Symbolic Thinking

The symbolic thinking capacity is responsible for developing and maintaining plans and strategies for action through the use of language. It is the capacity for mental initiative in symbolic tasks. Problems in this capacity are reflected in the following ways.
The student has great difficulty developing strategies for studying. If shown a study method he will follow this but he cannot develop his own study strategies. This applies to other situations as well; if shown a strategy the person may be able to implement it, but could not originate it.

The person has trouble keeping his attention focused on a language related task to completion. The person is easily distracted from a task and frequently labelled as having a short attention span. The person cannot maintain the focus of his attention in a school, job or social situation.

The person cannot work out an active plan to organize himself so his behavior is disorganized. There is a central lack of self-directed organization.

The person is not self-correcting of his mistakes and is frequently unaware that he has made mistakes. The person has difficulty learning from his mistakes due to this lack of awareness. Along with this there is a general lack of worry or concern about his performance.

At a milder level of impairment the person can worry to some extent about something but does not pull in all the facts and keeps hammering away at one or two things until distracted again. After it has been pointed out, the person becomes aware of the foolishness of his behavior, but can't work out strategies to prevent it from happening again.

The person cannot work out long term goals and plans for himself. He tends to respond to the immediate situation in a 'live for the moment' fashion. Other people may view him as untrustworthy or flighty because of the lack of stability in long range planning.
The person's choice of friends may be based on how 'fun' they are with no consideration of the long term consequences of the friendship.

If a person does not know the answer to a question immediately he will leave the question. There is no process of active probing or searching for the answer, no mental initiative. The person is mentally passive.There is a difficulty in seeing the main point or overall idea of a symbolic activity (e.g., a discussion, a story, a movie, a math question) and a tendency to get sidetracked by irrelevant details.

The person fails to take into account all the existing elements in a situation before acting and therefore behavior is inappropriate to the specific situation; he cannot look before he leaps.The person reduces a situation to a stereotype of an already known situation so there is a lack of differentiation between situations and a response that is appropriate in one situation is applied in another where it is not appropriate. For example, the person may think that a strategy developed by a character in a television program is an appropriate strategy to deal with a real life situation.

Arrowsmith has changed the way I learn to a whole different level. It has taught me to be patient, and it has allowed me to mature in different ways. I am glad that I was placed in this program because if I had not participated, I would probably be stressing out in high school with my learning difficulties instead of feeling like a regular student.

- Faye, Student

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