Alzheimer's-like Memory Problems During Childhood

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Aspie1
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26 Dec 2021, 8:41 am

When I was a child (like before age 12), I had constant memory problems. Namely, forgetting what I ate at breakfast that day, or forgetting what I wanted to say just minutes ago. Which made my parents always angry with me. Being a curious, knowledge-seeking aspie, and wanting to keep earning their love, I got into "World Book" encyclopedias (Wikipedia didn't exist back then, obviously), and read that these were symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, I also knew that Alzheimer's was an "old person disease". So I figured I was unlucky enough to get it as a child. After all, if I was afraid of a chandelier in my own home and got bullied constantly by peers far stupider than me (book-stupider), having "Alzheimer's disease" as a child didn't feel like a stretch.

So... one day, when I'm 9, I'm seeing a pediatrician or a pediatric dentist (I can't recall exactly; I'm 38 now). She asks me what's troubling me. Being a stupid, naive aspie kid, thinking she wants an honest answer, I tell her: "I have a mild form of the childhood-onset Alzheimer's Disease. I remember most textbook exercises, but I forget things I did or said earlier the same say or even minutes ago." She smiles and nods, and does the planned procedure. Again, being a stupid, naive aspie kid, I though sounding "scientific" would get her to believe me; I sincerely believed I had "childhood-onset Alzheimer's Disease". She doesn't believe me! Instead, she calls my parents after I leave, and rats me out. They yell at me that evening for "talking nonsense to a busy doctor".

Did anyone else have the same Alzheimer's-like memory problems as a child? That is, they could remember banal things from many years ago, like curtain designs in a house they stayed in when they were 3, but forgot the basic instructions their teacher gave them in that day's morning class.



Double Retired
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26 Dec 2021, 3:32 pm

I had a terrible memory when I was young...well, actually, I still do.

It was a problem in school. Couldn't remember names and dates for geography, history, etc. Couldn't remember short poems for whatever class that was.

It turns out my memory works best for things that interest me (and I don't get to choose what interests me). My Dad was really amused that I got poor grades in Spelling when the words were simple little words, but when the words got harder I got better grades.


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26 Dec 2021, 3:46 pm

I don't think I had memory problems as catastrophic as that, but I did struggle due to attention difficulties and not being good at containing facts that I was supposed to learn and remember for tests.


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kraftiekortie
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26 Dec 2021, 4:04 pm

I always had a good memory….and bad social skills.

At 9, I probably wouldn’t have even spoken to the doctor.



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26 Dec 2021, 4:20 pm

Could be stress related. From what you've told us you didn't grow up in the most relaxed environment.

I have a friend who can't remember large chunks of his childhood. From what he's told me he seems to have disassociated a lot, zoned out, pretended to be someone else.

Another person I know forgot large portions of her childhood after a traumatic experience as a teenager.

So it may have been your body coping as best it could.



Aspie1
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27 Dec 2021, 6:08 am

hurtloam wrote:
Could be stress related. From what you've told us you didn't grow up in the most relaxed environment.
...
So it may have been your body coping as best it could.
If what you're saying is true, then my own body was working against me. Namely, by not letting my short-term memory function in full---a common symptom of actual Alzheimer's. Which caused me to have problems getting good grades and/or got me in trouble with my parents all the time. And the only doctor I trusted to get me medication for childhood-onset Alzheimer's---as I sincerely believed I had it, and it does exist---ratted me out instead.

If my body were to actually help me, it should have blocked out my long-term memory. When you're a kid, your long-term memory is borderline useless, because the "long" part hasn't happened yet. So it's a better sacrifice than the short-term memory. Then again, it wouldn't be Alzheimer's then, as it specifically affects the short-term memory.



kraftiekortie
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27 Dec 2021, 6:11 am

You memorized “childhood-onset Alzheimer’s.” In actuality, it might have been a concept in the 80s, but is not a concept now.

My feeling is that you had a “selective” memory…..like I sometimes do. Memory and motivation are closely-related in many people.



Aspie1
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27 Dec 2021, 6:22 am

kraftiekortie wrote:
You memorized “childhood-onset Alzheimer’s.”

Yes, I did. One thing is learned the hard way is that many adults DESPISE smart kids. They may outwardly praise them, but deep down inside, they wish them harm, because they don't like the idea of "just a kid" being as smart as an adult. (The recent show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" plays on that.) So when I memorized a scientific term for an illness and used it on a doctor, she had an angry reaction on the inside. Therefore, she decided to rat me out to get me in trouble, to put me back in my weak, pathetic place. Which came true.

What I should have said to that pediatrician was: "I forget things a lot, and it's affecting my grades. I want to get good grades, because I love my family and want to make them happy, but I can't always do it. Do you think something is wrong with my mind?" I'm sure if I had said THAT, she'd be more willing to actually help me, rather than just rat me out. Plus, that wording protects me from punishment at home.



Last edited by Aspie1 on 27 Dec 2021, 6:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

kraftiekortie
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27 Dec 2021, 6:29 am

Yeah….I was seen as being a smartass, too.



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27 Dec 2021, 7:18 am

Some of the things we attribute to poor memory may instead be poor processing. I was accused of "not listening" in school and work situations, in face to face interactions, etc. At 68 as part of my autism diagnosis I learned I only had 25th percentile visual processing and 35th percentile audio processing. This means that I can process and commit to memory very little that happens through sight or hearing in "real time". I simply can't take it in, understand it, and file it mentally (memory) for later use if I see or hear it. I remember very little about interactions with others involving spoken word or demonstrations I was supposed to watch. It is not my memory, because the information never made it to my brain to begin with. I can remember almost every detail of pictures, drawings, paintings, or things I saw over and over (pattern of wallpaper in my bedroom growing up) because I did not see them "in action" or have to listen to them and try to understand. I read and write well... and have almost perfect memory of anything that I read or write. You might find that sensory processing struggles (SPD) or similar neurological troubles are at the base of your so called "poor memory". Sending best wishes.


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27 Dec 2021, 12:59 pm

Aspie1 wrote:
hurtloam wrote:
Could be stress related. From what you've told us you didn't grow up in the most relaxed environment.
...
So it may have been your body coping as best it could.
If what you're saying is true, then my own body was working against me. Namely, by not letting my short-term memory function in full---a common symptom of actual Alzheimer's. Which caused me to have problems getting good grades and/or got me in trouble with my parents all the time. And the only doctor I trusted to get me medication for childhood-onset Alzheimer's---as I sincerely believed I had it, and it does exist---ratted me out instead.

If my body were to actually help me, it should have blocked out my long-term memory. When you're a kid, your long-term memory is borderline useless, because the "long" part hasn't happened yet. So it's a better sacrifice than the short-term memory. Then again, it wouldn't be Alzheimer's then, as it specifically affects the short-term memory.


That's a bit like saying, why doesn't my nose run and my body ache when my immune system is fighting off a bug? It should make me feel better, not make me worse. It's your body sending you messages that something is wrong and you need to change something, which is impossible if you are a child surrounded by adults who don't take you seriously unfortunately.

Quote:
The stress response sheds light on how repeated anxiety can lead to memory loss. When your body reacts to real or perceived threats, electrical activity in the brain increases and produces adrenaline and cortisol. Memory loss can result if that process occurs when fear or anxiety is excessive or persists beyond developmentally appropriate periods. That’s because anxiety and stress tax the body’s resources.


https://www.rivier.edu/academics/blog-posts/the-relationship-between-anxiety-and-memory-loss/



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27 Dec 2021, 3:18 pm

I began to notice something of the kind when I was about 12, and certainly memory problems were a big part of it. It also showed itself as an inability to think straight. When I began a chain of thought, I'd often have forgotten the first thought before I got much further down the chain. I felt very confused. I seemed fully able to function apart from often not being able to follow or make sense of my schoolwork, which was quite a shock after many years of good academic achievement. I also couldn't follow the plots of a many TV programs, movies and theatre plays, and I'd often blank out when I tried to read. I'd turn the writing into words in my head but I kept failing to turn those words into thoughts, so I'd get through a couple of pages and then realise I hadn't comprehended anything. If I ever did try to find out what it was, I didn't get very far, and just thought I might have some kind of brain damage. I didn't tell anybody about it, for some reason. I suppose I couldn't articulate very clearly what the trouble was, and I probably didn't think anybody would understand or believe me.

So I just soldiered on with it as best I could. I noticed that if I carefully took notes while I was reading, paraphrasing every sentence, then I could understand it a lot better, though of course it was slow. And apart from the things I've mentioned, I seemed to be functioning fairly well. I floundered rather at school, but at 16 when I was facing a lot of exams, I sealed myself off and studied the text books to catch up. It worked, and I started to feel more confident about my ability to think straight. After that the schoolwork got more complicated and demanding, but I scraped through a few more exams and vowed I'd never go back to that kind of learning. Then I got a science job and things were rather easier. Schoolwork had been too theoretical for me, and practical tasks were much more suitable for my brain. It was very helpful to have tangible, concrete goals, and I did well. A few years later I made a multi-track tape recorder, putting together circuits from components, and having got that to work, I figured there couldn't be much wrong with my brain if it could achieve something as clever as that. I got better at following books and stories, though there are still many of them I don't do well with. And I expect I'd still make a mess of learning through real-time lectures if I wasn't particularly interested in the subject and if the teacher wasn't very clear.

I don't suppose I'll ever know what it was that I labelled "brain damage." I think ASD played a big part in it. I didn't know anything about that till decades later. I suppose it's very hard for an Aspie to conveniently take an interest in a plethora of random information such as my school was dishing out to me. And the ASD-related trouble with following plots involving lots of characters, remembering names and faces etc. probably explains some of my problems there. Memory problems are also quite common with ASD. Why I had trouble thinking straight, though, I don't know. It might have been down to anxiety. Anyway, I was always capable of independent living, managed to keep the wages coming in and keep myself reasonably healthy and alive, and whatever it was is no longer a practical problem for me. I still have trouble sometimes thinking through some of my special interest projects, but that's probably because they're pretty complicated and ambitious, and I nearly always find that by repeatedly thinking about it and trying experiments, I solve whatever I've set out to solve, or know why I can't solve it.



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27 Dec 2021, 8:22 pm

hurtloam wrote:
It's your body sending you messages that something is wrong and you need to change something, which is impossible if you are a child surrounded by adults who don't take you seriously unfortunately.
I don't think ANY adult in my life took me seriously until the day I moved out of my parents' home at 24. Because of that, I live my life a lot like a 24-year-old to this day; I'm 38 now.

As for the "Alzheimer's" statement, my older sister took it once step further; I was 9, she was 19. When she found out what I said to that pediatrician, she said this to me.
Her: (laughing) "Treatment for childhood-onset Alzheimer's already exists."
Me: (intrigued) "What is it?"
Her: (still laughing) "A good spanking!"
Me: (confused) "But what about medications, physical therapy, and specialized diets?"
Her: (still laughing) "That's for old-age Alzheimer's. Childhood-onset Alzheimer's is treated with a spanking. Keep doing until the memory returns in full. Best of all, it's free."

That's when I knew she was mocking me and/or colluding with the healthcare system, to withhold the actual treatment from me, in order to give my parents and grandparents more opportunities to punish me for cheap thrills. (Like ground me for 3 days for forgetting to do a homework assignment, after I forgot it was assigned, due to my "Alzheimer's".) Whereas if I lived in a more loving family, I assumed I'd get some kind of pills and/or painless medical procedures to help me treat that illness.



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27 Dec 2021, 8:41 pm

Aspie1 wrote:
When I was a child (like before age 12), I had constant memory problems. Namely, forgetting what I ate at breakfast that day, or forgetting what I wanted to say just minutes ago. Which made my parents always angry with me. Being a curious, knowledge-seeking aspie, and wanting to keep earning their love, I got into "World Book" encyclopedias (Wikipedia didn't exist back then, obviously), and read that these were symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, I also knew that Alzheimer's was an "old person disease". So I figured I was unlucky enough to get it as a child. After all, if I was afraid of a chandelier in my own home and got bullied constantly by peers far stupider than me (book-stupider), having "Alzheimer's disease" as a child didn't feel like a stretch.

So... one day, when I'm 9, I'm seeing a pediatrician or a pediatric dentist (I can't recall exactly; I'm 38 now). She asks me what's troubling me. Being a stupid, naive aspie kid, thinking she wants an honest answer, I tell her: "I have a mild form of the childhood-onset Alzheimer's Disease. I remember most textbook exercises, but I forget things I did or said earlier the same say or even minutes ago." She smiles and nods, and does the planned procedure. Again, being a stupid, naive aspie kid, I though sounding "scientific" would get her to believe me; I sincerely believed I had "childhood-onset Alzheimer's Disease". She doesn't believe me! Instead, she calls my parents after I leave, and rats me out. They yell at me that evening for "talking nonsense to a busy doctor".

Did anyone else have the same Alzheimer's-like memory problems as a child? That is, they could remember banal things from many years ago, like curtain designs in a house they stayed in when they were 3, but forgot the basic instructions their teacher gave them in that day's morning class.

Much more likely you had attention deficit. You can't remember something if you aren't paying attention to it in the first place.


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Aspie1
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27 Dec 2021, 8:56 pm

BeaArthur wrote:
Much more likely you had attention deficit. You can't remember something if you aren't paying attention to it in the first place.
I actually tested negative for ADD, at age 12. But the quack running the test on me made it so stressful, that I kept having panic attacks and ended up testing positive for immature emotional development. I got scolded at home for it, then fell into a 2-week depression where I cried for 8 hours nonstop most days. The main reason I tested positive for "immature emotional development" was because the quack actively provoked the panic attacks, which caused me to test "immature".