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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Wallisch

Language Development in the Autistic Brain

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

As a certified autism specialist, one of my primary goals is to ensure that the therapy I provide for my patients is supported by the latest research. That's why I want to talk today about Gestalt Language Processing and cognition. Gestalt thinking is an approach to cognition that suggests that we tend to see objects not as isolated components, but as part of more complex systems. This means that they don't see language or connection in their surroundings as isolated elements, but as whole chunks. They see the forest, not the trees.

Why Is This Important?

This is important because it means that we need to take a different approach when working with autistic individuals on language and communication skills. We can't just focus on teaching them individual words but rather we need to give them meaningful and emotionally connected Gestalts, chunks of sentences.

Gestalt thinking can be both a strength and a challenge for autistic individuals. On the one hand, it allows them to see information in a more global way and make connections that others might miss. On the other hand, it can also make it difficult for them to process information in a linear, step-by-step manner. It is important to be aware of this when working with autistic individuals, as their thinking patterns may be different from our own.

When working with Gestalt Language Processors it is important to remember that they see the bigger picture and may have difficulty focusing on smaller details. This can affect how they process information and how they communicate. It is important to be aware of this so that you can adjust your instruction and expectations accordingly.

Since autistics tend to see the big picture first, they may have difficulty with language development since much of language is based on breaking things down into smaller pieces. When a analytical language learner child learns language, individual words will carry meaning vs. gestalt language processors carry value and meaning the chunks.

This can make it difficult for them to grasp some of the basics of analytical language, which is what we as professionals have been using our patients, students, clients for years. In addition, because they are constantly bombarded with overwhelming amounts of sensory information, they may have difficulty filtering out irrelevant information and focusing on what is important.

If you are the parent or caregiver of an autistic individual, it is important to be aware of how they process information differently than neurotypical individuals. By understanding their strengths and challenges, you can better help them develop communication skills and thrive in this world. Remember, if you want to help them develop their Gestalt Language Processing skills, to continue to model Gestalts so that they can use these in meaningful conversations. With your support, they can develop the skills they need to communicate effectively and engage with the world around them in a meaningful way.

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