Thursday, May 12, 2022

Autism and Context blindness

Here are my notes from one of the sessions at the Converge Autism Summit. This presentation was: Autism and the predictive mind Context blindness 2.0 by Peter Vermeulen (founder of “Autism in Context,” where autism is understood in context).

Autism friendliness:
  • An autism-friendly approach starts from an understanding of autism from within!
  • Knowledge of “autistic thinking” is the key to success in education and treatment!
  • Copernican revelation in brain science
Default idea about the brain:
  • Input > processing > Output
  • Perception > cognition (thinking and memory) > Output (motor system)
What’s wrong with our current ideas about the brain?:
  • Information processing is not linear
  • Sense making is not just integrating all the details of the sensory input
  • There isn’t enough time to calculate and make that puzzle!
  • Processing all the sensory input (computing) is not very helpful for survival!
So, the brain does not compute, It guesses,
And it can make smart guesses because it uses context,
This is known as: the predictive mind

So, it does NOT work like this: Stimulus > processing >meaning

It works like this: Stimulus > checking prediction > prediction

The brain does not process stimuli, only what is different from the stimuli it predicted.

Living in a relative world:
  • Nothing has an absolute meaning! Everything depends on context.
  • Therefore, our brain became an expert in using context for making quick and smart guesses
HIPPEA: High, Inflexible Precision of Prediction Errors in Autism

Autism may be related to problems with making predictions sensitive to the wider context.

Autism and the predictive mind: context:
  • In ASD, the dysfunction of prediction based on context may impair the ability to adapt quickly to an ever-changing socio‐emotional world.
  • Autism may be related to problems with making predictions sensitive to the wider context.”
  • Comparably, reduced global processing in autism may reflect a reduced role for top‐down predictions in integrating sensory features into a more broadly coherent or context‐sensitive percept.
Autism as context blindness 2.0:
Reduced ability to use the context unconsciously and spontaneously to generate predictions about the world and process prediction errors.

Context and emotion recognition:
  • Relation facial expression – emotion is not fixed.
  • We never see facial expressions out of context.
  • Context is more important than the face!
  • But people with autism rely on the face, not the context
So, we thought emotion recognition went like this: Reading emotions FROM faces

But it actually goes like this: Reading emotions INTO faces

So we should teach people with autism to PREDICT emotions, using context, not faces:
  • Link emotions to context.
  • Action perception is not simply a reflection of what happens, but a projection of what will happen next.
Contextual variations are often seen as central or as fixed rules: e.g. having a dessert when going to a restaurant

Context and social competence:
  • The biggest problem in ASD is not social skills (knowing what and how to do)
  • The biggest problem in ASD is knowing where and when to do it and where and when not
Social competence requires contextual sensitivity

Understanding language and communication:
old model - Input (meaning, coding, symbols) > processing (decoding) > output (meaning)

Understanding language and communication:
new model - stimulus < > prediction error < > prediction

Context and predicting language and communication:
  • The brain makes quick guesses about what someone is going to say or show, based on context
  • Understanding language = predicting language

Context and communication:
  • Nothing has an absolute meaning, remember?
  • So, whatever we use to communicate such as words, gestures, pictures, or objects, their meaning is never fixed, but depending on the context
  • Does not only help us to predict and recognize communication.
  • It also helps us to avoid all the confusion of the ever-changing meanings of what people say or show us.
Context and communication:
What is difficult for people with ASD, is to find out what something (a word, a sentence, a gesture, a picture, etc.) means in this context.

Old Strategies for hyperreactivity:
  • Taking away stimulus
  • Reducing stimulus
  • Controlling stimulus
  • Stress coping
Instead, Tackle the prediction errors:
  • Changing prediction
  • Giving control
  • Changing stimulus
  • Stress Coping
We need to ‘feed’ the brain so it can update its models and reduce the prediction errors
(prediction errors = stress / unpleasant)

Pushing the context button clarifies the world and makes it predictable, certain, uncomplicated, unambiguous, and a safe place to be.

Contextualizing the concept of free time:
  • How much time do I have?
  • Do I want to do it with someone?
  • Where can I do the activity?
Pushing the context button helps to ‘predict’ an uncertain world with all its ever-changing meanings.

Contextualized teaching;
  • Do not use decontextualized materials
  • Do not teach ‘skills’ but start from contexts 
  • Link behaviors always to contexts
Teaching: traditional approach - generic skills

Contextualized teaching: Does not start from skills but from contexts

Contextualized teaching -  Teaching and clarifying context:
  • What can happen in that context?
  • What can you do in that context?
  • What can you say in that context?
  • Contextualized scripts

No comments: