How Science has given new information to help us
Our understanding of Autism is changing.
At the time of its addition to The DSM, autism was thought to be a behavioral disorder, probably caused by poor parenting and bad things that happened to individuals especially in early infancy around the time autistic behavior or signs began to be observed in a child.
Autism was in the past believed to be something that could be cured by treatments including coercion, which is modified somewhat today but still in use in many places, training children to behave or respond only in certain socially accepted ways to any circumstances or surroundings, stimulus or lack thereof.
Autism conversion treatment was through training using among other things corporal punishment including electric shocks. ( how could this have been worse than the so called poor parenting and trauma thought to have caused autism during this time?) (rhetorical question, think about it, though)
Autism was thought to have been caused by simple willfulness, ( autistic kids being wicked, evil, bad children) wrong thinking,
autistic children having been being “spoiled” by having been raised by inept adults in charge of them, or by having been given no love or caring at all. ( no win for parents who likely in most cases actually cared a great deal more than others about their own children )
Ideas about autism have since undergone beliefs about poor diet, deficiencies, allergies, immunizations, bacteria, lack of bacteria, brain inflammation due to many things including various childhood diseases, vaccination status, food, water or other contamination, pollution, ozone or atmospheric or genetic engineering of food, processed foods with “chemicals” in them and so much more. These ideas are being proved wrong, one by one. Science today has a better than ever understanding of the true nature of autism.
Truly scientific research today has found and confirmed these causes today:
Autism is known to science to be mostly genetic in cause, always present at birth, (not acquired or developed after birth) and autism is defined today as being caused by uneven neurological development.
Let me say that again. Autism is a result of unusual or different neurology that has happened through uneven development of various parts of the nervous system. The “programming” for neurological growth after being born is present before the autistic baby ever leaves the womb.
The nervous system? https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-the-Nervous-System.aspx
Autism is the sign of uneven development of the nervous system.
What this means: Different parts of the nervous system can be developed or underdeveloped, deformed, missing, non functioning or poorly functioning or extremely highly functioning in different ways in every autistic individual.
Now we can understand how “symptoms” of autism can vary so widely in every autistic individual. Every one of us will have different struggles because every single autistic person will have ” unique to them only ” neurology from birth.
Science has defined markers of normal or typical development of neurology from newborns throughout childhood.
Typically developing infants and children grow in expected and predictable patterns.
A look at any book on child development will describe a newborn’s progress from birth, with a typical average child marking developmental milestones such as sitting up unaided, crawling, walking, talking and so much more at certain ages/stages and in certain expected order. Most “normal” or “typical” children crawl before they walk, for example.
Autistic children may not follow this pattern, in fact, this is one sign that diagnosing professionals use today to diagnose autism.
If a child does not sit up, crawl, walk, talk, or perform other expected developmental milestones “on time” and in the expected neurotypical (NT) order, these are signs of possible autism diagnosis.
Now we know autism is based on irregularly developed neurology with any area of neurological development and function likely to be affected, (most of one’s neurology or only part of one’s being affected) , we can find new ways of making life better for any given individual.
Gradually, autism behaviors are being understood to be due to poor neurological processing of any or all of the sensory systems.
This includes things we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and our senses of place, time, physical or emotional self, our ability to sense things like light, temperature, taste, our ability to understand our bodily signatures that tell us when we are moving, how hard or how much pressure to use when we touch ourselves or others.
Sensory abilities to understand our emotions, or to do simple things like use eating utensils or open and close a door, climb steps, catch a ball, or use words to speak are directly affected by our neurology.
Things that come naturally to neurotypically developed/developing individuals can be huge sensory struggles in so many ways for those of us with autistic neurology.
When we consider how complex the neurology of any given human is, we can understand how so many varied “symptoms” of autism can be observed.
“Treatment” for autism is gradually changing from “training” the autistic individual how to do things in the way that neurotypical individuals do (this will always fail to a large degree because we are not equipped with typical neurology to begin with) (remember the old saying about fish and bicycles?)
Today focus for helping those with autism to succeed in a neurotypical oriented world is based on understanding of each individuals’ struggle. We seek to understand each autistic individual’s strengths and weaknesses and to help find ways to make performance of every day tasks easier, to make communication better between autistic individuals and the rest of the world, to give autistic individuals better individual tools they may need to succeed and thrive in a world which for the most part is not friendly to performance of daily living functions in other than “normal” or “typical” and socially expected ways.
Communication is emphasized much more today. Finally those offering “treatment” are discovering that if the autistic individual can communicate their needs and their understanding of their lives, the approach we need to help them succeed will become evident sooner and to better effect. It should have seemed obvious so long ago!
“Autisim treatment” simply can not be effective by “one size fits all” rote “training” therapies which attempts to “normalize” our behavior to “make us acceptable” in today’s society.
Such training simply is not helpful because the underlying very different strengths and weaknesses of each individual is so varied and so different from any other autistic person’s. “faking normal” by standardized training methods will never be successful. Ask autistic individuals who have been through these courses of “therapy”.
Behavior is not being “trained out of us” today as frequently. Instead autistic behavior is being examined to understand the neurological processing struggles that drive the behavior.
This is the key to a better life for all autistic individuals. All autistic behavior has some neurological basis driving it. Behavior can be learned as adaptive (and maladaptive) as we experience life, but today we understand Autism is neurological, not psychological in nature.
Today tools are being developed and lifestyles are being changed to make every day problems around certain neurological challenges easier to handle, easier to work around, easier to do in different ways.
Actual communication and understanding is imperative in these therapies/ treatments/ ways we are addressing autism and autistic struggles and strengths.
How long before this understanding is the standard for ongoing diagnosis and therapeutic or supportive aid to be the norm in the medical and social world surrounding autism today?
2 thoughts on “The Nature of Autism”
This is brilliant! I’m in my mid-seventies and for the past couple of weeks have been looking at many sources about autism and have been self-diagnosing. It is now crystal-clear. Both my parents, at least some grandparents, and all siblings and other family members were/are on this spectrum, but it looks different in different people. You’ve made it clear here how that can be. This is a milestone for me in understanding the foundation of this. The next step may be to get a diagnosis if I can find someone who would not just look at behavior and also if insurance will pay. I’m not in a huge rush, though. I will continue to do more research until I think I’m ready to talk to someone. Thanks so much! I’ll continue reading your blog.
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self care always first, glad you are finding the blog useful!