There has been a growing interest in scientifically-based strategies to optimize and compensate for mental and perceptual disabilities in the last few decades. This interest stems from an increasing recognition of the benefits that could be derived from such techniques and the prevalence of neurological disorders and injuries, particularly those affecting perception and cognition (Snyder & Grayson 2000).
Key elements of the compensatory strategy
The key elements of the compensatory strategy approach through an examination of its theoretical foundations. It also discusses some applications of this approach in specific populations and barriers that may prevent optimal use. The logic behind compensatory strategies is then explored concerning specific populations, which can assist neurotypicals in better understanding what autistic people experience when they employ these coping mechanisms.
Compensatory strategies are defined as techniques used to improve or substitute for the lack of one or more non-cognitive skills. They are differentiated from learning strategies, which have been commonly used in education, in that they are based on deficits of impairment rather than ignorance. This definition implies three components:
- A specific deficit in some psychological ability.
- A systematic relationship between that deficit and its result across learning tasks.
- The use of a strategy to compensate, at least partly, for the deficit. Although not always necessary, this third criterion typically implies that the compensating action results better than obtained without it.
Differentiated from other intervention techniques
This definition allows compensatory strategies to be differentiated from other intervention techniques in two ways. First, compensating for a deficit can improve performance by strengthening the impaired skill or using another strategy. Second, compensatory intervention focuses on matching learning demands with cognitive resources instead of enhancing learning capacity through remedial teaching methods to improve general knowledge and skills.
However, many authors have used this second distinction to further divide compensations into “enrichment” compensations, which are intended to enhance the individual’s ability to minimize task difficulties, and “constraint,” which are intended to restrict learners’ capacities so that they are not overwhelmed by excessive information (McGraw & Snyder 2004). The distinction between enrichment and constraint is controversial because it depends on the specific characteristics of the learning demand. It can be argued that optimization, selection, and simplification are all types of constraints (Fisher 1993), which would leave only enrichment as a different type.
Direct compensations and indirect compensations
While many strategies have been proposed to compensate for deficits or impairments, they can be roughly grouped into two categories: direct compensations and indirect compensations. Direct compensations involve substituting an impaired ability with another strategy designed to produce the same outcome.
For instance, someone who cannot use verbal skills to solve problems may employ diagrams instead; however, the problem-solving result will still be imperfect if verbal abilities are also impaired. On the other hand, indirect compensations involve using a strategy that is not the same as the impaired ability but produces a related outcome. For instance, someone who cannot use verbal skills to solve problems may instead picture themselves solving the problem verbally by talking it through with another person.
Model of compensatory strategies
In developing the model of compensatory strategies, Snyder and Grayson identified two cognitive processes that they believed to underlie all behaviors: abstraction and information processing. Abstraction is defined as “the process of generalizing from existing knowledge or from experiences gained by operating in a particular situation.” Information processing is more specific and includes encoding and decoding operations between the input and output stages of information processing.
They proposed that compensatory strategies fall into three categories according to the degree of abstraction and processing involved: Automatic, controlled, and mixed processes. It should be noted that these categories refer to the nature of the strategy employed, not necessarily to how it is implemented. A compensating strategy may use mental imagery, which would generally be considered indirect compensation; however, if one employs this strategy by imagining oneself solving a problem orally rather than picturing something else verbally or visually, it would be considered direct compensation.
Physical Impairment Example
Jack has used compensatory strategies to succeed in college despite his physical impairments. His memory has been affected by his accident. Jack uses a journal to help him keep track of his information to help him with his memory deficits. In Jack’s journal, he keeps essential information, such as phone numbers, emergency contact details, and assignment due dates. In addition to the daily checklist, he also notes what needs to be done. By doing so, Jack can recall things he may otherwise forget.
Jack has difficulty concentrating. Jack’s compensatory strategy for improving concentration is to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do multiple tasks simultaneously. Jack makes sure to take breaks every 10 minutes whenever he has to concentrate for an extended period. To prevent becoming distracted, he breaks every 10 minutes. Jack uses these strategies to get the information he needs from his lecture material and complete his school assignments and other tasks.
Advantages of compensatory strategies
Anyone who has a physical condition that affects their speech, speaking ability, or communication ability can benefit from compensatory strategies. Both adults and young people in various situations can use compensatory strategies to address speech, language, communication, or eating and drinking difficulties.
When an individual has difficulty speaking, communicating or eating, and drinking, compensatory strategies compensate for these differences. Those involved in the care of a child can benefit from compensatory strategies. Communication, eating, and drinking become more accessible with the help of our speech and language therapists.
What are communication compensation techniques?
According to Celce-Murcia et al., compensating methods come in nine different forms. They are retrieval, re-structuring, word coinage, verbatim translation from the first language, approximation, all-purpose terms, non-linguistic methods, circumlocution, and code flipping.
What do memory coping mechanisms entail?
Making and keeping appointments at the same time, jotting down reminders for yourself, and maintaining a calendar are excellent compensatory strategies for impaired short-term memory and can help lessen the impact of these symptoms on everyday life.