Autism Neurology

Uneven neurological development is the hallmark of autism.

Autism is developmental, present when a person is born and it is present until that person dies. There is no cure, there are only ways to help adapt to living which can make things easier and less burdensome.

Autism is decidedly genetic in nature, and its presence is discovered mostly through behavioral clues.

When an individual is being examined with autism diagnosis as a possibility, it is urgently desired that one’s developmental history be examined.

When measured against neurotypical peers, something interesting is going on in autistic children.

Science long ago set guidelines about what is normal development in a child and what is abnormal.

Most children grow and develop along the same pattern, some being slightly slower or slightly quicker to show standard signs of growth and development.

Babies follow motion with their eyes at a certain age, respond to sudden noises, make sounds, reach for their feet and toes, roll over, sit up, crawl, take their first steps, speak, and respond in certain ways at certain expected times.

Youngsters generally sleep through the night at a certain age, speak in sentences, are able to tie their shoes, are toilet trained, can ride a bike, can read and write at specific well defined ages.

Autistic children are seemingly on their own schedules.

There are early and late developers, some skip stages completely.

Some are reading before they can speak, some never sleep through the night, some never toilet train, ride a bike, read or write. The development they experience is uneven and erratic, unusual…. not “normal” or average compared to the majority of developing children. ( neurotypical)

Some are very early, or mix stages, being extremely early in performing some tasks and late in others.

Since autism is developmental, and most signposts of development are well documented , Doctors know what to expect at certain ages in a child’s development.

This is why a diagnosing doctor may ask about your childhood.
Did you speak early or late? Did you read early? Did you start school early or late?
They will ask about early childhood behavior.
Were you fussy, placid, hyperactive, or chatty?
Did you over react to loud noises, flashing lights, fear the dark?
Did you spend a lot of time lining things up, playing alone, making up songs or rhymes?

All childhood behavior can be examined looking for clues to autism.

In following blogs and participating in online forums, some people relate incidents where a diagnosing professional says they can not be sure of autism because the person is so old they could not produce a childhood history. They are sometimes denied an examination at all if they can not produce a witness to their early childhood!
Their parents may be dead or estranged, or otherwise not available and no long term old friends are present to tell of the individual’s early history.
This is wrong!!! DSM clearly says that lacking early history, a diagnosis can still be made.
I have wondered why the testimony of the individual being tested (their memories) is not acceptable?

If you can remember struggling to do things a younger sibling did with ease, if you know you were an early reader or a very late speaker, these and many other things are great clues that you had signs of uneven neurological development and that autism is possible, even likely if unexplainable by other diagnoses.

Every day science is learning more about autism. Older people who missed diagnosis simply because it was not known in their childhoods have many clues they can use for finding hidden autism. Remembered details from childhood must not be discounted in cases where there is a lack of other witness.

“you can do it if you try”

Well, no, not always.. in fact not often. I have neurological struggles which keep me from understanding expectations and from recognizing situations or intentions that are completely obvious to others. I frequently do not understand “what they want” under many circumstances.

“Your’e just not trying”. “You just don’t pay attention”, “You just don’t care”

I have heard versions of this all of my life. I suppose it is meant to be encouraging or to stir me on to even greater achievements or make me feel guilty because I have not accomplished something others believe I “should” “can” or want to do.

Here is what undiscovered or misunderstood neurological struggles may be like. Your experiences may vary.

Witness the child in school, always in trouble for “not paying attention” when what is really happening is that she has difficulty processing ( understanding) anything she sees or hears in ‘real time’ classroom lectures, presentations, videos, movies, or podcasts. She is trying as hard as she can, in fact, she is overcome and fearful that she will be chastised again and again when she once again fails to meet expectations. She has had her hearing tested: perfect, even better than normal. She has got a recent eye exam and new glasses. Now she can do better in class, there is no excuse for poor performance. She tries to fake illness to avoid class, and is punished and sent to school anyway. Class is maybe safer than staying home, she is fearful no matter where she is.
Somebody will find her and punish her for not doing things she should… she can do it if she would just try! She is sure she is a failure, does not understand how to do better, knows she angers and frustrates people no matter what she does, and oh how she wishes she could fix herself and make them pleased with her. She wishes she could be good so she could avoid all the punishment, correction, shaming, criticism, blame. Oh how she wants to please them.
Oh, she is so lazy, that girl. She absolutely will not clean her room, she is so lazy, she has to be punished to get her to even try anything new. That child is driving me crazy, I have to keep after her all the time, and she runs away and hides when I scold her. She hides whenever she gets home, and It is getting hard to find her when I want her to do something. She deliberately avoids her responsibilities, she does not do her homework, she dawdles coming home from school, it sometimes takes an hour longer for her to get here, and there is housework to do and kids to watch, and I need her to take responsibility for being part of the family, she is angry and has tantrums all the time.
I hate being around her, she is surly and uncooperative, she is slovenly, doesn’t care about her looks, won’t help other family members, doesn’t share, fights with the others, refuses to share or be a part of the family, and is uncooperative no matter what I ask or tell her to do. She never appreciates a thing I do around here.. So ungrateful!
I would send her to a children’s home in a heartbeat, maybe then she would appreciate her family. I tell her so frequently, maybe she will shape up then! Maybe then she would behave. This is so difficult, she is such a problem. She could do it if she would just try!

As an adult:

Co workers say you are difficult, you isolate yourself, you are not a team player, you seem to put others down and feel superior. You don’t participate in company events, you argue or criticize over work projects and how to achieve them. You question and pick apart every statement by others. You are overly strict about structure and keeping your files and information : or you are sloppy and disorganized, your workplace is a mess You better shape up, change your ways, or you are likely to lose your job. You can do it if you try. You simply don’t care enough/ think you are so superior, you don’t feel the need to change.

At home. I am the only one who ever cleans, does the chores, cooks, does the laundry… or: you have to control everything, why do you constantly yell at me because I used the wrong tool or put the mop back in a different way? Why can’t you just pitch in when you know there is a job to be done. Why can’t you help when I ask you? Don’t you care about my feelings? You don’t love me, you always, you never (fill in the blanks). If you just tried, you could : (fill in the blanks)

Does any of this seem familiar to you too?

Imagine being in a nursing home, being labeled willful, challenging, uncooperative, resistant, and having endured this sort of thing all your life, never having understood that it was not “all your fault” and that your neurology was the cause of so many struggles and pains of the past. This is the truth for so many elder adults today.

Knowing your autism diagnosis even late in life is key to self understanding and thereby learning to also understand others. It is also the key to understanding of others who interact with you!
So much of the past is suddenly understandable, forgivable because nobody knew Autism had its way all your life. Nobody could see it, nobody understood. Knowing your autism diagnosis now is the key to adapting, understanding, self care, and healing.