Autism and Real Estate

gross mapEver since watching Pi (1999) last fall, I’ve thought that personality disorders have something to do with Autism.  We know they have something to do with schizophrenia, and Temple Grandin’s book The Autistic Brain draws several correllaries between schizophrenia and Autism.

At first I wondered if personality disorders were phantom constructs, like phantom limbs, which is why they don’t react like a real, living personality.  In my paper on Pi I thought schizophrenia was like an orchestra with no conductor, and personality disorder was like an orchestra where there is a conductor but he’s working off a different score (producing something like Amazing Grace to the rhythm of Gilligan’s Island.)

Later it occurred to me that personality disorders might not be phantom constructs, but something mapped onto real estate meant for something else.  And this is why celebrities, politicians, geniuses, and artists often have symptoms of various personality disorders.  Mental providers don’t like to diagnose personality disorders because they can’t cure them and often won’t even get paid by insurance for working on them.  But the philandering politician, the addicted writer, and the serial divorcing athlete are all manifesting both extreme talent and personality disorder.

But maybe it’s not the personality using the wrong real estate.  Maybe something else is filling up the personality’s real estate.  Language, or social influence, or the ability to do something amazing with your body.  The things people with Autism struggle with.

Maybe the people with Autism are using their language, social, and kinesthetic real estate for visual processing, memory, and attention.  Maybe it’s not an issue of what exactly winds up where, but how the domains of things are regulated.  The conductor.

When I married my husband I was appalled that the in laws kept the butter in cupboard, ketchup in the fridge, and medicine in the kitchen.  Because where I grew up, butter stayed in the fridge, ketchup in the cupboard (can it even go bad?) and medicine in, I don’t know, the medicine cabinet.  It’s like one of those maps that tries to show the US by electoral proportions.  Except not as terrifying.  Sorry to put one up here, but I needed a picture.

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