Managing a Dynamic World Part II

The title art for the RDIconnect podcast "Autism: A New Perspective." The subtitle reads "The podcast show to understand what's going on in the mind of your child and encourage you that growth IS possible! Hosted by RDI Certified Consultant Kat Lee."
Autism: A New Perspective
Managing a Dynamic World Part II

Dynamic knowledge is simply knowing how to thrive in a world with partial predictability.

There are all these moments in our lives that are like middle grounds – they are “messy”. You can do the same chore every single day and then one day, something breaks, so it becomes different. And you have to figure out how to move forward with that and how to adapt to the new situation.

This is Dynamic Intelligence; how to thrive in a world with partial predictability and what makes it possible to get used to living in a world of uncertainty.

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Full Transcript

Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and in this week’s podcast, Dr. Gutstein has part two of managing a dynamic world. Let’s listen in.

Dr. Gutstein: And so what do we understand about people with autism, right? We understand that as long as they can manage a situation, this is what research shows us, as a static situation, even if it’s complicated. Complicated is different than complex. Complicated just means that there may be more procedures, longer sequence and maybe more conditional conditionality. So think about a flow chart where you go to this… You’ve completed this action, now it says in the flow chart, if it’s over 30 degrees, do this, if it’s under 30 degrees, do this, if it’s over 80… Whatever, if it’s Tuesday, do this. You get these conditions and then you choose… You look at the conditions and you choose the right answer. Still static isn’t it? That flow chart is not gonna change. Unless it’s wrong then it will change to be right and then it’ll stay the same, right? And so when things get more complex, they are more… There are more variables… Not variables, there are more elements, but those elements do not impact one another.

Dr. Gutstein: There’s conditionality, maybe more abstract, conceptual, but ultimately the goal is to find the right way to approach it, the right way to do it, and once you’ve got it you do it and you replicate it. You can see that’s what I mean by complicated. So we use those terms, complicated and complex in very different ways. Complicated is just making it more difficult to do the static. To manage a static task or situation. Complexity, is when it’s more difficult to understand, manage whatever a dynamic situation, okay? And by the way, that’s not always easy to understand because… Or to see because things that start out as static can become rapidly experienced as dynamic. Give you one example. I had millions in my life, I do the washing in my house. Believe or not I do the laundry in our family, and it’s… Hopefully, I would like to think of it as a static activity. I’ve made it a little more… It’s a little more complicated ’cause I’ve learned about bleach and colors and things like that, and stains and things. But it’s… I have a flow… You can do it with a flow chart, with how to do it. How much laundry to put in, blah, blah, blah.

Dr. Gutstein: That goes on, I just do it. And I think about other things. I put my headphones on while I’m doing it, listen to audio books, whatever. And then one time I go in there and I start the washing machine, within 30 seconds it just shuts down. It shuts down, so I go to the troubleshooting guide, [laughter] and it tells me to do a couple of things, I do them, it’s completely useless. And then I go online. I talk to someone who can’t speak English literally, and I can’t make any sense. They tell me to just turn off all the power in my house and turn it back on. So I do that [laughter] and it does nothing. And then they say, “Well, we don’t know what else to do, blah, blah, blah,” basically and I’m sitting there saying, “Oh I can’t do my laundry anymore, that’s great. What am I gonna do?” And eventually, I figured out that I had to plug my… It was something about the plug. I thought about it and I figured I had to… I just randomly tried plugging it into other plugs and it worked better. But then I found out that all the sound, all the noises it makes to tell me when it’s starting and stopping, and to alert me, those turned off and I just gave up. I just… I’m not gonna bother.

Dr. Gutstein: Anyway, that happens all the time, right? You’re doing some kind of simple thing. You’re filling out a form, you’re doing your dishes, whatever, and then suddenly it’s not working anymore, or suddenly things aren’t the way you expect it. And guess what, now you have to apply a whole different way of looking at the world, right? A whole different orientation. A whole different way of processing things. Alright. You’re dealing with things like sufficiency now. Is it good enough? Do I care if I have to plug it into another plug or not. Do I… What’s the difference? Should I repair the thing? Should I… It’s just so many things that come on. Should I live with it? Etcetera, etcetera., etcetera.

Dr. Gutstein: There’s all these things that are middle grounds, that are messy that now come into play. And you’re not just doing the laundry and then eventually you’re just doing the laundry again too. But, and then you got a new situation that will occur. Because the other thing is we encounter novel situations all the time. Things are a little bit different. You’re filing out a form and you get to a static way to fill out forms, and you get to this one form and it’s just not… It’s different. You can’t do it the same way, or you build… I was building little furniture things and I found the instruction manuals, each one is different. And I can’t really do it the same way, and I… There’s too much dynamic variability that gets into the world, into the real world. And if you wanna understand why adults with autism are basically unemployed, about 90% are under-employed, despite their education, why they are not living independently, and that’s one of the things that really puzzles people. These people with college degrees, some of them, and they have IQs above 100, whatever, and they’re not able… They have to live with their parents.

Dr. Gutstein: Now, I’m not talking about during the pandemic or because of things… They’re just not able to function on their own, and it’s not because of the static elements. They know how to pay bills. They know how to do… They can use a spreadsheet. They can… Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, do all those things. But things just become dynamic [laughter] without knowing, all the time, all the time, every day. And that’s where things break down for them because they don’t have that background, do they? When the variability starts to get in, and especially when there’s what we call emergence. And I haven’t talked about emergence yet, right? Which is that even in dynamic systems and this is really a key element, usually, the variations are within a range, but occasionally things happen, and usually their interaction of things when something has been building up, and there’s a change that is a variation outside of the expected range, just something that’s surprising and dramatic, it hit a tipping point.

Dr. Gutstein: Somebody’s getting… You reach a tipping point and suddenly there’s a dramatic change, and we hope it’s not a volatile change, and the concept they use… The term they use is called emergence, something emerges that you can’t necessarily predict. [laughter] So those are a surprise, they’re real surprises. You’ve been going around doing it the same way every time and suddenly it doesn’t work anymore and you don’t know why, or suddenly just… I know Bennett and Bennett talked about the stock market crash in 1929, people were going on and then suddenly it reached a point, there are a lot of hidden variables you’re not aware of, and then suddenly things crash, things fall apart. It could be positive as well as negative, by the way. It’s not always a negative thing. And so you have to learn to deal with emergence too, surprises, and recognize that… But you gotta start with variability first, and then at some point if they’re an infant, a young child, you introduce more sudden changes and you do introduce them first in an unexpected way and in a positive way before you do it in a negative way if possible, and they laugh and they think it’s hilarious.

Dr. Gutstein: And what we find is that even as early as 12 months, infants are interested in emerging changes, what we call incongruities, unexpected things that defy the laws that they’ve been working from, and they’re not frightened by them anymore, ’cause we don’t hopefully keep them from, we protect them from ones like that that would be loss and death and things like that, that would be frightening. And they’re curious about them, they’re curious about things that don’t make sense to them, that don’t fit what they’ve done before. Those types of mental challenges, they’ve become more interested and spend more time attending to those things, they don’t avoid them anymore. So like novelty, they get interested in emergence.

Dr. Gutstein: So the other thing about dynamic things is that they have that potential for emergence, and again, what we learn is that surprising things, A, can be fun, could be great, could be awful, but even when they’re unexpectedly negative, we can do something we call sense-making. We get very motivated to try to figure them out because we may not get the causes of it, but we can look at some of the variables, some of the factors that may have led up to that. So why is it that I got frustrated, frustrated, I held it in, held it in, it gets to a point I just start screaming at people? I better figure out what that’s about, if I’m gonna live in the world with other people. And you start looking at triggers, you start looking… You can’t figure out total causality, but you start looking at things you can do, and you start looking at how it feels when you’re approaching that threshold or that tipping point so that you can take actions before it’s too late.

Dr. Gutstein: So even though you can’t make it static, you can learn about the variability, you can learn that there is some kind of a trend which is a dynamic term, a trend, a movement or a movement towards something, and that if you can catch it at a certain point, you can actually influence it. Not perfectly, but you can most of the time. So that’s the issue of volatility. Of course, you learn… If you’re ever gonna live in a dynamic world, you have to live with partial predictability, and we’ve just talked about living in partial predictability. It’s not unpredictability, don’t use that term because unpredictability is chaos, randomness. In a dynamic world, you have partial predictability. You know that there’s gonna be continuity between situations, you can develop knowledge. See, without predictability, you can’t have any knowledge. If I can’t predict anything about what’s gonna happen, what am I gonna learn? How am I gonna learn from my experience at all, develop any knowledge about my world and myself in the world? So experientially, you get no knowledge, so what… The knowledge we’re interested in is what are continuities we can expect, and what do we expect about the variability and how we’re gonna manage it, how we’re gonna engage with it?

Dr. Gutstein: So dynamic knowledge is what’s telling us about that, it’s telling us about how to thrive in a world with partial predictability. But it also means we get used to living in a world of uncertainty, we don’t see that as bad. We desire in fact, sometimes to increase it. We don’t like the solutions we have or the decisional options we have, we look for all other perspectives, we look for other ways of approaching something. We also know that things are going to be varying as we engage with them, so we work on a goal, we might make a plan, but we know that that plan is the first draft, that there’s gonna be variability that we can’t predict and potentially emerging things that happen, and so we know it’s just a first… It’s a first draft, it’s just a frame. The goal is a frame that we’re gonna be modifying and adapting and filling in as we go along, as we engage. We know that information, not important information about what we’re doing emerges out of the process. So we never get to say, “Okay, this is exactly the plan we’re gonna follow exactly.” No, not in a dynamic world. Okay?

Dr. Gutstein: Alright, so let me move out of that for a second, let me close this off for a second, and let me open this up then, we have a few minutes. I hope this has been helpful. Open this up to any questions or thoughts you have about this. By the way, if you think about it and if you wanna wait in the next webinar, I can talk to you about how we introduce that. The essence of RDI is that we’re introducing simple, dynamic functioning to children with autism. Remember children, what we see from the research, and I think the research… Let me say one thing, the research really supports this, is that in the first year when you look at infants, future ASD infants, infants who go on to be diagnosed, what you’re seeing is that they are having… They’re very passive in social engagement, they’re not initiating engagement, and then of course, you see they don’t initiate joint attention, which is a way of obtaining meaning from the world, from other people.

Dr. Gutstein: And so what we figure out is that something that happens neurologically and possibly genetically, is that for various different genetic combinations, these are infants who are born with more difficulty recognizing continuity amidst dynamic variability. And guess what, where does most of the dynamic variability in an infant’s world come from? Actually, all of it comes from people, other people, not objects but people. And so infants are in a real bind because they get attached, we know that most kids with autism get attached. They feel that emotional attachment, they feel the need for parents instrumentally, obviously, to supply safety and security and food and all that stuff so there’s this positive approach, but what they see is that those people who are trying to guide them and interact with them are creating what they feel is chaos in their lives.

Dr. Gutstein: So they’re in a bind or they… You can see the conflict acting out in so many different ways with young children with autism. And so the attraction towards people, and then the sense that these people won’t stop being variable. [laughter] They can’t help it with their faces, their voices, their actions, maybe I can… And some kids say, “Maybe I can control them.” So they always do the same thing, the same time, [laughter] some parents wind up doing that. And maybe I just avoid them, maybe I’ll… But it’s a real problem, it’s a real conflict. You see a lot of engagement and avoidance, engagement avoidance. And the problem is with parents, parents’ role is to increase that, is to establish, to teach them about the world, right? 

Kat Lee: Thanks for joining us for ASD: A New Perspective, a podcast show where we help you understand the mind of your child, and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.


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