Mommy Minder, Mommy Finder

  • Posted on January 3, 2011 at 8:00 AM

There are a few in the autism community that thoroughly investigate any studies they find interesting.  I’m not one of those.  But once in a while I do find a study that strikes a chord with me.  I don’t latch onto that study as gospel truth, but I do reflect on it once found.

One such study relates to visual skills.

Children with autism may lack certain visual skills needed to be independent in adulthood, new study findings suggest.

For example, they might find it harder than other adults to find shoes in the bedroom or apples in the supermarket, according to researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The study authors asked 20 children with autism and 20 typical children to press buttons to find a hidden target among multiple illuminated locations in a room. One side of the room had more targets than the other side.

The children with autism took longer to recognize patterns in the test structure that would help them choose where to search for the targets. The findings suggest that the ability to search for objects in a large-scale environment is less efficient and less systematic in children with autism compared to typical children, the researchers pointed out in a university news release.

Personally, I’m a little skeptical that the findings (concerning finding hidden targets in multiple illuminated locations) can be generalized to finding shoes or apples, or that the delays in these skills identified in autistic children necessitates a similar lacking in autistic adults.  However, it does strike a chord with me.

One responsibility that seems to be primarily mine in my household of men is keeping track of things and finding them once they go missing.  To me, it’s always seemed to be a skill of thoroughness.  You put things back into their place, and when they’re not there you look everywhere until you find it.  But, perhaps, there’s more to it than that.

Perhaps I am able to identify things in a manner that my husband and children cannot.  Whether it’s a perceptual ability or a skill, I don’t know.  I mean, if you literally cannot see what you’re looking for—and by see, I mean differentiate the object you’re looking for among the clutter—, then how can you find it?  But, perhaps it is a skill.  Perhaps it is one of those skills that neurotypical individuals (and some neurodiverse individuals like myself) pick up more or less naturally to the extent that they don’t know how to teach it to those who do not acquire the skill in a similar manner.

It’s worth some thought.  Perhaps if I spent less time being annoyed that I am expected to know where everything is even after they’ve moved them and more time helping them develop this skill of minding and finding that I take somewhat for granted, then perhaps we would all be better off. 

On the other hand, from what I’ve heard from other mothers (and not just mothers of autistic kids), this seems to be a common complaint among women.  Perhaps it’s a male/female thing.  I mean, if the study didn’t account for the imbalance between boys and girls with diagnoses of autism, but had a balance between boys and girls in their typical peer group, then perhaps the difference they recorded could be less about typical/autistic development and more about male/female development.

So, what do you think?  Is it a skill or an ability?  Is it related to autism or something else?

7 Comments on Mommy Minder, Mommy Finder

  1. Rose says:

    “A place for everything and everything in it’s place”…it’s a mom thing. It helps keep panic down to a minimum, usually first thing in the morning under time pressures.

  2. mamafog says:

    I think you may be on to something about females being stronger in these areas. I know my husband is terrible at finding things. I suspect it’s partly because he kind of relies on me after all this time. But he really doesn’t seem to see things the same way I do.

    I don’t think that study is very meaningful. I also agree that without an equal amount of female subjects, it is not going to be accurate.

  3. Clay says:

    Michelle just dealt with this study also, on her blog. I just read it a little while ago. She doesn’t seem to think much of it either.

    http://autismcrisis.blogspot.com/

    It seems that researchers can find whatever they want, if they “stack the deck” just so.

  4. I’m expected to know where everything is, regardless of whether or not I’ve actually seen it when it entered the house. If it were all snakes, poisonous ones, they’d be dead and buried. Seriously…

  5. Stephanie says:

    Domestic Goddess,

    I can relate to that as well. Sometimes I’m asked where something is…except it’s something I know nothing about. Luckily, missing objects don’t turn into poisonous snakes, or my house would be over-run!

  6. kathleen says:

    I have heard it called “Male pattern blindness” before..My boys are not very good at finding personal things-shoes, books, etc. My girls are so much better at at. However, one of my boys has eagle vision when it comes to pointing out various sites wherever we are. He can spot birds..little things I would never have noticed.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Kathleen,

    I think you’re on to something! Alex, for example, is great at spotting letters. He can be surrounded by all sorts of wonderful things to see, and he’ll gravitate towards the letters. Whereas, Willy is more focused on Pokemon or whatever he’s into at the moment.

    Mark, on the other hand, is great at parts. The day I wrote this post I found a broken piece of something and I had no idea what it might be to, but Mark knew. He’s better at identifying, and I’m better at finding. It works.

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