AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES
by Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
CONTACT DR. EDMUNDS
THE EXPERIENCE OF WHAT IS TERMED AUTISM FROM ONE ACTUALLY UNDERGOING
The supposed dramatic increase can be attributed to the fact that autism is an umbrella term in which certain behavioral characteristics which can arise from various causations are being placed together. It is an adjective, not a noun, Autism is not a entity in itself. Children with actual physical conditions can display the traits of autism, however there mauy also be other factors as to why a child expresses behaviors that fall under this categorization. In addition, children who in the past were labeled with mental retardation are now being reclassified in the category of autism. Also, various developmental challenges are being classified as PDD and there exists the diagnosis of Asperger's. These are considered part of a spectrum and thus are accounted in the rates of autism. Lastly, there is some indication that the diagnosis of Asperger's is frequently overly used and suggested for children who may exhibit any form of social awkwardness. The umbrella of autism can include the behaviors exhibited by those having actual actual organic disease, but this cannot be verified as the sole causation of autism (Sanua, 1983).
Hammersley, et. al (2003) reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry a linkage between childhood trauma and the development of later auditory hallucinations. McKenzie (2003) notes that those who develop features appearing as psychosis often experience a traumatic event in the first 18 months of life. In regards to autism, in examination of the over 70 children I have directly been involved with in therapy, it appears that there are a number of common themes. The majority of the children were Caucasian. Therefore, it would be of interest to further examine multi-cultural aspects of autism. The rates of autism have appeared more prevalent in Western cultures. The majority of the 70 children experienced birth trauma or a traumatic event usually in the first year of life. It is seen that autistic children have a rate 12 times higher of birth trauma than their non-autistic siblings. The rate of complicated pregnancy with these children was high. In addition, a majority also had exposure to toxicity- either through parental drug use, elevated levels of protein within the amniotic fluid, or heavy metal toxicity. Some children had a medical condition (such as cerebral palsy). All of the children displayed social deficits, however those in the more severe range of autism who had language and communication barriers, had both factors of toxicity as well as trauma within the first year of life. This is not to blame parents for the occurrence of the traumas. Most of these events, with the exception of parental drug use during pregnancy is beyond the control of the parent. It also appears that environment and the use of appropriate interventions has the ability to override the factors causing developmental challenges however where there existed a chaotic environment for the child that such reactivated the prior trauma and futher complicated the ability to resolve challenging behaviors. Thus, psycho-social challenges can further the isolation and withdrawal exhibited and continue to halt development. Psychotropic medications would be a means by which a new toxin would be introduced and the anti-psychotics such as Risperdal carry significant risks as far as potential for tardive dyskinesia, weight gain, and other adverse events. Their mechanism of actions is merely to subdue behavior and blunt the brain. Therefore, if children have developed challenges due to toxicity, then adding more toxins will not be to their benefit. It will be necessary as well to examine the trauma. This appeared to often be birth trauma or in some cases a physical condition (such as cerebral palsy) and many of these children were hospitalized in neo-natal care which would imply a separation from parents. This separation and the experience of intensive medical intervention could have a role in the sensory integration problems these children experience and why some autistic children may experience difficulties in regards to affection and touch. In addition, these children often have higher pain threshholds which could be accounted for in some instances to exposure to substances in utero which have caused them to develop a higher production of natural opiates. There appear to be more males than females diagnosed with autism. This is possibly due to males being more susceptible to the impact of environmental toxins. In addition, the males may have had higher testosterone levels in utero. Baron-Cohen (2004) noted that those children with higher testosterone levels showed more significant social deficits. As mentioned prior, appropriate intervention in a conducive environment can be overriding to these challenges. Therefore, an intervention plan should be established which does not seek to force or coerce the child towards conformity to what is 'typical' but is respectful of the inherent differences in the autistic person and helps them to navigate through the mainstream. We need to come to a greater level of acceptance of autistic persons and encourage their self determination and self-advocacy.