Creativity for Non-Visual Thinkers, People with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities, Aspergers etc.
"A thought may be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words." - L.S. Vygotsky
Had an email last week from someone with a nonverbal learning disability - and he asked us a great question...that given that visual imagery seems to be so important in creative work, was there hope for NLDer's in the Conceptual Age? Of course! We apologize for not giving as much attention to non-visual thinking on this blog (part of the reason is our interest and large clinic population of dyslexics), so we'd like to correct this slight right now.
Verbal thinkers tend to have less trouble than visual thinkers in conventional K-12 school tasks... but if visual perceptual and organization problems also exist (e.g. nonverbal learning disabilities), more struggles await them in their adult years, driving and reading maps, reading the emotions of their co-workers, bosses, and family members, and keeping their home and work life organized.
The two most important factors we have seen in these individuals' success relate to metacognitive ability -an ability to reflect about their own thinking processes, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses (build on strengths, accommodate weaknesses) and external supports (helps when needed from loved ones - parents, siblings, spouses, professionals, business partners) if and when needed.
We know and have learned of many highly (and sometimes exclusively) verbal thinkers working in various diverse occupations - academia / research, law, business, education, writing, science, math, and computers and engineering. Many of the most successful verbal thinkers capitalize on their strong memories, pattern recognition, reasoning and analytical abilities, and eye for detail.
Verbal thinkers tend to wrestle with ideas through talk, debate, or writing. Brainstorming may take place through conscious chains of deductive thinking, word play or conscious manipulation of words (e.g. drawing verbal analogies),or even verbal brainstorms (e.g. freewriting)in which loosely associated words, digressions, phrases, etc. are written down to open ideas up about a problem or question. impression.
How common is it to not be able to make images? A number is hard to generate as a continuum seems to exist in individuals' image-making ability. At least when we have asked, there always seem to be at least a few people who report that they are unable to make images in non-selected groups of 100.
Some people who don't have pictoral visual images also tell us that although they never get "snapshot" pictures, they do have non-visual imagery (auditory, somatic/ kinesthetic) or strong associations (e.g. feelings emotions, spatial / symbolic representations)that are integral to their thinking style.
Interesting, there was once intense debate over whether visual imagery exists and has a functional importance in the brain(for more, see this). Presumably one the most strident advocates of the anti-imagery position, cognitive psychologist Zenon Pylyshyn, did not have pictoral imagery:
"It is argued that an adequate characterization of "what one knows" requires the use of abstract mental structures to which there is no conscious access and which are essentially conceptual and propositional, rather than sensory or pictorial, in nature. Such representations are more accurately referred to as symbolic descriptions than as images in the usual sense. Implications of using an imagery vocabulary are examined, and it is argued that the picture metaphor underlying recent theoretical discussions is seriously misleading, especially as it suggests that the image is an entity to be perceived." (from What the mind's eye tells the mind's brain)
fMRI of causal reasoning
Employment for people with Aspergers Syndrome
Book: How to find work that works for people with Aspergers Syndrome
Book: Choosing the right work for people with autism or aspgergers syndrome