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2nd-4th RDI E-Learnings: Dynamic vs. Static Thinking

June 11, 2008

Chapters 2, 3 & 4 of the training focused on “static” versus “dynamic” skills.

The abilities of people with autism spectrum disorders tends to be focused (sometimes resulting in unique and amazing gifts), while “neurotypical” people have a “broadband experience” of life. In an example which he acknowledged was grossly oversimplified, Dr. Gutstein said a person with ASD might look at a painting and see merely color, while the “NT” person might experience color, details, memories, feelings and many other things.

Static skills deal with things that are known, where there are clear rules and procedures. Dynamic skills rely on the ability to navigate situations in which there are not clear rules and procedures and adapt to rapid change. Dynamic thinking also involves dealing with multiple things at once and coping with imperfection and uncertainty. Both are necessary to success in life, but people with ASD tend to have underdeveloped dynamic skills.

Another way of looking at the difference between static and dynamic skills — static skills involve what you know and how you apply that knowledge in a static situation, such as a test. I.Q. and achievement test scores measure static skills. Dynamic skills rely on what you do with what you know in “real life,” in an ever changing world. Employers need people with well developed dynamic skills. Education in the U.S., in the NCLB, is becoming increasingly static. People “on the spectrum” need to develop pathways in the brain to increase dynamic abilities.

The brain is an “experience dependent organ,” People with ASD need to be given the opportunity to develop those skills that they lack — the dynamic skills.

Examples of Dynamic and Static Skills

I. Cognitive Skills

A. Static Skills

1. Associative Thinking (How is one thing like another?)

2. Things That Are “Black & White”

3. Details

4. Parts to Whole

5. Mastering Procedures

6. Rule Based Thinking

B. Dynamic Skills

1. Critical Analysis (What do all these details have in common? What is the most important point? Let’s cut to the chase. What’s central and what’s peripheral?)

2. “Good Enough” Thinking (I can’t do this perfectly, but what can I do with the time and resources I have?)

3. “Gray Area” Thinking (There may not be a “black and white” answer or a perfect solution)

4. Hypothetical Thinking (“What if?”)

5. Improvisational Thinking

6. Reflection (Using past experiences to guide you.)

7. Simultaneous processing (Doing multiple things at one time. I talked a bit about simultaneous processing of social cues in my last post.

A side note: As a home schooling mom, I am trying to get a handle on these cognitive skills. This morning, I wrote to my consultant that Marie does seem to have developed some dynamic skills, and I offered this as an example — she can pick up on the common theme among different ideas. (e.g. “This movie we saw has a dystopian theme kind of like in Lois Lowry’s The Giver or George Orwell’s books”) I was thinking of this as critical analysis. On second thought, it may be more associative thinking. I’m not sure I understand the difference between “associative thinking” and “parts to whole” (tagged as static skills) and critical analysis (a dynamic skill).

I have been thinking for quite a while about the fact that with a child with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities or ASD, it will be important to work on certain academic skills in a very conscious, purposeful way. I’ll be thinking a lot about this and soliciting suggestions from you all. đŸ™‚ A few things come to mind off the top of my head. Writing research papers or persuasive essays addresses critical analysis, as the student must synthesize many different facts, including some that appear unrelated and zoom in on a main idea. Looking at different interpretations of historical data, as JoVE discussed in some detail here, is an example of critical analysis (“How did they put all these facts together and draw this conclusion?”) and “Gray area” thinking (“There are several different ways of interpreting the facts, and there may not be a perfect answer.”)

II. Social and Communication Skills

A. Static Skills

1. The desire to communicate

2. Language skills

3. Asking Questions

4. Requesting and responding

5. Scripting (I have noticed that one popular approach to working with kids on the spectrum is using Social Stories. This is a technique developed by Carol Gray. These “stories” explicitly explain how to react and behave in certain situations.)

6. Social rules (We all know that the “rules” people on the spectrum have trouble with are the “unwritten rules” — the things nobody ever explains but everybody “knows”)

B. Dynamic Skills

1. Collaborating

2. Co-creating

3. Empathizing

4. Multi-channel communication (this was discussed a bit in the last post. “NT” people see words, tone of voice, facial expressions and other body language as being “of one piece” and process it seamlessly and intuitively)

5. Perspective Taking

6. Regulating and repairing (If a conversation doesn’t “click,” my dd gives up and walks away. If there is a disagreement, she tends to conclude that the other person “hates” her, and that’s the end of it.)

III. Self Knowledge

A. Static Skills

1. Self compliance

2. Self description

3. Self recognition

4. Needs

5. Desires

6. Preferences

B. Dynamic Skills

1. Emotional regulation (ah … the meltdowns!)

2. Goal setting

3. Planning, Preparing & Previewing

4. Self Efficacy and Resilience

5. Self Evaluation

6. Troubleshooting

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