Volume vs. Pitch – A Test

I’ve seen a lot written about sensory issues.  I wrote about the difficulty I have with pitch differentiation when combined with volume changes.  This is something I wrote about years ago, and I’m reproducing again, since I still haven’t seen much written about this type of sensory interaction.  It’s not pitch or volume I have trouble with.  It’s the combination of pitch and volume.  I suspect this is a pretty significant issue (not necessarily pitch and volume, but the idea of combinations of sensory stimuli that are difficult for autistic people, compared to neurotypicals, to process) but one without much research behind it.

Volume and Pitch Difficulty Test

I have trouble determining if a given note is higher or lower in pitch then another if the volume is also different. To me, pitch and volume are seen as the same thing to my conscious mind, although I can  appreciate music and tell when something is wrong with a musical piece. To explain this to my musical friends, I put together some sounds that describe what can’t hear consciously. If you want to test yourself, follow along with my directions, below.

All tones that I link to are in MP3 format. Your computer will need to be set up to play MP3 files for this to work. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to provide support on how to get MP3 files to play properly, although most computer people should be able to help.

Also note that I suspect most autistics hear these tones fine. In fact, some autistics excellent musical abilities. However, I know I don’t hear these tones the same way neurotypicals do.  (Update: informally, most of the autistics I’ve talked to have no problem with these tones)

Calibration Tones

Click to Listen – Calibration Tones

I hear these tones in the same way I suspect an NT does. This file (you can play it by clicking on the above link) consist of six  different tones. The tones are the low volume versions of the low, medium, and high pitch tones that I use, followed by the high volume
versions of the same tones. If you can’t comfortably hear all six  tones, the below links won’t work. I can easily tell, within the first three tones and the second three tones, which one is the highest and lowest pitch – if I was what is usually considered “tone deaf”, I wouldn’t be able to do this.

Test Tones

These are the test tones. Click each one ONCE and try to guess which tone has the highest pitch (the first, second, or third tone). None of my neurotypical friends have any difficulty telling the highest pitch, although I find it very difficult. The first and fourth sets of tones are the most difficult for me – the first time I heard either set, I couldn’t tell which notes were highest in pitch – they all sounded like the same pitch to me, although the other two didn’t have a high degree of certainty for me.

There are two links in each bullet below – first, the “Test Tones” link is the tones themselves.  The “Answer” link will pop up a new window with information about which tone had the highest pitch.  Remember, you’re listening for pitch, not volume.  So, it might be the quietest, the loudest, or the tone that has a volume in between the quietest and loudest that is the highest pitch.

Can you do it?  Does anyone else have similar auditory issues to me?

An Oldie…The Perfect Storm

One of the autism causation theories currently circulating is the theory that mercury causes autism. This theory follows a long line of theories that hold the “promise” of allowing parents to cure their autistic offspring. We’ve been through this before – we’ve seen the refrigerator mother theory. We’ve seen the demonic possession theory. We’ve seen changeling and elves. We’ve seen holding therapy. We’ve seen secretin. We’ve seen mega-doses of vitamins. We’ve seen gold salts. We’ve seen the MMR and the leaky gut theory. All these share, with mercury, a complete absence of valid scientific evidence. I doubt we’ve seen the last of the unscientific theories, either.

This is an old article, written around 2005.  I’ve reposted it because, sadly it’s still relevant in some circles.  But since 2005, there’s been court cases on this, notably in the vaccine court, which according to one of the judges, “This case . . . is not a close case. The overall weight of the evidence is overwhelmingly contrary to the petitioners’ causation theories.”  Yet many people are still avoiding vaccinating their children, largely because of the bogus theory that there is a link between mercury and autism. Continue reading

I Am Not

(This is another oldie from my old site, slightly modified)

I am not…An Autistic’s Response to Prejudice

I am not an object. Don’t talk about me when you are around me unless you are willing to talk to me.

I am not a child. Don’t make decisions for me – let me have influence over my own life.

I am not an extension of your ego. Don’t make me feel guilty for not acting in a way which reflects best upon you.

I am not a project. Don’t think of me as something you are building, God already built me. He doesn’t need your help.

I am not a decoration. Don’t pretend to be my friend, give me a token board membership seat, or take me to your autism event so you have someone to show off to your friends.

I am not a robot. Don’t assume I don’t have feelings.

I am not (insert famous autistic). I don’t think like him/her anymore than you think like John Wayne.

I am not worthless. Don’t throw me away when you grow tired of me, but value me, my insights, and my feelings. My life is as important as yours.

I am not a criminal. Don’t lock me up when I haven’t done anything wrong, but allow me to walk outside of whatever walls you may think I belong behind.

I am not a monster. Don’t stay away from me simply because I do something you don’t do; you do things I don’t, too.

I am not an experiment. Don’t test your theory on me.

I am not defective. You don’t need to repair or fix me.  Allow me to be the person I am.

I am not a puzzle. I don’t need you to “put me together”. You are as puzzling to me as I am to you, yet no one calls you a puzzle.

I am a person.

Another Oldie…How to Be an Autistic’s Friend

Today, I want to share “How to be An Autistic’s Friend,” another post that appeared on my old website.

How to Be an Autistic’s Friend

I am extremely thankful for the friendship that I’ve found in a handful of special people. I’m not an easy person to know, but  these friends have extended their friendship to me. I cherish these friendships and consider myself to be very blessed, as I have the chance to know some truly wonderful people.

Autistics want the same things that others want in their friendships. We want to have friends who are loving, honest, and kind. I’m writing this with the assumption that the reader is a non-autistic who wants to be a friend to an autistic person.

Note that while many autistics may agree with the thoughts expressed below, not everything expressed here will apply to every autistic. It is best to talk with your friend about these things and  find out what each of you could do to become closer friends.

Be Clear

Autistics aren’t always “subtle” individuals. We experience the world very deeply, and often have very deep emotions. However, most non-autistics live in a world with tremendous amounts of subtleties and shades of gray. This world is often foreign to an autistic, as we often think very clearly in black and white terms.  We don’t always understand shades of gray, nor do we understand why someone would want to live in a world filled with shades of gray!  So, we appreciate any effort that a friend makes to be clear. For example, if you grow tired of a subject we are discussing, tell us that you are tired of it! Just say, “I’d prefer to talk about something else.” If we over stay our welcome, let us know in a clear and direct way, since many subtle cues are lost on us. Non-autistics often assume it is kinder to say something indirectly then to say it directly. Autistics sometimes miss subtle statements.  You can be kind and direct at the same time – in fact, most autistics will appreciate your clarity.

We Don’t Always Understand Social Rules

We often have a very definite sense of right and wrong, and believe that the rules should apply to everyone. We often can only follow the rules that we believe are sensible. So, we might not follow a “social rule” because we don’t know the rule or because the rule would require some sort of performance that we are unable to give (ex: eye contact, remembering people’s names/details, etc). We might not follow a rule if it doesn’t make sense to us, either. For example, indirection and hints seem inefficient and dishonest to some of us.

We Don’t Like Crowds!

Often, autistics don’t like to be part of a crowd. We usually prefer activities with one or two people we know well. For example, rather then going to a movie theater, we might prefer to watch a movie at home with a couple of other people.

In addition, people that we don’t know well can make us uncomfortable. If, for example, we are invited to a friend’s house for dinner, we would usually prefer to know who else will be there so that we can “prepare” ourselves for the social situation. We might also choose not to go if we don’t think we have enough energy to handle the situation. If we
choose to say “no” when you invite us to spend time with you and your other friends, please don’t assume that we don’t like you or your friends. Sometimes it is simply too much effort to interact with more then one or two people at a time. Please do keep inviting us, though, as we might have the energy and desire to meet a new person another time.

Don’t Be Easily Offended

Autistics can sometimes say things more directly then a non-autistic might prefer. This is often misinterpreted as the autistic trying to insult the other person. A good rule-of-thumb for understanding my directness is that I almost never intend to insult anyone. I am who I am and I can’t change that. I only know how to speak directly. You may find that I don’t follow “unspoken” rules and, as a result will break them – sometimes hurting you. Chances are, I did not know that there was an unspoken rule. I’m not trying to insult you! A way that someone could be a friend is to ask me about my intentions when I offend. I probably don’t realize that you were offended.

Sometimes We Just Want to be Alone

There are times when it is difficult for us to be around other people. If you invite us to spend time with you and we decline, it may simply be one of these times when we want to be alone. Please don’t be offended, and please continue to ask us to be involved in your life!

You Are Strange To Us!

Just as the autistic personality seems strange to a non-autistic, the reverse is also true. Please help us understand who you are and how you experience the world! Share your thoughts and emotions as clearly as you can, so that we may better understand your special personality. Please remember that it helps to be very clear as you translate your thoughts into words, so that we can understand.

I Can See and Hear Fine!

We may miss social cues and have difficulties expressing ourselves, but that doesn’t make us less of a person. I don’t like people to shout at me or talk slowly, even though I sometimes have auditory processing problems. My actual hearing is fine (better then most people’s, actually). But, my brain has problems processing the input in some situations. Shouting or talking slowly doesn’t usually help. It also makes me feel bad, as it feels like I am being treated like a child.

Don’t tell me to “look at you,” either. I can’t look you in the eye most of the time. Realize that I have to watch you out of the corner of my eye, and not directly. Telling me to do something that I can’t do only makes me feel bad. Because I don’t look people in the eye, it can be hard for them to figure out if I am listening to them or not. The easiest solution is to ask me if you are unsure, as I don’t have any problem admitting if I wasn’t.

Let Us be Autistic!

Sometimes, an autistic will engage in some sort of repetitive motion or strange behavior, such as rocking, hand flapping, strange postures, or humming. This is one of the ways we cope with a confusing world. These behaviors also give us comfort and relieve our stress. Please don’t try to take them away from us or become embarrassed if we should engage in these behaviors in public – it is simply the way we are. When I am with understanding friends, I’ll often tap/bounce my foot or wrap a blanket around myself. These are the ways I deal with stress, and by allowing me to do them you help me to enjoy your company.

Help Me When I Ask

Sometimes I just can’t do something that other people can do. I have to rely on my friends to help me. I’m learning that it isn’t wrong to need someone else’s help. One of the areas I need help in is at social situations, like parties or meetings. When I’m with friends, I rely on them to mention the names of someone I am talking to (I don’t recognize faces) or to “translate” another person’s subtle cues into language that I can understand. This can be done in a very kind way by an understanding friend. For instance, a friend can say, “Hi, Bob” as we approach Bob, so that I will know right away that he is
Bob. Or my friend could say, “It was nice chatting with you, Bob! We’ll let you get back to talking with your wife.” This lets me know the conversation is over. But, always let us decide if we need the help or not. We know our limitations much better then even a good
friend can know them. Don’t assume that we have a particular limitation because you might be wrong. If done by a good friend out of concern, I don’t mind a friend asking if I need help. But, please ask in private.

Answer Our Questions

Autistics can have a naivety or innocence in their understanding of the world. We don’t learn the same way others do, so we need to be told about a lot of things others seem to intuitively understand. Sometimes we need to ask a “dumb question” to someone we trust. If we ask you a question, we really don’t know the answer.

Don’t read more into our questions then is there. If I ask, “Are you cold,” don’t assume that I am asking you to turn up the heat! I probably don’t know if I’m cold or not, due to my autism, so I am trying to figure out which sensation I am feeling – so I really want a yes or no answer!

Ask Us Questions

Let us know you are interested in us and who we are. This is the easiest way for me to explain who I am. Autism isn’t a four letter word. If you are curious about autism or how it affects our lives, please ask. Most of the time we would be glad to answer the question. Many of us wish more professionals asked autistics about their lives before drawing conclusions! Ask about other parts of our lives as well, as it shows you are interested in us as people.

Allow Us Alternative Forms of Communication

Some of us have great difficulty with speech. Often, we have alternative ways we prefer to communicate. For me, that means I use email, text chat, a portable speech synthesizer, writing, and other non-speaking ways of communicating with my friends much of the time. The best way to respond to my use of these techniques is to continue to speak to me normally, realizing that you may need to modify your conversational style to a more rigid “turn taking” style where you say something and then wait for me to respond, as some of my techniques make interruption difficult for me and take more time then speech does. Simply listen to me and allow me to speak in whatever way is comfortable.

Let Us Be Silent

Some normally verbal autistics sometimes have trouble speaking, either because of overload or simply because they don’t have the energy at the time. I am one of these autistics. If it is an emotionally charged situation or lots of people are talking at once, I might not be able to talk to you. If I don’t answer you, I’m probably not ignoring you – realize that it is just too much for me right now and I just want you near me. Don’t touch or hug me, as I don’t enjoy that (some autistics do, though, so ask if you are unsure). Some others might just want to be left alone.

In addition to this, I find it is much easier for me to express my deep feelings in writing then in speech. Please allow me to use this form of expression – I only use it because I want to tell you something that is very important to me and because I trust you as a friend.

Don’t Ignore Us

Like any friend, we may get upset if you ignore or exclude us. Please ask us if we would like to participate in an activity or outing before deciding that we wouldn’t enjoy it. For example, we might not normally like to go to a party, but we would feel bad if we weren’t invited when all your other friends were. We might say “no, thanks” if you ask us if we want to go. But, by asking us, you show that you are interested in our company. In addition, sometimes we even surprise ourselves with the kinds of activities we enjoy!

Our Past

Some of us have had a very difficult past. Please don’t pry, but let us tell you if and when we decide we want to. It will mean more to both of us this way.

Forgive Us

We will wrong you at some point in our friendship. Autistics often miss signs and rules that say some subjects are forbidden. We say things directly and sometimes seemingly with the wrong emotions (sometimes my facial expression doesn’t reflect how I feel). I know that I often need the forgiveness of my friends, probably more then most people. But, I’ll also forgive you when you don’t understand something about me.

Contributors to this Page

I would like to thank Terry Jones who contributed the ideas and much of the wording for the section on “social rules”. Chris also contributed, expressing the thoughts that autistics often prefer one-on-one communication over large groups and that we sometimes simply want to be alone. Finally, Loonii contributed the ideas for the section entitled “Let Us be Autistic.”

JTalk Software

This is old software, no longer supported unfortunately.  I no longer have a development environment to work on the software, sadly, and I don’t even know if I could dig up the source code.

That said, some people found it handy.  If you have a Windows machine (I’m not sure if it will work on anything newer than XP), and are tech-savvy enough to figure out how to install this, I’m placing it here for the community.

What is JTalk?

JTalk is a free communication software package. It allows a user to use their computer to communicate verbally with others.

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