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8 or so bees in my bonnet

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curious coincidents [May. 20th, 2004|12:16 am]
8 or so bees in my bonnet
[music |damien dempsey-celtic tiger]

ug! that hangover. not a pretty sight.

at 25degrees my fifties fan fired up

my mum (who's a teacher) cut out an article for me
on asperger's syndrome
fascinating stuff(literally)

i haven't read a good book for way too long
and this was going cheap:
a cover to cover in twenty four hours, five cups of tea, eleven cigarettes and 2 toilet breaks book.

daily telegraph 'connected'(uk)
'Peter's art taught us a great deal'
(Filed: 12/05/2004)

Roger Highfield explains how pictures helped scientists to understand autism

The artistic talent of a man with Asperger syndrome has provided scientists with new insights into the mild form of autism.

By day, Peter Myers, 44, makes car headrests at the Remploy factory in York, but in his spare time he creates stunning images, revealing a remarkable ability to plan and organise visual information and to embed illusions within his pictures.

Peter Myers' art reflects his drive to systemise

The first collection of his work has been released by publisher Jessica Kingsley in An Exact Mind, a book co-authored by Prof Simon Baron-Cohen and Sally Wheelwright of the Cambridge University Autism Research Centre.

Working with Mr Myers was "both a privilege and a scientific breakthrough for us", they said, explaining how his art has given an unprecedented glimpse of the mind of someone with Asperger syndrome.

People with the condition are more able than those with autism but they still lack social skills - Mr Myers hates using telephones - and place extraordinary emphasis on precision and detail.

"We met Peter through our research into Asperger syndrome and were immediately struck by his astonishing art," said the researchers. "We instantly saw that in some special respects, Peter's art could teach us a great deal.''

In Prof Baron-Cohen's book The Essential Difference (Penguin), he defines autism as an imbalance between two forms of intelligence: the kind used to understand people ("empathising") and the kind used to understand things ("systemising").

Click to enlarge
While Peter lacks the former skill, he has a deep drive to organise and classify information. Working with him, they could identify precision, exactness, detail and systematising as "key psychological elements" of Asperger syndrome.

When normally developing children draw a picture of a train, they start with a gestalt, or general idea: a series of rectangles with wheels underneath. But, like children with autism, Peter often starts with details and expands them into dazzling drawings, sometimes taking months.

His art marks a "beautiful example" of the drive to systemise and his skill is not easily explained by rival theories of autism and Asperger syndrome.

"We think that Peter Myers' art shows how the minds of people with autistic spectrum conditions work in very precise, exact ways, and that their planning skills need not be impaired.''

Autism, Prof Baron-Cohen claims, may be the result of possessing an extreme version of the male brain. His group has discovered a link with the levels of the male sex hormone testosterone a foetus is exposed to: the more testosterone, the less eye contact and language skills.

Click to enlarge
Like many artists with autism, Mr Myers shows a disinclination to draw human beings and a lack of interest in the human face. This is not surprising because faces are terra incognita to those with autism.

After being diagnosed as depressed and obsessive, Mr Myers was eventually correctly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 1996, revealing at last why he found it so hard to understand other people, and why they did not understand him.

Ever since a doodle on a letter to an American support organisation thrilled its founder, he has been encouraged to nurture his extraordinary ability to produce detailed pictures, many made up of tiny lines and patterns. His images have featured on a set of postcards and greetings cards sold in aid of the National Autistic Society. And his work has now been exhibited around the world.

The scientists believe that their theory also fits with the experience of the autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire, who had never spoken when he started sketching at the age of five. Wiltshire, who began exhibiting precocious talent at seven, specialises in graceful, exquisitely detailed renderings of bridges, palaces and cathedrals. He has now achieved world renown.

Like Mr Myers, his art also suggests a preference to process information one piece at a time instead of filtering it through general categories.

Most of us simplify the world to make it more manageable. Whether we are taking in sights, sounds or sentences, our brains ignore countless details so we can "see the wood for the trees", said Sally Wheelwright. People with autism make generalisations too, but studies suggest they work from the bottom up, attending to far more detail.

Autism Helpline: 0845 070 4004
Autism Awareness Week: www.nas.org.uk

An Exact Mind: An Artist with Asperger Syndrome (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is available for £15.95 +£2.25 p&p. Call Telegraph Books Direct on 0870 155 7222.

[User Picture]From: wastedbeers
2004-05-20 02:30 am (UTC)
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