Well I suppose now I see a 'full' experience of autism (bearing in mind that autistic experience by its very nature, due to the related peculiarities in brain structure, tends instead to congregate in 'corners' of the mind) as being an extreme version of what writers call 'the human condition'; a kind of spiritual Siberia, though without having a specific typical character. I'm interested in knowing what you define as 'autistic cognition', as I may be misunderstanding such terms to mean 'type and flow of thoughts', which strikes me as more a secondary effect of autism than fundamental to it.
there are no such things as "corners in the mind", there is no meaningful way to parse that phrase, and to use a phrase like that is specifically to diminish and belittle the sufferer's experience. the specific contention that autistic make is that their experience is whole and of a type. i.e. not something one finds in "corners", not a diminished version of non-autistic experience, not an incomplete experience, not a "wrong" experience. it is a suffering experience, as are all experiences in samsara. however, the fact that they are all suffering experiences doesn't make them the same experience - the experience of a concert-trained musician listening to the Goldberg Variations is different from that of an untrained teenager. similarly, the experience of an athlete kicking a ball is very different from the experience of a untrained person.
the common autistic experience is to have a layer of meaning and data never functionally appear - this layer may range from social data about roles, hierarchy, turn-taking, others' intentions and plans, to data (in cases of serious impairment) about the distinction between sights and sounds, the edges of objects and the context and experience of stimuli. (i, for example, used to have difficulty with sounds, where they were mis-expereinced as physical sensations and expressed as touch on the skin. this made certain conversations very difficult.) this makes for a world that is experienced more "nakedly" and less "contextualised". however, because of that, it also allows autistic people to form (or see) connections between things or events that a person who is more commonly wired would not. sometimes that is useful, and other times not.
in general, we can learn to derive these missing layers ourselves, and apply the missing meaning ourselves, to various degrees. often, in cases where the autistic person is not too functionally impaired, age and experience forces a layer of meanings simply through the passage of time. in some cases, where the missing meaning is at the level of sensory integration, the relentless attack of stimuli never allows that person an escape, and they may retreat into tightly controlled activities, like repetitive rocking and so forth. as has recently been discovered though, people adopting such defensive postures are not necessarily intellectually impaired and many such sufferers have become communicative when given facilitated communication tools.
subjectively, there is no way to describe this "missing layer" to someone for whom it is not missing. it is akin to talking to a fish about water. fish do not understand the concept of water, because it is pervasive. neurotypical people do not understand the extent to which they lean on, take for granted and utilize layer upon layer of meaning.
So, the differences in autistic experience that we can point to are the kind of concrete broad-brush issues I'm sure you meant to allude to - Obvious markers such as not experiencing strong, fresh emotional impressions on the back of sensory input from other people, and so on and so forth.
the horribly demeaning "marker" you describe is not actually a diagnostic marker of any type, fwiw. (the mistake it seems to represent - misunderstanding the autistic experience o empathy - was dealt with in the link i provided earlier in the thread.) nor is it my or other autistic people's experience. if anything it is your conclusion about an autistic experience and therefore speaks only to your conclusions, not to autistic experience.
autistic people often experience EXCESSIVELY strong, EXCESSIVELY fresh emotional impressions in the back of sensory data from other people - they differ in what they do with that, because they usually lack the commonly conditioned methods for organizing information into wholes that can be communicated to
others, and that can be used to communicate with
others. the reason that they differ is because their patterns of organisation of such information were either weakly formed, or not formed at all. and the reason for that is entirely mechanical - for reasons currently unknown to us, some people do not get connected when they are young and therefore are npt exposed to a host of influencing, moderating and conditioning messages and training. their structures for organization of meaning develop idiosyncratically. sometimes that is beneficial. sometimes not. in all cases, there is a situational disability, because these people have to interact with people who take such meanign for granted.
the commonest autistic experience, actually, is fear, because the world, shorn of its reassuring socially constructed context , is pretty scary. many common features of autism, such as catatonia, retreat, withdrawal, focus on repetitive stimuli and so on, are all simply ways to manage fear, by making stimuli controllable.
However, I'd like to flag up what I feel to be a couple of flaws in your argument:
1) Here, you seem to be reifiying the five heaps/skandhas as a mechanical kind of Self, in the manner of materialist 'believers in science' who hold some or all brain activity to form, in itself, an entity worthy of that name. Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology, despite their providing all the raw material. Therefore, we don't find the idea of valid or invalid experience in dharma teachings.
it's hard to know where to reply to this since here, as well as later, what you're saying bears no relationship except the superficial to anything i say.
to clarify: the five skandhas are agreed to be the categories of experiences, by all schools of Buddhism. similarly, all schools agree that a false notional self is imputed on the emergent activities as elements of the skandhas interact with each other. the Buddha described this as operating in terms of attraction and aversion, both at a macro level, that was attracted to and averse to "objects" and that therefore unwittingly reified them, and created delusion, and at a micro level, at the level of composite thoughts, emotions and patterns of thought-emotion. this micro level naturally extends to the creation of sensory data (such as colors and sounds) itself, from light and waves, though earlier schools usually tended not to take the analysis that far.
the Buddha also noted further that emotions and movements of mind were generated in response to the deluded world-view that arose on the back of this relentless activity, and that these (along with the world-view they were interactive with) gave rise to an experience called "suffering". he also suggested we try to stop suffering, and to this end schools have proposed various methods for firstly proving that this is what is happening (usually through meditations) and secondly stopping it (usually through a combination of meditations and behavioral interventions). there is no Buddhism apart from this.
the categorization of dharmas into these skandhas doesn't impose one or another way for them to be organized. it allows for different of ways for cognition to be organised and what we are referring to here as "autism" and "neurotypicality" is a nothing more than a way in which mental factors, in mainly the third and fourth skandha, are organised into meaning. such organization has different types, and just as a common language imposes a common type of organization on people (Chinese speakers and German speakers for example, may have fundamentally different strengths and weaknesses because of the effect of their languages, so the the absence of such common conditioning (for example) affords a different type of organization. the point of the autism advocacy movement is merely that neither is better, either is merely better at something
, or worse at something
. in all of this, there is no substantive conflict between modern cognitive science and Buddhist phenomenology. where modern cognitive science DOES conflict is ideological - it presumes that something called "brains" gives rise to something called "minds". Buddhism differs (in it's most simplistic form, Buddhism says the reverse.)
however, in terms of the inter-relationship of elements in and amongst such categories (since "category" is all that skandha means) this is as good as any other scheme and better than many. for our purposes - which is demonstrating that autistic experiences are easily located in the definitions of the skandhas, in exactly the same way that "musical talent" is, or "facility with numbers" is, or "spatial sense" is - this conflict is irrelevant.
so unless you mean something else by this: "Buddhism doesn't accept that the skandha processes alone define the limits of human psychology" than what you wrote, it's irrelevant. if all you meant was that enlightenment is the absence of defiled experience, then the answer to you is the same as to the other commenter. that's nice, but it's immaterial to a discussion about the validity and hierarchy of conventional designations. according to the Buddha, if it's "outside" the skandhas, no one cares. (this should be obvious: they're a definitional
schema and therefore by defintion
cover all experience.)
This is something I'm still grappling with, and although I find it interesting that Temple Grandin does not, as you put it, integrate sensory data into acceptable (generic in her description) basic objects, the idea of failing to organise objects of perception in line with the 'middle' skandhas seems to leave intact the rich 'suchness' of actually having perceptions to begin with. Some of the Buddhist god-realms - in which perception is apparently much fuzzier - sound more interesting in this regard!
i don't see any relationship between the notional god-realms and any type of cognitive style. i think that trying to find that type of one-to-one correspondence is a waste of time. i think that it does no justice either to the meaning of the Realms as path markers, nor to the meaning and complexity of organised mental activity. i also think that using the label "autistic" to try and make a dilletante's case for matching them up is actually doing harm to autistic people, since it treats autism, again, as a deficiency. it should be obvious that i and other autistic people do not regard autism as a deficiency - rather it is the predictable outcome of an impaired stage of learning, socialization and conditioning in childhood and is a direct consequence of the fact that human brains are born unfinished - they continue to develop outside the womb. because that socialisation and conditioning process is so key to human life, autism can be limiting and act as an impairment. often the limitations and impairments are such that they can be bootstrapped and functionally overcome. facilitated communication is one such bootstrapping mechanism. training and experience provide others.
2) Also, it seems a bit 'High School' (as I'd say if I were American) to constantly over-emphasise the uniqueness or 'wierdness' of the way in which you or someone else experiences, to use your example, a 'chair' or anything else. In the final analysis there will be overlaps, albeit maybe just semiconscious, subconscious, or perhaps superconscious (i.e. intellectual) ones, as long as one treats conscious awareness as a single - albeit infinitely variable - phenomenon, as Buddhadharma does. It's symptomatic of our cultures to pry into these matters, but your being able to 'take advantage of your cognition' demonstrates that its 'public consumption' was never disapproved at the level of Society. I see a lot of people missing the forest of commonalities for the trees of separateness, but this really exemplifies the human intellect like nothing else, and its application has always been limited by the practicalities of exploiting the rich variety of human resources
the kind of comment is why autistic people don't talk about their experiences. i finished "High School" in 1987 when i fifteen. since then i have lived an interesting,rich life, studied logic, chemistry and philosophy, been homeless, lived in poverty and wealth, and currently develop strategy for a corporate, where i translate layers of abstraction about goals into meaningful process architecture, models and ultimately artifacts. along the way i have been directly involved in close to a decade of partly-formal neurological investigation as a result of my own neurology.
so let's be really clear: i really, really, really don't appreciate being condescended to by a stranger who can't be bothered to pay attention to the things i say, but nevertheless wants to render derogatory judgements about them and me. the things i say are not random, they are specifically formulated to render the meaning that they do and in many cases are the fruit of lots and lots of thinking about a subject - at the very least, they are are considered, investigated and analysed. please respect that and reply in the same fashion, or don't have conversations with me. thanks.
as to the specific example you use - "to constantly over-emphasise the uniqueness or 'wierdness' of the way in which you or someone else experiences, to use your example, a 'chair' or anything else."
- this is in fact an example i provided of how all
human beings assemble discrete senory data into objects, in accordance with the normal laws of physics. it was not a reference to autism at all and you have here, as in other places, totally failed to follow what was written in your rush to classify me as childish. in general, in most cases where human beings communicate, there's neither over- nor under-emphasis of any experiences, there is mere description. so here's a lesson: when people describe their experiences to you, and they don't line up with your expectations, it does not mean the people are wrong. it usually means your expectations are wrong.
black people living in a world that favors white people don't have to prove to you that they have experiences and interactions specifically conditioned by their skin color. autistic people living in a world that preferences common social behavior do not have to prove to you that they are disadvantaged by that. you are fully entitled to resist that information, but this resistance is your
problem, not mine and is something that you have to overcome, not something i am obliged to solve for you.
i hope it helps, because it really is the last i'll be writing on the subject. to paraphrase another autistic commenter, earlier in the thread, this thread makes me feel bad.