Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ryan's Amazing Visual Memory - Eidetic, Gifted, Autism?

Hey Aspierations Friends,

I want to apologize.  I meant for tonight's blog to focus on links to bullying and cyberbullying resources. I even started that blog and it's in draft mode.  However as is often the case with me, I got distracted and I felt like writing about something else instead!

I wanted to share with you a video tonight that I took of Ryan.  I hope the link below works.  This is the first time I've tried to embed a video in Blogger from my Facebook page.

If this is your first time to the Aspierations blog, welcome.  If not, welcome back!

The video below was taken of my youngest son who has been diagnosed as being autistic.  The specific diagnosis we have on paper is Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Ryan was diagnosed in June of 2008 shortly after he turned two.

Ryan is 4 now.  He's an amazing wonderful boy who is making tremendous progress in many areas but also has some very difficult challenges and regressions in other areas.  I won't go into the latter right now.   What I do want to share is an example of his incredible visual memory.  I'm not sure if it would be considered eidetic memory or sporadic eidetic memory but whatever the name for it is, I think it's pretty remarkable and it reminds me of some of Justin's abilities, John's abilities when it comes to maps (except Yellowstone...) as well as my own.

On Sunday we drove from our home to our local Chuck E. Cheese for Justin's 11th birthday party.  It is approximately 9.4 miles from our home.  Ryan can tell in intricate detail exactly how to get there from our location.  There are lots of twists and turns.  When I took this video, he was a little revved up and had a bit of wild body going on so you might not be able to understand everything.  I wish I had captured the first time he shared it because it was calm and concise.

Of course when Mom has the camera, it's an opportunity to be a goofball.  (Not unlike his mom, I suppose!)

I am interested in finding out how common this is.  Maybe all little ones can do this but it just doesn't occur to them to share.  Also to be noted, Ryan can take an iPad and on Google Maps without ANY assistance, trace with his finger the physical route from our home to Chuck E Cheese.  He can also trace the route to my parents home in California.  He just turned four in late May.

I don't share any of this to brag but because I wonder how common it is and because I want to share some of my family's experiences with behaviors that might be related to autism.  Justin has an incredible memory for visual directions as well and I'm going to be doing some video with him soon too because I want to capture these skills on film at a young age so I can help the boys be more successful in their learning.

In the future, I will share some of my own vivid memories from things that happened when I was between 1 and 2 that were never repeated to me or captured on film.  I just remembered.  I actually shared some of these memories with my parents over the summer and they were pretty amazed at the specific layout and detail I recalled of the first house we lived in from the time I was adopted until 3. I guess growing up I assumed that everyone had vivid memories such as these so it never occurred to me to be remarkable.  Seeing it in my children... well, it's empowering.  I realize maybe I have a tool I can use to help them in areas of challenge.  They have a gift they can use to empower themselves to success in many areas.

Memory is a funny thing though.  I can remember extremely vivid details of certain encounters and certain people, but it's often triggered by sensory input such as smells, sounds, tastes, textures...  I know it seems odd, but certain people I know smelled a certain way and just one smell for example of a certain shampoo can bring back vivid recall.  Does this happen with you too?  Recall by smell, sound, taste?  Good and bad? Unfortunately for me it's both... but I try to focus on the happy memories!

Music too!!!  Oh yes, just one song and I can remember exactly where I was at a certain place in time, what the person was wearing, what we were doing....

I often feel that music is a window to my soul...

If only I could remember where I put my keys.... oh yeah, and that matching pair of socks!

I'd love to get your input on the video and my comments above.  What is your memory like?  



  1. Karen, I have asperger's, maybe ADD too and I have always been a very spatial learner/photographic memory. It seems to be only things I am very interested in, or things that have major significance, or might be important later, but random every day things that are mundane I forget quickly. Chuck E Cheese is something monumental it seems like in Ryan's life at the moment. If I have been somewhere once I can get there with no map and no directions. I go on the images I've logged from mentally "videotaping it" one time. I would guess that Ryan (love his name btw, wink wink, it is mine too) is doing the same. I remember the minutest of details in an impossible to remember situation if it mattered to me, even a decade ago or longer. I can paint you a vivid picture of the entire world at the time when I hear an old song, who was there, what they were wearing, what we did, what time of day, and much more, all from a simple trigger. It is a powerful "ability" but I am not sure how I can use that yet, besides helping people remember things they forgot. My bosses have always appreciated that about me, I never forget things if I've seen them. I would imagine Ryan will be similar as he gets older. Thanks for sharing your family.

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  2. didn't know if you'd seen my follow up comment to your post to me, hon. check out your case of the missing snack blog okay hon? i like it in the shower too, HAH HAH. extra senses give extra benefits. have a good weekend. oh yes, ryan's memory is amazing and he is darling. ants in his pants like my boy. i mean that sweetly hon, no offense. video didn't show right away but i went to different computer and it did so not sure what happened. kellie thinks in pictures and i have recall first crush, first kiss, first love, first everything to the smallest detail and anywhere that was important to me i can remember in pictures but have trouble writing or verbally saying. guess you can figure out my special interest. HAH HAH us aspie women! naughty and nice. hubbies need lots of rest. have a good weekend and write more about your babies for us. oh and your glamourous definition was like fine wine, hon. aspie women glamour girls i like it.

  3. izmyaspieshowin: Thanks for taking the time to stop by Aspierations and share about yourself and your ability. I told Ryan that a nice visitor had posted on my blog that shared his name and some of his special talents and he got very excited. "Two RYANS? Two RYANS, Mommy? That's TOO funny!" :-)

    I totally get what you're saying about a vivid picture coming from a trigger. For me the biggest triggers are music like special songs and smell. I can remember the years from my teens to early 20s better than many of the years afterwards. Maybe it's because so many important firsts happened.

    It's a bummer sometimes when I remember something or someone so clearly and want to share it and reminisce but that person no longer shares the recollection or I'm no longer in touch with. I know the event really happened but the only proof is in my own memory banks unless I've written it down or taken pictures.

    A little over 20 years ago I had to give a visual description to a sketch artist about a crime where I was a victim. Thank goodness he knew how to ask the right questions so that I could get the information out because there was a lot of stuff I wanted to block and pretend didn't exist but it was definitely there. Once the sketch was out, it was torture because I couldn't get that out of my head for a very long time and many people I knew became that sketch. I remember it like it was yesterday. Now I try to replace that with good memories of that day and am usually quite successful. Enough of that tangent!!

    I think your special "ability" would be of great use in law or law enforcement where you had to do profiling. I could see how it would work well in something like video game design and programming too. (That's where I could see my oldest heading.)

    My ability to remember little details can be a blessing and an annoyance but I do consider it a blessing and what I see in both Ryan and Justin is a treasure as well. I just need to figure out how to help them channel it into good! Hope you are able to find a way to use your gift too.

    Thanks so very much again for stopping by my blog. I hope you'll return and share again! Memory fascinates me and I love hearing input like yours!


  4. Anonymous: Hope you have a great weekend too. Glad you liked my alternate definition of glamorous. I tell you, one look at me after a typical day around here and the men are lining up around the corner, I tell ya!

    There's something really sensual and sexually appealing about a woman who can tame two simultaneous Category 5 meltdowns, play family OSHA regulator, be Mediator Mom and take a shower in the SAME day! Now that's a REALITY SHOW! :-)

  5. Wow! I think Ryan's visual memory is fantastic! He is very gifted, no question about that! It's one thing to remember how to get there by landmarks visually, ex., turn by the 7-11 on the corner and then turn by McDonald's, but he is remembering street names and has the left/right thing down pat. Is he reading the signs or did he hear you say the street names? I have middle school kids who don't know their home address!

    For me smells are powerful and definitely stimulates recall. Visual pictures of autumn in the country bring back a flood of memories of when I was a child at our cabin in the country. I even remember what the leaves smelled like. And this is funny - My sister had a teddy bear when she was small and it always had a peculiar odor to it. As grown ups, when I visited her home, she had the bear on the dresser in her bedroom. The first thing I did was pick up the bear and smell it. It smelled exactly the same. She laughed her head off and said that she did the same thing when she dug it out of the storage box! (Yep, can you tell we are from the same family?!LOL!!)When I smell my mother's Christmas cookies baking, I am flooded with memories of Christmas growing up.

    I enjoyed the video, loved watching Ryan recall the route details(I think my mouth was open in amazement!) and hearing your voice. Not to mention the view of all the pink boxes!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi June!
    Hope you're getting a chance to relax over the weekend. Our boys were off today but it felt like school a bit since Ryan had testing in Beaverton today. Two more sessions to go!

    I'm glad you liked the video and that you could view it without problem. Blogger and I have our differences sometimes. :)

    Ryan is an amazing little guy and I'm learning more about him each day. He read all the signs. Also to be noted, whenever we're in the car, he pretends he is a GPS navigation system and often will one-up the one in the car. He started reading shortly after we were working with him on signing. Now he rarely signs but his reading skills are getting stronger all the time.

    Great eye noticing all the pink boxes, LOL! John's desk, not mine! (It's driving him crazy.) I thought about you after I viewed the video the first time, wondering if you would catch it!

    Those are all for our new CYB Vault Silent Auction starting later this weekend. I'm still in the process of going through the boxes, creating descriptions and adding pictures. The new CYB blog should be up by the end of Saturday. Hope your holiday weekend will be more exciting and less administrative! Add some Jackie to your weekend!

    I enjoyed you sharing your sense of visual recall through smell. Cool story about your sister's teddy bear and it's neat you could share that laugh together!! I think it's a real treasure when a smell can bring back precious cherished memories. :-)

    Thanks as always for stopping by!!