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Autism Visual Processing - Blocking out sections of people or toys with a child's hand. Is this a way a child processes information?

counselloranon

New Member
Hi All,

I need anyone's input or help. I work with a child who has autism. When she plays with toys she uses her hand to block sections of the toy (or people) with her hand. I am guessing this is a way to process the visual information she is receiving. Has anyone seen this or have any links or resources to this? My guess is that it's a visual processing behaviour... but I need to know some more about it. Thanks
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
For context, I have worked with premature infants for the past 35 years at one of the largest children's hospitals in the US. The only time that I see infants and children put a hand up, palms outward, fingers splayed open, is due to a stress response. We call it the "stop sign". Adults do this as well, sometimes in conversation. "Talk to the hand" because I am no longer listening to you.

As far as using the hand to block part of the visual field I haven't witnessed that sort of behavior, at least not in a repetitive manner. If you've ever witnessed a photographer create a frame with his/her hands to visualize what a photo might look like. If you've ever used a finger and a thumb to squeeze the moon in the sky or a person who is standing in the distance, it changes the visual perspective. This child may simply be playing around with visual perspectives.

As you likely know, young autistic children are often fascinated with the world around them, how things work, etc. Turning a toy truck upside-down and spinning the wheels, turning on the water faucet just to watch the patterns in the water, disassembling toys, bicycles, electronics, watching water on the car windows move upward during a drive on a rainy afternoon, imitating animal and bird calls, and so forth. Often we find autistic children fascinated not with the whole, but the individual parts. So, within this perspective the child may also use the hand as a way to block the whole to focus upon the parts, whether it be a toy, a person, or object in an otherwise "environmentally stimulating" room.
 
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counselloranon

New Member
For context, I have worked with premature infants for the past 35 years at one of the largest children's hospitals in the US. The only time that I see infants and children put a hand up, palms outward, fingers splayed open, is due to a stress response. We call it the "stop sign". Adults do this as well, sometimes in conversation. "Talk to the hand" because I am no longer listening to you.

As far as using the hand to block part of the visual field I haven't witnessed that sort of behavior, at least not in a repetitive sort of behavior. If you've ever witnessed a photographer create a frame with his/her hands to visualize what a photo might look like. If you've ever used a finger and a thumb to squeeze the moon in the sky or a person who is standing in the distance, it changes the visual perspective. This child may simply be playing around with visual perspectives.

As you likely know, young autistic children are often fascinated with the world around them, how things work, etc. Turning a toy truck upside-down and spinning the wheels, turning on the water faucet just to watch the patterns in the water, disassembling toys, bicycles, electronics, watching water on the car windows move upward during a drive on a rainy afternoon, imitating animal and bird calls, and so forth. Often we find autistic children fascinated not with the whole, but the individual parts. So, within this perspective the child may also use the hand as a way to block the whole to focus upon the parts, whether it be a toy, a person, or object in an otherwise "environmentally stimulating" room.
Thank you so much for your response. I really appreciate it, and so thankful considering your experience. I think you may be correct, I was also thinking it may be a way to focus on the details rather than the toy as a whole. But I wanted someone else to clarify. It too reminded me of painter who tries to frame a scene for their artwork. Thanks once again.
 

Storm Hess

Permanent Spaceman
I line objects up in my field of vision...example....spots on the window I'll try to line up with leaves on very tall trees or the clouds in the background to match in the same pattern. Or my thumb or finger with people's heads. When I was younger, I have used my hands as binoculars for objects I wanted to focus on. It wasn't a part of 'play', that's all I wanted to see. Now, I just stare and get lost in thought at things that intrigue me. :)

I'm watching a cat on the fence and completely fascinated on how he can sleep on such a thin piece of wood.
 

Outdated

I'm from the other end of the spectrum.
V.I.P Member
I only discovered this about myself during my diagnosis. When watching a video I don't see the whole picture but instead focus on small areas of the screen or particular aspects of the video.

They played a short video clip of a woman talking to her friend, and then they asked me some questions about the woman's emotions. Then they played another short clip of the same woman having a conversation with two other women.

Then they asked me a question about one of the other women. I was really embarrassed and I had to apologise - "I'm sorry, I was still watching the first lady.".

I don't know if that's relevant or not, but it might be related in some way.
 

Hylian

Fellow DbD Enjoyer
V.I.P Member
I sometimes cover things in my field of view because I have processing issues and issues with my eyesight. If there's too much going on I can't just focus on one thing, so I might have to omit things that I don't want to focus on. I don't know if I even did this as a kid, but I certainly do it now.
 

Gerontius

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I do that sometimes because I'm sensitive to light, so I can get a better look at something.
If you're talking about in a medium to subdued light situation, I'll look at one aspect of something to be able to enjoy that particular aspect.

Take for example, something truly interesting--watching a train leave. Most people have seen this, but if it's something you really enjoy, you want to really see it, not just look at it. You want to have a little knowledge of it, to know what is going on--to add a few extra dimensions to the appreciation of a train.

First off, it's never "just a train." In this case it was SY-class #3025 on the Valley Railroad. Fascinating locomotive--built from a Chinese freight locomotive into a hybrid of SY class and New Haven practice. Steam locomotives in the United States are usually painted a plain black but they are still going to have fascinating details. Up close, just an absolutely beautiful locomotive--design philosophy from 1920s American practice, built in a Chinese plant in 1989 during the twilight of the steam era, sold to American operators in Tennessee, destroyed in an engine-house arson attack on the Knox & Kane in 2008, and rebuilt in Connecticut with parts and design cues from the extinct New Haven Mikados, all making one of the more unique locomotives you will see. As a completely hand-fired engine (no mechanical stoker) it is one of the fewer medium-sized locomotives you will see set up like that, and the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement is just good looking overall, with the trailing axle under the cab to support the weight of a full-sized firebox. It's enough to let you get a lot more power and range out of an eight-coupled design. Mikados and the old 2-8-0 Consolidation class locomotives are about the perfect type to run on heritage railroads, and they can pull plenty if needed while still being smaller and easier to keep going.

Here's a picture I took when I got stuck at a railroad crossing.

F1TLyO1D46cJo5pFfoyfYs5PZDXKBCcbFn6s9ugTx6dEEjCExzwtJ3BBN77rqaRITNkEJfuDYpNNJcScZVw755GGWKzDiKuD-j1I_yxzf-anQyaHaH94NRHZxdQhkiXYeda6gsY31PCzL6wyz6XRx_ejSoiRtrOvvclrBA7Nna8SeY_IlUjEHe-aI8pGkDrYRaoNERddCsh8c2q43rmR0BwL69R4-J78f5o26o_I38Q3hwFwAh3NUv2bJUhOCC9pWYEg2JDlI5NOfuqi2DIlkkyLGP6WGe4t_8mqLLa6AsY9Uhrs2DgFJr6eYF_Ox70mEqNDI2y2FsTLOrIK-mIZomTeIBJqxJQtY1ngJWkoIerStrsQ2DAjimAS3Y2nnbQapzB4c33ibJVeZa6TpaFaxITVDE0y2F4KTnecFN8Zj0645rngqj3Zajlln5j7KEaC2KIUWxPj9BJn8dkWVbFP6zTR05NPvfG0QSyAbHbvhDMIfbY8_ss7bQ8E6Ml4XUBiiGh1oMXpVdGJhCAT-jn01lMh3pvIKeP0LbvUZLbdmjUicx5G5ek5dsyz-l1nsX89DPDWMgVtT2ukK8VmnhDJpjqW6VKHkHnGpi6PXG8lyPjIdcBGQiy9esmrltm8FpN4Fuda4ACFeQ2Hx73KfqbLjFYsvcYmiOaIWVZ81HnKFUq-X6KZDIMc92fuUicgJNKnA9NlVSjBc2bUGiREgLK71pjCkH4XSSID8rhKz_TAYjrzlgNIHH9ThttBG3NucJkHHIpAKrv5l6B2xyC3ysKmbs5drD9NYm143jrJbJKfIVMGAkj3Oj2CLjR58Wif4Yz9LAt4nw-Tiz_AZltJfFiQ5icKYxXvNlPv7zNdxKS_uhxhxiOg37Qpc1ZYc549_Ypu5KQ_pm6zm1WPJGihtBZDegB6UiFJZ5T8aOXMxz2Eck61gN244Uakg7kR0dtas7QrMayUpJutd0XQtT9-Uw=w1167-h656-no



You walk across the tracks and the engine is waiting at the station--the fireman is doing a walk-around inspection and oiling the rods, making sure the fire is hot but not so hot as to cause the safety-valve to pop off. Over-firing an engine wastes coal and water, and it's loud and looks a bit ridiculous. There is a certain amount of style, of panache, to operating live steam. It is a carefully controlled finesse of elemental forces of nature: the "iron horse" is best ridden in dressage classes.

Just the lighting and electrical system of a steam locomotive are a fascinating thing to see and hear and watch in action: Pyle dynamos, a species of small turbine to power the electrical system, always have a unique sound spooling up--humming, irritating whining from the dynamo turning, hiss of steam escaping at the top of the narrow pipe near the generator. You can see the dynamo on #3025 in that photo, near the beginning of the cab roof. When that starts, the headlight will make a faint clink and begin glowing--first dimly, then brighter and brighter--if you look at it from the side it looks about like a standard household light bulb; stand in front and the reflector throws a single condensed beam of light.

The engineer and the fireman climb their stairs and are back in the cab--the fireman is a chubby girl in overalls with blue hair, tall as a man; apparently Generation Z is preparing to fall heir to the world of infrastructure. Engineer Lewis looks like the prototype of a railroad engineer--filthy blue overalls and holes burned in his hat, skin looks like his driving gloves, eyes creased into a permanent wrinkled fold from leaning out of the cab of too many locomotives over too many years. Some men retire into a recliner, but he seems to have chosen to retire to the right-hand side of an engine--either steam or old 1940s diesels.

Even just sitting still this is worth seeing, and there is really no "glance once" way to see a locomotive--you need to get a good look at the whole thing, so you run back away from the edge of the line when the whistle blows so you can watch the train leave. It is not so much a departure as it is a performance, a ritual. The drain-cocks open at the bottom of the cylinders--the front of the engine is shrouded in a sudden rush of white vapor, and very slowly the side rods begin to turn the wheels. You get the impression that it is possessed of a powerful force not entirely mechanical, something that is working the cranks on the driving wheels much like you would push the pedals of a bicycle. Water is flying everywhere and the engine creeps forward for a few yards, then, with the cylinders preheated, the driver closes the drain-cocks and advances the Johnson bar in the cab. The sound changes from the hissing breathing to a deeper note like the low pedals on a theatre-organ, and everything moves all at once. The ground begins to throb with each exhaust beat, the chimney is throwing a steady fountain of hot-water spray and cinders, and the slack between the cars starts to take up--bang, bang, bang, all the rest of the way down until the observation platform at the very last car shakes and the crossties begin to walk away from underneath. Cold weather means the heat is on in the cars--escaping from hoses and fittings at each coupling, the white lifebreath of the engine is running a set of iron radiators along the baseboards, keeping passengers from getting too cold in a New England winter.

No one is going to run anything fast on that stretch of rail; the tracks crossing Main Street are dated to 1893 along the sides of them and it's a rough patch going out of the yard. The start-up is over, the train is moving, and the hunched olive-green rooftops of the cars follow a black wraith of coal-smoke into the woods until the last car with its red tail-light is gone off into the bushes, and the thump-thump-thump of the engine picks up its pace as it disappears. You dig a few cinders out of your eye, look down at your camera, and realize you have forgotten to take a picture--but you have seen the train, and that is what matters. As you turn to go home you begin to think that maybe coming back again to watch the next one leave won't be that bad either, but there is a colorful eighty-ton General Electric on a sidetrack, both motors idling, and you realize that you never really watched a Diesel engine that closely either. Maybe you never really saw one for what it was.

As you leave you hear the train whistling for a grade-crossing further on down the line, and decide that it will certainly be worth seeing again. Maybe next time you'll bring a camera.


Why do autistic people (and cinematographers, painters, sculptors, artists) look at something with their hands like that? For me it was about "composing the shot" in my mind's eye--about getting to enjoy one little aspect of something, then throw it in with a mental montage of the whole thing. Sometimes, you just want to enjoy the experience in all its intensity without overdoing it and taking the whole thing in all at once.
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I only discovered this about myself during my diagnosis. When watching a video I don't see the whole picture but instead focus on small areas of the screen or particular aspects of the video.

They played a short video clip of a woman talking to her friend, and then they asked me some questions about the woman's emotions. Then they played another short clip of the same woman having a conversation with two other women.

Then they asked me a question about one of the other women. I was really embarrassed and I had to apologise - "I'm sorry, I was still watching the first lady.".

I don't know if that's relevant or not, but it might be related in some way.
This phenomenon: This is why I rather enjoy watching the same movie 2-3 times. I am picking up on other details I missed during the first or second viewing.
 

Thinx

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Yes, same here about rewatching a film to understand it more fully. I also miss details in books and don't realise, until I feel puzzled and go back to reread something important I missed, which is not always easy to locate. I'm about to rewatch the Fantastic Beasts films especially to understand the newest film better, and to work out what happened in the context of the wider story.

Also I am reading a detective series by Christopher Fowler, Bryant and May, I started late in the series with some library copies, then my partner got me the first 10 for Christmas, so I could read from the beginning. This is an intriguing series, lots of quirky characters and detail, Bryant in particular comes over as autistic as do many of his quirky friends. There's a large cast of characters in the set up, and it's coming more into focus as I read from the start, though also I think the time lines may have changed as he progressed with the series, causing the characters to be born later than they were originally. I'm on the second story now.

I persevere with the confusions if it's overall a story and characters I'm finding entertaining. Things gradually clarify.
 
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