How do we decrease neurological stress? The following is an excerpt from my recent book titled Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers: Practical Ideas for Students with ASDs and Other Special Educational Needs.
A research team funded by the National Institutes of Health (2006) found that, in people with autism, brain areas normally associated with visual tasks also appear to be active during language-related tasks, providing evidence to explain a bias towards visual thinking that is common in autism.
Although grammatically incorrect, the following statement is about neurological processing. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. As you say this, make goggles and cover your eyes with your hands. Then, cup your hands and make ear muffs over your ears. This will help your brain to remember an essential understanding that is the foundation for taking a different course of action when responding to the behavior of those struggling with neurological stress.
To process information auditorily means to capture transient information, the spoken word, interpret its meaning and find the most appropriate response within the vast catalog of possibilities in the brain. That requires a great deal of work for any brain, but often becomes a daunting task for individuals with ASDs. If someone gave you a list of 20 grocery items to buy verbally, you would probably be able to remember the first six or seven and forget the others. To decrease your stress about keeping all 20 items in your brain and increase the likelihood that you will successfully purchase the entire list, you would probably want to write them down. Furthermore, you feel a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item.
It is not that you did not hear the items or that you did not understand their meaning, but rather that it is more difficult to process and respond to auditory information at a certain point. That is why our lives are filled with to do lists, calendars, recipes, directions, and other visual supports. Visual’s a strength, auditory ain’t. Research has shown that individuals with ASDs demonstrate strength in visual learning. Visual supports organize a sequence of events, enhancing the individual’s ability to understand, anticipate, and participate in those events (Hume, 2008). Did you know that approximately 65–70 percent of the general population is considered to be primarily visual learners (Felder and Brent, 2005)? Let’s see if you fall into that percentage. Take a moment to answer the following questions.
Do you use a calendar? • Yes • No
Do you use a list for grocery shopping? • Yes • No
Do you use a map to find a location? • Yes • No
Do you make “to do” lists? • Yes • No
Do you use a recipe to make a dish? • Yes • No
Do you read directions to assemble a toy? • Yes • No
Do you ask someone to write down information? • Yes • No
If you said “yes” to three or more, you might be a visual learner! It is in this way that visual processing becomes a common link between the neurotypical brain and the brain with autism.
by: Lisa Rogers
The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.