November 6, 2020

Do you think in words, pictures, or another way? What comes most naturally, and what else is even possible?

I occasionally think in pictures, but it feels secondary, like illustrations sprinkled throughout a chapter book.

Generally, my thoughts begin as wordless ideas. I draw a conclusion, and am able to act on it, regardless of whether I find the words to describe it.

On rare occasions, I never find the words. But most of the time, what comes next is that I see a sentence in my mind. “See” may be the wrong word, but it’s closer than “hear.” It’s even more accurate to say I “have” a sentence, though that may be harder to imagine.

My final step, after forming an idea into a sentence, is that my mind reads the sentence, sounding out each word. This step is closest to hearing, so it takes the longest, whereas the first two steps happen in an instant.

An interesting side effect of this process is something I call “dangling audio.” My brain will jump five thoughts ahead while it’s still hearing the first thought, and I sometimes won’t remember where I started.

For example, a few days ago I looked at my to-do list and thought, “I’d like to do these three things, but they’re all optional.” A moment later, I was thinking about something entirely different, but still hearing in my mind, “They’re all optional.” I wondered, what are all optional? I soon remembered, but that kind of thing happens to me every few days.

I know that autism causes me think faster, process audio slower, form words with more difficulty, and hold fewer thoughts in my mind at once. However, autism affects everyone differently, so my thought process is just one example – one window into the mind of one autistic woman.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.