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In my line of work, clients of mine who are frequently physicians, visit me for broader and
more in-depth private preceptorships. During the sessions, I often draw extensive graphs to
explain a mechanism or hammer home a point. Many of these graphs have made their way to
this book and to the seminars. I find that visual aids are much more productive than narration
and frankly make my life much easier when working with someone I had never met before. I
see the picture of the point I am trying to make in my mind and I can draw it on paper prior
to verbally explaining it. This is how a concrete mind works. Ideas and concepts have to
come to some visual form in order for learning to take place. Unless and until I reach that
stage where I can see the concept as an image in my mind, I know I have not understood the
topic well enough to teach it. I cannot just take the idea as words that I read somewhere and
run with it.

By taking a quick look into school and college textbooks, it is immediately obvious the
disadvantage autistic children are facing. They are forced to read dead material written in
letters and words with minimal illustrations and visual aids. This puts autistic children at a
disadvantage compared to the less sensitive children who possess abstract thinking and can
relatively easily make sense of the words and store them in memory without shape, color or
form. Even when there are sketches in a text written by a less sensitive author, the sketches
are often rudimentary and not fulfilling to the sensitive eye. In addition, when a less sensitive
teacher or professor decides to prepare visual aids for students, these aids frequently end up
being bullet-point lists, using letters and words on a PowerPoint projection. Bullet-points are
as visually stimulating as a page of text in a book or a “scroll-down” website page with
endless text. Autistic children do not learn well with any of these methods and hence the title
of this section. A big majority of textbooks and lecture material used by less sensitive people
in schools and universities are tailor-made for less sensitive children; and this is a central
disability of our educational system. It simply does not properly take into account the needs of
the sensitive minority who make up fifteen to twenty percent of students nationwide.

Concrete thinking is a major distinguishing feature of the autistic mind. Most autistic children
and adults have difficulty imagining in three dimensions any material written by letters and
words. On the other hand, they are very comfortable with audio and visual material. Autistic
children need to watch, hear and ideally touch a dramatization of the material. When they
cannot do that, learning becomes a more difficult experience and much more time consuming.
This is a tremendous problem for all sensitive students in all capacities. One day, society will
recognize this problem and rectify its disability. Until then, understanding the problem
provides for badly needed relief and is a significant boost to self-esteem. In addition, sensitive
people and their parents are encouraged to search for enlightened authors who use extensive
and effective visual aids. Often these books are not part of the official curriculum but can
make the textbooks of the curriculum easier to work with. A good starting point is Walker
publishers who produce picture-based books for children.


In keeping with the importance of visual aids, some movies have done a brilliant job
describing the sensitive personality. ‘The Wall’, a genius movie from 1981 describes a lifetime
of sensitivity in the most visual way. ‘Sideways’, a more recent movie luminously contrasts
the sensitive and insensitive personalities in men. ‘Little Women’, a timeless novel by Louisa
May Alcott and made into a movie several times, contrasts the personality of sensitive and
insensitive women: Jo March [most recently played by Winona Ryder] being the sensitive girl
growing up. ‘Mozart and the Whale’ recently and ‘David & Lisa’ from 1963 describe
sensitivity in young adult men and women. ‘Good Will Hunting’, the movie comes close to
describing the ADH personality growing up in Matt Damon’s character. The degree of
intelligence is not typical, but the social qualities of the presented personality are more or less
typical. In my opinion, these are essential movies for every family with a sensitive person, and
watching them will provide concrete validation.

Rami Serhan, MD
(206) 659-1ASD (273)

This article is part of the book: psyche-Smart Autism, by the same author. The book is
available on and other book sellers nationwide.