The Burden On The Autistic Brain... Forced To Work In A Way, Surely, It Was Not Intended To!
In my opinion, in the autistic child or mercury injured, a burden was placed on the brain to perform or learn critical functions by using “parts” (sensory input) in a manner they were not intended to be used. For example, the production of language in the autistic child could not be done via visual and auditory processes - at least not at first – but rather, could only be done through the use of smell and motor functions. A difficult task – indeed – although not insurmountable as evident from the fact that so many autistic children did develop speech, undoubtedly due to their focus on motion (such as the mouth, etc.)!
It was my belief, however, that once the “code to language” was broken in terms of understanding language, a function residing in the temporal lobe, that auditory and visual input could then be used to assist in the acquisition of language skills.
As difficult as it was to come to this realization, with that realization, potentially, also came the answer to helping so many of these children.
Given I believed communication did not occur as it should among the various areas or regions of the brain, but was heightened within a specific region, thereby, magnifying all functionality or “dysfunctionality” within that area, the way to help these children, surely, had to be by using all functions within one area of the brain to one’s advantage in teaching specific skills, etc.
For example, in the frontal lobe, although language production had no input from visual or auditory, motor functions, memory and olfactory processing were present and, perhaps could be used to one’s advantage in the production of language. Zachary certainly was good at memorizing things and he certainly did love motion and react to smells… so, the key, I believed, was simply in finding how to tap memory and perhaps motor functioning and olfactory processing in order to teach the production of language! Perhaps a focus on motion by the use of hands to teach sounds, as suggested in the use of “motion phonicsă” and focus the mouth was the way to go. Indeed, many children who were autistic did prefer to focus on the mouth of an adult as opposed to the eyes – perhaps this was why! This also explained why so many autistic children had mastered sign language. The inherent trap of sign language, however, was in the assumption that these children could not produce sounds if auditory processing was not in the same lobe. That would be a very inaccurate assumption to make. These children indeed could produce sounds and as such they should also be able to develop language, given the right tools!
With the production of language, however, I would NEVER encourage the use of “imaginary play” in producing language, simply due to the fact that the concept of self also resided in this area – and as such, I did believe that the danger of imaginary play as it related to schizophrenia was a very real one! Imaginary play had to be discouraged in these children, especially when it involved the child himself “being someone or something else”!
But, now that the issues were better understood, at least in my opinion, tools could now be generated specifically for the autistic or others suffering from potential brain lesions… and so, with the bad news, came the good news also!
As with so many things in life, it was really an issue of “awareness”. Understanding these issues did not “change” the child you currently had at home… it just made you more aware of the issues within that child, and perhaps that was the benefit in all this… to look at this awareness not as something to get discouraged about, but rather as a tremendous opportunity to move many of these children forward much more quickly! :o)
Suffice it to say that my theory that sensory information was not properly integrated into the brain seemed to explain a great deal in the autistic child and in many other disorders as well.
If this theory was indeed accurate, this certainly explained why absolutely all facets of life were impacted in the autistic child and why so many “connections” in terms of understanding one’s world and reacting to it - were simply missing!
I must say that given what we saw in the autistic child, I could not help but suspect the corpus callosum, thalamus, and the parietal lobe were possibly involved in this overall inability to integrate and relay sensory information. Both the corpus callosum and the thalamus acted as gateways for information. The corpus callosum - the critical link allowing information to pass from one hemisphere to the other, and the thalamus - the gateway allowing information to flow between the peripheral and central nervous systems. The parietal lobe - the area involved in the integration of sensory input and as such was perhaps key and clearly an area needing further investigation!
Of course, I was not a neurologist, but, if I were investigating the issue of autism, these areas would be my first priority given that two were involved in the “gateway” function in terms of how the central nervous system and peripheral nervous systems “obtained” information and the third was involved in the critical function of sensory input integration. I suspected that these areas may indeed reflect physical differences than the same areas in a “normal brain” and that those areas used more frequently by the autistic child would perhaps be larger in size, much like a muscle that was used more than an unused muscle would be larger. As such, I suspected areas of over-activity would show larger than normal structures in the autistic child, and areas of under-activity, perhaps those areas that were truly damaged, would likely be reflected as smaller than normal in the autistic child. Areas involved in the prevention of sensory overload surely had to be involved since so many of these children suffered from what appeared to be sensory overload.
The fact that persons suffering from epilepsy often had surgery whereby the corpus callosum was severed made me all the more suspicious that the corpus callosum was indeed involved – especially given the fact that so many autistic children developed epileptic seizures in adolescence. An epileptic seizure, was almost like the brain was “short circuiting” or attempting to “reboot” itself, much as a computer needed to be rebooted when it froze up or could not process the information it was given. During that “rebooting”, from the epileptic seizures I had seen, a person lost complete control of their body in terms of motor functions, etc. and since epileptics could “sense” a seizure coming, obviously the senses, in my opinion were involved too! Interestingly, although the thalamus was involved in processing sensory input, the one “sense” it did not “process” was the sense of smell! This was a key observations I encouraged all readers to keep in the back of their mind as they progressed through this document! It was a well-known fact that persons suffering from epilepsy sensed an “aura”, believed to be a “smell” just prior to the onset of an epileptic seizure. This, as readers would discover later in this document, was very, very interesting indeed in terms of brain structure and function and the possible implications for autism – and so much more!
Although the previous section had undoubtedly been a difficult one for parents to get through, the fact that perhaps the “missing link” we had all been searching for – for so long – had finally been found meant parents could move forward and focus their efforts in terms of how to address these many, many issues in order to provide for their child the best quality of life possible given these seemingly insurmountable factors.
The fact was, many children did end up breaking the code - much as a military decoder eventually decoded the hidden messages too, and as such, understanding the issues gave these children even more hope yet, because, perhaps now, tools and training for these children and for any mercury injured person could be provided in a much more effective manner.
There always seemed to be so much to learn when it came to autism. For example, the day before I completed this book, I came to learn that yellow was a color that was quite valuable in visually perceiving objects. Again, I had just stumbled upon something by chance… Zachary’s alphabet wall, in his room of colors, had a bright yellow background and this may have helped him to better perceive the letters on the wall. Red and green were colors perceived more in the center of the eye while blues were more for peripheral vision. All these factors could greatly contribute to our understanding of what would be needed to best help the autistic. As more pieces fell into place, world issues as they related to autism and vaccinations, for me, could finally move to the back as I now began to focus more on those things I could do – as a parent – to help my child!
The challenge for parents, and indeed, for society, would be in providing these children with learning tools to get sensory information to as many parts of the brain as possible via the use of various sensory input within one teaching tool. I now understood why Zachary so loved his alphabet train video… it provided color, text, motion, and sound and the perception of a part being made into a whole as each letter was loaded onto a train car to “build the alphabet train”. Tools such as these were now needed for all aspects of life, for all autistic children. This was a huge task indeed, however, given the amazing capabilities so many of these children had developed in view of what were huge limitations to overcome – the lack of all sensory integration – it was indeed a testimony to the determination of these children that they continued to persevere and move forward… and as such, so too, did their parents need to persevere! No war was ever won by giving up… and as such, parents and society now needed to do what was necessary to be victorious in this battle on all fronts.
As difficult as this message was for me to deliver, there was another strong message for all parents and society – the inherent desire to give up when faced with such overwhelming challenges was not an option. These children had not given up… and now, more than ever, neither could we. Getting depressed over this situation would do nothing to move these children or society forward. Yes, there was a need to grieve for the complete devastation our children had been subjected to, but there was also the need to get determined and stay focused and united – because only with determination and focus and in knowing the enemy for what it was could the battle truly be won!
Given what I now believed to be happening in the autistic brain, there was indeed much more hope in that any brain functions that had “backup” systems in that those functions were somewhat performed elsewhere could be perhaps re-routed more specifically to those “backup areas”. Once the “code” was broken in one part of the brain, surely that would somewhat help in another in terms of further breaking the code – in terms of now understanding something based on a different sense. Where “backups” existed, surely, that had to be the case!
If the ability to perform specific tasks was indeed not "isolated" to specific areas of the brain due to the fact that “new areas” were forced to take over, it could only be concluded that all regions of the entire brain, potentially, could be involved in functions for which they were never intended once primary areas of function were either impaired, damaged or inaccessible!
In my view, these "other areas" of the brain, areas never thought previously, to be associated with specific functions, now revealed that, indeed, the brain could adapt and literally “metamorphosize” its structures in terms of how they functioned and indeed, interacted with other key activities. This certainly would explain why actual physical changes were so often observed in brains that had been damaged or impaired in some way!
The implications of this - if true – for mankind, were huge! The option of using the sense of smell and motor function, for example, in the production of language, that area of potential alone, was huge indeed – for the autistic child and for anyone who had suffered any type of brain injury that had resulted in speech impairment! The ability to use “alternative” sensory input as it related to specific functions within the brain and indeed, within a specific, independent region of the brain, based on the functions available within each region, opened entirely new areas of study and, indeed, of hope, for so many whose brains had been somehow injured!
Any primary function with backups elsewhere could potentially be “re-routed”.
Although I was not a neurologist, the basic overview of the brain above had provided enough information to determine functional areas in which this theory, if true, could be applied in order to help the autistic child. No neurologist could ever convince me to give up before even trying – no matter how many degrees that neurologist had. The determination of my son to decode his world convinced me I had to be as determined as he was! :o)
I suspected no one had ever, in their wildest dreams, ever imagined that for these children, language production could - perhaps - only be achieved based on olfactory and motor functioning inputs as opposed to visual and auditory processes. How could one possibly “produce language” based on “smells” or “motions”?
Likewise, teaching the “understanding of language”, a function in the temporal lobe, could be done by using “spatial concepts” or math concepts… that was why bubble graphs had worked instantaneously with Zachary and why, even after a week, he could remember the sentence: “The long steam train pulled slowly and carefully into the station and was loaded with cars, trucks, logs and coal”… the spatial concepts had made all the difference and as such, he remembered the sentence in perfect order!
Using alternative inputs and methods appeared to be exactly what was needed given my theory that the various parts of the brain in the autistic child basically performed independently of “other parts” due to the fact that the integration of sensory information, within these children, to get the sensory input to all those places it needed to go – simply was not occurring!
Yet, all this made such perfect sense and explained why the autistic child was not focused on the eyes when it came to communication, but rather, on motion… such as the moving of one’s mouth. This explained how autistic children must have somehow been able to decode the “phonics” to language without first understanding the visual representations of letters! Breaking the code to language and all communication, in my view, rested in getting that first cornerstone – the understanding of the alphabet as “symbols” representing something. I, now believed that building block had to be taught via the use of motion (by using the video mentioned, for example, in my section on Language). Then, the work with “motion phonicsă” could begin.
I had never been one for “reinventing the wheel” and as such, I wanted to share with all parents the information for The Phonics Handbook, that book my sister-in-law had used to teach her autistic son language via motion.
The Phonics Handbook, by Sue Lloyd, published by Jolly Learning was available by calling: 800-488-2665 in the US or 0181-501-0405 in the UK.
The ISBN for The Phonics Handbook was: 1 870946 08 1.
There were also other handbooks and videos available for those who were interested. These included:
Phonics Video, twin pack ISBN 1 870946 66 9
Finger Phonics Books 1 – 7 ISBN 1 870946 31 6
I had only, personally seen The Phonics Handbook, but I provided these others as well as they were listen on the back of the materials I had. Anything that would involve using one’s fingers though to teach language, was probably something to look at!
The other thing I could suggest in teaching language to the autistic was, of course via the use of puzzles and videos – since both involved motion. The Alphabet Train in the Language Section had truly helped Zachary with learning the alphabet. It was a video he adored to this day… providing, motion in the form of spinning letters, sound as the letters were called out and the entire video was set to the music of Mozart, visuals and motion as the letters were placed on a train and the sense of parts being made into a whole as each train car was loaded with individual letters. Given all this sensory information Zachary was best able to “make the connection” necessary in order to understand this all too critical first cornerstone to language!
Since the autistic loved puzzles and trains, potentially, both these concepts could be used to one’s advantage in teaching many concepts… I was already working on a couple for time and money based on very specific ideas I had in terms of how these concepts could best be taught… and had many ideas for teaching sentence structure, etc. based on that too, but, truly, when it came to learning, teaching the autistic child via puzzles, trains, motion, and indeed, perhaps even smell, was the way to teach language to these children! The phonics as I provided in the language section could then be used as a good reinforcement tool, but, based on what I had come to, I now believed the best way was to teach phonics via motion!
As such, development of the autistic child’s brain consisted of development within each specific area or region… and as such, development within each of these specific areas or regions became very concentrated and very focused, resulting in an almost overwhelming ability for the various functions within each region to communicate with one another. As such, within the frontal lobe, for example, functions once thought completely unrelated, such as the production of language, and smell or motor activity, now became much more integrated as the brain attempted to “decode” sensory input provided by the senses and applied to the specific functions within each region!
What I had also come to understand, however, was that one function - specifically the function of integrating the parts into the whole – the part or incoming sensory information into the whole functioning of the brain - that one function, and likewise, the inability to perform that one function, impacted absolutely all areas of functioning... be they related to sensory, emotional, social, behavioral, motor, sexual, imaginary, communication issues or indeed, issues as they related to the most important thing of all – one’s concept of “self”. It made no difference in terms of the “area of functionality”... this one function impacted absolutely all areas of the brain and as such, necessitated the brain find new coping mechanisms in order to completely “rewire itself” and make sense of the world!
I believed that given the salient examples provided in this document, and the multitude of examples within examples that existed within each of these, the case for the lack of sensory integration and relay of sensory information to other critical parts of the brain in need of that information, in the autistic child, was indeed a powerful one! There was simply no denying that this truly played a role in what we saw in autistic children. This one common thread – the inability to integrate and relay sensory information – simply explained too much in all aspects of life for the autistic child!
Given all this information, surely, a wealth of new research could now be undertaken in terms of what was going on in the autistic child. How could children who looked so normal on the outside be so broken on the inside? Surely, to answer that question would require many new brain studies. Yet, I had serious concerns as they related to “All Those Brain Studies – And The Need To Question Everything!”.