Sequential processing deficits make it more difficult for the individual with developmental disabilities (and to a lesser extent, those without developmental disabilities) to predict, anticipate, or sequence. He/she may have problems understanding or appreciating the meaning of others’ behaviours, or what effect her/his behaviours might have on those he/she associates with. She/he may be prone to develop dependencies on any individual who will take on the role of guiding him/her through the chaos of her/his life. Thus, he/she may be easily taken advantage of, and may be prone to develop high levels of anxiety and stress. Given this specific problem, insight therapy/counselling would likely be a poor choice for intervention, however, the development of some form of reality therapy might be appropriate. To reiterate, sequential processing deficits may be associated with some (not necessarily all) of the following, among others:
● Tendency to develop high anxiety.
● Difficulty with changes in routines or novelty.
● Difficulty predicting future events (trouble with temporal concepts).
● Difficulty learning from experience. Natural consequences will not be a safe way for the individual to learn.
● Tendency to be an external blamer. Little of what the individual experiences, in comparison with age-peers, will be seen/perceived as related to his/her actions. This may also result in a form of learned helplessness as she/he may see his/herself as having little or no control over events that affect her/him.
● Poor ability to determine likely consequences of personal actions, and poor ability to analyze the consequences of others’ actions.
● A tendency to be stubborn and argumentative, reflecting a need to control situations so that anxieties, related to not knowing what is coming next, are kept to a minimum. May present with the impression that only his/her ideas are correct.
● Concrete “black & white” thinking. Poor ability to think abstractly, to develop insight into one’s own behaviours (thus a poor candidate for typical insight therapy), or to develop normal levels of empathy. May be seen as egocentric.
● Difficulty developing and maintaining friendships and the tendency to isolate her/himself from others due to a history of chronic failure in social encounters. Use the formula of compatibility, opportunity, and frequency to assist in the development of friendships.
● A tendency to develop intensive or maladaptive dependencies and thus easily led and/or used by others.
● A blurring of the boundaries between reality and fantasy. May be seen/perceived as confabulating or actually telling lies. Whether this is true originally, caregivers must be aware that such fantasies may become part of the reality and she/he may react to them as though he/she had indeed experienced them. Confrontation will be a poor approach to this problem or to any other behaviour modifications.
Many of the behaviours shown by individuals with poor sequential abilities and a tendency to develop high levels of anxiety can be, and have been, interpreted as indications of psychopathology. Interventions aimed at altering or modifying these behaviours must be consistent with the individual’s problem solving style, cognitive levels, social and emotional background, the pressures and demands of living/working/community environments, and any medications presently on, or will be on in the future. There may be mismatches between reality and the interpretation of reality due to sequential and temporal difficulties, as well as the interfering aspect of anxiety, thus she/he may be a poor witness of those events/activities that happen to him/her. As suggested above, the individual may have poor or inadequate ability to think abstractly, to empathize, or to develop insight. The individual will learn only slowly from experience alone. Outside support, guidance, and training will be important for long-term success.