Empowering Environments


By Davidemerald (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In my last post here, one facet we examined of autism and its relation to anxiety was the importance in creating a structured environment of psychological and physical safety.

Building on the idea that children need a “zone of safety that they can retreat to,” as Catharine Alvarez put it, I found an interesting (and unexpected) addition to this in a recent article on human vision.

In “Use your illusion: why human vision is a mathematical impossibility
by Tom Chivers on The Telegraph, a very interesting article on the complexity of sight, there’s a suggestion that a sense of empowerment can lead to a stronger resistance to perceptual illusions.

The only way you’re able to validate the information is behaviourally: you can say, that was useful, or that was not useful. . .

What that means is that context is everything. . . When I change your perception of it, what I’m changing is the meaning of the information, I’m not changing the physics of the information itself. . .

But “context” in the sense that Lotto means it is both deeper and broader than simply the surrounding colours. “For instance, how powerful people feel alters their perception of colour,” he says. “If I make you feel a bit more powerful, a little more in control, the strength of the illusions that I make decrease. If I put you in a state of powerlessness, the strength of illusions increases.” It’s because we become more sensitive to context when we are feeling out of control; we become less comfortable with uncertainty.

Similarly, he says, these illusions are more effective on people from Eastern cultures, where social context is a greater part of people’s lives. “The people around you are far more important in the East, whereas in the West we’re far more individualistic.” Children are also more sensitive to context, and thus to these illusions [Bold added].

If children in general are more sensitive to context, than children with disabilities are even more sensitive. Beyond perceptual illusion, this tidbit also made me think about the importance in structuring enabling environments in schools.

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