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Children Who Have Been Labeled Autistic
From If Kids Just Came With Instruction Sheets!! by Svea J. Gold
The Book: If Kids Just Came with Instruction Sheets; creating a world without child abuse.
By Svea J. Gold, Fern Ridge Press. l997. 24.95.
Related Video: Autism Neurological Research and Neurodevelopmental Therapy
By Svea J. Gold, Fern Ridge Press. 2000. 24.95.
We are at: firstname.lastname@example.org and (541) 463-8100
If you know a child who has been labeled autistic or shows behaviors attributed to the vast spectrum that comprises autism, you might be interested in the following information, and perhaps even find it useful!
Autism - a label put on specific conditions which seem to isolate the child from the world, has been a puzzle since the beginning of the last century. Unfortunately, this label, in itself, has become a further isolating factor, since it was presumed nothing could be done. It has become the latest in a series of catch-all phrases which educators use to avoid the responsibility of making a specific diagnosis for children who do not fit the mold.
Thus children labeled autistic, are denied the kind of functional neurological screening, which would pinpoint exactly at what developmental level therapy should be started. As is too often the case, we judge the child by what comes out, and not by what is not going in or what exactly is not connecting.
With valiant efforts by people such as Bernard Rimland, some progress has been made. The first to actually look at how the child experienced the world, was Carl H. Delacato in his ground breaking The Ultimate Stranger, the autistic child. When I got around to reading this book the second time, it dawned on me, that there were children with autism-like symptoms, who were, by all standards perfectly normal. They simply had a different way of perceiving sensations. I saw many such children at my work in the library, but there was no way I could hand a book on autism to their parents, because the prognosis or autism was so devastating.
At that time, I attended a workshop on child abuse, and found to my horror, that most of these children were beaten or abused for behavior that they could not help. Their behavior was caused either by lack of maturation, by allergies, by metabolic problems, by neurological problems, or such perception problems as described in Carl H. Delacato's The Ultimate Stranger.
To prevent abuse, therefore, it was necessary to educate, rather than to blame the parents, and I produced with a grant from what was then HEW a series of videotapes with experts in each of these fields. With a consultation of these experts, we created the book: When Children Invite Child Abuse: a search for answers when love is not enough! After ten years of being used as a textbook in junior colleges, it was totally updated and changed to a more politically correct title: If Kids Just Came With Instruction Sheets!
Having successfully used a neuro-developmental therapy with my then five year old son - I spent the next 25 years looking for neurological research which would explain why this method had been so successful. I became acquainted with different methods of treating all kinds of minimal brain damage, damage after strokes, ADD. Then, actually without my looking for this chance, I found myself in a position, where I was doing a hands-on neuro-developmental program, five days a week, with adjudicated juvenile delinquents and kids at risk of being kicked out of school. Each one showed a different profile on the functional neurological screening which I gave them before we started. The one thing all had in common, was that each one had been judged - and usually been condemned for - by what was coming out of the child. No one had looked to see what was not going in. Nobody had known enough to find what was not connecting for this child.
As we watched these children change, sometimes progress was visible within three weeks. We were lucky that I had a network of experts in this field on whom I could call when I ran into some problems I could not solve. Of the fifteen teenagers with whom I actually worked, all graduated from school. As a result of this two year long work, there is now an effort under way to study this multi-disciplinary approach with 155 delinquents in a controlled study, so that we can actually prove what up to this point is only anecdotal experience.
Looking back on this work, I now realize that at least three of these kids, by all standards would have been labeled autistic. Luckily, not knowing this at the time, I went ahead and worked with them, and watched them come out of their shell.
The girl to whom I am most indebted for developing what I have since found to have a huge impact on autistic children, actually ran away after three months, so we never completed the program with her - nowhere near enough time for this work - but she got her GED and, last I heard, had a job.
Let me briefly then, tell her story. Anne - not her name-was always in trouble in High School. She was very heavy, wore full loose long-sleeved clothes, but, sunshine, rain or snow, she was always without a coat when she showed up for the academic program to which she had been assigned. At first she would not give us permission to work with me, but she did agree to do some of the exercises at home. When she finally allowed me to help her at the DYS Center, and then only if her favorite tutor was present, it became clear why she wore these long sleeves - both her arms were bloody and torn with self-inflicted cuts. Those who knew about this, thought that she was suicidal.
I may have turned pale at the sight of these wounds - I don't know - but after asking why she did that, I simply said: "You have no feeling in your arms, or you could not do that, it would hurt too much!" The functional neurological screening showed that her pupils did not close to light. (This inability makes children hypersensitive to light, especially the fluorescent light in the schoolrooms, and changes from dark to light become very stressful to them.). Touched even lightly in the face, she reacted as if she had been struck. All of these symptoms, including the lack of sensitivity to hot and cold, pointed to some damage in the medulla. She exhibited all the symptoms of the child with a retained Moro reflex as written up in Sally Goddard's A Teacher´s Window Into the Child´s Mind. Since I did not know Anne that well I showed Goddard´s profile of such a child to Anne's mother, and she confirmed that it fitted her exactly-- from early childhood on.
At that time, I was already using a technique employed by Peter Blythe at the Institute for Neuro-physiological Psychology in Chester England. This process, which he calls Prenatal I, consists of having the person lie on the floor in a prenatal position, and slowly make certain movements that simulate those made by the fetus in utero. Between each change of position the therapist touches the child´s body five times at different places and at different time intervals as the child counts each touch. When I touched Anne´s face, two things occurred. She abducted forcefully to the opposite side touched, and the muscles of her entire face twitched! I had seen this twitching occasionally. At the Institute for Neuro-physiological Psychology they see these involuntary movements often and then, as they work with the child, see them disappear. Anne´s reactions to even the slightest touch, however, were so violent, that there obviously something else was going on.
In Sally Goddard's A Teacher´s Window Into the Child´s Mind there is a chapter on elective mutism and the fear paralysis reflex. This is a reflex which exists in utero about 6 weeks after conception and manifests itself in immediate withdrawal if anything nears the oral region. If this reflex is retained it has an effect of immediately stimulating the "fight-or-flight" mechanism in the body at even the slightest provocation, and as such has devastating impact on the entire endocrine system. Retaining this reflex leads to the "frightened deer" state which Temple Grandin describes so well.
Anne, apparently, had both a retained Moro and a retained fear paralysis reflex. What to do now? Carl H.Delacato in his The Ultimate Stranger, the autistic child. treats hyper-sensitivities with desensitization. So that is what I decided to do. During the prenatal exercise I gently stroked her forehead from above the eyebrows right into the scalp, then one side at a time, stroked her face from underneath the eye to below the chin and then back up, across the earlobe into the scalp. This was repeated with deeper touch so that the bones could be felt beneath the skin. (Doing this stimulates all the parasympathetic nerves, which in turn meet with the vagus in the brainstem and put the body's autonomic system into the relaxing, the parasympathetic mode.)
Within less than three weeks, Anne no longer abducted her head, and the twitching of her face stopped. (Since then we have often seen this twitching of the face during the gentle stroking, it indicates that they need this therapy.) As I had anticipated, she had no feeling in the skin of her arms, and when during the Prenatal I we touched her arms, she did not feel the touch and could not count it. So, while we desensitized the reactions in her face, we stimulated the responses in her arms. We did the normal stimulation of arms and hands, which was part of our program, but we also poked and slapped and pinched her skin, until finally the skin reddened and we knew - and pointed out to her -- that at least her body was beginning to react to what we were doing. (By the time she left the program, she had conscious feeling in her upper arms and on the inside of her lower arms. After six weeks of stimulating her vision her pupils reacted to light and we arranged further vision training by an optometrist.)
Even during the short time we worked with Anne, the changes were so striking that the vice-principal of her school came to see what on earth we were doing to her, and what is even more impressive, Anne gave us permission to allow her to watch!
Then this occurred: Less than a year ago, a mother came to see me about her son. They had been told by a developmental optometrist that the boy had a retained Moro reflex. The twelve year old had an odd way of hugging himself, and at odd moments would bend down to grasp his knees. He observed the architecture of my house in a strangely compulsive way, as if he had to memorize it, so that it would not change on him. He talked quite fluently, but on subjects really not related to what anyone else was discussing. It came as no surprise that he had been labeled "Asperger's Syndrome" autistic. He was being home-schooled, was quite intelligent, but his handwriting was shaky and his drawings very primitive.(His evaluation on Rimland's autism scale showed him to have classic Kanner's autism.)
Using what I had learned from my delinquents and all the other experts in neuro-developmental therapy with whom I had studied and conferred - I convinced his parents to start him on a program which to start with only included Peter Blythe's Prenatal I, a great deal of vestibular stimulation, and a great deal of sensory input in order to create an image of his body in the thalamus. Three weeks later, when he came along as they brought their older daughter to me for evaluation, his "terrified deer" look had disappeared and he calmly sat down to listen to our conversation.
The parents watched him change as we added further exercises to his program. The father almost cried when he said: "I suddenly realized we were saying ´Let him do this!´ before it was always ´Make him do this.´" Instead of running away screaming when they took him to the shopping mall, he now actually enjoyed the place and pointed out exiting things to his father. Every month, there is new progress. His handwriting is no longer shaky, he understands math concepts, which had eluded him before and his memory has improved for such skills as playing with cards.
Parents of autistic children have a network of other such parents. One of these brought their autistic son for a visit and the parents of our boy looked at each other and said: "This is exactly what our boy was like!"
At that point his parents told me about an article in Science February 2000, in which Patricia Rodier describes her finding of the results of autopsies of several autistic adults. She explains the damage she found in the olivary complex in the brainstem as being similar to damage done by thalidomide during pregnancy. She points to actual changes in the facial structure of the autistic.
These findings explain why our therapy is getting results. The exercises and the sensory input - the only way we can get in to change the brain - all are geared to creating changes in the brainstem. That -- Rodier has found in autopsies of autistic people-- is the area, which causes sensory distortion for the child. In the brainstem, - as described by neurologists and explained in my book, many nerves intermingle, and many such connections are not even mapped. An excellent description of how this area functions is in Allan Hobson's The Dreaming Brain.
Then, going on the theory that there are billions of connections in the brain, and we have some idea where the damage is, but do not know exactly what is not connecting, we go into that brain through all the senses as they would interact in the developmental sequence as experience by a child without these problems.
I have since seen three other children with autistic behavior, and results have been equally successful. This program is not an instant cure-all; it is a step-by-step improvement. New connections in the brainstem have to be made. As the child starts to experience life in a new way, much catch up has to be done for all the normal development and the learning the child has missed because of prior problems.
The cost of this program is not much more than the price of a flashlight and perhaps a couple of dollars to buy a small plumbing kit that we use as a talk-back so the child can listen to his own voice. I also a suggest reading Sally Goddard's A Teacher´s Window Into the Child´s Mind. with special attention given to the material on elective mutism in the appendix.
The time involved is not much more than twenty minutes to half an hour a day. Behavior tends to worsen before it gets better as the child experiences a new disequilibrium, similar to what happens during phases in normal childhood development when the child seems to be cranky and difficult.
For more complete information on the tests used for a functional neurological screening and the rationale and description of the exercises, you can read the appendix of my book If Kids Just Came with Instruction Sheets!! ($15.95)
For information on the reflex structure of the child and how to test for this read Sally Goddard's Reflexes, Learning and Behavior. ($24.95)
Specifically geared toward the treatment and rationale of these methods is the video Autism: Neurological Research and Neuro-Developmental Therapy. (only $24.95).
Order from Fern Ridge Press, 1430 Willamette St. #149, Eugene, OR 97401 or call (541) 463-8100 (see below).
(From If Kids Just Came With Instruction Sheets!! by Svea J. Gold. Fern Ridge Press, $24.95 (541) 463-8100
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