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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The right brained thinker is a myth

I won't even give this somewhat stress producing answer a link, but I must thank the writer, who solidified my answer to the left brained/ right brained quandary. To put it kindly, she ticked me off! Her answer is in blue

The 'right brained thinker' is a myth... learning disabilities have to do with synaptic connectivity in regions associated with the task, not 'hemispherical' learning.
All of life entertains dichotomy...and in that dichotomy, preference or choice.@#$%^, you answer is decidedly left brained, which is tyrannical, and will not allow the egoless right brain to entertain ideas.

I was attempting to be an artist, with my scientific/mathematical mind 15 years ago when my son was about age 3...and underwent actual exercises to "activate" my right mind,(see Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, based on Bergland's science) which had no sense of time, no language,...and in that found correlations to my son's way of thinking, of being. He was diagnosed with Semantic/Pragmatic disorder, a language disorder, similar to autism. Language is primarily learned through the left brain, in essence, with concomitant interstitial input from the right. In Dr. Bolte Taylor's insight above, she describes the right brain as "in the NOW, picture and kinesthetic oriented".

That is so strange, because, that is EXACTLY how I had to teach my 3 year old son, who could not answer the question, "What is your name?", who didn't know the difference between "yes" and "no", who in fact had no functional language except to name nouns (which could be visualized "pictorially", ie, he had a picture of them in his mind). We literally used a curriculum of daily presentation of non-noun words (using Catherine Maurice's book, Behavioral Interventions for Young Children with Autism..if I remember the name correctly) which showed him in black and white representational pictures (Pec's Symbols from his speech therapist) for two hours a day over a year. That's 700 hours of therapy, besides the speech and OT he got at school for 6 years. By age 10, he was able to talk somewhat freely without using memorized scripts (from t.v. shows he watched repeatedly to teach himself language) or echolalia. It bothers me considerably when people say there is no left brain/ right brain preference or difference. You are saying what I did for my son was useless, his difference does not exist.



Emily Morson said...

There are clearly people like your son with visual and spatial talents, and verbal disabilities. People like Temple Grandin, who "think in pictures." But "right brain" isn't used that way. It's a very confused cluster concept that doesn't just include being visual>verbal, it also includes being creative and focusing on the big picture (which either verbal or spatially-oriented people can be good at, or not). And as far as I understand the science, the neural underpinnings of being verbally vs. spatially skewed have nothing to do with a left brain-right brain dichotomy.

Language is supposed to be left-brain, but actually you use both sides of your brain all the time when processing language, and the right side is particularly useful for understanding metaphors, jokes, figurative language, etc. Furthermore, which side of your brain is dominant for language can vary depending on your handedness. Some left-handed people and a very few right-handed people are right-brain dominant for language. And language is, as far as I know, the most tightly linked to a specific hemisphere of any ability.

So no one's saying your son isn't the person he is. Just that the right brain-left brain dichotomy doesn't explain him. It's a confused mess (I've been planning to write a post on that for months), and as far as we can tell, the brain just doesn't divide in halves that cleanly. Does that make sense? :)

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Hi Emily. Welcome to my little corner of the world! I don't get much company here, ha! But I believe profoundly in Serendipity...and that it engenders progress.

I took notes of Dr.Jill Bolte Taylor's talk, the TED talk I link to above. I have the advantage of her incredible insight and my own experience...and that's what I base my thesis upon.

Ben was profoundly atypical in learning language. He did, in fact, learn non-noun words by using the very parameters Dr. Bolte Taylor attributed to the "right brain" thinking she noted in herself post stroke which damaged the left half of her brain. She talks of parallel processing, being in the now, pictorial thought and kinesthetic ? (my notes are incomplete.)Those are how an artist words or time, just one with the creation. They are also the way I taught Ben language.

It's hard to wrap your mind around unless you've been there. I am talking experiential, not experimental and codified.

Left brained thinkers often think I'm full of it. Which is funny, because I see myself as one. Reformed, but still...

Happy Elf Mom said...

I am not sure if "left-brain, right-brain" really is easily discernable. Suppose I'm wired differently and am using my right brain for typically left brain stuff, or whatever? Could happen.

I'm not sure there is a discernable way to work with all this scientifically unless they go back to saying that this or that is "normal" or "typical." It oughtn't matter except SOMEHOW you knew what your son needed by using powers of observation and all that. And then you did it.

I must be some sort of simpleton insofar as I'm thinking we just see what the person needs to know next and then do.

(Maybe I am confusing the issue. Possible. But then neither am I saying science couldn't help us formulate new helps for people who are autistic. Just more that, often some of us have quirks.)

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Not necessarily visual and spatial "talents", but that the usual channels to learn language were closed to him,not available for some reason, and visual and spatial were all he had to pick it up.

Auditory channels were there but barely connected to meaning.

Have you ever done, or would you be interested in doing a typical artist trick to enliven your right brain, and give yourself access to it? It really ticks your left brain off to be ignored, but it can be overpowered.

As to needing left and right for language, we have split brain experiments, Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, and hemispherectomies that show the interconnectedness isn't necessary to life,or even understanding, but that it does limit the functions...somewhat like if our own hands only worked independently and not together...our life would be atypical. Strokes, as in Dr. Bolte Taylor's, brain damage or disease fill in a lot of the rest.

Either, 1)Ben did not have access to that part of his brain that gave meaning to language (outside of visualization)through disease or damage or 2)A brainedness led to atypical language acquisition,a mirror acquisition, like a left handed child learns to write the left handed way, deals with the world "sinisterly", and doesn't cotton to having his hand tied behind his back, the ABA of a previous generation to cure left-handedness.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Happy...Hi, didn't see your comment until after I wrote my next one.

Now, I understand quirks and all...but from everything you hear from left brain/ right brain experiments...Ben followed, in his early years, the "road less traveled" or the right side. All of life has duality, why wouldn't our brain preference?(Left handed and right handed, male and female,okay we got one heart, but there are left and right chambers). We do have 2 brains in our head, that usually work in concert, but they are separate in function.

IF we are dealing with a difference, it might explain how teaching to one side to the neglect of the other would cause kids to have trouble in school. They all seem to have a commonality...they all get labels from psychiatrists. ADHD, LD, Dyslexia, Autism...the biggest difference is trouble in school. Now, either they are all defective...or they learn differently and need different approaches. I KNOW this is true in my son. He hated school and how he survived I'll never know. No wait, he didn't.

When I went to college for schooling in Special Ed, I learned that our kids typically are visual learners. That was so hard to wrap my head around. I hoped I wouldn't get any in my class. Turns out, 90% of special needs kids learn visually.(I'm not talking Intellectual disability...who learn, but more slowly.)I've spoken with Dyslexics, who have told me they think in pictures, not words...

They arrive at the same place, just taking different roads.

usethebrains godgiveyou said...

Transcribed from
Shrink Rap Radio #147
Nirvana and the Brain
to endure the agony that I had to endure in order to force my mind
by choosing to
pay attention to something that I didn’t understand and that brought me pain
order to familiarize myself with that material more
so that my brain could wrap
itself around that. And that starts at having zero information and then being willing
to learn and learn and learn. And learning is a difficult process for a brain that’s
been wounded.
Dr. Dave:
Are you saying you could
have chosen to just hang out in that state of bliss?
Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely. In the very beginning, I had no intention of
ever coming back. Once I was gone, I was gone. I was so far gone that there was
no reason. There was, I couldn’
t imagine... I could not imagine enduring what I
was going to have to endure in order to recover. So yes, it was a choice. For me, it
was a choice. Now, it was a choice moment by moment, to say, “In this moment,
I’m willing to pay attention to you and try
. But if a doctor came in and they really
didn’t have time for me, and I was just another thing on their list, and I could feel
that energy, it’s like, “I’m not going to waste my energy trying to focus on you
when you’re not willing to focus your energy o
n me.” So, I responded positively to
people who came into my world and brought me themselves 100%, looked me in
the eye, touched me appropriately, connected with me, made me their focus for
these moments. Then I could try to connect because that person w
as available. So,
absolutely, I believe that recovery

I was responsible for my recovery, because I
made the choice to try or to not try. And I think that the alternative

and I always
teach this to my medical students

my alternative was to be (inaud
ible) bliss, and
you want me to come back here and pay attention and learn something from you.
You have to make yourself a very attractive object for me to want to focus on
because otherwise, I’m out in the lap of the universe

Imagine being extremely right brained, my belief is as profoundly autistic people could a teacher entice you to join the world? By punishment, or love?