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Scanning the Environment

Scanning the Environment

The concept of "scanning the environment" (the title of the Allen Cognitive Mode 4.6), is often misinterpreted.

Claudia describes the person performing at 4.6 as "they will get up out of their chair and go use things in plain sight because those things exist for them to use." The person is able to notice his/her environment beyond what is directly in front of them. We assume that things that are in plain sight are visible to everyone, but this is not true for the person performing at Allen mode 4.4 and lower.

The person performing at level 4.6 has a visual field that is "within normal limits."  In addition, he/she is able to use long-term memory to find needed items. In a new environment, the person performing at level 4.6 will look for things in the same places he/she stored these items in the past.

Examples:
Paul has just moved to an independent living environment. He has three rooms, a living area, small kitchen, and bedroom. His daughters assisted in the move and have put all his belongings away, including his cooking utensils, his crossword puzzles, his clothing, and his grooming articles. They have put pictures of the family on the wall.

Later that evening, Paul decides he would like to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He has always enjoyed cooking. Because he is performing at Allen Cognitive Level 4.6, he is able to scan his environment and use his long-term memory in his new environment. For example, he needs bread, butter, and cheese. He finds these in the refrigerator, because he has the cognitive ability to remember where those things are typically found. He also goes right to the bottom of the stove and finds his small frying pan. This is where it was kept in his home. He is using his long-term memory and applying it to his new environment. He also wants to use a cooking mitt, and finds it hanging on the stove. Again, this is where his cooking mitt was kept at home. He needs a knife to cut the hard cheese, so he scans his environment and finds knives in a wood container on the counter (in plain sight).

He needs towels for his shower and again, using his long-term memory, he remembers that he kept his towels in a linen closet just outside his bathroom. So he looks for a small closet just outside the bathroom and finds his towels. He is able to brush his teeth because his daughters have left his toothbrush and paste in a glass on the corner of his bathroom counter.

However, his daughters have placed his crossword puzzles in a kitchen drawer. At home, his puzzle book was always on his table next to his chair in the living room. He thinks about doing a puzzle in the evening (as he usually would), but he is unable to find his book. Therapists have made the mistake of assuming that if a person can find what they need in their own home; e.g., finding their supplies in a linen closet, this means they are scanning their environment. However, if this is a very familiar environment for the client, when they find their towels, it just means that their long-term memory is still intact. Scanning the environment is most evident in new and different environments. The person is demonstrating 4.6 abilities only when the client is able to find what he/she needs, whether in plain sight, or in a highly familiar place, in a new environment.

References
Allen, Claudia Kay, Structures of the Cognitive Performance Modes, Allen Conferences, Inc.: Ormand Beach, FL., 1999.

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