Hyperthymesia


I have come to realise that how my memory functions is radically different from the norm. I felt isolated and alone at this revelation, but since recognising that being an Aspie means having different qualities from non-autistics, I have come to realise that I am not a deviant of nature, rather I am neurally diverse along with many others. And knowing this about myself has resolved many previous problems with communication and misunderstandings.

First, does this scene sound at all familiar?

"It doesn't matter how many times I tell him to put his shoes away, he always comes back having not touched them. And when I ask him why he didn't do as I asked, he says that he forgot. How could he? I told him only a few seconds ago, yet he can quote everything from that episode of 'Doctor Who' he watched last month. He has such a good memory but conveniently forgets when I tell him something"

If it does, then more than likely you are acquainted with hyperthymesia. And if this is the case (which is very probable in the Autistic) then there is no deliberate ignoring of you, nor any convenient memory loss. It is truly forgotten. So why can the Aspie remember every detail of the film he watched last year, but is unable to remember the simplest thing you ask? This is how hyperthymesia works.

Memory

Hyperthymesic memory, sometimes called eidetic or photographic memory, means in practice that everything which involves immersive interaction is recorded, and in great detail. Now there are variations of this, and when this trait is strong, as seen in some savants and others, it can be seen where mentioning any date results in the hyperthymesic instantly recalling the day of the week, weather, etc. But even a lower strength version of this trait, where the Aspie can't locate a memory using a marker as described, can result in the problems experienced in the example above. So while everything experienced by the Aspie is remembered in detail, anything which is asked, directed, etc. which does not personally impact the Aspie is unable to be recorded. So learning at school from a teacher speaking is likely to fail, while writing it down, drawing symbols or even reading it will work... as this involves the Aspie becoming part of the memory. As a side note, this is also why some Aspies fidget, or look around, while the teacher is speaking... so that they can associate the words with physical movement which they can then remember. Unfortunately though, it also makes them useless with remembering what day it is, tasks to do, and names. But often more painfully for them, any trigger or something which happens to correlate to a previous experience, then whether (s)he likes it or not, the original experience is re-experienced as with all the emotion (good and bad) as if it were just happening.

Prosopagnosia
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