Friday 10 February 2012

Research, Progressive Memory and Vivekarama

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. Let's start with some good news. We are through to the second round of the Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneer Award! We now have another application form to fill in and submit to Deloitte next week. Elsewhere I have agreed to participate in some research at Durham University later this month on prospective memory and also this week, I have made my first visit to Sunderland's new Buddhist temple.

Since I received my Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis back in 1998, I have usually been quite forthcoming in participating in Asperger-related research, as long as it is ethically approved. Often, participation has been quite fun. This time last year, I took part in some research they did on 'autobiographical memory',  including being able to relate past experiences to hypothetical situations. This year, Durham University's Psychology Department are researching 'prospective memory' in both people with an ASC diagnosis (including Asperger's Syndrome) and people not on the autistic spectrum. Quite the opposite of autobiographical memory which relates to long-term recall, prospective memory refers to remembering to carry out a plan or task, such as taking a turkey out of the oven, or turn up to an appointment at the right time such as seeing a doctor, dentist etc.

In the world of psychology, it isn't fully understood how prospective memory works, let alone how it is affected by Asperger's Syndrome. From personal experience though, I have felt that sometimes excessive anxiety and worry associated with Asperger's Syndrome can interfere with immediate priorities in the present. Where I have found myself forgetting to carry out immediate tasks or even just making a start on tasks in hand as well as forgetting to attend appointments or collect important items, including prescriptions, is when I have been preoccupied with worry as to my long-term future.

Quite often, through the obsessive-compulsive tendencies that some people with Asperger's Syndrome appear to have they can become attached to worry and anxiety that it may affect their short-term memory. In previous jobs, something that I used to find was that, though I have a good recall for facts and figures (including those relating to special interests), at the same time when answering phone calls I was often unable to remember the name of the caller when putting calls through! I guess this is one of the more misunderstood aspects of Asperger's Syndrome.

As readers of this blog will most likely recall, I have previously written about how mindfulness practice has helped me tune into the present moment. Relating to this theme, I made my first visit to Vivekarama, Sunderland's new Buddhist temple and meditation centre, which has been opened by Venerable Ashin Nandapala, who was awarded a PhD in Buddhist Studies by Sunderland University in 2011 and has been a monk in the Burmese tradition of Buddhism for over 30 years.

Venerable Ashin Nandapala opens Vivekarama, Sunderland's new Buddhist temple

As well as the Deloitte application, another form I have to fill in is my entry form for the 2012 Bupa Great North Run, a job over the weekend. In the meantime, stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works.      

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