Friday, March 9, 2007

Altercentric Perception by Infants and Adults in Dialogue Summary

Journal 16: Summary 8:

A symptom I have previously discussed pertaining to autism has been a diminished or complete lack of language skills. In an earlier post I have also discussed a possible debunking of this symptom with the Facilitated Communication method. I will now explain further the mechanisms of speech and dialogue to explain why Facilitated Communication may not work in many individuals with autism and similar disorders. By this explanation Facilitated Communication should be dispelled and if not for the fact that it is a reality in many lives I would find it difficult to believe. There is no explanation for why Facilitated Communication works in some but an explanation of why it does not work in others may be revealed in the following summary.

Think of how we speak to one another. Think about what is said of couples who complete one another sentences. If I said to you “I am going to the ….”. In anticipation of the end of my sentence you may be mentally filling in the blank; the movies, the park, the bathroom. The same way a mother sitting in the park with her child knows before her child ever finishes the sentence “ Mommy I need to…” ‘go to the bathroom’ her mind automatically fills in as she gets up to escort him to the bathroom. This demonstrates Stein Braten’s theory of Ego’s virtual participation in Alter’s complementary act. The Ego is the person doing the act (the speaker in this first case) and the Alter is the person receiving the act (the listener in this first case). By virtual participation he explains that while the Ego is speaking the Alter is actively participating in listening and is anticipating the meaning of the Egos words, while the Ego is, in turn, listening to himself speak and anticipating the response of the Alter. Vice versa, after the Ego has spoken the opposite happens; the Alter speaks after having anticipated and contemplated the words of the Ego, and the Ego now virtually participates, recalls his own act of speech and mentally speaks (in anticipation of the Alter’s speech) to himself, therefore reinforcing his own learning of language. To demonstrate this recall that responses in conversation are almost instantaneous. A question is asked and as we listen; we anticipate the question and contemplate our responses while the Ego is still speaking. (This demonstrates Baron-Cohen’s theory of mindreading discussed earlier in my research.)

The semantics of language are however difficult to define and explain so to further explain his theory Braten describes an example of a behavioral manifestation of this theory in an infants feeding time. He calls this part of his study early infant imitation and learning by altercentric participation. Essentially, he demonstrates an 11 1/2 month old child being spoon fed by her mother. The child opens her mouth as the food approaches and swallows the food after the mother places it into her mouth. After some time, and this has been demonstrated as a milestone for learning, the infant takes the spoon from the mother and proceeds to feed the mother. When the child puts the food into the mother’s mouth the child closes her own mouth, as she did when she was eating the food, and swallows. This shows the infant has learned to reenact by first being a participant and then being a virtual participant through the being in the caregiver stance. As Braten explains the infant is “a virtual co-author of their enactments.” The child is now left with a reinforced memory of having been fed and having fed and has learned the action through encoding in the brain by the mirror system.

As I have already discussed a disturbance in the mirror system disables the ability of one to code acts correctly in the brain and learn in the way expressed here by the infant. Braten briefly explains the complications of a faulty mirror system in autistic individuals. He explains that an inability to “transcend own body-centred view points” due to a malfunctioning mirror system makes it nearly impossible to imitate face-to-face situations and therefore it becomes infinitely complicated to teach face-to-face interaction and language to those suffering from mirror neuron dysfunctions like in many autistic people. As for cases of autism where Facilitated Communication has become an answer to this impossibility, it still remains to be researched how these individuals are different and why it works.


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Shelly said...

This post really caught my attention. I am glad you picked a topic that is really interesting to me. It makes it easier for me because I enjoy reading your posts. I can tell you enjoy writing them too! You have exceeded the assigned posts. So congratulations, you are ahead! I would remind you that the teacher suggested to the class to split these up, but I'm sure you don't have to. I'm sure she will recognize the amount of work you have done and also see that you enjoy doing this.