Yes, seeing one figure in the painting, or finishing one figure in the puzzle,⇲ would each be an example of successful gestalt formation (if/when⇲ things work that way). It does involve figure-ground differentiation, and other types of perceptual organization. It does lead to the creation of a unified whole.
Note that these “local” gestalts arise after the person has successfully segmented their component parts at a fine enough resolution, such as the dots in the painting, or patches of light and dark.
Those local gestalts are what might get built along the way, serving as components of a subsequent, higher-order (“global”) gestalt.
Higher-order gestalts based on one type of segmentation (such as the dots) would not be evoked by components that had been based on a different type of unit (such as the light/dark patches).
While this is still not what the ~GLPs are doing early on, the evidence seems to suggest that it would not be inconsistent with an intermediate step in developing their skills.
When someone who is challenged by segmentation is able to resolve any chunk of an information time-stream, something has (generally) acted as a helper to define boundaries in the environment at that level of resolution.
Part of it might be standing at enough of a distance that the individual dots are not distinguishable.
Or maybe there is a figure that is delimited in particularly stark contrast against the ground (increasing the intensity of the change point).
Maybe it’s a corner of the puzzle.
Or maybe – just maybe – it’s a phrase (an auditory and/or visuomanual stream) that happens to be naturally bounded at either end by silence (which is often determined by comfortable breathing patterns); in other words, this would be just like what folks have been observing with the ~GLP hallmark utterances.
So, your intuition about there being something whole, even if it’s not a gestalt?
This is it.
It’s an environmental chunk that is naturally segmented by significant change points.
Here is another imperfect metaphor that might be helpful (nonetheless) in illustrating the notion of change points.
When someone (a) treats their food as an undifferentiated mass (i.e., an unbounded environmental time-stream), and (b) ingests it in portions that are (helpfully) segmented only by (c) the change point that is defined by the size of their mouth (but unfortunately not by the rest of their alimentary tract), we do not then (d) identify them as “gestalt food processors.” We do not treat their lack of portioning as if it were a successful instance of a food unifying function, or praise them for engaging in an alternative type of eating.
It’s not that we want to withhold praise.⇲
It’s that we don’t want to camouflage a risk.⇲ That type of untruth would undermine a person’s ability to make informed decisions about their health care.
We recognize that this difference in eating style risks harm, and we support strategies that will help to keep a person safe as they develop more conventional methods of eating.
We help them learn to exercise graded control over the segmentation of their food-stream into portions that will not overwhelm their system.
We often start by cutting up their food for them, establishing distinct boundaries between the portions that constitute safe bites; in such cases, we are the something that helps to establish the change points that bound their segments.
Now imagine that what we are talking about is the way in which someone deals with the massive amount of information that their environment feeds to them.
And now understand that language is a largely serial stream of information (albeit with concurrent suprasegmental encoding in series parallel), where some people have particular difficulty in knowing (a) where the container ends and the food begins, and (b) what the size of a bite is supposed to be.
Q: When do speech streams have natural pauses?
A: In the places where breath forces it.
Q: What if the natural boundaries are not enough to keep a person safe?
A: Then we add some for them while they are learning.
Artificial Augmentation of Environmental Segmentation
In special education, we know enough to reduce the environmental noise for people whose information signal is polluted by an undifferentiated sensory mass.
We have break rooms that are lower in stimulation, and areas in which we divide signal generators into distinct locations (i.e., swings, lights, fans, and so on).⇲ We make sure that those generators can be individually (de)activated.
Sometimes we know enough to do the same for the general information mass that is assaulting the person. Their sensory organs help to resolve some of that, structurally sorting the reception of light from sound and so on, but even that is not always a help when sensation is transduced and perceived and so on (as in synaesthesia, ideasthesia, or whatever it is that “sensory processing disorders” actually turn out to be⇲).
Sometimes, we know enough to say:
But for the vast majority of their life (or lives, perhaps), the language stream coming at a challenged segmenter will not have been specially prepared; for example, and generally speaking, the TV really couldn't care any less than it does.
When a naturally-bounded segment occurs prominently in the environment of someone who is having difficulty with this skill, it is no small wonder that they would glom onto it as it whips by (usually again); similarly, it is likely that they will associate that form with some sort of coincident conceptual structure.
Such a person is lucky if they can not only (a) entrench a breath-delimited form such as, “Did everyone remember their towel,” but also then (b) link that segment with a conventionally germane conceptual structure like time to go swimming, as opposed to their desire to be presented with food.
Of course they’re going to repeat that segment when they want to go swimming (or when they are hungry). That survival strategy has to compensate until they use it often enough to have a hope of breaking it into its parts.
It’s a life preserver.
So let’s also try sticking with consistent vocabulary.
Don’t treat all of the following as equally interchangeable synonyms, namely: mad, angry, upset, anxious, frustrated, escalated, agitated, doyouneedtotakeabreak. At least in the early stages of the challenge, pick one… maybe the one that the SLP has made prominent in their AAC system (generally in consultation with the family and the autism and/or behavior specialists, and so on).
It’s like when a pet can’t figure out what their name is, because everyone keeps calling it by a zillion terms: bunny, rabbit, fuzzbutt, lettuce, jumper, cutey pie, pellet eater, thumper, my little doll, owdontbiteme, and so on.
It is more important for your choice to be (a) consistent (both in its sound/sign form and its link to a predictable meaning), and (b) bounded on either end by silence, than it is for it to be (c) super short.
And I’m Not So Sure about You⇲
That doesn’t even take into account the complication that natural languages throw into the mix for all of their users; for example, I would like you to determine the number of words in each of these examples:
Compounds exist because the boundaries are soft, so for any given language the answers will change with community (and across time).
Now how about these conventionalized units:
People vary in how they resolve these (and significantly longer utterances).
And of course, all of these answers vary among languages (e.g., the infamous Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung), where the equivalents of many of the above words are not analyzed into parts.
Now imagine if everything were like that for you.
Where would you start?
What kind of support would you like?
Would it help or hurt you to be identified as someone who processes those unresolved language masses as gestalts, when you are not doing that?⇲