“Autism is just a processing system, a different way of thinking and learning.”

This is a comment by Eagle34 on the post “Autism in Vogue“.

I actually want to take your opinion further Evan and add something people forget.

Autism is just a processing system, a different way of thinking and learning. The examples the Author signals out from working with Jason is just like any human being who is afraid and ignored: The boy was merely expressing discontent and fear due to, as the author observed, repeated overcorrection.

The problem is, we spend so much time looking at the behaviour and correcting it without digging in deeper. Because those “Behaviours” don’t come from out of nowhere. If there’s a serious issue going on, whether due to past traumas or a significant lack of a support structure for their processing system, then of course they’re going to act out. Every human being reaches their breaking point. And autistic people aren’t any different.

The more we start looking at autistic people as people just with a different way of learning and processing, then the less they’ll feel stigmitised and can contribute to society because from within lie some great talents that could be nurtured if we’d just quit our obsession with “Correcting Behaviour”.

I say this both as an autistic adult myself and someone who has worked with autistic people of all ages for years.

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Comments

  1. We live in a culture that wants a label or diagnosis for everything. From the standpoint of the medical community, once you create and a diagnosis, you can generate a revenue stream. When this is the priority, we suppress our more flexible human responses. And we miss the opportunity to stay curious and open to multiple interpretations.

    • Well the autistic community is taking that label back. Or rather, redifining it as a way of thinking instead of a disorder or illness.

      I forgot to mention in my comment, that autistic people, when supported can lead productive lives. There are many autistic people out there who don’t live off a revenue stream and are employed, whether via their own businesses or one of the many traditional jobs out there.

      We also are a great community, and the best thing an autistic person can do is learn through others with the same processing system. We call it “Self Reflection” and its one of the most vital tools an autistic person needs in order to develop as in an individual, eventually reaching point of awareness of how his/her system works, what makes him/her react, and how to approach those issues on their own.

      And this is much healthier than the medical community approach.

  2. Anthony Zarat says:

    This is complicated. Intrinsically, Autism is function. Within the framework of a (rather) rigid society, it can be dysfunction.

    People with mild spectrum presence often over-perform their non-spectrum peers. This is probably because of the general principle that “in a kitchen full of knives, the most important utensil is a spoon.” Thinking differently than anyone else can be a valuable edge in science and business.

    However, there are also cases where the critical thinking advantages are out of reach due to communication and social function issues.

    Why does it matter? Because in one case you treat, and in the other you don’t.

    My son’s music teacher has an autistic child, but she prefers to see him as a whole and undamaged individual who does not need treatment, but instead needs understanding and acceptance.

    In contrast, my collaborator in Freeport has an autistic child, and he is working hard to identify dietary and other therapeutic options which he believes reduce symptoms.

    If you are interested, the work with the Freeport group has to do with a plausible hypothesis that explains the puzzling & sporadic link between mercury and autism with two-component mechanics. The idea is that in time frames that are historical, pre-historical, and even evolutionary, virtually all human mercury exposure has come from seafood. Why not postulate an as yet unknown “melanogenesis” type of mechanism, where seafood induces a mercury-resilience response? This may explain why autistic children are observed to have lower than average levels of mercury in hair samples (clearance deficiency) but higher than average mercury in brain tissue (accumulation response). It might also suggest farm-grown fish as a possible therapeutic option (since farm grown fish has ~zero mercury, but presumably might still be effective in inducing the mercury-clearance mechanism).

  3. Anthony: “In contrast, my collaborator in Freeport has an autistic child, and he is working hard to identify dietary and other therapeutic options which he believes reduce symptoms.”

    I don’t mean to pry but has your collaborator examined other sources for the symptoms like psychological or issues related to any trauma? I’m not ruling out diet and stuff as that is a factor to development as well. But again, we can’t ignore the make-up of the child.

    • Anthony Zarat says:

      He has a serious case of myopia. Myopia is a good and necessary thing when looking for answers of this type.

  4. I’m rather torn on this issue. I have three kids with autism to greater or lesser degrees. I love them, unconditionally. I want their lives to be easier, and for that reason, I try to help them learn to reduce the “autistic behaviours” in public (my middle son shrieks, for example. It’s painful to everyone around him. Literally painful. My ears throb.) There are some behaviours that need to be modified in some people with autism (like fecal smearing).

    It is genetic, and it is affected by environmental triggers as well. My kids are happier and healthier on a strict gluten-free, dairy-free diet (with a few other things eliminated too.) They’re more able to focus and are more willing to engage with me. That’s a good thing.

    So, where I’m torn is that I don’t believe in just letting them be as they are with no dietary or bio-medical interventions, because those things help them feel better, and that suggests to me that it is a medical issue, not just a different way of thinking. The different way of thinking and processing isn’t something I want to help them with (except maybe the sensory processing, because it’d be AWESOME if my boy wouldn’t take off his boots in the snow, because that’s dangerous for his feet). It’s the way they deal with the different processing and thinking. Do you know what I mean? My middle son can’t talk, can’t sign, and can’t use picture exchange. He has no way of communicating except by pointing, or taking me to what he wants. It frustrates the hell out of him. I’d love love love to fix whatever is blocking that. For him. Because it’s got to be damned lonely. Maybe I’m wrong. I dunno.

    I’m trying hard to be respectful, and I hope you will afford me the same. I know this is a hot button issue. And I know I’m not always perfect with my language choices. So if I’ve said something offensive, please call me on it and ask me to clarify. I’m very very tired of being attacked on this issue.

    • Luna: “So, where I’m torn is that I don’t believe in just letting them be as they are with no dietary or bio-medical interventions, because those things help them feel better, and that suggests to me that it is a medical issue, not just a different way of thinking”

      The problem with bio-medical interventions and dietary stuff is that it’s used as the one and only solution to their needs. Yes, you may think it helps them “Feel better”, but “Feeling Better” is not enough. They need to be validated, supported and have a place of purpose. Otherwise, they’re only going to be dependent on the interventions and increase their likelyhood of further problems down the road as adults.

      Luna: “The different way of thinking and processing isn’t something I want to help them with”

      Then you’re not going to get anywhere in terms of development. No offense, Luna, but dealing with how their mind thinks and processes is how autistic kids, regardless of their functionality (and I hate using functionality as a measuring stick because regardless, it’s the same darn way of thinking) grow and learn. Awareness is the building block towards individuation and independence. That’s how autistic people learn. To not support it is akin to ignoring a vital part of themselves.

      If this is coming across as harsh, I apologise. But I’ve experienced parents with the same attitude and philosophy where they choose to go the intervention and dieatry route solely without digging in and figuring out where the “Behaviours” come from. Like when your son screams, why does he scream? What association is he making? Where does it come from?. And fecal smearing, do you think that’s an extreme response to something? These are questions you should be asking as a parent.

      Again, if we don’t address this then their potential is going to be wasted.

      • GAH. I had a whole response typed out for this, and it refreshed and it’s gone. I’ll try to re-create it.

        “The problem with bio-medical interventions and dietary stuff is that it’s used as the one and only solution to their needs. Yes, you may think it helps them “Feel better”, but “Feeling Better” is not enough. They need to be validated, supported and have a place of purpose. Otherwise, they’re only going to be dependent on the interventions and increase their likelyhood of further problems down the road as adults.”

        Oh my yes. I completely agree. Bio-med and dietary are only complementary. ALL people need to be validated, supported and have a place of purpose. All people.

        “Then you’re not going to get anywhere in terms of development. No offense, Luna, but dealing with how their mind thinks and processes is how autistic kids, regardless of their functionality (and I hate using functionality as a measuring stick because regardless, it’s the same darn way of thinking) grow and learn. Awareness is the building block towards individuation and independence. That’s how autistic people learn. To not support it is akin to ignoring a vital part of themselves.”

        Okay, this is what I meant by me not using language as precisely as I want to. Of course, I need to help them with the way it works for them. I meant more like I didn’t want to force them to try to think the way I do. Definitely they need support in it. What they don’t need is ABA style “training” to force them to act normal.

        And I have no idea why he shrieks. None. I’ve tried figuring it out. I’ve tried looking for common elements. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’m definitely open to suggestions. (None of mine fecal smear. Thank goodness. I don’t know if I could handle it. Well, of course I could, but I”m sure glad I don’t have to.)

        • Luna: “And I have no idea why he shrieks. None. I’ve tried figuring it out. I’ve tried looking for common elements. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’m definitely open to suggestions.”

          Maybe there’s something in the environment bringing up an association from the past? A trauma? There’s a suggestion. Look for what it is in the environment first. Look for the source.

          I know it’s tough working with what you got and for that I sympathise with your position, even though I’m not a parent myself.

          “I meant more like I didn’t want to force them to try to think the way I do. Definitely they need support in it. What they don’t need is ABA style “training” to force them to act normal.”

          I was thinking more along the lines of just validating and supporting their processing system. I agree and don’t think ABA Style “Training” helps either. It only makes them even more dependant on a rote style of learning and unable to think for themselves. So yeah, we see eye to eye on that.

    • Luna: “I’m very very tired of being attacked on this issue.”

      When did I attack you? Aside from asking questions and stating my opinions in my response. Unless others were attacking you on the issue. But believe when I say it, I’m not those “Others” you’re referring too.

      • Luna, I just want to ammend regarding the fecal smearing thing. I’m not implying that your kids do that. Merely asking the same question: Why does an autistic child smear his feces? Where does the association come from?

      • You didn’t. I wasn’t referring to you. This is the first we’ve had any interaction. It’s the topic in general all over the web. It seems to be such a hot button issue that it brings out the fangs and claws almost immediately whenever anyone tries to have a conversation about it that isn’t just, “OH YES! You are totally right about everything!”. :)

  5. Petri Kelottijärvi says:

    I guess any processing system will do the garbage in – garbage out thing. I also often compare AST – NT to, say Volvo – SAAB (ignition key in different places (yeah, I’m in Sweden), both get you where you want but in slightly different ways) or Windows – MacOS.

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