When is an orange an orange? When is an orange a piece of fruit? How do I know it is not a piece of meat or a rock from a strange spongy planet?
An orange has its own unique characteristics, it is round, smooth with pocked indentations, it is the color orange. An orange inside out is juicy, wet, drippy sticky, pulpy, stringy and sweet. An orange smells like an orange and nothing else that I know.
I can throw it, eat it, squeeze it, peel it, smell it. I know an orange through all of my senses.
Cue selectivity is attending and perceiving the relevant characteristics of objects, people or events within the environment. Not all at once, at one time together, although sometimes altogether…then I miss something. Too much incoming stimulus – information to process all at one time.
Cue selectivity teaches the learner to identify one cue and to gradually expand and add information onto the cue until the cue becomes a whole complete concept or idea, like an orange. The experience of the orange is fresh in my mind when I think of it because of my experience of the orange, because of my exploration of the orange through all of my senses, and because somewhere in my childhood someone taught me to label it as an orange, and because every one I have seen with an orange has named it an orange, and because I have had many experiences with oranges throughout my life time.
Now we are talking about the multi-modal experience, repetition, and the idea of learning through experience. I can touch, see, smell, taste, and if I listen very carefully I may be able to recall the sound of the peel pulling away from the fruit. Ours senses are a direct connect to the information processing center of the our brain.
Left in isolation, I may have invented a new name for an orange; if my senses were altered and my sense perceptions were altered my experiences might be different than yours. I might not be able to describe my experience of an orange to you. If I could not communicate and describe my sensations my lack of common language, or language as a common denominator, I might be isolated from the social connectedness of my immediate community.
Cue selectivity is imperative when teaching children with autism. It is important to meet them where they are and what they understand, to bridge the person with community and the community with the person is one long term goal. Meet them half way, on their terms first.