Autistic Thinking in Layers ~ Part One: Creating Pictures in Layers With Two Take and Make Visual Examples

This is the first part of a blog series with this outline

Part One: Creating Pictures in Layers With Two Take and Make Visual Examples 
Part Two: Changing or Replacing a Layered Picture With One Take and Make Visual
                     Example
Part Three: Conclusion and Summary Template

During childhood I was institutionalized. One day, some girls in the dayroom were busy writing a story. As they talked, their words went up on the movie screen I could see in my mind. Their words produced a picture for me. This is one way my visual thinking works. Then, all of a sudden, the girls changed part of their story. One girl tipped her pencil upside down, erased a few lines, and wrote in a new version.

Typically, this would mean I’d have to destroy the picture on the screen in my head if I wanted to continue to listen to the conversation. I had not yet developed a way to erase parts of my pictures. But that day I realized if my pictures were created in layers, rather than on one page, I would be able to keep up when the story changed. I would be able to trade in an old layer for a new one! It would be my way of erasing and changing something. And, the changing picture would still fit on that one screen I could see in my mind.

It took a lot of practice, but as I continued to work with the idea of creating pictures in layers I found that I became a little more flexible. I hoped that with practice I would one day be just as quick as anyone else in keeping up, i.e. understanding changing content of conversations in the world all around me. I was not disappointed!

My work paid off and over time I have perfected this strategy. I am many years older now and continue to work with these ideas. Over the years I’ve trained myself to create pictures in layers. Learning this skill became my foundation for beginning to live successfully in the world of words. Once I was a teenager who lived in a mental institution. Today, I function quite well in the world both in my personal life and in my professional life having accomplished many things.

I have since perfected this strategy and have used it with many visually thinking students to help with reading comprehension. Additionally, it has had application in the clinical setting in easing frustrations that come when clients perceive “everything changed” when in reality only one element of a big picture changed. Additionally, this layered thinking is helpful clinically in terms of supporting clients in changing patterns of thinking that are not working well for them.

To illustrate how thinking in layers works I will use the following two stories. 

Story One: 
Going to the Beach

   1. The sun is shining.

   2. The sky is blue.

   3. This afternoon we’ll go to the beach

   4. and go swimming.

Directions for Making a Visual Using Story One: Going to the Beach
Materials: 4 clear overhead projector sheets, and a permanent marker pens in yellow, blue, brown and black

  1.  Using the yellow pen, draw on the first overhead projector sheet the shining sun.
  2. Placing a new clear sheet over the sun, draw the blue sky on this second overhead projector sheet as it fits with the sun.
  3. Placing another new clear sheet on top of the existing two layers and the brown pen, draw the beach as it fits with the sun and sky.
  4. Placing the last clear sheet on top of the existing three layers, draw children swimming as it fits with the other three layers.

Here are the picture elements, each recorded separately – each element drawn on its own overhead projector sheet. (Note: In the book Autistitically Thriving, there are templates in the back of the book you may use by simply covering with a clear overhead and tracing the picture onto the overhead.)

Each layer was made separately as shown in above photo, but as they were drawn clear sheets were stacked up one on top of the other to create the whole picture. Stacked together, the final layered picture looks like this: 

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Story Two: 
Playing Indoors

   1. This afternoon we will play indoors.

   2. We will each play in our own space.

   3. I will play with Legos.

   4. My brothers will play with something else.

Directions for Making a Visual Using Story Two: Playing Indoors
Using 4 overhead projector sheets, permanent markers, and working as in Story One,
create Story Two to get this end result:

Each layer was made separately as shown in above photo, but as they were drawn clear sheets were stacked up one on top of the other to create the whole picture. Stacked together, the final layered picture looks like this:    

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If you are a clinician and interested in learning more about therapy with the autistic client please join me along with two of my colleagues in an online course.
CLICK HERE for additional information about  Mental Health Therapy with the Autistic Client. 

Note: The author is a mental health therapist and is also autistic. She iintentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

This blog series is based on Chapter 9 from Autistically Thriving:Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, pg. 126-133.

BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2021). Executive Function Assessment. McFarland, WI: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic AdultShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009b).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009a).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum DisordersShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

A Snapshot of Autistic Neurology ~ Part 5: Conclusion

This is the fifth part of a five-part blog series with this outline

Part One: Personal Background Information (Release Date: 3-16-22)
Part Two: Information Storage – Bridge Pieces (Release Date: 3-30-22)
Part Three: Information Processing – The Gaps (Release Date: 4-13-22)
Part Four: Information Retrieval – Canoe Transportation (Release Date: 4-27-22)
Part Five: Conclusion (Release Date: 5-11-22)

Just like I have done in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this blog series, many autistics when given the chance can speak to their own inner workings. Some are able to draw maps or pictures depicting how it looks to them internally when they

      • take in information,
      • process information,
      • store information and
      • retrieve information.

Others are able to speak, write, draw or use technology to show aspects of their own system. There are many common themes amongst autistics, but each system is idiosyncratically different from the system of others.

I have worked with autistics for some years now, pulling out this information and working with them developing and using neurologically matched solutions to dilemmas in their lives.

Regardless of the topic or the problem, the success of a solution requires me to discover some aspect of how my clients or students brains handle information. I have found this to be the key that unlocks my discovery of how comprehension of written and spoken words might better work for them. Sharing this information with others is the reason for the writing the book Autistically Thriving (Endow, 2013).

Selection from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, pg. 112-113.

The first photo is an afghan I crocheted to match the acrylic I painted some years earlier.

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Note: The author is a mental health therapist and is also autistic. She intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2021). Executive Function Assessment. McFarland, WI: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic AdultShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009b).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009a).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum DisordersShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

A Snapshot of Autistic Neurology ~ Part 4: Information Retrieval – Canoe Transportation

This is the fourth part of a five-part blog series with this outline

Part One: Personal Background Information (Release Date: 3-16-22)
Part Two: Information Storage – Bridge Pieces (Release Date: 3-30-22)
Part Three: Information Processing – The Gaps (Release Date: 4-13-22)
Part Four: Information Retrieval – Canoe Transportation (Release Date: 4-27-22)
Part Five: Conclusion (Release Date: 5-11-22)

Hard stone islands of information solidified
with little bridge pieces jutting off their sides
suspended inside
the gray-matter space
of her mind.

Islands of information each unto themselves
not able to share their information
one island with another
because the little bridge pieces

jutting off their sides
never did grow to form any bridges
as they were originally meant to.

When she needed info from more than one island
it became very difficult to gather
with no bridges to span the gaps
in that gray-matter space
between her bazillion
inside-her-mind stone islands.

Slowly, over time she constructed a boat
so that she might float about
in that gray-matter space of her mind
to gather up info,
stone island by island.

The boat took ever so long to construct
because there were no raw materials,
nothing to use to build a boat with
in that inside-her-mind space filled up with stone islands.

She started to watch outside of her skin
to see what she could find to build a stone island boat with.
It was tricky because she couldn’t use any boards or nails
that were outside of skin in the world
to drag into that gray-matter space
of her inside-her-mind world of stone islands.

And yet, she needed materials she could use to build a boat
that she could then climb inside of and float in
from island to island
gathering bits and pieces of world-info needed
when she needed to assimilate all of the relevant data
pertinent to some current, given, relative now,
in-front-of-her-face everyday commonplace
world conversation.

Over time she discovered that if she could live in
an outside her skin world of specific order, not left to chance,
it gave her a chance
to be able to travel
between her stone islands.

What worked best was to stick to a schedule –
the same schedule ever day –
so she always would know ahead of time
just exactly what to expect.

And the more she could keep things the same
in the world outside of her skin,
the better the chance that her boat would float
rather than sinking down
in the gray-matter space
of the inside-her-mind place
of that stone island world inside her.

Her boat began to look like a canoe with two sides
and a seat in the middle.

One side of her canoe
was her daily schedule
that she tried to keep the same each day
as much as she was humanly able.

The other side of her canoe was constructed
as a result her scavenger hunting
in places outside of her skin
where world-people walk and talk
and seem comfortable living in.

She made a habit of listening in on the world-people space
that was all over the place
just over the line on the other side
of the outside side of her skin.

She became a scavenger on the lookout for bits and clues
that might show her just what to expect
ahead of time – before it would actually happen –
in that world-people world right outside her.

The more bits and clues that she could pick up and use,
the stronger that side of her boat became
until it matched in the strength with the other side
that was built with her daily schedule.

Then she found that for her to sit down in this boat of two sides
she needed a seat upon which to sit
because if she stood up the boat would flip
dumping her out into the gaps of gray-matter space
making her flail about desperately
going nowhere except sinking down
drowning inside of herself.

One day she discovered quite by accident that in her boat she sat
On a seat that had constructed itself out of her matching habits.

It very much surprised her
when she looked at the boat
and saw her morning activities
spread between boat sides,
building the boat seat in the middle
right before her very own eyes!

She had:
matched the socks in her sock drawer
and folded all her pants the same.

Her clean sheets and pillowcase were a set,
and the colors of her clothes matched each other.

In the cafeteria she noticed all the plates were the same
and the silverware matched together.

All the cups were green.
All the trays were brown
and all the kids sat down
at exactly
the same kind
of little square tables.

After studying the boat seat she was able to discover
just how it had been made.

When everything matched and looked the same
in the outside-her-skin world-people world
she could sit back and relax
in a comfortable way
on the inside side of her skin.

Sitting like this in her boat she could float
in gray-matter space between islands,
finding islands containing that info she needed
right in each moment of time…
her previously stored, cast in stone,
forever preserved, encapsulated
world-people information

of what-to-do-when
and
how-to-act-if
and
when-to-say-what,

Because of this two-sided boat
with its seat in the middle
stone island info
was now retrievable.

Selection from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, pgs. 109-112.

The first photo shows an afghan I crocheted to match an acrylic I painted some years earlier.

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Note: The author is a mental health therapist and is also autistic. She intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2021). Executive Function Assessment. McFarland, WI: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic AdultShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009b).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009a).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum DisordersShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

A Snapshot of Autistic Neurology ~ Part 3: Information Processing – The Gaps

This is the third part of a five-part blog series with this outline

Part One: Personal Background Information (Release Date: 3-16-22)
Part Two: Information Storage – Bridge Pieces (Release Date: 3-30-22)
Part Three: Information Processing – The Gaps (Release Date: 4-13-22)
Part Four: Information Retrieval – Canoe Transportation (Release Date: 4-27-22)
Part Five: Conclusion (Release Date: 5-11-22)

The Gaps: Information Processing

When the gaps are what she’s getting
after searching through her stone islands of information
she experiences a huge frustration,

but tries hard not to let anyone know it
by trying to insure that her behaviors won’t show it
so nobody will know that she’s coming up empty,
not able to supply whatever it is they are after,
whatever it is they want her to know
(and she probably does, but can’t tell what it is just then).

Most of the time she wants to join in
to take her place (or any place!) in the world,
but she’s “drawing a blank,”
as that expression goes,
because the gaps are so empty.
She doesn’t want empty. She’d rather be friendly.
She tries to join in. She may laugh or smile,
but in a short while
all the world-people are mad again.

And that is how it is most of the time
when she tries to take part and act like they want her to act.
She can for awhile, but then “draws a blank”
when the gaps come up
where there should be bridges.

Selection from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, pg. 109.

The first photo is an afghan I crocheted to match an acrylic I painted some years earlier.

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Note: The author is a mental health therapist and is also autistic. She intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2021). Executive Function Assessment. McFarland, WI: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic AdultShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009b).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009a).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum DisordersShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

A Snapshot of Autistic Neurology ~ Part Two: Information Storage – Bridge Pieces

This is the second part of a five-part blog series with this outline

Part One: Personal Background Information (Release Date: 3-16-22)
Part Two: Information Storage – Bridge Pieces (Release Date: 3-30-22)
Part Three: Information Processing – The Gaps (Release Date: 4-13-22)
Part Four: Information Retrieval – Canoe Transportation (Release Date: 4-27-22)
Part Five: Conclusion (Release Date: 5-11-22)

Bridge Pieces: Information Storage

The stone island stones
in that inside-my-mind space
have little bridge pieces jutting off them
in varying places
from their surface of stone.

Pieces of bridges, but never a whole bridge,
connecting any two surfaces of different islands

each one containing its very own specific information
set in stone
for one and only one
specific eventuality
learned from life previously
recorded historically
immovable, unchangeable
set as set can be
in stone island cemented reality
encapsulated, preserved for all time
forever, eternally
with no bridges connecting –
no way of sharing
one island’s info
with any other.

That’s why there are gaps
in that gray-matter space of her mind’s place

where she knows bridges should be
but are not there to connect
this info with that
and therefore no way
to extrapolate
info from one specific,
circumstantial island of stone
and apply it to something
a little bit slightly different
that might be occurring
just now in her life.

Sometimes she becomes quite frustrated
when she finds herself in a new situation

and isn’t able to gather together, sift and apply
bits of info from several stone islands
already in existence,
bobbing around, each one minding its own business –
never connecting
each their own info
one with another
because they can’t
having only bridge pieces – no whole bridges
anywhere to be found between islands
to span all the gaps.

If only world-people could see into that gray-matter space of her mind
a suspension of matter that matters

because it supports her many islands of stone
each one with their purpose of holding
pertinent, specific world-information

of what-to-do-when
and
how-to-act-if
and
when-to-say-what

solid information
cast in stone
solidified in place
in that gray-matter space
of her
mind.

Then world-people might see the little bridge pieces
stuck onto the sides of all these stone islands.

Bridge pieces just hanging there serving no purpose
(other than to underline the fact
that a bridge was meant to be there, but isn’t)
little bridge pieces going nowhere
with gray-matter gaps
where thee bridges
should be.

Perhaps then the world-people might come to understand
that even though she may know

all the info that’s needed to answer their question
or to produce a reciprocal response
to keep up with her part of their conversation,
sometimes it takes a lot of her time
to jump in a boat and float around
in that gray-matter space of her mind
floating in the gaps trying to find
all the right islands of stone
that might hold any relevant data
pertinent to the subject
at hand.
Sometimes it’s a cumbersome task
to access information in this manner
and other times
it is downright impossible.

It’s at these times when she knows that she knows all of the relevant data
and desperately tries to locate it and can’t

she knows that she knows it, but can’t tell you right now
at this very minute
exactly what it is
(and she may not even know it an hour from now)
because what she needs
can’t be fit together
to make any logical sense.
Please try to remember
she’s dealing with gaps
because there simply are
no bridges.

And at these particular times she tends to look very directly
at the person who is talking to her

(as if she might find what she’s looking for
by staring intensely right into that person’s eyes).
Sometimes she gets a goofy little half-grin
(or so she’s been told,
but as for herself never notices this).
During this time she’s marking time
waiting for the info she needs to come in
hoping to be able to fill in the gaps
with the info she knows that she knows,
but try as hard as she might,
she right now can’t find.

Invariably an exasperated, superior world-person will declare with finality,
“YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING!”

and disgustedly walk away.
But if he doesn’t leave too fast he might hear her agree
because after all she already knows that she knows,
but just doesn’t know what it is
(or if she is told the info she is lacking
she can and may even repeat it back,
but to her, even the right info
supplied as it may be by frustrated world-people
has no present meaning to her
and therefore cannot be applied right now
to this particular situation in today’s reality).

She tries very hard to be acceptable.
She may even be able to say the right words,

repeating what someone
outside her supplied.
But her understanding
is blank just then.
She really can’t help it,
She has gaps, not bridges.

Selection from Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, pgs. 105-108.

The first photo is an afghan I crocheted to match the acrylic painting shown in the second photo.

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`

Note: The author is a mental health therapist and is also autistic. She intentionally uses identity-first language (rather than person-first language), and invites the reader, if interested, to do further research on the preference of most autistic adults to refer to themselves using identity-first language.

BOOKS BY JUDY ENDOW

Endow, J. (2021). Executive Function Assessment. McFarland, WI: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2019).  Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. Lancaster, PA: Judy Endow.

Endow, J. (2012). Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic AdultShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2006).  Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2013).  Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated. Cambridge, WI: CBR Press.

Endow, J. (2009b).  Paper Words: Discovering and Living With My Autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2009a).  Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals With Autism Spectrum DisordersShawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Endow, J. (2010).  Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Myles, B. S., Endow, J., & Mayfield, M. (2013).  The Hidden Curriculum of Getting and Keeping a Job: Navigating the Social Landscape of Employment. Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.