Sunday, September 15, 2013

Information Overload

A friend of mine who also has a son with autism forwarded me this information from an article.

Information Overload! Overwhelmed by irrelevant detail!

We have discussed how, for people on the spectrum, since they have weak neurological connections between the different brain centers (different brain wiring), they have difficulty “rapidly processing multiple information simultaneously.” This makes processing much of our fast paced world very difficult and exhausting. We, neurotyical (NT) people, can process rapidly changing information more rapidly because we "filter out" all of the irrelevant information that is not important to the central theme. This allows us to "attend to, and focus on" only the information that is important to the topic of focus. There are some differences in "attention" for people on the spectrum that make this filtering very difficult.

1. Difficulty sorting out the relevant information from background information. NT people easily filter out 80% of information that is not important to the topic at hand. People on the spectrum often take in and have to process all the information. They either have difficulty filtering out information (take in all) or they hyperfocus on a small detail, and cannot get past it.

2. Because of the problems filtering out irrelevant detail, people on the spectrum often have difficulty understanding which detail is important to attend to. They can become distracted by all the irrelevant detail and lose sight of what is important to focus on. The important details do not necessarily stand out like they do for us.

2. Once information is "attended to" NT people immediately categorize it into concepts (files) based on past information and memory. Since people on the spectrum have trouble filtering out irrelevant information, they have to find categorizes to store and make sense out of all the information. This drastically slows down processing, taxes, drains, and overloads the brain. The brain cannot "categorize" all that information as fast as it is coming in.

4. Many people on the spectrum have difficulty "shifting attention" and tend to hyperfocus on information too long; unable to let go and get past it. This drastically slowing down processing. Their attention can get "stuck on" and caught up in the detail, making it difficult to slide through the processing quickly and easily.

5. Since people on the spectrum are so hyperfocused on the details, they often do not see the “big picture”; the overall meaning underlying all the details. Neurotypical people immediately infer from a few pieces of detail what the overall picture is. From there, they use this “overall meaning” to interpret the individual details. We immediately look for the invisible relationships between the parts that define the “whole”, often ignoring each individual detail. Our brains immediately look for meaning between the parts, so we can extract overall “big picture” and move on. For people on the spectrum, who have difficulty reading these invisible relationships, they have to piece together all the details to arrive at the overall meaning. This is why people on the spectrum are good detail thinkers and can do great work in engineering and computer sciences. They see can see the imperfections in the details, that we often miss. They can focus on all the individual details to a pattern, and analyze them concretely.

You can see that these "attention differences" can drastically slow down the processing speed. When the information is coming in faster than the brain can process and categorize it, then overload occurs, and the brain becomes overwhelmed. So, please share this "processing speed difficulty" with teachers. Slow the information down, to allow the child to process and categorize it, at a pace that is comfortable for their brains. It is not about "intelligence", it is about speed of processing.

No comments:

Post a Comment