Building Critical Bridges…
The Key To Order And Understanding In The Midst Of Chaos!
As I now thought about so much as it related to my son’s autism, there was no doubt in my mind that much of what I saw in Zachary had been explained by my theory of little or no communication among the various parts of the brain and the fact that there appeared to exist heightened communication among areas co-located in the brain. So, so many things had finally come together to allow me to understand Zachary.
Although assuming little or no communication among the various parts of the brain appeared perhaps to some to be “rather drastic”, given the University of Calgary experiment showing neural degeneration due to mercury exposure, showing neurons totally devastated by mercury, neurons that shrank to approximately half their original size, it appeared to me that this assumption was perhaps much more in the “ballpark” than one would expect, especially since so many key neurotransmitters also seemed to be out of balance in these children. The simple fact was that, as explained in books 2 and 3, this assumption actually explained a great deal of what we saw in children with autism. In my opinion, there simply could be no denying that.
Parents who had not yet viewed the University of Calgary video on neural degeneration were encouraged to do so. A link to this most compelling video was provided on my website. This video was also available at http://www.iaomt.org . This experiment done by the University of Calgary was absolutely a major piece of the puzzle – captured for all – on video!
The University of Calgary experiment results by Christopher C.W. Leong, Naweed I. Syed and Fritz L. Lorscheider of the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N1 were published in the British journal NeuroReport (Leong CCW, Naweed IS, Lorscheider) FL, Retrograde degeneration of neurite membrane structural integrity of nerve growth cones following in vitro exposure to mercury, published in Neuroreport Volume 12, Number 4, 26th of March 2001, pages: 0733-0737.
To view this compelling video from the University of Calgary, families could also go to:
http://movies.commons.ucalgary.ca/showcase/curtains.php?src=/mercury/Lor2_QTS_300kb_QD.mov&screenwidth=320&screenheight=256. More information was also available by going to http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/Gazette/April4-01/mercury.htm.
There could simply be no denying that these scientists had captured on video something that appeared to explain so much when it came to autism, and I suspected, many other disorders as well.
Note that mercury had a half-life of twenty (20) years once in major organs like the brain – and as such, once it entered the system, it was pretty well there to stay – there to create decades of damage to human tissues! Obviously, it would be foolish to assume the damage would stop at “one neuron” or “one cell”. If mercury did this to neurons, what was it doing to other tissues in the human body?
This video certainly provided at least one explanation as to why it seemed that the various parts of Zachary’s brain were simply not communicating properly and why Zachary’s world had for so very long been such a world of complete frustration as he so desperately attempted to understand it.
I now knew that echolalia - something so very, very common in these children was not “mindless parroting” - but rather an attempt at understanding and categorizing language. Clearly, in Zachary, echolalia was “language production” that was generated in an attempt to create word associations and categorization that could then be used for future reference. As I thought about Zachary’s language development, clearly, much of what I had seen in Zachary had involved word associations without proper categorization.
What could start out as echolalia usually quickly moved into language based on word associations as past references were drawn upon by Zachary’s brain in the production of language. The following were words I had written in book 3 as they related to this issue of word associations without proper categorization – I quote:
“If you looked at functions in the frontal lobe, they included language production and "word associations". Thus it was very likely that the reason those suffering from these disorders spoke in "word associations" was because they were simply drawing on their "databank" of words that were somehow linked – or associated - and that was what "came out" in "language production" – almost “automatically”. That would imply that language production functions and "word association" functions were somehow associated – and I suspected very closely associated with “word associations” somehow appearing to actually “trigger” language production.
Zachary had provided for me countless examples of speaking in “word associations”. For example, he had a video with the phrase “easy come… easy go”. Upon hearing that, he had stated: “No… not easy come… easy go… - easy stop… easy go”! To Zachary, “stop and go” went together much more than did “come and go”.
Another example involved the word “year”. For quite a while, when he heard the word “year”, he automatically said: “Happy New Year”. On another occasion, upon seeing a balloon his sister had brought for him from a restaurant, he immediately stated: “A blue balloon… it’s a party”!
In terms of word associations or what I called living via "reference communication without categorization", there were many more examples of this in Zachary. For example, I once said, "sit up, please", he answered "stand down, thank you". Thus, if sit was associated with stand (opposites), up with down, and please with thank you, his response made perfect sense. Likewise, we were once driving to a nearby town for errands. On the way we saw a truck full of green cabbages. Zachary had never seen such a thing. I pointed it out to him and said: "Look, Zachary, a truck full of green cabbage". The word "cabbage" produced the following response from Zachary: "Red cabbage, juice". Zachary had recently seen me making juice in a juicer - using red cabbage - and hence, again, this "word association" made perfect sense. Other examples included, "hot sun" - "cold moon", "cold ice" - "hot water", “wake up” – “sleep down”, etc.
Once, I had asked Zachary if he could hear my heart beating as he put his head on my chest to hug me one morning. He answered: "Yes". I said: "That's my heart". He answered: "heart... rectangle". Two shapes. Again, “reference communication” - speaking by using associated words! Thus, his brain used one word and looked for "references" from past experiences and based on what was in his "databank" Zachary made "connections" or "associations" that truly did not belong together because clearly – his “categorization” functions – located in the temporal lobe – were not speaking with his language production and word association functions – located in the frontal lobe.
Again, there were many, many of these “word association” verbalizations I had seen in Zachary. Reference communication without proper categorization and reference living – in my opinion, there was absolutely no doubt that this explained what I had seen so often – and continued to see in my son!
With Zachary, I had always found he absolutely loved spelling. I now knew why. This was one of his greatest tools in "breaking the code" to life. For example, when by a campfire one day, Zachary noticed the sparks flying in the air as more wood was added to the fire. I said, "Zachary, watch out for the sparks". Then, I said: "Sparks - How do you spell sparks, Zachary?” This was a new word for him. He replied: "Sparks... How do you spell sparks, mom?" I spelled it for him - he repeated the word and then spelled it himself and repeated it again. That was pretty well always the routine with new words - he wanted the spelling, spelled the word himself and then committed it to memory - and voila - another piece of his world was understood and made sense of.
The interesting thing in all this was that spelling out loud was used to help him understand language. That brought me to an interesting point. Zachary could clearly understand the meaning of words I provided. That would involve hearing the word, spelling it and associating a meaning to that word. Thus, both the frontal and temporal lobe would be at play here – and thus, he had to automatically be forming “categorizations” and “word associations” himself for future reference. In my opinion, that seemed to indicate that the issue was not one of acquiring the meaning of the word – something he could easily do - but rather one of retrieving it when required. Zachary was easily able to answer: "What's that?" when I asked him "what those flying things were in the air during another campfire". So, he could retrieve the meaning of words and answer, "It's a spark", just fine. Yet, even though he understood words, and what they represented, when it came to reading and the retrieval of that information using visual input, he did not seem to understand the meaning of words nearly as well. He could read almost any word just fine (at age six), but if I asked him a specific question about something he had just read, at least initially, he just could not seem to answer it, even if what he read was just a short sentence.
By the time I had completed this text, he had come a long way in this area, but, “situation questions” were still very much an issue.
Initially, it seemed the issue was not one of “understanding” the words or the question being asked as much as it was one of going through an entire “database” of “word associations” and forgetting the initial question asked as he “got lost” in the “word association mode”. A word spoken or read could easily trigger another… that could then trigger another… that could then trigger another. And hence, in my opinion, the issue, at least initially, for Zachary was not one of understanding words as much as it was an issue of word retrieval and given that for Zachary, “word associations” were nothing more than “words without categorization” (as you should normally have), it certainly made sense – and the root of this problem, I suspected was very much due to the fact that there existed limited communication among the various lobes or parts of the brain.
Note that although language production was located in the frontal lobe – the understanding of language was located in the temporal lobe. If those parts of the brain were not communicating properly, how would you possibly come to understand language and then be able to provide an appropriate, verbal response?
The verbal response (production of language in the frontal lobe) necessitated “things” or speech be categorized. Yet, categorization functions were not in the frontal lobe with the production of speech functions but rather in the temporal lobe.
The key to “bridging” these functions had to reside in the functions of “word associations” (frontal lobe) and “categorizations” (temporal lobe) because word associations were nothing more than a form of categorization! “ [end of quote, book 3, Breaking The Code: Putting Pieces In Place!].
By the completion of this text, I came to the realization that Zachary also did not know “how” to answer a question – he did not know “how to build a sentence”. One word answers were easily given, but answering with a sentence was much more complicated. Zachary still very much preferred his one or two “introductory words” to his answers… words like “it’s a…” or “that’s a…”. Short sentences were coming along, and I knew he had the “capability” to physically utter them. Yet, Zachary, without a doubt still preferred to “talk in labels or commands”. I now realized that to get passed “labels and commands”, Zachary simply had to be taught “how to build a sentence” in a fun and easy to understand way.
As such, the last one hundred and fifty (150) pages or so of this text were devoted to actual exercises I had put together to help Zachary in this area. I now realized that Zachary understood “my questions” almost as well as any other child would. His difficulties now resided in “providing the answer”. I knew he understood. I knew he knew “how to speak”. The thing he did not know was how to “build a sentence” – he still did not understand the parts of speech – and in order to use speech – he had to first be able to understand how it worked – and, for Zachary, that meant being able to “categorize” speech – much as you would categorize anything else.
Not only did word associations in conjunction with categorizations provide a valuable opportunity for helping these children to decode their world, but, clearly, word associations themselves appeared to be tied to language production itself – and as such, even in “building sentences” and showing Zachary “how to do this”, I would be careful to use “specific words” and word associations that I knew he loved.
In Zachary, just hearing a word on my part was enough to generate “language production” - it seemed – almost automatically generating a particular response – almost without even thinking about it. In other words, it appeared to me that, at least in Zachary’s case, word associations triggered language production somehow.
Time and time again, I had seen this in Zachary – on countless occasions. The best example I could provide was the following – an example I would simply reproduce here – an example taken from my second book- Breaking The Code To Remove The Shackles Of Autism: When The Parts Are Not Understood And The Whole Is Lost!
“I usually said: "sit down" when I told him to sit in his chair to start working on his computer. On this day, he was already sitting, but, he was very slouched, almost to the point of falling off the chair. So, of course, I said: "sit up, please". When I said that, he replied: "stand down, thank you".
He was making "opposite associations" in trying to understand his world. If the word "up" went with sit, then, obviously, to him, the word "down" had to go with the word “stand” and likewise, the word “please” had to go with “thank you”. Obviously, to counter such reasoning, I must admit was rather difficult for me at first. I simply decided to "show Zachary" the act of "sitting up" and to then show him that you could not "stand down". Instead, I showed him "lay down", "stand up", etc.
Zachary had been trying to “combine words” to figure out how they fit together in order to provide for himself a “reference” he could draw on in the future. These attempts at figuring out how words fit together and how they could be used in the future, I came to call “reference communication” since Zachary created for himself “references” of how words could be used for future use!” [end of quote from Breaking The Code To Remove The Shackles Of Autism: When The Parts Are Not Understood And The Whole Is Lost!].
This example best illustrated that Zachary, indeed, lived by reference and word associations. As I thought about this over time, another thing occurred to me – Zachary had stated: “stand down, thank you” – it appeared to me – without even taking the time to think about his reply – it was in my view – automatic! It was as if he did not even have to think about what he had said – upon hearing “sit up, please” he had automatically responded “stand down, thank you” – in an instant. This, too was critical and truly indicative of how language production appeared to work within Zachary. The words I had stated had generated an apparently automatic retrieval – for each word – of opposites – with it seemed to me, no thought being given to the process itself as it related to appropriateness for the situation. What had for so long been referred to as “nonsense language” now held the keys to unraveling how to produce language in these children – language production, I became convinced – was a function of word association! It was that “automatic retrieval” resulting in actual, almost instantaneous verbalization or language production that had – without a doubt – convinced me of that! It was critical to note that word associations (frontal lobe) were nothing more than a type of categorization (temporal lobe)!
Thus, to get a child to talk, perhaps the best way to do so, was to use word associations – especially things like opposites – and to work from there to “expand” associations or speech production. In addition, working with colors and objects as “word associations”, I also believed could be most valuable (i.e., using the word red and at the same time showing “red objects” like apples, etc.). Given that I believed functions within a region were much more inter-related than we may have imagined, I could certainly also see things like “smell” being helpful in language production (i.e., not only saying “red” and showing a “red” apple as one said “red”, but also allowing the child to “smell” the apple to help solidify the word association). Finally, I would also include motion in attempting to build these word associations (i.e., just the act of smelling an apple was a “motion” and given motion was co-located in the frontal lobe with smell, language production and word associations, I believed it was key to “draw” on as many co-located functions as possible).
The key was to begin to at least “build references” that could be understood and drawn upon for language production and using as many co-located functions to do so and as many “bridging functions” as well to help in starting to build bridges and new neural connections across the various parts of the brain. [end of quote from book 2]
When I had asked Zachary to “sit up” while he worked at his computer, his reply - “stand down, thank you” – had, in my opinion, been so fast that it literally appeared to have been almost “automatic” – basically requiring no thinking on his part. It was not only the “oddness” of Zachary’s response that had captured my attention as he verbalized this – but also the speed at which his response had been provided. This verbalization of word associations involving opposites truly appeared to have occurred “without even thinking about it” – and it had been this simple phrase – “stand down, thank you” – that had helped me to topple my entire puzzle when it came to understanding speech in Zachary once I turned to brain structure and function in attempts to understand what I had heard.
A “normal person” would have to think about the “opposites” to the phase “sit up, please” – even if only very, very briefly - in order to come up with “stand down, thank you” as a response. But that had clearly not been the case with Zachary – his response had clearly been “almost automatic”, and hence, my utter amazement at his response, its “oddness”, its “speed” and my reason for now believing that word associations in these children could somehow perhaps help to actually “trigger” language production.
Zachary could literally “lose himself” in the language production or verbalization of word associations. He could start with one association and then move to another… and another… and another… and another… and so on.
If “word associations” (a frontal lobe function co-located with language production functions) somehow triggered language production, that certainly could help explain why Zachary could literally “lose himself” in “word association mode” and forget the original question. As Zachary’s understanding of language increased, falling victim to “word association mode” was something that seemed to happen less and less.
Word associations clearly were “categorizations” of some type that did not necessarily take into account situation context. As such, children with autism clearly often provided “word associations” which were completely out of context… word associations that were not properly categorized for a given situation.
Given that word associations were co-located with language production in the frontal lobe but that categorization functions were co-located with the understanding of language and memories in the temporal lobe, it was in my opinion, not surprising that this was what we saw in children with autism when it came to language production since it truly appeared these parts of the brain – the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe – were not communicating properly when it came to language functions. Yet, as Zachary came to “decode his world” more each day, and most likely came to build new connections within his brain, he continued to improve.
Note that if the temporal lobe was damaged that could result in short-term memory loss and interference with long-term memory. Memory functions were also located in the hippocampus – that part of the brain most impacted it seemed – in Alzheimer’s.
Damage to the hippocampus would prevent one from making “new memories”. The hippocampus was involved in long-term memory formation.
This certainly helped to also explain why conversation was so difficult for these children. To understand language, you obviously had to be able to properly categorize not only sentences themselves, but the context also.
I now had no doubt that what we were seeing in what had once been called “nonsense language” – what I now referred to as “reference communication” – was nothing more than language production (frontal lobe) involving word associations (frontal lobe) without proper categorizations(temporal lobe)! As such, clearly, this “language production” was not “nonsense language” because, clearly, when understood for what it was – reference communication based on word associations - it made perfect sense!
This also explained why Zachary “made up” his own words. By making up his own words for things he needed to understand he was building references for future use – he was building his own word associations – words that he could then use in “reference communication”.
There were many, many examples of this in Zachary. Made up words included things like: “a kisshug” to represent the activity of giving both a kiss and a hug at the same time, “a trucktrain” to represent a train that had truck trailers on it, “a cartrain” to represent a passenger train, and on and on and on. The fact that persons with autism and schizophrenia made up their own words truly was amazing to me. It made me wonder if “making up words” was not simply part of man’s natural behavior in terms of developing communication – in other words, that if a person was not “taught language”, they would simply develop their own anyway. Zachary had many of his “own words” that he had made up and quite frankly, they actually made a lot of sense. Other family members started to make up their own words too when those words we had currently available were not “good enough” to explain a concept to Zachary. Actually, the concept of “making up your own words” was rather brilliant and again, I could not help but marvel at the ingenuity and adaptability of children with autism because in attempting to break the code to life, they had on their own figured out that if the word they needed had not been provided to explain an object or concept – they simply made one up and committed it to memory! Truly amazing indeed!
Indeed, if you thought about this, this was simply an extension of something we already see in language – normally – compound words – and Zachary had figured out how to make them – all on his own.
There were so many things to learn in language and “how it worked” – and yet, here in my son with autism – was the perfect example of a child who had figured out how to make “compound words” all on his own. This was truly, truly amazing to me.
Compound words usually consisted of two words put together. However, when those two words were “put together” the new word was may or may not be related to the “old words”.
Amazingly, however, Zachary’s compound words were all “related to” the “two original words” in some way. He had actually figured out how to make compound words on his own. At the time, I had not seen this for what it truly was – I had simply found his “new words”, his “made up words”, cute – but there could be no denying that this was indeed what Zachary had done.
As I thought about “compound words”, there could be no denying that surely, Zachary would have heard “some words” that were compound words as those around him spoke – and he appeared to have simply applied the concept on his own to the building of “new words”. Granted, these were not “normally accepted Webster dictionary compound words” – but, they were indeed “compound words” – there could simply be no denying that!
The more I thought about this, the more fascinating it was to me. It was now no wonder that Zachary had been thrilled at learning about “compound words” when he finally did see there were many of these. As his language skills had progressed, he had come to do more and more in terms of “reading software” and some of that software – in time – came to include the subject of “compound words”. Zachary absolutely loved “putting the words together” to get “new words”. I know understood why that had been. In “compound word” exercises, he had seen the same thing he had already figured out – on his own – only now, he was seeing that in some cases, the new words could be “totally unrelated” to the original words. Whether or not that was “a good thing” for him to see, I supposed only time would tell.
Within this was certainly the potential for Zachary to come up with his own new little dictionary of “compound words” that he could make up himself. Thus, there was again, a double-edged sword in this.
The concept of putting words together to form new words absolutely was a critical part to learning language, but, if allowed to go “uncontrolled”, I could certainly see where the “uninhibited formation of compound words” could indeed become a problem.
Zachary had learned and put together “socially acceptable and Webster type compound words” via his education software for quite some time now and I was happy to say that he had not “invented” his own words any more. Of course, I had now moved him to a point where he now knew to ask: “What’s that, mom” if he wanted to know “what something was” and as such, he did not have to come up with his own definition… he came to understand that everything already had a definition – or label - and all he had to do – was ask for it!
The funny thing in all this was that my husband actually found life easier if he made up his own compound words, too. Sometimes, it was truly hilarious to see how things could work so much more smoothly if we just saw the world as Zachary did. This had been especially true in matters relating to putting clothing on Zachary. He hated to keep his blankets on at night. Inevitably, Zachary pretty well always pushed them off while he slept.
During the night, I often checked on him only to find his little feet very cold during the night. As such, I had tried to put socks on Zachary at bedtime. Of course, although he initially let me put them on, by the time he actually went to sleep, the socks were always off and on the floor. My husband finally found the trick to this simple problem. As he prepared Zachary for bed one night, he told Zachary he had to put on his “sleeping socks”. By labeling them as “sleeping socks” Zachary easily accepted the fact that these socks were for sleeping and now, this was no longer an issue. Likewise, I had found I could get Zachary to more easily accept different forms of clothing if I gave them new labels.
I used to always say: “Put your pants on”… to Zachary – that meant “his sweatpants”. When I had tried to put jeans on him, he had resisted. It finally dawned on me when on my in-laws farm that “pants” could have “different names”. So, I did my little test. I attempted to put overalls on Zachary – only this time, I did not call them “pants” but rather “farmer pants”. Sure enough – that made it ok. The label had made all the difference! In the past, Zachary had more issues with touch perception than he now did while on enzymes and that too, could certainly have played a role in this better ability to sense or more easily tolerate various “touches” or sensations.
The following was a list of compound words that could be used to teach the concept of “putting words together to form new ones”…, but, again, I strongly encouraged parents to make sure their child also understood that everything had its own “label” and that there was no need to “invent a label” on your own.
Again, the key to doing this was literally my saying to Zachary “what to say” when he needed to understand a label. I told him, “When Zachary does not know what something is, Zachary says… what’s that mom?” and mommy will tell him or a shorter variation such as “If Zachary needs to know something, just say, what’s that, mom?…”. :o)
I had also found that labels helped somewhat with issues with food and/or supplements. For example I had finally come to get Zachary to associate the words “medicine and good for you” so that I could now actually get him to take a bitter supplement with very little difficulty – at least for now. As such, “word associations” and their value spanned far, far beyond “just language”. Word associations, I had now found, were key in getting desired behaviors as well. Likewise, they were key in getting rid of undesired behaviors. This all made perfect sense to me given that word associations and motor activities, motor habits and memories tied to motor activities as well as motor planning and execution were all functions co-located in the frontal lobe.
The best example of this that I could give had to do with potty training. For years now I had associated for Zachary the words “poop in your diaper” each time I had asked him: “did you poop in your diaper”. I had no doubt that this had, at least in part, contributed to his lack of desire to be potty trained. Recently, I had started to say: “you have to poop in the potty” in an attempt to break that old word association of “poop and diaper”. I discuss this issue in much greater detail in both books 2 and 3 for parents who were interested in this particular issue. Word associations, I had found to be invaluable in matters dealing with control of emotions, discipline, and many, many other areas of life. There was simply no denying that this was a critical key to behavior modification in these children. Word associations as they related to the control of emotions and discipline were discussed later in this text.
Clearly, things like “words to cope” as described in both book 2 and 3 involved word associations. “Words to cope” were little words or phrases I had noticed had so greatly helped Zachary to overcome frustration in life when things were not working quite the way they should. These included words like “it’s ok… just try again” or “when something doesn’t work… just try again… and again… and again… you’ll get it”, or “don’t get mad… just try again”… or “try a different way”, or “you can do it”, or “if you don’t understand… just say, what’s that or help me”, or “just ask for help”, etc. When “coping words” involved the use of pronouns, such as “you”, I now tried to make Zachary repeat phrases using the proper pronoun. For example, if the coping words were “you can do it…”, I would say, “Zachary, you can do it… Zachary, say: I can do it…” as I literally made him repeat the phrase using the proper pronoun. These simple phrases became absolutely key in our household – especially those phrases that taught Zachary himself how to overcome his stress – those valuable little phrases like “it’s ok… just ask for help”.
As I once again looked at the functions co-located in the frontal lobe along with word associations again, there could simply be no denying that these functions were much more inter-related than we may have ever imagined. As such, I now believed that word associations were key to issues involving not only language production itself, but to matters involving desired or undesired behaviors or motor activities, key to motor planning and execution, key to activity in response to one’s environment (i.e., safety issues), key to memory as it related to habits and other motor activities, key to olfactory functions (i.e., accepting bitter supplement in spite of its nasty taste based on a word association), key to higher functioning (i.e., concept of self, imagination, etc.), and key to the control of emotions. In other words, clearly, word associations appeared to be very much tied to pretty well all other functions found in the frontal lobe.
More important, however was the fact that word associations were a form of categorization. As such, word associations, perhaps more than anything else, provided a critical bridge to functions located in other parts of the brain – such as the temporal lobe – that part of the brain associated with categorizations! Word associations provided the mechanism so critical to building a bridge between language production in the frontal lobe and the understanding of language in the temporal lobe. Furthermore, because word associations provided for that “bridging function”, they also provided a mechanism for accessing “all functions” in the temporal lobe given my theory that co-located functions within a specific part of the brain were much more interrelated than we may have ever imagined. As such, a bridge to the temporal lobe via word associations provided access to auditory processing, olfactory processing, memory acquisition, emotion, voice recognition, face recognition, the ability to distinguish between truth and a lie, visual perception as it related to the face, place and body part recognition in addition to that critical bridge to the understanding of language.
Word associations also helped to explain “routines”. For example, whenever Zachary ate rice spaghetti, it was a given that when he was done he always said: “ice cream, please” in order to get his rice based ice cream. To Zachary, “spaghetti and ice cream” always went together. Thus, again, motor activities, habits, motor planning and execution, word associations and olfactory issues clearly all fit into this simple phrase or word association of “spaghetti and ice cream” – as did control of emotions – another function co-located in the frontal lobe – because, clearly, Zachary could get “upset” if his ice cream was not provided.
I had found the key to that little issue to simply be the substitution of the ice cream for another treat having to do with olfactory functions – any preferred treat could easily be used as a substitute. I had no doubt that this was because the olfactory cortex and control of emotions were co-located and as such, it very much appeared the sense of smell was very, very tied to the control of emotions [more on this issue later in this text]. The point here was that clearly, even though “substitutions” could be made for treats to help with the control of emotions, clearly, word associations such as “spaghetti and ice cream” or “take your zinc… it’s medicine that’s good for you” and their impact in Zachary’s life were very much – undeniable. As such word associations provided a very powerful tool indeed for matters relating to behavior modification, actual language production and so much more!
For example, word associations also provided a bridge to the parietal lobe via the use of words having to do with shapes. Zachary already knew all his shapes… hexagon, pentagon, octagon, trapezoid, parallelogram, heart, circle, square, oval, and on and on and on. Shapes had been one of the first things Zachary had come to understand. Again, this made perfect sense given that children with autism lived “via references”. Shapes were constant – they never changed. A hexagon always had six sides, an octagon, eight, a circle, “no sides”. Shapes were found everywhere in life and that provided in my opinion, a critical bridge to functions in the parietal lobe – functions that included spatial processing, visual attention, touch perception, manipulation of objects, goal directed movement, 3-dimension identification – all things that clearly could involve – shapes! Shapes also provided a bridge to the occipital lobe or visual cortex. Opposites were another great way to bridge several key parts of the brain, as were things like “visual functions” or olfactory functions that were found in various parts of the brain.
Obviously, among the most key of all these was the word association (frontal lobe) and categorization (temporal lobe) bridge. Again, it was important to keep in mind that although “word associations” tended to mean “verbalizations” to most people, word associations, clearly could involve motions (i.e., sign language) and as such, I urged all parents to keep the apparently critical role of motion in mind as it related to issues involving communication in children with autism.
There could be no denying that word associations (verbal or motioned) were absolutely key to helping the child with autism break the code to a great deal in life. However, word associations required something very critical in order to work properly – they required categorization! By definition, word associations were clearly a form or subset of categorization and in my opinion, this was why this bridge – the word association-categorization bridge – was among the most critical of all because within it were the keys to providing “order” in “dis-order” – the keys to breaking the code to everything – from words to emotions and motions - in the life of the child with autism! Absolutely everything in life had to be somehow - categorized - to be useful.
If you looked at the functions in the brain, these included: motor functions, activity in response to one’s environment, memory as it related to habits and other motor activities, language production, control of emotions, word associations, auditory processing, olfactory processing, memories, emotions, understanding of language, voice recognition, face recognition, ability to distinguish between truth and a lie, somatosensory processing, spatial processing, visual attention, touch perception, manipulation of objects, goal directed movement, 3 dimension identification, integration of all sensory input that allowed for the understanding of a single concept, visual processing and on and on and on - all of these things had to somehow be categorized to be useful!
Much as there could be “physical disorder” in the physical world all about us, so too could there be mental disorder as a result of the inability to properly categorize (a temporal lobe function). Much as it was more difficult to function efficiently and effectively in a physically disordered world, so too was it more difficult to function efficiently and effectively in a mentally disordered world. As such, clearly, categorization was absolutely key to the understanding not only of language but, indeed - of one’s world.
I now truly believed that the key to providing “order” was in providing proper links among the various parts of the brain that appeared to have been somehow disconnected by finding those functions that provided for the building of critical bridges via similar functions– functions that were different - but yet had some similarities – and hence, could be used to bridge gaps that previously seemed so insurmountable. As I had stated previously in order to “build bridges” you had to activate as many parts of the brain as possible - at once! As stated in book 3, this was why a computer was truly a medical necessity for children with autism because while on a computer – almost all major functions in the cerebral cortex (the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes) as well as several other key parts of the brain (i.e., the cerebellum, hippocampus, basal ganglia, amygdale, corpus callosum, midbrain, thalamus, etc. ) were activated! Zachary loved the computer – a tool I suspected had helped him better understand his world by perhaps rebuilding critical bridges that had once been severed.