Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued
(4) Learning
The reason for doing psychotherapy is the presenting problem; the purpose of the payment for psychotherapy is the client’s desire to be rid of the problem effectively and efficiently; and the level of intervention in psychotherapy is that of learning. Each treatment discipline uses its own level of intervention. Surgeons mend or cut out anatomical tissues. Other physicians alter the body’s chemistry to achieve their effects on the body. Masseurs and chiropractors manipulate the body’s muscles to effect temporary relief. Psychotherapists use the learning function of the brain to modify, temporarily or permanently, the habits and directives by which the brain regulates and controls itself and the rest of the body. The brain is indeed a marvellous apparatus which constantly strains to appreciate the conditions of life which surround it and exist from time to time within it, and to use a host of different methods by which to learn how to adapt the world to it or itself to the world. It is an exquisitely delicate and immensely powerful learning machine.
But what can it learn? In that it regulates everything within the body, it can learn to do (almost) anything required of it. It controls the production of growth hormone which is the means by which body parts grow and repair themselves (or become cancerous). It controls the body’s immune response by which the body fights off infections and resists communicable diseases (or by which the body afflicts itself, as in arthritis and allergies). It controls the production and allocation of chemicals in the body to maintain health and energy production (or to create deficiencies). It controls its own reactions by creating pain (or by taking away pain, as in hypnosis) or fear (or by generating strength and courage) to ensure that it looks after its own integrity and survival. It determines how we relate (or fail effectively to relate) to others. It controls and creates what and who we are. And, comprised as it is of billions of nerves, it not only can communicate (receiving information through the internal and external senses, and sending directives to all the body’s parts) and provide executive functions, it can also learn to do whatever it does differently.
How it learns is beyond the scope of this work. However, it is easy to understand why it sometimes fails to learn what it might be expected to learn in order to minimize suffering. It sometimes chooses the wrong habits or strategies. But it can be taught.

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