The Autistic Child and the Predictive Coding Theory on ASD

Have you ever considered how our brain automatically picks what is worthy of our attention and what to ignore? Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE understands that, for children of determination, this can be quite a challenge because predicting is a voluntary act for an autistic child.

How does the brain distinguish between the normal and the novel? To decide what is novel, the brain needs to have a prior expectation. When an out-of-the-ordinary event occurs, the experience is violated and that expectation is thwarted, which causes the brain to be ‘in surprise’.


Predictive coding

Before explaining the predictive coding theory on autism, let’s understand what predictive coding is. Predictive coding works on a hierarchical model. To work towards better autism support in Dubai, it is vital to know what the framework is and how predictive coding works in a normally developing brain.

  • The predictive coding framework

To get a better understanding of ASD, for the purpose of accurate autism therapy in Dubai, studies conclude that the predictive coding framework can help decide where the attention impairment originates from. This framework includes the hierarchy of the parts of brain responsible for making predictions. The ‘low level’ areas are the sensory organs from where the information arises. This information is ‘sent up the hierarchy’ to the areas of the brain that analyze the given information. The ‘higher level’ area tries to understand the information, makes a prediction, and sends it ‘down the hierarchy’. This is where the autistic child experiences the prediction error.

  • Normally developing brains and predictive coding

The hierarchical model explains that the brain is making predictions all the time. The sensory information is an input, which is given to a ‘higher level’ where predictions are generated. When there is an error in those predictions, like something unexpected happening, the brain uses this element of surprise to ‘update the higher levels’ and generate much better predictions of upcoming events. In a quiet environment, a random noise would surprise the brain; but later on the noise would be tuned out by the brain automatically. A significant part of relevant autism therapy in UAE is to understand that this noise would act as a constant signal to the autistic brain, causing the autistic individual to experience prediction errors constantly.


The predictive coding theory

Researchers have developed a theory which may be helpful for future autism treatments in UAE. The predictive coding theory on ASD explains that the impairment in predictive coding is a core feature of autism; concretizing the fact that autism is not a social disorder, rather it is a neurological problem arising due to perceptions. The way normally developing children adapt to change (considering it normal after a while so that the brain might focus on the necessary despite the novelty) is something that the individual with ASD lacks. In simple words, the brain of an autistic individual will put more than required attention on minute details, like the horn of a random car. Normally developing brains will tune that car horn out; whereas the autistic brain will pay conscious attention to it.

Researchers also say that, as compared to normally developing individuals, autistic individuals see the world more accurately. The reason is that their perception is not altered or influenced by previous experiences because the ‘higher level’ of the predictive coding framework is not updated enough to learn from those experiences.


Prediction errors causing autistic features

Predictions are used to draw up an estimate with the sensory information collected, and the prediction error is responsible for learning and updating from experience. Since autistic individuals face prediction errors often, these people go through frustration when routine is interrupted, and that’s why they often have a repetitive behavior. Autism treatment in Dubai requires the comprehension of these prediction errors. One has to understand that autistic individuals have a difficulty tracking all the experiences, which results in prediction errors. It is quite a challenge, as there are always changes in predictions. The flexibility of the predictive coding framework allows non-autistic people to adapt more easily.


The most unpredictable thing: a human being

Predictive coding is a problem that becomes much more intense when autistic individuals have to face human beings and their unpredictive nature. It’s not so easy for a normally developing child to predict what this particular human being will do next, and for an autistic child it is extremely difficult. Autism support in UAE can play an important part in helping autistic individuals face everyday challenges because frustration (due to being unable to predict) can cause anxiety. So, it is crucial to aid in developing a routine that may allow the autistic child to have a coping mechanism for the impairment he or she has.

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