The reason that autism has become so associated with social interactions is that interpersonal engagements, or simple conversations, are complex dynamic events and the difficulties that people with autism have in employing dynamic intelligence are most apparent in those types of situations. The biggest problem is that the intervention programs that continue to be promoted are ones that promote static intelligence; the thing that they’re already able to do! But in order to successfully treat autism you can’t make an intervention all about learning the facts, it’s about learning the processes that make up dynamic intelligence.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective, a podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in today’s podcast, Dr. Gutstein discusses with us the importance of dynamic intelligence in a child’s life all the way through adulthood. Let’s listen.
Dr. Gutstein: Our premise, of course, is that traditional static intelligence is necessary, but it’s not sufficient to function in our modern world, which is complex and dynamic in nature. And that static intelligence is really good for situations or for the parts of those situations that are very predictable, linear, sequential, and such, that can be solved with analysis and not with intuition or intuitive thinking, but not sufficient and not going to be helpful.
Dr. Gutstein: And I think the reason that autism has become so associated with social interactions, or interpersonal engagement is a better way of saying it, is that interpersonal engagements, simple conversations, are, by nature, complex dynamic events. And so, therefore, the difficulties that people with autism have in employing dynamic intelligence, in this case, that would be what we call online dynamic intelligence, are most apparent in those types of situations.
Dr. Gutstein: But as we know from research, that they become apparent when we look at certain other situations as well, as we move away from controlled environments, if you will. This other form of intelligence is based on learning how to manage your personal experience and your shared experience, so that you can use those experiences to benefit you when you’re involved in complex, dynamic environments.
Dr. Gutstein: You can use them to reflect, to make sense of things that happen, create meaning, to anticipate, plan, and to prepare and to adapt and improvise as you’re functioning in current, what we call online, environments, where you don’t have the time or attention available to reflect or plan or prepare. You have to adapt, you have to improvise a lot of your actions.
Dr. Gutstein: So, dynamic intelligence involves learning how to manage your personal and your shared experiences. To learn from them, to retrieve them, to store them effectively, to capture them and store them. We talk about experience, we have to talk about present, our current experience of now, as it moves along. We talk about our past and our ability to function in the past and to step away from the present when we start moving offline.
Dr. Gutstein: And to reflect on the future, and re-experience it, and wonder about it, and try to make sense of it. And then to move into the future, where we can use our past experience to try to extrapolate or simulate what we believe we’re going to be encountering in future situations. We can make future plans, prepare ourselves, set goals for the future.
Dr. Gutstein: Think of ourselves as moving into the future, as well, to motivate ourselves and to sort of intrinsically drive ourselves towards what we want to be in the future, morally, and instrumentally, and every other way. And then we talk about alternate experiences, where they’re not, say, present, past, future, but they’re our ability to imagine, and create different realities, and to imagine different things that might happen or might never happen. Right? And to use that imagination to create alternative ways that things might look.
Dr. Gutstein: Go back to a past that didn’t work out, for instance, and wonder, “Well, what if I had functioned differently? What if I had done X instead of Y?” Just sort of simulate that, and create a movie in your head, and consider alternate routes, and things that you might want to do differently in the future.
Dr. Gutstein: Those are all different ways that we, as human beings, uniquely, are able to have experiences, and hopefully, to manage them. And of course, we have shared experiences. We have the ability to co-create our experiences with others, to have shared moments, and shared memories with others, and construct shared futures, plans and dreams with other people.
Dr. Gutstein: And, of course, any meaningful relationship is going to be based on that. So, there are many facets to human experience, and it’s a unique quality that other species don’t have. It really is what makes us unique, the ability to use what we call our experience management, develop an experience management system and make it more and more sophisticated.
Dr. Gutstein: Neurally, on a neural level, we see that there is, in development, there is an increase in organization neurally to support our unique ability for experience that is different than our ability to use, or sort of analysis, or to use sequential thinking, or to associate a certain solution with a certain task. That’s important as well. That’s sort of what I call the task management network. It’s very, very important, and it functions around certain tasks.
Dr. Gutstein: But all of our imaginative ability, our creative ability, our flexibility, our mental agility, our ability to project into the future, our ability to capture important experiences in the past, our ability to understand ourselves, our relationships, all of that is a product of our experience management network. And neuroscientists are very clear about that, right?
Dr. Gutstein: So what we do is, human beings develop, if they’re functioning, if they’re developing optimally, they develop the ability to, or the neural organization and flexibility, which is called dynamic functional connectivity, that supports that type of agile, flexible experience management. The ability to move between past and present, and present and future, and be online, right now, we have to adapt and improvise, and then be able to go offline, take a step back, reflect, anticipate, imagine, create, and go between all those things.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s what dynamic intelligence is about, right? It’s about developing the mental resources, which are the mental tools, the mental skills, knowledge, the habits, the mindset, motivation, intrinsic motivation, to be able to develop and employ, apply, that experience management system, experience management network, which is essential in managing, in succeeding in the modern world.
Dr. Gutstein: Whether it has been in the past or not is an interesting debate, and probably less so when daily life was more static, and you could work on an assembly line and routines were more important, not that they’re not now, but they’re not enough, and again, that’s what I’m talking about, necessary but not sufficient. Because we have to answer the questions, why do people have IQs over 100, good language, and can do well in certain academic settings. Why do they have such terrible outcomes? Why can’t they function? Right?
Dr. Gutstein: And of course, the answer is because it’s necessary but not sufficient. And in the world, we continue to … The intervention programs that continue to be promoted are ones that promote their static intelligence, even more so. The thing that they’re already able to do, right? And so, right, so again, dynamic intelligence is composed of mental resources that are needed to aid us in managing our personal and shared experience in the world.
Dr. Gutstein: Right, so it’s not about learning facts, it’s not about learning content, right? It’s about learning information. It’s about learning these processes. It’s learning how to, how and when, right, to be able to reexperience, to reflect on that experience. It’s how to capture how, as we’re moving through the day, to notice that there’s something worth saving for the future, some experience, some event, some happening in our lives.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s the ability to track our online, it’s to track our feelings. Our emotions, right, as important information. Our bodily states, as important information, to tell us whether something is significant, or whether we need to adapt, or whether it’s time to take a break, whether we’re involved in something that’s important for us or anticipating something that might be happening. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: It involves all those things. It’s involved in just the concept of being intuitive. Most of your day, you’re not sitting and analyzing things. You’re making judgements, right, is this enough? Have I hung that painting straight enough? Have I done enough work to satisfy this person, or to prepare for an exam? Is this an equivalent to something else?
Dr. Gutstein: We’re making these judgements, we’re making these based on what we call intuition. Right? But intuition is based on experience. It’s not based on analysis. It’s based on experience, and then understanding the context that you’re in. It’s based on that integration of both. Because what you have to do is you have to say, “Here’s the context that I’m in now, what experience fits that, and what’s unique about this context that I’m in, the environment that I’m in so that I can’t count too much on that?”
Dr. Gutstein: And we do that instantly, we make those judgements just like that. And we’re used to that, we call that being intuitive, and we know that without that intuitive ability, we’re at sea. We’re lost, we can’t function. That’s especially apparent when we’re in an interpersonal engagement, where things are moving along back and forth, and we can’t operate through analysis, we can’t say, “Well, gee, what was that person really trying to say to us right now, and what should I say, what’s my thinking, what?” You can’t operate that way. You have to operate not only intuitively but in a very rapid, intuitive way.
Dr. Gutstein: Sometimes we can be intuitive in a slower way, making judgements about things. But I think it becomes clear when you’re in a sort of online situation like that. So, dynamic intelligence involves both that online, offline, internal experience, our ability to sample on an ongoing basis what’s going on within us, our mental state, and be able to adapt that, our feelings, our body states, what we call our intuitive experience.
Dr. Gutstein: And to employ that in our daily lives, both for application, for instrumental application, to solve problems, make decisions, manage challenging situations, and for ongoing growth and development, and for managing relationships, improving relationships, for understanding ourselves more, to gain more influence in our world. That’s what we need.
Dr. Gutstein: To me, it’s very clear, whether we look at the research, or we look at your own experience, living with people with autism, living with them, that that really answered the question of why IQ is not enough, of why the prognosis is so poor for people who are quote unquote, “High functioning.” Once you think about dynamic intelligence, it’s no longer an enigma. It’s no longer a puzzle about why.
Dr. Gutstein: What’s puzzling, of course, is why this … No intervention efforts that are oriented towards improving that situation, and, as I’ve said many times here before, the problem, I think, is because, implicitly, both experts and laypeople have come to believe that it can’t be improved. That there’s no way, that they’re sort of born that way, and that’s the way they are, and so we have to accept that.
Dr. Gutstein: And of course, what we know about the brain these days, and neuroplasticity, and our ability to remediate and rehabilitate neurally, doesn’t fit that at all. And in fact, when you think about the experience management network, and you think about the ability for high level integration, and flexibility that’s needed to function in a way that we refer to as dynamic intelligence, we know that’s probably one of the latest areas of development, it’s one of the last areas of development, and also one of the areas of the brain, or aspects of our brain, that’s probably most amenable to change and influence and plasticity.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s not like we’re dealing with people who don’t have those organs in the brain, or don’t have those areas of the brain. It’s the ability to use them and to develop them in an integrative, flexible manner that seems to be the problem. So, the prospects for remediation, rehabilitation, whichever word you want to use, and I don’t use rehabilitation because it’s usually … I’ve learned it ought to be like you have had an accident, and then you rehabilitate.
Dr. Gutstein: You once had it, and then you’re trying to get it back, whereas we don’t believe that people with autism had it and lost it and are trying to get it back. So I use the word remediation, even though you don’t see it very much. And those words get used poorly in all over literature.
Dr. Gutstein: But the prospects for remediation should be very high, given what we know about the brain. But what we also know is that, if we’re going to be learning to develop our experience management system, we’re not going to do it through instruction, we’re not going to do it through 40 hours of prompting and developing content. We’re not going to do it through traditional educational methods, right?
Dr. Gutstein: We have to learn, through experience, how to manage experience. It seems self-evident, right? And also, we have to learn through gradually increasing the degree of challenge that your brain, your mind is experiencing, helping you engage with things that are just one step ahead of your current ability, and continuing to move developmentally in that direction.
Dr. Gutstein: Dynamic intelligence is the ability to benefit from the unique human ability for personal and shared experience, and to manage that. Not just to have experiences, but to learn to manage those different forms of experience that we have in a way that is most effective, right, and productive, in your life. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: That’s dynamic intelligence. It’s the resources, it’s skills, and knowledge, and habits, and motivations, that support that experience management system, and, of course, developing in neurology, which goes hand in hand with it, that also supports dynamic intelligence, too. So developing the integrated functioning of the default network, the salience network, and executive control network, and the dynamic functional connectivity of different aspects of those networks to be able to form different brain states at different times so that you can be maximally efficient and effective, depending on the situation you’re dealing with.
Dr. Gutstein: So that’s using your brain in the most flexible way possible. You’ll develop a variety of different brain states that are associated with situations, and the ability to flexibly move between brain states so that you can apply your brain most effectively depending on the situation that you’re in. That’s another way of thinking about dynamic intelligence. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: And it’s a lifelong process. And the other thing about it is, it’s not like when we talk about IQ, people think of it as fixed, or maybe it’s changed five or six points of it, or whatever. But dynamic intelligence, we assume everybody can continue growing throughout life. It’s not something that you’re just born with, nobody’s born with it. It has to be developed. It has to be formed. You have to learn through your guides, right, what we call mind guides, how to use your mind, how to use your experience, how to organize it, how to save it, how to move between the past and the future and the present.
Dr. Gutstein: Those are all things that have to be learned over years and years and years. And of course, the unfortunate thing for people with autism is that they, through no fault of their own, right, they and their parents are not able to form what I call a MindGuiding relationship, which is the format by which, typically, developing children learn to manage their experience.
Kat Lee: Thanks Dr. Gutstein, and thank you for joining us for 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, see you next time.