"Dibs: In Search of Myself" is a book that describes the behavior of Dibs during psychotherapy sessions with Virginia Axline. This book shows the basics of the game therapy method and can be used as a source of information about the psyche of autistic children. The information provided by the author if combined with other sources can be used for gaining a better understanding of the cognitive functions of autistic people and their peculiarities along with the social and behavioral context of their actions. Based on this understanding, certain conclusions on the process of memorization and unique characteristics of thinking have been reached, and an understanding of the deviations in behavior and speech development was formed. Additionally, the main issues of perception and its relation to the formation of the holistic mental map and behavioral patterns were illuminated.

In Search of Self

"Dibs: In Search of Myself" is a book that describes the application of the principles of game therapy in working with a boy called Dibs. Axline herself does not call Dibs an autist, preferring to call him emotionally unbalanced. Such an acceptance forms a special attitude to the child, allowing him to open its emotions and self-express without the intervention of an adult in the process of game. By studying the child's emotional and behavioral reactions in different game situations, the therapist tries to understand the personal characteristics of her young client. However, at the same time, the therapist limits the activity of the child when it goes beyond what is permissible. Thus, Axline with her book allows others to acquaint themselves with the inner world of the child, using the knowledge of the game process and suggestive or commenting statements as a tool. This game interaction allows to determine the cognitive and emotional development of the child as accurately as possible through behavioral responses. Moreover, the described method of game therapy allows to evaluate the cognitive sphere of those who are hiding behind the strong protection or whose self is chained with traumatic experiences or physiological disorders. Thus, the game interaction proposed by Virginia Axline is the best way to analyze the autistic behavior in the way that is the most comfortable for the client.

Mental Processes

Perception

Both Kenner and Asperger, psychiatrists who studied the phenomenon of autism first, have described the strange reactions of their patients to sounds, touches, tastes, and smells (Schopler & Mesibov, 2013, p. 29). Creek, a psychologist and psychiatrist, has included the abnormalities in sensory perception to the list of major symptoms of autism. Rimland, another psychologist and psychiatrist, has stressed the importance of researching the ability to perceive among autistic children (Schopler & Mesibov, 2013, p. 31). Delacatos, one more psychologist, suggested that autism is caused by brain damage that affects one or more sensory channels, so the brain of autistic children perceives the signals of the outside world differently than a healthy brain (Schopler & Mesibov, 2013, p. 51). Moreover, it was assumed that unusual sensory stimulation is the main feature of autism and is responsible for the main symptoms of this disorder, which plays an important role in the construction of modern diagnostic classifications. Thus, anomalies of perception can cause severe anxiety, which in turn leads to obsessive or compulsive behavior, as well as social and communicative problems, such as developmental side effects, which are the more common criterion of autism. Usually, the first understanding of the fact that an autistic child is different from others comes neer the end of the teenage period or even later. The realization that the cause of their sensory deviations is not in their weaknesses or traits can be a relief and a source of motivation. However, the problem is that often people do not know anything about unusual perceptions of autists and therefore do not attempt to adapt to them. In the case of Dibs, distorted perception manifests itself in his game, when he approached the dollhouse, ran his hand over the roof, leaned over, and looked inside. Then, he began to take out objects, one after another, and name each object. This behavior characterizes his perception disorder, which could only be studied through acceptance of his personality, as when Virginia tried to accept his dissimilarity and “play by his rules” (Axline, 1964, p. 14).

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Thinking

A distinctive feature of autistic thinking is attention to details. From a clinical point of view, disturbances in thinking are not specific to autism. As the researchers note, such operations as correlation, classification, generalization, understanding of cause-effect relations, etc., are available to autistic children in general. The main difficulty is in the active use of existing knowledge and skills in everyday life, situations of direct communication with other people, or their transferring and modification in any new situation. Autistic thinking is always narrowly specialized (Schopler & Mesibov, 2013, p. 49). Many autistic children, considering their generally impeded development, reveal abilities unusual for their level of functioning: musical, mechanical, or mathematical. Children cannot use the detected exceptional skills because of the absence of other abilities, which are necessary for socialization. Autistic thinking is fixed on one specific thing. However, this does not mean that one cannot direct and develop this thinking. Using the child's fixation, one can motivate them to study other spheres (Schopler & Mesibov, 2013, p. 66). The peculiarity of mental development and the disruption of communication ability are reflected in gaming activity. While healthy children start playing at the age of 3-6 months, autistic ones either do not play at all, or they manipulate what they get in their hands monotonously. More than a third of children prefer non-game items. Monotonous manipulation provides a stimulating effect for their thinking process. Loud sounds, the turning of light on and off by the clicks when they are playing with a switch, the rustling of paper, the tactile and audible perception of running water are far from a complete list of manipulations inherent to autistic children. In the case of Dibs, he studied his toys, sometimes looking at them for a long time in complete silence, which Virginia tried not to interrupt (Axline, 1964, p. 24). As a result, she was able to determine his fear of enclosed (walled) spaces. Moreover, the deviations in the thinking process are also represented when he visited Virginia before his injection, when he interacted with jars with paint and brushes, arranging them according to the color spectrum. This shows his concentration on the specific idea without perception of the total process.

Memory

The high level of memorization among children with autism can be observed well in most cases. If a conventional student can memorize about seven numbers, autistic children with a relatively normal development of speech can simultaneously memorize more than ten numbers in a line. Hermelin and O'Connor in their studies have shown that adolescents with autism remember more than ten unrelated words as well (Olu-Lafe, Liederman, & Tager-Flusberg, 2014, p. 2654). Moreover, authors have drawn attention to the fact that neurotypical teens reproduce words from the beginning of the list better, while children with autism - from the end of it, which relates to the effect of primacy. If an experimenter makes a pause for over 30 seconds or more while naming the words, the volume of reproduced words among autistic children decreases. Authors also drew attention to the fact that adolescents with autism reproduced sounds better than words (Olu-Lafe et al., 2014, p. 2658). Holistic images, especially human faces, are remembered by autists badly. When they are faced with the need to identify a person and this person is in an unusual situation or in different clothes, they often fail. Therefore, memory reproduction is characterized by the fact that it is significantly lower in the period immediately after the event and higher after some time. For instance, an autistic child, even if their intellect and speech are sufficiently developed, does not describe the events of the past day. However, after 2-3 months, it independently returns to it and tells an exhaustive story. The manifestation of the Dibs’s memory peculiarities can be observed in the description of school news by him. He gives a detailed description of the news, their form and place, where one can get them. Moreover, he used to reproduce the song of Tom Piper without any mistakes, as if he copied it. It shows the blocks, which his memory about school news consists of (Axline, 1964, p. 38). Moreover, he relates this information in the attendance of a psychologist, which shows his system of correlation and connections of these blocks with other events.

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Speeches and Judgments

One of the most usual manifestations of autism is deviations in speech development, indicated by Kanner and other researchers (Kroncke, Willard, & Huckabee, 2016, p. 3). Manifestations of speech disorders among autists are diverse and differ in the degree of expression: from almost completely lost speech to the ability to use independent speech in communication. The main symptoms of delay and distortion of speech development differ depending on the level of autism. Speaking about the speech characteristics of children with autism in general, it should be noted that despite the wide variety of speech disorders, which are common to individual variants, there are also general, autism-specific features. First, a violation of the communicative function of speech should be named. Autistic children avoid communication, which worsens the chance of their speech developing. Their speech is autonomous, self-centered, not sufficiently connected with the situation and environment. The isolation of such a child from the world, the inability to realize themselves in it, obviously affects the formation of their self-awareness. The consequences of such a speech delay is in the later appearance of the pronoun "I" and other personal pronouns in first person (Kroncke et al., 2016, p. 6). A characteristic of all variants of speech development among autistic people is stereotypic speech. Often, their speech is filled with word-makings and "neologisms". The other side of the deviations in speech are the judgments, which are egoistic and based on personal interests and morality of the autistic child. However, it is hard to predict how the moral values would affect autistic behavior and whether they will be used or not. In Dibs’ case, all this ambiguity is shown when Dibs dag his solder when he was paying with the toy village (Axline, 1964, p. 64). This situation shows that he uses the example of others and their phrases for action in unknown situations. Moreover, the process of game itself reflects the actions that have happened to him during similar situations, which provided Virginia with information about his interactions with parents.

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Behaviorism Issues

The counseling and therapy of people on the autistism spectrum is complex because the source of information about their level of development and underlying problems comes from their behavior, which is deformed under the influence of their illness. That is why the behavioral methods of research and interaction are most effective. One such tool is ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), a scientific approach that constantly looks for correlations between behavior and factors of the environment (Leaf et al., 2016, p. 729). By manipulating these factors in an experimental way, ABA seeks to change behavior. For ABA, the different names of behavior– whether it is "echolalia", "hallucinations", "autism symptom", or something else - are not important. The main thing is that the behavior exists, it can be measured (frequency, duration, latency), and described. Additionally, the factors that cause and intensify it need to be determined. After that, an attempt can be made to change these factors and form new types of behavior. This approach is most effective for working with autists, because all children with autism are different. Each child has its own characteristics of behavior and its own characteristics of environment, influencing them. Moreover, if one focuses on specific behavior, identifying the factors that influence and control this behavior, then they can change it. Proceeding from this, the actions of Virginia in relation to Dibs acquire a new context. She found an erroneous scheme in Dibs’ behavior. He learned to recognize the emotions of his emotionally immature parents and began to close himself off like they did (Axline, 1964, p. 31). Then, for a long period, she helped Dibs form a new pattern of behavior that would be successful and help him in socialization. Thus, she formed a new, effective pattern of behavior with different manifestations of the cognitive processes in contrast to what he had.

Social Context of Behavior

Autists have great problems with generalization, metaphors, and metonymies. This is expressed in the fact that they rarely identify the common meaning of several subjects and situations, do not understand portable values, ??and perceive everything literally or, conversely, rigidly link the meaning of the situation to any of its minor aspects. Autistic people have a displaced basic level of categorization, which leads to the adoption of information with the first case. Not every autistic person suspects the existence of consciousness in another person or can feel the emotional state of another. Nevertheless, this does not prevent autists from receiving some experience out of situations. Therefore, speaking about the social or cultural impact, it should be said that a person, being socialized, relates behavior to social archetypes, memes, and values, which are accepted by the reference group. However, on the other hand, Triandis and Hofstede have introduced cultural measures to define the important factors, which influence the personality or group in terms of culture (“Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions,” n.d.). One dimension is contextuality, based on the idea that some actions do not have any meaning without context. In cultures with high contextuality (most Asian countries), each action has a profound meaning related to the circumstances. Thus, it can be argued that the concept of norm in behavior is relative and should be studied as phenomenological from the position of non-violent interaction (Rosenberg & Chopra, 2015). In case of Dibs, the social impact on his personality is manifested in the nonacceptance of his disorder by his parents, whose impact robbed Dibs of emotional support. The behavior of his parents can be a result of the impact of his disorder on the emotionally immature psyche (Huang et al., 2014, p. 1387). In order to overcome this problem, Virginia had to provide him with her acceptance of his personality and with positive emotional support, which have been developing throughout the book.

Conclusion

First, it should be stated that cognitive functions of any person are a strong mixture of nature and nurture, which manifest in the patterns of behavior and social understanding of norm and pathology. Second, such cognitive functions as thinking, memory, perception, and making judgments are related by the way of interaction and analyzing the impact of external factors by a person. Third, the memorization process has its deviations and unique aspects, caused by the autistic disorder. Fourth, Dibs’ case represents not only the whole spectrum of autistic behavior, but the social influence of relatives and social environment. Fifth, the holistic impact of all external and internal factors affecting Dibs’ behavior made him seem abnormal and unsocialized. Only the help of Axline helped him remove the false patterns of behavior and build new ones.

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