eyes are ears and other myths

This article is lovely, especially in regards to my own conversations on expanding the dominant paradigm versus forcing autistic individuals to conform to one that is unnatural and quite frankly unhealthy for us.

a diary of a mom

Last night, I posted the following on Diary’s Facebook page:

Oh, Brooke. I’m so sorry. I saw that worksheet that came home in your backpack. The one on which you’d so diligently parroted back the lessons about what’s necessary to convince people that you’re listening to them, writing in “eye contact” so neatly, right there on the line.

I promise I’ll talk to your teachers, kiddo. We’ll make sure that they all know what it means to “respect your autistic identity,” just like it says in your IEP.

You see some people – a lot of people – have, well .. I guess a kind of disability. For some reason, they perceive eyes as ears. I know that sounds bizarre, baby, but it’s a very real challenge for a lot of us. Even for your mama.

You see, we don’t have the same innate ability that you do to understand…

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Protest art-The Rise of American Facism

So I am deviating from my normal topics of autism and aphantasia, but still sticking to my guns of looking at humanity’s context.  The problem with ultra-nationalism is that it is completely predictable and often cyclical in nature.  The feelings and attitudes don’t just blossom into existence, they are already there and people with power frequently utilize this to their advantage.  The reality is, 50% of the population is below average intelligence, this is a statistical reality, that is not a judgment call, but with that comes a decreased ability to perceive cause and effect. As the world becomes more nuanced, more complicated, more grey, it also creates more fear, trepidation and anxiety in the population.  As I have stated many times, no individual human can fully understand objective reality, we have limited senses and limited intellectual capability, the fact is our primate mind is still adapted to the African savannah and many trappings of modernity are showing some individuals as being maldaptive to it. I am from a sensory perspective, there is simply too much data, both knowledge and sensory out there for my brain to handle, I have to fight consciously against black and white ideation, I see the appeal of a simple explanation that suddenly makes the world make sense, and that ideology reduces stress and anxiety on some levels.

In the case of fascist ideology, it is a perfect tool to manipulate people who lack the faculties to engage in extensive introspection of themselves and their own flaws and instead seek to apply the problems on external sources.  By creating fear of an external threat, you tap into this population, who by their very primate nature seek sense, order, and security in a world they simply cannot understand.  It comes in waves and surges, nationalism is not always facism, but it is a fine line. Fascism is a capitalist political system the connects protectionist economic policies with ultra-nationalist politics, and fosters xenophobia of difference.  And it is not just one population that suffers as a result, anyone who diverges from the desired “superior” culture is at risk.  I am not Jewish, but I am on the autism spectrum and during WWII , especially as a child with my frequent outbursts, I would have qualified as a mentally deficient, and I too would have met a state sanctioned end, maybe not a gas chamber, instead they got parents to sign off on euthanasia, left us exposed to the elements during winter, kept us in massive group bunkhouses and did not treat for fatal communicable illnesses, more passive aggressive in nature, but again the culling of difference that was perceived as undesirable.

Now onto the role art plays in this.  Protest art has a long history, my first exposure to Renaissance political art was Heironymous Bosch’s painting of a monkey.  In the case of protest art, it has the power to communicate in a way words simply do not convey well.  I can talk till I am blue in the face about Donald Trump and Facism to a Trump supporter, but it hits that subjective filter where their fear and anxieties are over-riding their frontal lobe, they are thralls to their amygdala and they process a challenge often as a hostile threat and thus a fight or flight reaction.  A visual medium is able to target the brain in a different way, it may be offensive, it may still elicit a hostile reaction, but the imagery also has a chance to plainly show what words are unable to convey. In my case I love to explore dichotomy and juxtaposition,  so in this case a treasured symbol desecrated by a symbol most find abhorrent.   I am a disabled veteran from a multi-generational military background on both maternal and paternal sides.  For me the flag is a powerful symbol, it means a great deal to many, some positive, some negative, but seldom neutral in it’s nature.  Until the rise of Trump’s fascist worldview I had considered using the flag in art off limits, it had too much chance to be divisive.  And yet, I don’t think many Trump supporters actually realize how far down the fascist road they have traveled, so I chose to create an piece to illustrate this, to show the symbolism of the flag, the swastika, a physical wall, the hand of a brown person behind bars, to call out his rhetoric as well. Not easy for me, since planned and conceptualized art is not my strong point, I do far better creating as I go and letting my state of mind influence the final outcome.  Yet, I felt the imagery was needed, that some needed to see images they may hold sacred juxtaposed with imagery they have a visceral reaction to.  And maybe, just maybe for some it will cause a cognitive stirring, it will get them to engage in just small amount of self-skepticism and introspection, even if it is just assessing their present image and saying “you are wrong we are not like that at all”, to which I say “then prove it.”

 

 

Aphantasia and my artistic process

So I have been silent lately, moved into the new house (At least I own this one!), disruptions to routine, same old crap. Mostly comes down to whatever I am perseverating on at the moment, which tends to block out anything and everything else going on, makes me horrendously unreliable, which is why I seldom ever promise or commit to anything.

That said,  I now have my own art studio space with the new house and have been spending a tremendous amount of time in there…mostly playing around with acrylics on canvas (I have texture issues with oils getting on my hands, drives me nuts).  I have traditionally focused on colored pencils, pen and ink, etc.  But I came across something interesting about the artist Grandma Moses, how she got into painting as a result of arthritis and decided to give it a try since my hands cramp horribly trying to do drawings. And wow, painting is so much easier on me, and I get to do really satisfying things like fill syringes with paint, smack the plunger, make huge spats, even whipped a canvas with 20 lb test fishing line dipped in paint (the one shown), and pretty much any other crazy idea that comes into my head, which is just lovely.  That and based on my super long blog posts, I am really beginning to realize I might better communicate my thoughts via a visual medium than 4k+ words.

So, as an aphantasiac autistic individual I have a lot of barriers in regards to traditional fine art.  And frankly I am glad, I hate being “normal”, such a foreign concept to me, I do like the concept of outsider or Art brut though quite a bit.  Now, some youtube videos on aphantasia have focused on lack of “imagination” and one even said you would be unable to sculpt because you could not imagine the outcome.  It really shows how biased we are to our own cognitive and sensory process. I would think that if you are an artist and visualizing is critical to your process, not being able to do that seems foreign, even impossible…it should be foreign it is a different mode of thinking, but certainly not impossible.

So how have I been creating art?  Like when I do a math problem, I have to do the work in front of me, I have no inner template to go from, I may have conceptualized an idea (though usually those are the worst paintings for me by far) but for the most part I build up something on the canvas until, like a Rorschach test, I begin to see something form in front of me, and then I can guide that process.  When I finish a painting, I am seeing it for the first time, and it is amazing, because it informs me about myself in ways I otherwise could not fathom.

Now how do I guide this process from the start? I often have something eating at me, often socio-economic, social sciences, or political in nature.  For example the featured image is called “Refugee in Hijab” because I can see again the cycle of fear and demeaning that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy in full swing again, so many scared primate minds creating the conditions to make that which they are afraid of, unable to see the connections and correlations between there actions and the end result. These mood and thoughts influence how my brain is interpreting the image forming before me, so what I am thinking or worrying about influences how I guide the end product.  Such a fascinating process really. I often complain about how my conscious and sub/unconscious mind do not seem to communicate well and see eye to eye.  I have even denigrated my desire to do art in earlier blog posts, but the reality is, I am beginning to find more value in it, to get past my aphantasiac tendency to just define my existence through words.

So will I ever learn to doing realistic art? Not likely, could I? To a degree, I could learn to do still lifes and landscapes, draw what I see and translate it to an image on canvas.  But I am not interested in these things, they do not hold new thoughts, ideas, or inform me about the world or myself in interesting ways.  I want my art to be interesting, cognitive, maybe occasionally political or teach a lesson when possible, but over all I want people to wonder what the heck was going through my mind when I made that painting…because that is exactly what I am doing too!  Looking at the art that helps me get insight into myself, helps others get insight into me, and since as someone on the spectrum, even after studying social science so extensively, I still struggle to connect with people in a way I feel is meaningful. Sure I can meet others halfway, do the small talk, which can be important and validating to many, but for me? It has little value, I am investing my energy into helping someone else feel well, and still leaving myself out like an alien on the sidelines.  So my artistic process is an exploration of communication with myself and interpersonal communication, we shall see how this goes.  On the upside, with canvases hung all over my house now, out of sight, out of mind is much less of an issue!

Preliminary Results

Some preliminary research on Aphantasia for the curious.

Caitlin M Stewart

We have some of the first results from our aphantasia survey! It’s pretty exciting, but definitely just the start.

Our survey is slightly adapted version of the one created by Dr. Zeman at the University of Exeter, who has been researching the condition and coined the term “aphantasia”. We wanted to have a look at the prevalence of aphantasia with a larger sample size and used various social media networks to get people to fill in our survey.

Defining ‘aphantasia’ as having a score less than 30, we see approximately 4.3% prevalence, higher than the previous estimates of 2-3%. Our distribution looks similar to the one produced by Dr. Zeman with the exception of the last two bars in our graph (>70), where we have found a higher prevalence of people with “hyperphantasia”, or extreme vividness, but we believe this is due to how our participants were selected – largely…

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Aphantasia and sensory personality

So the recent labeling of the inability to visualize is picking up steam, the BBC has run an article (Here) as well as IFLscience.com (and here).  I have often touched on sensory difference in my blog, and I want to take a moment to put forth a few thoughts on how our sensory baseline and toolkit influence our personality and choices.

We interact and understand the world through our sensory capabilities, everything we perceive and understand must be processed via our sensory functions.  No person can take in all of object reality, we do the best we can with what we have, and this is often part of the core of why our very notions of reality can be strikingly different. Someone who is a color synesthete and translates micro-expressions into a visible color spectrum may believe they are reading auras, some folks see music in color, some people like me have pronounced tactile responses to visual, olfactory, and auditory stimuli.  Since this is our baseline, barring degeneration or brain trauma, it is the only way we know how to view the world, it is comfortable and normal for us, and thus it is very easy to make the mistake that this is a shared human experience.  Our ability to take in, process, store, recall, and manipulate  sensory data is not the same, and it could potentially explain a great deal about our unconscious choices and personality, refuting in a way nulla ratio ad gustum  or in simple English “there is no accounting for taste.”

So, we all perceive the world a bit differently, and what we can do with that data varies greatly too.  If people have a better understanding of their sensory baseline, then they have a powerful tool into personality and knowledge of self.  When you think about your sensory capabilities, you should ask yourself a few important questions. How do I take in data (and which methods do I prefer)? How do I store that data? How can I manipulate that data? and finally, how do I utilize that data when I am thinking?   The answers are not the same for everybody, let me put a few bullet points below to get an idea of some possible differences and how they can affect personal choices. Also, realize that a great deal of research still needs to be done in these area, so do not confuse my questioning and hypothesis as fully vetted science, it would take a lifetime of research to even begin to touch on these things alone, so I hope anyone with a stronger science background recognizes this for what it is, thoughts, ideas, and questions.

  • Visual data: So aphantasia, the inability to picture something in your mind and Hyperphantasia the ability to build photo-realistic imagery in ones mind are two polemics on a bell curve.  Hyperphantasia has some obvious advantages, it is arguable for example that Nicola Tesla was hyperphantasiac, able to build and construct things in his own minds eye.  Where as I am aphantasiac, I cannot visualize at all and instead rely on an inner monologue and vague feelings to put together my conscious thought processes.  Now in the case of me, I have had pronounced and real trauma in my life, and I have often been baffled by people who are stuck reliving their trauma.  Visualization could be an important component in this, I cannot visually or auditorily relive this trauma, I have only feelings and verbal memories, in a way that may give me greater resilience. So when it comes to researching trauma, it might be a powerful clinical tool to understand the sensory personality of the individuals, if they are reliving it in full detail, then you can develop the means to help them work through it.  If they don’t you may be able to prevent a misunderstanding when the clinician thinks the person is not processing it, it may simply be it has less long term impact. Because I have experienced real and prolonged trauma in life, my lack of visualization may be why I am still here in reality with the rest of us, I tried so many ways to escape reality, books and games aplenty, if I was able to construct my own vivid imagery and fantasy world, I think it likely that I would have long ago retreated from a reality that was terrifying to me.  Likewise, our visual acuity influences some of our tastes, I often like to use a discussion between my wife and I as an example, my vision is above average 20/15 in my left eye 20/17 in my right eye (though that is a few years out of date, so degeneration may be setting in), my wife has poor vision and relies on bifocals to make the world anything less than blurry. We both disagree a great deal on how stripes look, for her the stripes tend to be softer, they blend into each other, for me they are stark and in contrast, if they did appear softer I imagine I would like them more.  It is a simple enough example though, our visual capabilities mean we do not see the same thing in the same way, our relationship to the aesthetic appeal of stripes is as much a function of visual acuity as some vague notion of personal taste.
  • Audio Data:  So I have had the (dis)pleasure of growing up with an older brother who is essentially a musical prodigy, he can hear something once, pick up any instrument, even one he has never used, and replicate it.  He has perfect pitch and lives in a world where music is a living and vibrant construct.  I can do no such thing, not only (arguably as a result of not being able to visualize, applies to maths as well) can I not read music, I cannot manipulate it or pull it apart in my head, though I can emulate it and I am a passably good singer as long as I have vocal warm ups before hand (or else I have a gap in the middle of my range).  His love and experience of music is very different than mine, and it makes sense he ended up using music for a time as his career (he was a semi-pro Christian musician, did the Nashville circuit for a bit and still has a Christian music band and is a youth minister). I enjoy music and singing, but I am strictly a vocal sort of person, the mathematical qualities of purely instrumental music are fascinating too me, but I look for patterns in cognition and thought as part of my ASD related obsessions, so I want words, and words that have meaning, so I am not a fan of pop music or fluff either, so to me music is as much about singing philosophy as a simple enjoyment of it.  Would this be different if I could hear a voice other than my own in my head? Most likely, then I could better piece together melody and harmony, I could manipulate it differently, but I can’t and I am no musical prodigy, just a competent singer and I used to feel inferior because of this, but I have different intellectual gifts that my brother does not have, and that is not such a bad thing.  So how we relate and manipulate auditory information is likely to have a profound impact not just on musical talents, but on musical taste as well.  Another noteworthy point in auditory processing is that some people cannot separate out conversations in noisy environments, they can’t filter out the background noise, and it is quite likely that most of us know people who dislike meeting in noisy environments to have a chat, they prefer smaller venues, this preference could simply be dictated by their ability to manipulate auditory data and make sense of it, I am one of those who cannot filter out specific sounds, as a result of this I am also the person who tends to get louder and louder at social gatherings, and when I am singing I must have either a source of feedback, or I cover one ear so I can hear my own voice amongst the clamor and surrounding noise.  What seems like a personality trait “I prefer quiet environments” could be a direct result of ones ability to hear and how they can utilize and manipulate what they are hearing, just more food for thought.
  • Tactile Data: Here is where I excel and also suffer, I am hyper-tactile, I am picky about clothes, hate having foreign substances on my skin, sticky hands drive me nuts.  I also believe that my tendency to chew my fingers is less of a nervous habit and more of a means to remove callouses that try to develop, I hate how they mute my ability to feel things. Likewise, I feel more pain than most people and this greatly restricts some of my activities, when someone wants to feel the burn, I cringe at the thought of it. I have trouble sitting in one position too long, the pressure becomes painful, it makes going to sleep a night difficult as I must toss and turn in an attempt to get comfortable, one position hurts my shoulders, the other my hips, and I have to dangle my feet off the bed or else the tendency to extend them against the bed causes me great discomfort as well.  And yet, there are positives along with these drawbacks, sure I was never good at manual labor or sitting still for long periods of time, but I am very good at feeling textures, even playing with air currents beneath the palm of my hand.  If something is painted and fixed, it may look visually the same, but it is easy for me to tell where metal ends and a bondo job begins on a car frame, the texture difference is stark and obvious to me.  I take in great deal of tactile information, and I can remember that tactile information.  As a child I played a game with my siblings, we would imagine while driving jumping from one mile marker or fence post to another, I could not see that being done, but I could feel it, even now just thinking about it my stomach reacts as if I am actually jumping, I can feel that movement, my muscles remember it and thus I have an excellent tactile memory, in fact it is what I most often use to get around my visualization difficulties. I also process information well this way, I am the type of person who takes notes but never looks at them again, the act of writing helps encode the information into my long term memory, it is the process not reviewing them that helps me remember these things.  But not everyone is as sensitive to touch and pain as I am, I see people wear articles of clothing with no discomfort that makes me itch just looking at it.  Wearing a tie around my neck? horrific, but so many folks manage to do it will no discomfort, this is simple tactile difference…well and folks who make themselves suck it up for business, etc.  How many of us know someone who when they get home get right into their comfy clothes? How many times have folks made fun of someone wearing sweats, PJ’s, or even a mumu when they are shopping? Is it that they are lazy or slovenly? Or does it indicate a person who may just be hypertactile and has issues with restrictive clothing and textures against their body, one is a moral judgment based on assumptions, the other is objective neurological difference that has real potential causation behind it, I naturally favor the later as the case.
  • Olfactory and Taste Data: I am clumping taste and smell together as they are both chemical senses and very closely linked.  Sight takes light waves and converts it to what we know as vision, auditory is a specific form of tactile sense that makes use of vibrations in the environment around us that we know of as sound. Tactile is actually very complex, we have specialized nerves for hot and cold, pressure, etc.  But olfactory and smell, these are a result of chemical compounds that fit within specific chemical receptors and thus are very different in nature.  For example, one can trick the nose with similar volatile organic compounds, I once tricked my wife and even my cats and dog into thinking I was cooking hamburgers, when in fact I was making an inedible combination of panko, egg, and fresh home roasted coffee grounds, because coffee shares volatile organic compounds with cooking meat.  And it worked exceedingly well I must say, my wife was rather stunned she had truly believed I was cooking hamburgers when she walked through the door.  And like our other senses though, some people can recall smells and tastes with vivid detail, others cannot, some of us have very sensitive palates and noses, some of us do not.  Again, neurological difference that sometimes is confused with moral judgments of character and personality.  A person with limited taste may get a fine meal and slather it in hot sauce or ketchup, some may see this as uncouth, but they simply may not have sensitive chemical receptors and thus need strong tastes, instead of picking apart the subtle and nuanced flavors. I am very sensitive to taste, I know well in advance if something is beginning to ferment or rot, and many folks I know still gladly eat food in that state, I avoid it like the plague.  In the area of smell, strong smells overwhelm me, they make me nauseous, sick, and even impact my ability to maintain my balance (connecting back to my strong tactile/kinetic reactions to other sensory inputs).  I cannot remember a smell on my own in my head, but I have excellent recall when exposed to it, I am one of those people who can walk into a kitchen, just grab a bunch of seemingly random spices and make a wonderful tasting meal (my presentation sucks though, shaky hands and such). To me it is easy to meld together those scents, even though I may not be able to actively recall them without them present (so I have limited ability to utilize stored scent data) I am able to do wonderful things with them (so I have a strong ability to manipulate that sensory data), once again this is difference, not everyone can do this.  But these capabilities explain behaviors, do you know people who douse themselves in fragrances to the point of nausea? What about folks who stubbornly refuse to go to crowded areas or complain about the smell of places or people? Are they being just picky and judgmental, or are they taking in more sensory data than other people do?  Our ability to use our senses differently can easily explain why one person may find a candle shop a bit of personal heaven while another has to be coerced into going in.

Those are just quick anecdotes for examples, not remotely an exhaustive list, but enough to really help illustrate just how different people can be based on nothing more than difference in our sensory capabilities.  One mistake often made in our current cultural paradigm is that we test these abilities for the mean, we often do not test to see if someone has a superior sense of vision or hearing in our annual screenings.  We should though, that information is important, it can tell us about possible strengths and explain aversions to certain things. Not everyone is suitable to be a wine taster, it can be trained to a degree, but someone with exceptional chemical sensory capabilities is going to be able to pull more data out of the sip with the same training as someone who is not as sensitive.  It is not a point of superiority though, our brain has finite room and finite capabilities, so strength is some areas are likely to result in perceived deficits in other areas (such as sensitivities to chemicals and smells as well, want to get me to run out of a room? Open a bottle of bleach and see me haul tail out of there, and good luck dragging me to a public swimming pool).  Much of what we assume are character flaws or quirks, can be understood as very natural consequences of our sensory capabilities, thus our sensory personality.  And every interaction we have with object reality will by it’s nature be influenced by these things.  The world becomes much less black and white when people realize just how different our brains are wired. So the next time you call someone a wimp because they complain about something hurting, remember that science is showing that some people do in fact feel more pain. I for one am far from a wimp, I live every moment with pain, I still get up and get things done that I have to, but I will not enjoy it while others might, the pain I feel may often exceed the endorphin rush I would get from certain exercises (or I lack the gene that influences dopamine when it comes to physical activity and thus would not get more pleasure out of it anyway).

As more people begin to understand this difference though, the more we talk about it, and the less judgmental we will be out of completely understandable ignorance.  Science is opening up the human brain, Barack Obama called this the decade of the brain, and he is correct.  We can communicate with folks in vegetative states (check this out here) and we can even see a person’s answers before they are even consciously aware their brain made a decision (here and here). We live in a fascinating time, but our society needs to catch up before we implode.  So much rigid belief, judgment, and biases are putting us at odds, we attack each other over perceived slights, morals, and politics and expect folks to see the world the way we see it, which is not a neurological possibility.  We need to take a collective breath, recognize how alien and different we can be, stop labeling one as superior, one cannot be morally accountable for inherent neurological difference, there is no fault to be had, and instead start talking dialectically instead of using rhetoric and sophistry to attack and undermine each other.  As closing example I have used before in my writing is the use of the hoodie and how people perceive it. To some it is the clothing choice of criminals up to nefarious purpose, others a comfy way to show off their school logo, and for some of us it is a critical piece of clothing for reducing stimuli.  The hoodie is often made of comfortable materials, with the hood up it reduces peripheral vision that many people over-utilize, especially on the autism spectrum. It can dampen sounds coming from behind and to the side of the head, but helps funnel sounds directed at ones face, helping those of us who have difficulty isolating conversation is noisy places better hear the conversations around us. The hoodie becomes more than just a fashion statement, for some it becomes an unconscious tool to help deal with an overstimulating world, and before we pass judgment on the person wearing one with sunglasses on, we should ask ourselves what else could be a reason for wearing such an ensemble, the results could be surprising indeed.

Able-ism at the YMCA…a brief Rant and perspective

Alright, I am going to diverge from my normal blogs to tackle the prevailing issues and images of able-ism in society.

Able-ism @ the YMCA

Able-ism @ the YMCA

First, I am going to state this loud and clear…the intent of this image is not to cause harm, I understand that this is supposed to be supportive and for folks who take things at face value and do not read into the subtext would not see this as disrespectful or harmful in anyway.  It is not “bad” people who do this, in fact it is the very opposite, very well intentioned people create these things in an attempt to show solidarity and compassion for folks who are disabled, in this particular case physically disabled.

Now, I have used a cane for going on 13 years, and I have been forced to live a life where the perception of infirmity by society writ large becomes my defining characteristic. Let us not even go into what happens when I self-advocate as someone with an autism spectrum disorder.  The problem is, these images reduce us to the perceived physical impairment as somehow needing more assistance, and certainly in a few situations accommodations are needed, but when they take front stage over a healthy sense of identity and self-determination, it reduces us to nothing more than the perception of our infirmities.

Why did this image upset me so much though? I see examples of able-ism all the time. The chosen caption is what makes this image so offensive to those of us with physical disabilities.  The word “Responsibility” as defined by Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/responsibility) includes two pertinent uses of the word, that of being morally obligated and that of being bound by duty.  So, in short something one is forced to do as a result of societal expectations versus assisting someone, ANYONE, simply because it is the right and moral thing to do.  Now, the intent in this case could simply be that the individual is responsible for assisting, heck even responsible for allowing self-determination, but one cannot infer these things from a simple one word example.  Denotative definition aside, we then have to look at the connotative meaning of the word, which sadly becomes synonymous with obligation and even being burdened by having to do so.  So in classic correlative over-thinking, one can then interpret this as a burden to assist the individual.  Not the intent I am quite certain, I believe this was done with the utmost compassion.  But it is still offensive none the less, it puts the focus on the disability and then puts the burden on those who are able bodied to take care of or assist the disabled individual in a paternalistic fashion.  If I was to apply basic research ethics to this image ala the Belmont Report (See it Here) this is an example of something that fails the harm/benefit analysis, because it unintentionally singles out a population and has the potential to cause harm, in this case, emotional and social. Yeah I know, all touchy feely, be a man a grow a pair right? Wrong, see it is the small details that reinforced stereotypes, that feed into the social model for disability, and continue to define individuals by what others perceive in object reality but is than subjectively categorized into a paternalistic worldview.

No one should be forced to feel responsible for someone’s physical challenges, and quite frankly I am offended when I hear parents shush their children to not point out my physical disability, it is there, it is obvious, and the children simply want answers.  Instead of telling them not to stare, which reinforces our difference and sets us apart as “other”, we should be able to inquire, show general interest and de-mystify the perceived disabilities in a healthy manner that lets us move on to other more important things, an able bodied person’s attempt to shield us from something we deal with everyday just seems asinine.  Quite frankly I don’t have the time or interest in having to constantly pander to ableist guilt, much like white guilt in race relations, we need to move past the guilt if we hope to have a healthy and meaningful conversation on the subject.

So in summation, images and captions, like anything written loses the intended context too easily because of how everyone subjectively processing the information, what seems beneficent to one is harmful to another, and ethically we need to move past this. In this case, I sincerely hope the YMCA not only removes and replaces this, but takes it not as me attacking them, but as a teachable moment on how we unintentionally cause harm.  Yelling, screaming, and attacking the people who are attempting to do “good” just alienates them, it is not able-splanning to point out the intentions are good, good people do harmful things, the ole quote “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” applies quite readily.  But I refuse to attack people who are attempting to be decent people, that just alienates and draws lines in the sand, and defensive people cannot communicate effectively.  But we should point out these things when we see them, we should do so with compassion and understanding though, we need to educate not alienate.

Training that Pattern thinking

So, I have been quiet lately, but I think I can begin to get back into the swing of things since my life seems to be resuming some semblance of normalcy .   One of the ideas bumping around in my noggin, but also alluded to in some earlier blogs, is training pattern thinking in terms of logical thinking.  Logical minds are very good at connecting the dots and seeing correlations, but the inferences made and conclusions generated are still only as good as the quality of the data that has been retained.   With extremely logical minds, we see patterns, connections, and correlations in so many different ways, and it can become extremely hard to separate out the useful and trivial data.  I have the beginnings of a solution, and before I forget for any credential freaks out there, I do have my M.ed. so I am not clueless on topics related to pedagogy, that said, training the logical thinker to be able to sort through this data becomes a powerful tool for empowering the individual and helping calm the chaos of a world filled with beautiful patterns.

When I see bad pattern thinking, I often see issues of ideology or unreasonable correlations as the biggest issues.  In the form of ideology, rigid thinking patterns in regards to one’s belief in how the universe works results in the loss of pertinent data in favor of data that already fits their existing world view.  Harold Garfinkle might say this is part of the social creation and re-creation of shared realities.  Through social consensus we often agree on a reality that is highly subjective, based on anecdotes and belief as much as valid observation of objective reality.  When this ideology is challenged, because it based on a rigid and flawed data set, the individual can become hostile, feel threatened, shut up and move on, but they will most often dance around the subject in some way. The internalized notion of reality that is under threat defends itself, best described I think as feeling one’s sanity is at risk, when one challenges a pillar of a person’s identity, and that pillar becomes undermined, it is the perfect recipe for an existential crisis, and I do not think everyone makes it through that experience, so in a very real way, it is a threat to them to challenge these firmly held beliefs.  Yet, children taught to train their logical thinking will be able to better construct a worldview, and though their personality may still hold onto that worldview rigidly, it will be more informed and inherently more flexible.  Likewise, in the case of unreasonable correlations, properly trained logical thinking will help them vet the soundness and validity of their logic, helping to prevent the uptake and retention of bad correlations.

As it stands now, I see four primary things that need to be taught to logical thinkers, and are beneficial to everyone as a whole. First, we need to teach very basic logical syllogism, a simple logical equation that helps determine if an idea is sound, valid, neither, or both.  Secondly, we need to teach Occam’s Razor, not necessarily in that term, but simply reinforce the notion that the most likely answer is it, and that it is the starting point for getting to the real answer, jumping straight to “my teacher must be an alien” is how you end up with the stereotype at least of the “crazy conspiracy theorist”, often tremendously great logical minds, that are simply not weighing the probability of their correlations well.  Thirdly, we need to teach the scientific method, especially in regards to reinforcing that correlation is not causation.  Finally, we need to teach reflexive triangulation, and that is helping it become habit to test correlations against at least three scenarios or thought experiments to quickly determine if ones logic is at least sound. With these cognitive tools developed, the extremely logical mind and pattern thinker is better able to quickly determine the value and use of correlations they see.  It foster’s a healthy sense of skepticism towards rote understanding, and will greatly strengthen critical thinking skills that could translate into a real asset later in life as well.  It may seem like a lot, but many of these concepts can be taught outside of lesson plans and embedded within everyday class behavior, below are a few ideas for use in the classroom to help teach these things, and this is targeted towards the elementary aged students, as this would be the appropriate time to help focus those synapses.

Teaching logical syllogism is fairly easy given the numerous everyday examples of wrong correlations that younger concrete learners very naturally make.  So when a student exhibits correlations based on uninformed logic and a mix of magical thinking, the educator can break that down using logical syllogism and show the student the process while also helping shape their line of inquiry and correct erroneous correlations.  Likewise, you can even break their answer down in a way that shows they were using underlying logic well, that it simply had the wrong data, and thus the child can have the positive aspects of how they arrived at the conclusion reinforced, while still correcting the errors.

Occam’s Razor is already taught to a limited degree, every time an educator challenges a child’s guess as to why something happened with a “do you think that likely?” or a “did you consider this?”, the child is learning to look for the most common patterns, be they social or based in object reality.  Yet, reinforcing this concept verbally would be beneficial, ask questions along the lines of “what do you think is the MOST likely answer?”, and use this tool to engage the students in thinking about probability as part of following a line of inquiry to get to the right answer.

In regards to the scientific method, for the most part it is taught reasonably well, but we tend to keep it compartmentalized instead of using it as a thought tool that can be applied to any line of inquiry.  A hypothesis can be generated and tested in social settings, while playing games, etc.  For example, almost any game can be manipulated to give unfair advantage to some of the players, an educator could engage the children in rules changes and see how it affects the games, it also helps to reinforce why we play with standardized rules and agree as a group to follow them, a not uncommon lesson many children have to learn.

Finally, the seemingly hardest is to teach the habituation of triangulation, that is when one sees a connection between two things, they then learn to take that correlation and apply it to at least two other scenarios or different perspectives, this helps teach the mind to look for validation in the form of seeing if the correlation holds up to other scenarios. It does not guarantee a correct answer, but it helps quickly eliminate bad correlations when it becomes apparent that in other situations the perceived correlation does not hold up or apply well.  Teaching this can be done via line of questioning and teachable moments, but can also be incorporated into early testing and activities, by have children learn to seek out and make three good connections to their central idea.

As integrated learning methods, most of these need little modification to an existing pedagogy, instead it becomes an additional tool and approach to help students better understand how to think, check their thinking, and a bit more about themselves.  Trained to reflex you have a powerful tool to teach intuitive types and non-intuitives alike.  For the intuitive thinkers, it helps ensure the data they choose to incorporate, and thus influences their intuition.  For the non-intuitive, it teaches a method by which to build up understanding and arguments, to step outside just the here and now, but to thing expansively or in the long term.  Though like many of ideas, this one it but a nascent one, I believe that coupled with an educational system that puts emphasis on understanding one’s own self-identity along with the academic work, we will empower our descendants to think critically and have a broader perspective.