory processing delay is a form of receptive aphasia?

Then again, this could all be tied to Asperger’s. I’ve heard others on the spectrum mention difficulty with finding words at times. Our issues with processing spoken language are widely known. The missing word problem, though? Does anyone else experience that to the degree that I do?

Eager to learn more than what Sacks presents in his brief chapter, I Googled aphasia and instantly regretted it. Here’s what I found at that reliable bastion of truth, Wikipedia:

“Acute aphasia disorders usually develop quickly as a result of head injury or stroke, and progressive forms of aphasia develop slowly from a brain tumor, infection, or dementia.”

Ruh roh.

My language glitches have become frequent enough in the last 2-3 years that I can no longer ignore them. The missing words. The struggle to retrieve words. The odd, unpredictable substitutions. The Scientist says that my receptive language difficulties seem to have gotten worse in the past year too. I ask him to repeat himself a lot, especially when he’s not facing me and I don’t have the advantage of watching his lips.

And this is where I think it pays to stop Googling and back slowly away from the neurology textbook.

The language oddities I’ve described here are firmly in the “inconvenient” category for me right now. Unless that changes, I’ll consider the similarities to aphasia symptoms an interesting bit of trivia. Stay tuned . . .

**In proofreading this multiple times, I found 7 missing words (my, their, a, I’m, an, the and of) and 1 incorrect substitution (ever for even). There may be others that I missed.