My Autistic Fractals in the 4th Dimension of Consciousness

In UNIPAZ, Brasilia, I had the honor of presenting my lived experience to a class of transpersonal psychology students. In my presentation, I demonstrate how my eyes sees objects as conceptual fractals from within the 4th dimension of consciousness. You may notice some gaps in the talking. This video has been edited to remove the Portuguese translation provided in realtime by Alfredo. 

English transcription of presentation at UNIPAZ, Brazil:

Being in the United States diagnosed as autistic, provided me a really nice fancy package to understand my differences. But the more I understood myself, the more I was witnessing the trauma of those who did not have the privilege of this identity. As you are going through transformation in your education, you are experiencing an evolution of your own identity. That is a privilege that you now have, because you can choose this process. 

The autistic child is under identity threat all the time. They enter the world with genetic memory and skills that cannot be explained. I can explain it in language that is accessible to the mainstream. I made it my mission to become an academic student and to use theories of transpersonal psychology to explain what people cannot observe. When we say, “autistic people are deficient” in this, that, or that, we are using traditional metrics to put people into a box of comprehension. 

Hypothetically, if my eyeballs work differently than your eyeballs, this is what the world looks like to me. I’m looking outside the window at the tree. 

The nautilus is a mathematical shape. Where does it begin, and where does it end? So, just for aesthetic purposes, I will begin from the center, because I like my lines to be clean. 

So this is the traditional nautilus shape that you see if you’re interested in this stuff. The more you stare at it, the more distortions begin to take shape. Perhaps in the first second that you looked at it, it appeared one dimensional. I believe that the brain has a 3-second time-lapse of perception, and after 3 seconds, you may start noticing a second dimension. So after three seconds, you may notice a 2-dimensional shape.

The moment you have a third dimension, it becomes obvious because you now have to have a negotiation in your brain, if the nautilus shape begins at the tip, or the center. This negotiation is your fourth dimension. 

My eyes give me a perceptual sphere that begins in the 4th dimension, and then I have to do a negotiation to dissect the components. Here is my fourth dimension. My eyes see a grid on an axis, but I don’t see all of the boxes simultaneously.

Every three seconds, the boxes change—and I will show you. 

So perhaps in the first three seconds, I receive A3, A4, C3. Inside A3, A4, C3, I have to make a picture-puzzle, which is this. 

But I wait three seconds, and now I have this. 

So, this might look like abstract art, but my work is very deep and very meaningful. Because not only do I have the privilege of doing these negotiations, I also have the privilege of taking every cube, and going into the fractal of its meaning. So although you see the nautilus as a potential fractal, I perceive my world primarily as existing perceptually in the negotiation space of creativity, where I can hold the multitudes simultaneously and it becomes irrelevant on that material dimension. I say material because that is my baseline, because that is my normal, and in that beautiful place, it becomes irrelevant to me whether the nautilus begins in the middle or at the end. 

Therefore I challenge the traditional explanation of moving up or coming down, because I believe that autistic people have access to the potential of thoughts and concepts from the interstitial space, the space between the one and the one. It’s the space that is the beginning of everything in the future. 

So if you’re asking an autistic child in the classroom to do reading comprehension and he says “oh look it’s a beautiful bird,” then in the United States we say “you’re stupid, you have to go to the special class” and we rob the child of the opportunity to gather information in a setting that is considered normal. So the autistic child learns to derive pleasure from the paranormal.

I call this the party in my head and I only share it with people that feel safe to me because my worldview exists of objects which are also fractals which are also fractals, and fractal objects that have infinite possibilities of perception. I can do that with observing children in a classroom and knowing immediately the depth and breadth of their existence. I can do this by reading multiple research papers and finding a connection. When I do data analysis it feels to me like a synthesis of deeply meaningful symbols.

Many researchers like to share their work but they don’t derive pleasure from doing the mundane mathematical work. So I want more people to be envious of the pleasurable experiences that I have and to eliminate the stigma of difference by recognizing that the child who has a revelation in his creativity, this is the child who is not having deficiencies that can be defined by the non-autistic person. It’s only the autistic child himself who can describe how he perceives his deficiencies.

The privilege I have with transpersonal psychology is to use scientific terms to provide meaning and to make meaning of my existence. But I don’t intend for my work or my research, I don’t intend to colonize the experience of other autistic people with my worldview. If there’s somebody who wants to identify with deficiency, I can accept that. if you want to say that you have a sister who suffers from lesbianism, that’s okay. If you want to say this is a person living with autism, that’s okay. 

For me to have an identity to feel like something normal, I have to be allowed to say I am autistic. I have been able to feel like my experience is indigenous to me, so all my work that I do takes the position of liberating my experience from the medical pathology paradigm and moving through it, not up or down to it, so that other people can make meaning of my experience. 

So I want to invite you as you are encountering people who are severely other than you, remember that they come at you from the fourth dimension and in  your social encounter you have an opportunity to play creatively and create something new together. And that is called transcendence.

Thank you so much.


You may notice some gaps in the talking. This video has been edited to remove the Portuguese translation provided in realtime by Alfredo. 

 

 

Kodi Lee Wins, Parents Asking About Piano Lessons for Autistic Students

He’s got perfect pitch. He is 22, and sings with a rasp and vibrato through that last high note. Kodi’s piano accompaniment shows off technical precision that stole my heart. 

Kodi Lee just won the 2019 America's Got Talent competition

Kodi Lee won the 2019 America’s Got Talent competition

He’s also blind and autistic, and Kodi Lee just won the 2019 America’s Got Talent competition, and I WAS THERE IN HOLLYWOOD TO SEE IT! #heckyeah

Henny Kupferstein with Kodi Lee’s piano teacher YiYi Ku, at America’s Got Talent finals

Autistic people have talent, and nearly all autistic people have perfect pitch (read my research study). Autistic musical savants like myself want to be recognized for musical talent, the practice time we devote to showcasing perfection, and the music theory training that helps us fit in to a group of quality musicians, because we are usually the strongest one in the room

Kodi’s win made parents and teachers think about autistic talent, and now everyone wants piano lessons for their autistic child. 

Autistic's Got Talent (fake pose)

All my piano students are autistic. Every autistic piano student should have equal access to the arts, whether they are nonverbal, blind, or poor motor skills. We can all do it, because we have the gift. But do all piano teachers have the gift to teach? 

Current research is critical to work with a demographic that is misunderstood by mainstream education. Those who put together homegrown curriculum and color-basedprograms are truly demonstrating incompetent teaching skills. Teaching down to the diagnosis is a form of discrimination, and parents need to learn how to recognize a poor teacher-student relationship.

How to Know if Your Autistic Child’s Piano Teacher Is Trained for the Job

  1. The teacher will begin the lessons even if the student does not have an appropriate instrument in their home
  2. The teacher plays all assignments for the student, and then teaches by rote
  3. The teacher assigns scales and flashcard work for home practice
  4. The teacher does not hold a 4-year music degree from a nationally accredited institution.
  5. The teacher focuses on correcting posture and finger shape more times than the student is playing during the lesson.
  6. The teacher’s rates are below market rate for professional services in your region
  7. The teacher refuses to teach online (skype/facetime) to accommodate the student
  8. The teacher uses “student with autism” or “definitely has a spectrum disorder” language without regard for the prevailing preference of autistic people to be called primarily “autistic”
  9. The teacher talks slow, loud, and with vocabulary that feels infantilizing.
  10. The teacher is not autistic, and therefore, cannot serve as a positive role model. 

Thankfully, I’ve done the work for you! 

Henny Kupferstein posing with a fake Hollywood star

Piano teachers looking for an evidence-based piano pedagogy, read about my professional training program for LDME™ Training – Developmental Music Education™ Training  to  become a licensed developmental music educator®

Research Study about autism and perfect pitch: Non-Verbal Paradigm for Assessing Individuals for Absolute Pitch Kupferstein, H., & Walsh, B. J. (2016). Non-Verbal Paradigm for Assessing Individuals for Absolute Pitch. World Futures, 72(7-8), 390-405. [PDF]

Parents who want to learn more about piano lessons for autistic and nonverbal students using a method that guarantees these goals through neuroplastic changes, BOOK A CONSULT and let’s set a time to talk.

Popular Articles:

  1. Why Piano Lessons for My Autistic Child? Top 10 Questions Answered by Autistic Piano Teacher
  2. Before You Pay for Piano Lessons: Little Johnny’s Bill of Rights
  3. Concern: Skype Piano Lessons Will Never Work for My Autistic Child Because…

Why I created #whinywednesday for my FaceBook followers

On Wednesday, August 21, 2019, I posted an invitation asking my FaceBook followers to post their crankiest issue of the day. The teaser introduced #whinywednesday hashtag was accompanied by a photograph of myself in a hospital setting. I replied to every comment, with a sarcastic twinge and dorky emojis and animated gifs to complete the mockery of the absurdity.

It’s #whinywednesday. Post your complaints below. I’m serious. I love being distracted 😀

Humor and sarcasm has always been my default perspective on life’s complexities. I live with genetic comorbidities known to cause complications in autistic people. As I started a new treatment this year, I found myself in the infusion clinic, surrounded by people receiving chemotherapy. The energy in the space was threatening the sanctity of my positive thoughts.

I fought back by posting a picture of my IV arm, and a goofy grin. The teaser offered an opportunity for anyone to make a laughing stock of life’s complexities, by reframing them as trivialities. The original premise was to showcase my attitude during a challenging moment, while inviting the observer to join me in silly play. I was not prepared for the awakening I experienced when reading about people’s daily grind.

Hey hey hey, it’s #whinywednesday today. So please share, what’s the crankiest ☔️ thing that happened to you today? For me, my mint plant 🥦 decided it no longer wants to live outside, so now I have green stuff in my kitchen. Okay, your turn 😀

One person shared that he just completed his oral defense for his dissertation proposal. When he got home to celebrate, he found that his brother had drank all of the scotch that he was saving for 20 years for this occasion. Others spoke about their hassle with paying their taxes, the struggle to buy printer ink at the Best-Buy, and the muscle pain of finishing physical therapy only to be followed by a gym workout.

Overall, this experiment is helping me be a better person to myself, and a more compassionate member of a community of support. Our shared interests seem to be aligned toward acceptance of autistic people, and a world that works together to create a safer space for people who are made to feel that their existence is a threat to the species. One week later, the commentators have thanked me for creating this space for safe whining. But have I created this, or have they made it what it has become? 

Why ABA Piano Students Struggle to Believe in Themselves, Despite Musical Gifts

I teach piano to non-verbal and autistic students every day. Most have perfect pitch and a very high degree of musical aptitude. Along with their diagnosis comes a trail of baggage from earlier teacher-student relationships. Students as young as five may display behaviors that can be interpreted as aggressive and harmful to themselves and others, behaviors that make them seem like they aren’t paying attention, or behaviors that make them appear as if they don’t understand the instructions of the task at hand. I experience ignorance and intolerance of sensory accommodations from ABA therapists and behaviorally-trained educators observing my work with the Rancer Method. Their focus is on the ABA-type treatment interventions. It is the majority and sadly not unusual.

VIDEO: Why ABA Piano Students Struggle to Believe in Themselves, Despite Musical Gifts

The distinct differences in the success of my students are directly linked to their early exposure to esteem-building teacher-student relationships, and whether ABA was a big part of their early intervention. It becomes apparent when a student has been exposed to ABA for more than 10% of their lifetime (e.g. 6 months for a five-year-old child). They become prompt dependent for minor tasks. They lose track of their inner awareness and become unable to take clues from their inside-body to self regulate. Dysregulations turn into complete brain-fry. These system shutdowns are neurological and not in their control anymore.

When a student is in a verbal loop, repeating the same word over and over, and their body is shaking, it becomes time to physically redirect the body into a different setting. I will advise the parent to turn their child on the piano bench so their back is to the piano. The loop instantly stops because he is now in a different environmental state. The student will automatically turn his body back to the piano, completely regulated, and ready to resume. It is a shame that we allow people to grow up with a mindset that they have to allow others to tell them how to function, how to be, what to work for, and when to take a break. We owe it to our students to teach them how to prevent overwhelm without physically prompting them into an environmental redirect. See this article for strategies: Teaching piano student to stim as overwhelm prevention  

Autistic ABA Survivors Grow into Soul-Crushed Teenagers: Tracing the Roots of the Damage

All humans are born with the capacity and drive to seek out a distinct individual sense of self. This agency is robbed of autistic people who are conditioned under behavioral therapy with ABA (applied behavior therapy) to have a misconstrued sense of influence and control.

ABA is discrimination because the behaviors to be modified are targeted on the basis of disability. ABA is also extreme oppression because it is silencing a minority when their behavior (stimming) is not a threat to the majority and it allows them to function in a healthy way. The specific focus of the intervention is not primarily on helping a child to learn functional life skills such as brushing their teeth. Rather,  ABA practitioners are systematically forcing children to perform tasks without stimming, which autistic people must employ to move comfortably and efficiently through the environment.

Amy is an autistic teenaged piano student with perfect pitch. After every measure of four notes played, I ask her if she played it correctly since I know she can hear it and identify her mistakes by ear. For more than a year, she has always responds with, “I don’t know. Was it?” Recently, I asked Amy, “How do you know you are a good person?”

She answered, “Because people say, Good job, Amy.”

I probed a bit more: “So if you watch TV and don’t do math homework, how do you know you’re a good person?”

“Well, then I’m not a good person. I suck!”

Amy has grown to define her identity by the verbal affirmations of the tasks she has performed, whether good or bad. The consequence of the plummeting dignity and pulse of her human spirit is that educators feel compelled to keep lowering the bar to reflect her outwardly dull shell. Amy is now being rewarded for showing up to 3rd grade math class even if she fails the tests. She now presents like a robot that inhales and exhales daily, while completely disconnected from her ability to self-check her own performance for anything. Amy just lives her life waiting for a particular kind of feedback from the world around her to know how to operate next.  

B.F. Skinner was a 20th century American behaviorist who believed that thoughts, emotions, and actions are exclusively products of the environment. With that premise, he centered his discipline theories on rewards rather than punishment. The ABA practices rely heavily on operant conditioning so the student can modify their behavior to earn a reward. Practitioners will condition the environment so students will modify their behavior not because they fear the punishment, but because they fear losing the reward. That to me is still relying on fear as a deterrent, which is a very concerning psychological stressor.

An extreme behavior modification that is intentionally conditioned to be a response to an external stimulus can be a direct contributor to a permanent psychological trauma. Carl Jung agreed with Sigmund Freud’s experiments on word associations: a disturbance occurs each time a stimulus word has touched upon a psychic lesion or conflict (Jung, 1989, p. 147). An intervention that undermines a fundamental right of human functioning is a civic transgression, and a legitimate moral worry that must be publicly deliberated. One hundred years ago, Skinner tried to demystify the human condition. Today, autistic culture has a long way to go before it can be accepted for its unique contribution to the future of mankind.  

For all those who argue that ABA helped their child develop speech, know that speech is only a mark of achievement when a child is not like Amy: She is verbal, but her spirit is dead. How can we fix this? Read UNDOING OPERANT CONDITIONING TRAUMA WITH AUTISTIC PIANO STUDENTS.

Sources:

Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, Dreams and Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.


IMPORTANT! Please take the ABA Early Childhood Intervention Survey for my Research Study click here for the link (Survey for Autistic adults 18+, or parents of autistic children)

Undoing operant conditioning trauma with autistic piano students

ABA for autistics is based on Skinner’s operant conditioning for dogs. In this video, you can see the lone dog waiting for permission to have fun. Watching this clip, I can almost hear the ABA kid saying, “Miss Ashley–what am I working for? After I swim for 5 minutes, can I have 15 minutes of iPad time?”

Many of my autistic piano students are ABA survivors. They have been led to believe that they have no original thoughts, intentions, or free will. Everything they do is scripted, and everything they don’t do is conditioned. It takes us weeks to begin undoing the damage. In the worst cases, it takes months or years, depending on their age and the length of the ABA-induced trauma.

To investigate child development, 19th century behaviorist Ivan Pavlov experimented on dogs. Back in the days before ethics banned such experiments, he assumed that dogs will comply with the training because they are motivated by food. Operant conditioning is a way to manipulate (condition) the environment (operation) to produce an outcome. If the behavior is rewarded with a good consequence, more of that good behavior will keep coming. Likewise, if a behavior is negatively reinforced, the behavior will dissolve.

Standard ABA reward chart

Standard ABA reward chart

ABA (applied behavior analysis) is considered an ‘evidence-based treatment’ for autism, only because the evidence is based on Skinner’s behaviorism on Pavlov’s experiments. When applied to humans, the parent who prefers a favorable outcome will be delighted that their child finally learned to go potty. The problem extends into the ethics of those in position of power who determine the goals. The therapist and parent get to decide on a list of behaviors to enforce, and a list of behaviors to diminish. This can include much-needed self regulatory stimming (Also read: Reframing Autistic Behavior Problems as Self Preservation: A Freudian View). As in child sexual abuse*, the victim will lifelessly comply if they are groomed with compliments and treats. Just like Pavlov speculated, we are more likely to repeat a behavior once we learn that it produces positive consequences.

In this video, you can see a non-speaking autistic piano student who was kicking and screaming straight through his first lesson. By the second week, he was playing and reading independently. By the third week, he was happy to follow my guidance to correct his fingering. One month later, this student is now playing with two hands and waits all week for his lesson time, ready to shine. In the first lesson, he had to be convinced to read and play only after the dreaded reward chart was shown to him. After the first month of lessons, he is happily seated at the piano without any rewards mentioned.

With my autistic piano students, the work starts from the first lesson when the student realizes that playing the piano is the ‘reward’ and not the ‘task’ with which to work on for a reward. Rather than dumbing the material down to rehearsing Twinkle-Twinkle, I start the first lesson with sophisticated music so they can hear the the sound of their own intelligence. This no-fail approach always leads to lightbulb moments where the kids begin to come back to life. For the parent witnessing their child’s strengths, the lessons are a dramatic change from the rest of the week’s structure.


* While I recognize the complexity of the psychology around sexual abuse, I am in no way implying that ABA is comparable to sexual abuse. Rather, I am troubled by the way in which they are similar: both are adult-imposed manipulation on a vulnerable person for producing an pre-planned outcome.

More Articles: A Dog’s Life: Pedagogical Flaws in Repetitive Piano Practice for Autistic Students