So what is autism?

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Registered: 03-26-2003
So what is autism?
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Thu, 10-16-2003 - 6:37pm
We have had lots of wonderful discussion about curing autism and I was thinking. Our point of view on a cure really comes down to what we define as autism.

For instance, is it a particular way of being and looking at the world only or does it include all these extra symptoms as well. Well at it's core, autism is a certain set of symptoms that seem to be the way a person looks at, processes and interacts with the world. However, it often goes in conjuction with a whole host of other problems which can include mental retardation, sensory difficulties, ADD, tics, OCD, etc. Are these side symptoms part of autism or separate.

Well I think folks could see it either way. IT is just the autism and the others are separate, but on the other hand would the child with MR and Sensory problems have those if he was not autistic?

So let the discussion begin. What do you consider autism? I am feeling devil's advocatish today.

For my part I feel a little of both. It would be easy for me to say they are separate. Although my kids have co-morbid conditions, they are able to function quite well and I am hopeful that they will live independent lives. On the other hand my nephew is more classic autism. He has a very hard time learning and relating to the world. I certainly hope he learns the skills by adulthood but I don't know. Part of his autism is to border right on the edge of MR. Hard to say for sure.

Renee

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Registered: 03-28-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Thu, 10-16-2003 - 10:23pm
In it's most concise description, I've read that autism is a communication disorder. I memorized that because it's the simplest way to explain it to the bewildered person who hears it for the first time other than trying to recall the movie "Rainman". It's either a disorder or a different way of thinking. I guess it depends on who you're talking too. Glass half empty or half full.

Not being too scientific of a person myself, I feel that autism and my daughter's corresponding symptoms are all interrelated. If I were to "cure" her autism, then so would her other challenges disappear. I have read consistently that 1/3 of ASD kids have or will develop seizures so that can't be a coincidence.

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Registered: 07-22-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 2:33am
I think that you would have to consider the autistic aspecs of your childs condition and any other accompanying disorders as seperate. I only say this because one can occurr without the other. Seth has been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional disorder and we wait to see an official dx of aspergers, or HFA. But children can have ADHD and or oppositional disorder without aspergers, so it is a seperate condition. Children with PDD, aspergers and HFA may be more prone to develope other conditions, the same way children with down syndrome may be more likely to have other health conditions. I think it would also be a seperate issue since not all children with HFA or aspergers will develope these other conditions. Just MHO.
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Registered: 07-11-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 6:32am

Okay Miss 'Devil's Advocate', just to help fule the fire I'm going to throw these out for everyone to reffer to. I'll post my personal response seperately.



  1. Autism Disorder (DSM-IV)
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Registered: 07-11-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 7:55am

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This discribes Jade pretty well, so I'll adress it. Yes, I think she would have the SID and MR even without the autism.

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Registered: 03-27-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 12:29pm
Renee:

Good topic - I've given lots of thought to this one, so please pardon how long and twisted this is. I have one clearly Aspergers step son, my DH and several generations of males in his family were clearly "something" and we suspect that would be Asperger's as well. I have a 4 year old who is a sensory integration conumdrum. Then, I have 2 nephews who are ADHD and a brother who is extremely aggressive and socially inept. I've seen a lot of interesting behaviors!

For me, I believe that autism and the other co-morbid issues are all facets of brain/neurological functioning. (duh) I think that everyone is made up with a certain recipe and that you cannot separate the pieces or ingrediants of that recipe.

I strongly believe that nature and nurture are categories into which the recipe ingrediants fall. Both have influence. There is no denying the strong genetic/hereditary components of both DH's and my family. As far as autism in specific goes, I believe that some people have genetic predisposition to have all their neurons firing in a very confined, straight line approach around their brains. How in the world can I explain this? Imagine thoughts moving on tracks in a brain - some people seem to have thoughts that progress very quickly and easily along very well-defined straight lines (really brillinatly in many instances). As the thoughts are flying down those tracks, the related thoughts that may be on either side of the track are completely missed.

Some people think very "organically" or circularily. The thoughts fly kind of randomly around in many different patterns weaving in and out - and not necessarily in a straight lines. So, when one thing happens or is observed, another closely related thing may get connected, but thoughts may not progress very far forward before something else comes up.

Those are the 2 extremes, thinking purely linearly and purely randomly. I think NT folks are able to use a combination of these 2 means. They know, or are easily trained, to think forward in a straight line when they need to and the can branch out wider and more circularly when they are "looking" for related concepts. They can experience a specific piece of input and compare that with what they think someone else might think about that idea, or what else it might mean.

Autism seems to me to be brains operating at the "straight line" extreme. ADHD seems to me to be brains operating in the random approach extreme.

I think you can inherit the tendancy to think in one of these ways, either completely or to varying degrees. Then, I think the environment can cause "damage" to only allow you to think in one of these ways - or to kind of push you over the edge. A protein imbalance may make moving "sideways" out of the deep-seated and rutted tracks in the brain very difficult to do. Or oxygen deprivation may make the brain unable to form deep, regular tracks so you get lots of random use instead.

Sensory issues, OCD, ODD, all seem to me to be physical and emotional results of the brain firing too much or too little in either the straight line or the random way. SO, I believe they are strongly related to autism. If they happen just in one area of the brain, then they may exists as their own conditions. But, I think it is very possible for those areas to be encompassed within the "habits" the autistic or ADHD patterns are following.

I also strongly believe that temperament (another inherited trait - IMHO) is a piece of the recipe. An extrovert with strong SID will certainly feel differently and experience different emotions than an introvert with strong SID. An extrovert OCD may behave more like an ODD description, whereas an introvert would probably just keep to his/herslef and be viewed as more "neurotic." (Whatever that means).

Colin, the 4 year old with sensory issues was subjected to intense phsyical stress in utero. The hospital *tried* to induce for 36 hours. They were giving me 5 times the MAXIMUM dose of pitocin for a very long time. The contractions were HUGE. I instinctively knew this was bad and I signed myself out of the hospital (against their advice) to wait another 8 days before giving birth rather easily. However, I believe the part of Colin's brain that measures the amount of stimulation he is receiving is damaged from this extreme event. It *had* to shut down to survive those awful conditions. Now, he can run full force into the point of a table, fall down and get up laughing. He doesn't feel it....

add to this the fact that he is a raging extrovert and very bright and we have a HUGE risk taker, very agressive (because he really thinks nothing hurts anyone), and very much in constant motion. (He needs to be moving to organize his thoughts).

One thing is for sure - the 2 boys are as different as night and day - and yet they totally adore each other. They have their own unique ways of getting along and communicating, and taking care of each other. The "recipies" are perfect in their imperfection - and I believe that all of humanity actually runs this range as "normal" as well.

I hope I haven't been too confusing. :-)

Jackie

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Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 2:05pm
"Qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following: ..."

Ok, I am going explore this area a bit further. People with autism have a significant impairment in communication. Some are completely non-verbal. There is much evidence that this difficulty with communication can make it very difficult to test IQ in people with autism. Often this difficulty in language (a core feature of autism) I feel can cause the MR often seen in autism, therefor in those cases I don't think it is separate. There are tons of autistic children out there when taught so they understand the language can learn many of the academic skills of their NT peers, but their problems with communication keep them from being able to use it independently or from truly understanding it.

For instance, In our own instance, Cait scores unusually high in non-language IQ and is in the gifted program of her class. However, in many ways she cannot function without extra help. Her overall IQ score falls in the average range but that is because there is a huge variance between her subtests so the low brings down the high areas. My nephew scores a 70 which is considered borderline MR. He is the same age as my Emily who is considered very NT and bright. He learned his pre-academic skills much easier than she has and was ahead of her going into kindergarten, however, his significant problems with language make it hard to adapt those skills to life even though he can learn them. Is it his language difficulties, which is a core feature of his autism, the cause for his MR status. I would bet so. Also, I would also contend that his language difficulties are definitely autistic. He has plenty of vocabulary, but cannot hold a conversation that has not been rehearsed well at all. He has a very hard time understanding and processing others language. He perseverates constantly.

So is chicken or egg, which came first.

Renee

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Registered: 03-27-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 3:43pm
It seems to me that not being able to communicate in the way everyone else communicates is a sub-set of autism. I think it's one of the symptoms or results, but not the cause.

I suggest this because I know it is not for reasons of poor communication skills that Jesse absolutely cannot use any common sense. That's not communication, that's associative dynamic cognative behavior.

Also, in order to have a conversation (a skill that differs in value from culture to culture) a person must be able to track empathic response. Jesse can't do this. Whatever he is thinking or feeling is the only thing that is "real." So, he can learn how to respond in many situations (especially since he is so bright) but it would not be natural for him to figure out how to respond without being coached over and over. That's not about actually saying the words, it's about viewing your words through someone else's perspective. Jesse will now "behave" and communicate as he's been told to do, but if you discuss it with him, he's actually quite baffled as to why he had to do this in the 1st place. Doesn't that indicate something "deeper" than a communication deficit?

Jackie

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Registered: 07-11-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Fri, 10-17-2003 - 7:59pm

That goes back to how the "autistic mind" works. The autistic mind thinks in concrete terms, communication,in and of itslef, is an abract concept. Yes, they might understand that by asking for something they greatly increase their chances of getting it, that would be

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Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Sat, 10-18-2003 - 2:48am
AAAGH.

YOU EXPECT ME TO UNDERSTAND THAT AT THIS TIME OF NIGHT!

Renee

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Registered: 03-28-2003
In reply to: rbear4
Sat, 10-18-2003 - 10:45am
Renee

A book I found helpful in understanding this was:

*Mind blindness an Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind* by Simon Baron-Cohen. He is also one of the big theorists that autism is the result of an extremely 'male' way of thinking (I think I said that right).

Sio

who loves reading this thread, but is scared to contribute as it is WAY over my head, and I know it!!!)

I will say this, theory of Mind is actually one area that Liam tests as a big strength, yet, one of his biggest deficits is his inability to express or demonstrate this strength (verbal and non-verbal communication). Thus, he isn't on the spectrum, but his affect comes across as one who is on the spectrum. Hmmmmmm....a platypus!

An example of Liam and his affect:

Last year, we ate a lot of broccoli. Often, Liam would see it, and say "Broccoli, great." then, he would eat it. This year, after working on his affect, he said "broccoli, great." and, I knew he'd rather not eat it. Upon questioning him, it turns out he was tired of eating broccoli all the time, but didn't hate it, so he'd eat it.


Edited 10/18/2003 10:55:47 AM ET by sio64

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