Reflections from autism spectrum disorder”

Excerpts from “Conceptualizing compensation in neurodevelopmental disorders:


In the case of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), numerous cognitive theories (e.g., deficient ‘theory of mind’, ‘weak central coherence’; see Frith, 2012) have been proposed to account for the social and non-social symptoms that are characteristic of the condition.

“Within the field of neurodevelopmental disorders, the phenomenon remains relatively abstract and ill-defined, such that numerous, potentially overlapping terminologies have been used in the literature (e.g., in ASD, camouflaging/masking, Lai et al., 2016; compensatory learning, Frith, 1991; adaptation, Johnson et al., 2015b), but the construct has never been directly studied in its own right. Crucially, the authors’ review relies on a definition of compensation that is reminiscent of that described in the aging and neuropsychological literature; that compensation reflects how an intact neurocognitive process/system might take over, or compensate for, the functioning of a defective process/system in order to maintain typical behaviour and/or cognitive task performance. Additionally, brain injury in healthy adults may trigger a host of compensatory processes (e.g., enhanced connectivity from damaged to frontal regions; Sharp et al., 2014) that are not necessarily comparable to cases where a cascade of atypical neural function has existed from very early in development.

“Amongst ‘compensated’ dyslexics, neuroimaging findings generally support hypoactivation of areas implicated in phonological function, e.g., left parieto- and occito-temporal areas (Cao et al., 2008; Hoeft et al., 2007)…


Teachers are Learning Leaders

Evidence for compensation in ASD

“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a set of neurodevelopmental conditions characterised by social and communication impairments and repetitive and restricted behaviours and interests (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). One prominent explanation of the social symptoms in ASD posits a core cognitive deficit in theory of mind (Baron-Cohen et al., 2000), which is the propensity to infer spontaneously what others are thinking in order to predict and explain their behaviour (Happé, 2015).

Theory of mind “might be necessary to trigger compensation. The figure also omits, for simplicity, possible additional adverse risk factors that might contribute to overall disorder presentation (e.g., low socio-economic status, ethnic status, home chaos). Whilst these could be seen as factors that simply strip away compensatory resources, adverse environments may also directly influence disorder presentation…”


“For example, an individual may be taught to make eye contact without necessarily being able to extract mental state information from that eye contact. Further, there is evidence to suggest that logical ‘hacking’ and intact verbal abilities might facilitate success on explicit theory of mind tasks that directly ask participants to reason about mental states, in both children (e.g., Cantio et al., 2016; Happé, 1995; Peterson et al., 2007; Scheeren et al., 2013) and adults (Lever and Geurts, 2016a; Senju et al., 2009).


“[T]he ability to compensate in some way has supported a relatively ‘neurotypical’ presentation, at least up until adulthood, where social demands have exceeded compensatory ability.”


“Clinical observations and self-reports also suggest that females may be particularly motivated and/or skilled in ‘camouflaging’ their social difficulties (Mandy and Tchanturia, 2015; Simone, 2010), although these difficulties may continue to be experienced as impairing.

COOL FACTS: Wehmeyer (1992) defined self-determination:


“[A]s acting as the primary causal agent in one’s life free to make choices and decisions about one’s quality of life, free from undue influence or interference” (p. 302).
“Self direct learning strategies such as self-monitoring or self-instruction has beneficial outcomes for students with disabilities in educational goal attainment, including goals related to transitional related outcomes”





increased homework trials completed per minute with Choice-making


Improved accuracy, spelling tasks with Self-Advocacy


increase rate/ minute digits with Self-Recording

Self-directed learning and Self-determined Learning: An Exploration

Self-Determined Learning – is a process in which learners take initiative for identifying learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying learning resources, implementing problem-solving strategies, and reflecting upon the learning processes to challenge existing assumptions and increase learning capabilities. (Blaschke, 2012)

“Obvious similarities indeed, but the key difference between self-directed learning and self-determined learning is the ‘double-loop‘ capability. Beyond problem-solving, double-loop learning involves scrutinizing variables and questioning original concepts, and learning processes. Reflection is a key aspect of increasing learning capabilities promised through double-loop learning (Argyris, 1974).

 “In this age of abundance of information, shifting classroom pedagogy isn’t nearly enough to make learning in school more relevant and authentic for the learner. Self-directed learning (andragogy), and self-determined learning (heutagogy) are the ideals necessary in making students ‘future ready‘ to live and learn in a web-connected world. While original research applied these concepts to mature learners, it has become apparent that even young children have an abundant capacity for recognizing and directing their learning.


Excerpts by Stewart Hase

“One core difference is that we are much more explicit in the assumption of human agency as a universal human characteristic. This is not made clear in self-determined learning. We also see human agency and the capacity to express this through learning as occurring from birth. We are hard wired to learn and are very good at it right from the start of our existence. It is not assumed to be something that develops in adulthood. Rather, growing older in our current educational system is likely to reduce our ability to be effective self-determined or self-directed learners. Self-determined learning also sees a different role for the teacher (I have even suggested ridding ourselves of the title teacher and moving to the title of learning leader) as facilitator and guide within a highly flexible curriculum in all respects. Self-determined learning makes the learner a partner in the learning enterprise, no matter at what level. And there are examples of this working in junior schools described in the heutagogical literature, as well as the Steiner and Montessori models, which are largely using a self-determined learning approach.