Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Patterns Everywhere

Patterns are an aspies best friend. We're fascinated by them and we tend to notice them everywhere, intentional or otherwise.

Patterns for Walking
Floor tiles are truly incredible. Whenever I'm out walking, I find myself subconsciously following their patterns on the ground - even when they cause me to take a less direct route to my intended destination.

It doesn't have to be tiles though. Even if there appears to be no pattern, I'll find one. Sometimes, I'll define my own. Often, when walking I'll define a pattern on the pavement; step in the centre of the pavers, step in the top sections only or less often, step only on the cracks. It must make my walking look funny but I really can't help it. I even do it while running - and more than once I've tripped and fallen because of this curious obsession.

Stimming on Walls
Wall tiles with illustrations are even more distracting. With these, I'll catch myself squinting to blur the lines and make new shapes, estimating their numbers or designing, in my head, a new font (lettering style) around them.

The same is true for furniture coverings, fabric textures, grilles and structures (buildings, fences etc). Back when I had a great harbour viewe from my office, I used to play "mental tetris" with the buidings, fitting them into new shapes and designs.

The World of Mathematics
I've never really been a math genius but I usually do well enough to cope. My maths is at its best when I can find a pattern to follow. I remember at school, I'd always solve problems differently to the other kids. This would have the side-effect of making me slower than the others (at first) but as the patterns began to set in, I'd get much faster.

I remember floundering badly towards the latter parts of algebra and hearing my friends saying "wait until you start on calculus". I was worried but I needn't have been. Calculus was full of patterns and I took to it like a duck to water.

Patterns occur in all things and I often catch myself subconsciously sorting by colour. I love colour graduations. This much is obvious when I'm putting the kid's cups and bowls away.

How to tell when an aspie has been in your cupboard

Does it make me a good designer? No, unfortunately, just because a set of colours is pleasing to
me, doesn't mean that it appeals to other people. More often than not, it doesn't.

Colour isn't the only source of purely visual patterns, not by a long shot. I remember as a child I was fascinated by the patterns that candles made when you squinted and moved your head. I don't do that anymore though because I had it pointed out to me enough times in a short career as an altar boy.

Stimming with Sound
You'd be wrong if you thought that sound wasn't important to deaf people. It is. I'm only partially deaf in any case but I know a few fully deaf people who enjoy the vibrations that sound makes.

I listen to "normal" music, like everyone else, though these days, most of my favourite artists are sadly found in the bottom of the bargain bins.

As well as rock and popular (and unpopular) artists, I like a few instrumental pieces - mostly from films. It seems that these can evoke interesting moods and feelings, sometimes but not always related to the films themselves.

There are however a few pieces which have great multi-layered patterns in them and which I find myself humming, tapping or otherwise beating out as I go about my daily activities. These songs have remained unchanged for more than a decade and I can only assume that it's because their patterns are so interesting. They are the themes for**: Halloween, Terminator and a specific variant of Doctor Who (the Worlds of Doctor Who).

You know that you've been tapping out themes too long when your kids start doing it too.

** Obviously I can't link to the copyrighted songs so I've selected some free midi files which sound similar enough that you should be able to see the patterns.

I'm not really sure that there was a point to this post other than;
  • A fascination with patterns is a normal aspie trait.
  • It can assist academically.
  • It appears in many forms - even if you suppress one form, it will rise in another.
  • Patterns form the basis of many different forms of stimming.
  • There is nothing wrong with it, accept it and move on.


Lisa said...

Your posts are always interesting, but I had to comment on this one. We have those same IKEA kids' dishes, and I have been known to arrange them like that. I notice a lot of patterns too.

The Rambling Taoist said...

Patterns define my life! Everything has to be just so or I become discombobulated!

The dishes in our cupboards or the silverware in the dishwasher have assigned places. If they aren't in the order I expect them to be in, then I have to take everything out and do it "right".

A few years ago, when I was sick, my wife unloaded the dishwasher (usually solely my domain) and sort of haphazardly put things away in the cupboard. I discovered this late that night, but because I was feverish, told myself I would deal with it in the morning.

So, I went back upstairs to go to bed. But I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned. I finally went back downstairs and put everything in its rightful place. When I returned to my bed, I fell asleep almost instantly.

It was the patterns, man!!

Saja said...

Numbers are my favorite patterned thing. I see patterns in the clock all the time ("one two three four! (12:34) seven, seven squared! (7:49) Fibonacci! (12:35 and 23:58) 1, 2, and 3 squared! (1:49) doubles! (22:44)" and on and on and on), in license plates, dates, whatever.

I also like intricately patterned music, which makes most pop music not so appealing visually (though I can like it fine the "ordinary" way). I see colors with letters, numbers, and music, so complex music makes lovely multicolored patterns in my head. The Moody Blues were always a favorite for that reason.

John said...

I do tech support for a large company which requires using patterns.
I am also a photographer and tend to take pictures of the patterns I see in Nature and around me, my wife has stated that I see things differently than most.
I also play several musical instrument which requires of patterns.
I even follow the same pattern to get to work every day.
For patterns make me feel safe in an often chotic world.

Rachel said...

I love the stacked cups and plates. I would arrange them exactly the same way. Just looking at them makes me SO happy.

I also tend to put things in the cupboard by category: anything in a jar on the top shelf (oil, vinegar, mustard, jam, etc.); macaroni and cheese products on the next shelf; bulk items (soy powder, almond butter, tahini, etc.) on the next shelf; and our leftover Passover matzah and chocolate on the bottom shelf.

(If anyone is interested in any leftover matza or chocolate, PLEASE let me know. ;-))

I also love lining things up in patterns, like bricks and stones. Always have, always will. All of our gardens have very nice patterned borders. You can definitely tell an Aspie lives here.

Rachael Elizabeth said...

i am that way with colors and shapes and things also it cool i been doing this thing online where i take squares and make pictures out of them and i never realy understand why i did that now i got a clue to why i do it thank you for post this post

amanda said...

we have those dishes too.. got them as a gift and love them! knwo where i could get more?

Elizabeth said...

I totally identify with your post. My closet, my cupboards, the children's colored pencil box, everywhere I've been looks like that. My husband doesn't notice it at all. And he has Asperger's while I don't. I wonder what part of the brain it is that causes us to see order and connections like that.

aspieprincess said...

I used to do much the same thing with M&Ms that you did with the plates...I would arrange them in color order, then eat them in the same order....

Loved the post!

amhealy said...

There's another type of pattern, I think. There are patterns to people. I am an attorney. I can predict something based on what someone has done and go to court in advance in order to avoid the occurrence of whatever it was that I was predicting. Human behavior is very interesting to watch. :)

damo74 said...

Whist the physical world is full of patterns for me too. Yup loved the post (btw loved the light spectrum). I agree with amhealy. Finding patterns in human behaviour has won me favour in my current employ but much disconcernation from the applicants. It usually ends up in land and environment court under the "its not fair guise". Then they sick rainman onto the case. *grin* they have no hope.
As for the patterns with maths I find this quite easy but I have taken it to the next level. I now see the equations everywhere and whilst driving I see the superelevation of the road and the optimal line defined on the road I'm driving.
To me, the world is a puzzle waiting to be solved, categorised, ranked and aloocated its own little box.

TheSpecialKid said...

How do you do that!
Sometimes I think you're copying my life :P

I would have placed: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow...
I don't know why, but that just seems more right to me

Anonymous said...

I have always been interested in patterns, but I never thought too much of it. I would count my steps, have to perform tasks in even numbers and organize things based on color. Lately though I am noticing patterns everywhere. I feel like it's driving me crazy. It started with a pattern I saw on a shirt and then i noticed similar patterns in other places. Certain things just jump out at me and I find myself trying to figure out why that color or pattern etc is bugging me. But now I notice patterns everywhere. In graphics, people's faces and buildings and I thought it was all visual until I realized some music will also get caught in my head and I think of it over and over, but i can barely explain why it struck me. Sometimes it think it may have been the beat, but I am not sure. I just feel like the world looks different now than it did a year ago and I can't figure out if there are new things I am noticing or if I am just looking and experiencing old things in a new way. Is this similar at all to the patterns you see?

Anonymous said...

Some people have suggested I might have Asperger's Syndrome and I do notice patterns everywhere but not in the way some people have posted. I have no obsession over order. If anything I'm the opposite. I have no routines except I use the internet everyday but who doesn't. I'm very chaotic in that way. Sometimes I'll shower in the morning, middle of the day, night whenever. I used to brush my teeth at regular times but that's become irregular itself.

What I do like doing is looking and seeing how things look like other things like how nuts and bolts sometimes look like eyes. How this fan on my desk is shaped kind of like a flower(the spinny thing on the inside) but then the connecting thing looks like a gear. Sometimes I rearrange things for fun, but it's not based on anybody's preconceived notions(not even mine since it's not done in a consisent way). I just rearrange in what ever way feels aesthetically pleasing to me at the time.

I also have a very colorful imagination whenever I close my eyes. I get visuals when most people have to take drugs to get that. Ever since I was a child I have noticed(but don't tell anyone about it in real life) things vibrate, things sometimes have a little grainy quality to them, and there are lights, sometimes very light vague traces around or behind objects. This is known as HPPD in medical literature and usually only happens as a rare reaction after people take psychedelics but occassionally you're just born with it. No I'm not crazy. If I couldn't tell the difference between what's real and what's not then I'd be crazy. I know what's real and what's not. HPPD's main problem is just that all this extra stuff is distracting.

People also say I walk like a robot.

The funny thing is NMDA antagonists (A class of dissociative drugs) lead to more rocognition of patterns(something that's happened every time after I've taken a dissociative even salvia which is not an NMDA antagonist its a kappa opioid agonist), cause you to walk like a robot, and make you more able to notice social cues including a heightened ability to notice intentions and motivations.

The weird thing is Cough Syrup(yes its an NMDA antagonist) helps all my main problems, I am more social, understand people better, and have less stress and anxiety BUT the lesser strange thigns about me, walking like a robot and noticing patterns everywhere(to the point that it feels unnerving after the trip is done) increase. So am I overassociated or underassociated?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your plates. I wish that we had them at my house. All our plates are white, and our bowls are white to. However, I do the crack thing, I have to step on the cracks, or i have to step on a crack with my left foot, then step over the next crack with my left foot so that my right foot touches the next crack. I must say, you're right about looking insane when walking. I have jumped to get to the next crack, and every time I walk it's different. Sometimes it is not stepping on the cracks, sometimes it's stepping near the cracks. It's very calming.

I also have a habit of sorting. Everything needs to be sorted. Someone posted about sorting mnm's. I'm vegan, so don't eat chocolate, but I used to do it when I ate dairy, and it's a common habit of mine when eating vegan smarties or skittles. I have a bowl for each individual colour, and I can't eat them without sorting them.

Have you EVER sorted beads. It is the most relaxing thing EVER. I bought myself a kilo of mixed glass beads and sorted them, it took me two years, but it was worth it. When I was done, I mixed them up and started again.

I also do the clock thing. I'll actually wait around for a clock to change to '1:23' or '4:44' I also love the time '11:11' just because it's all ones. Midnight is also a good one. '0:00' I love finding random patterns in maths. 'this number is related to that because if you take this from that and then times it by that it's the same'

ahhh.... patterns are awesome!

@Simon_Constable said...

I am currently being assessed for an ASD. I have a total obsession with patterns and layers.

I love the look of structured material, such as carbon fibre, woven cloth etc., but it doesn't always have to be completely ordered, although too much disruption to what I'd consider the norm would cause me to overload and "Shut down" for a while. This also happens in my routines at work, where I go rather absent-minded when something disrupts my routines.

I love music. I'm not fussy about types as long as it sounds good. At 41, I have to admit I'm still listening to pop music. I particularly like intricate layered sounds, which includes the likes of Abba, the Carpenters and anything produced by Max Martin (Think early Britney, Backstreet boys etc.). Vocals and harmonies are a must. Classical Music and Jazz (Many types) drive my senses wild!