Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mind, Body, Stim.

According to a new journal article, we move our bodies forwarded when thinking about the future, and lean back when recalling the past is a great. I’m always amazed how strongly thought, stimulation and body are tied together. Thought I shouldn’t be. There are lots of articles about how people’s thoughts that things are harming them make, them ill. Airport security screeners think that honey is a bio weapon and make themselves sick enough to go the hospital. And "ElectroSensitives" get better over night once they're told a radio tower is off, even though it's really been off for a month already....

The reverse is true too. NPR’s Radiolab recently did an excellent show on placebo affect (scroll down on the show panel on the right hand side for the podcast) the final segment, on how even doctors wearing white coats has been shown to help their patients get better is.

Stimulation is also so key, but so few people every think about it explicitly.
ARC’s Snoezelen room does amazing things for people. While it was developed to work with adults on the autism-aspergers spectrum, everyone loves it.

Most people regulate their stimulation level from different senses implicitly. Choosing clothes with a fabric you like (tactile), tapping your foot or spinning a pen (proprioceptive), choosing a scent (olfactory), going for a walk or a run (vestibular). Those are just a few ways we modulate our stim level, and one of the main features of people on the autism-aspergers spectrum is marked difficulty in managing their own stim levels. Have you ever been somewhere and the lighting was to high or too low? The music was too much, or not enough? You felt bored or much too stimulation? Makes you feel gross right?

A Snoezelen room is the exact opposite. The person running the room changes all the aspects of stimulation in the room (and there are toys, and a chair that makes you feel weightless, and different areas and textures and a little alcove and…and…and…) so that you can find exactly the correct amount of stimulation you want and it does amazing things. Your muscles relax, your head clears and often develop this great sense of well being. It’s a lot like waking up from the best nap ever.

Our thoughts, our environment, and our bodies all play off one another. It’s almost comical to me how people organize school, work and sometimes even out own homes in ways that our culture says is appropriate and the “best way” to get things done, and then everyone in there fights against it all day.

Anyone want to help me make the world be more ergonomic?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So Quick To Punish...

One of the major issues I saw while working with people who have intellectual disabilities is how often the people around them, who are there to support them, and help them make the most out of their lives, are so quick to chastise and “correct.”

This seems to be the ruling thought for our penile system, school management and other traditionally institutional systems. They all seem focused on stopping the end disruptive behavior, but seem to invest so few resources in analyzing the precipitating causes. It’s kind of like cleaning up the mess from an over flowing sink, without bothering to turn off the tap.

Does punishment work? Sometimes, but not often. Numerous articles and other work has been written illustrating the failures of the American prison system, a few things get found over and over again, longer, stiffer prison sentences do not reduce crime. What does? Rehabilitation and working on the initial causes that create the problems in the first place.

This works from an economic standpoint as well. Removing drug dealers from the streets doesn’t make drugs go away (unless you get all of the dealers) it just make the drugs that are there more expensive. So what you end up with are addicts going greater lengths to get the cash to buy them. What does remove drugs? Making people not need, or not want them. If there’s no market for drugs, they won’t be profitable and no one will bother to sell them.

Think even closer to home. Think about the last time someone yelled at you. Did it make you think positively of the person? Did it really make you want to change your behavior, or just figure out how to do things so you wouldn’t get yelled at next time?

All behavior is communication, misbehaving is communicating that there is a need that isn’t being addressed. Either there’s a lack of understanding, resources, or ability in being able to meet the need in a better way. Fix that need, replace it with a “better” behavior and there’ll be no more need to yell.