autism emotions brain

Autism, Empathy, and How the Brain Might Truly Work

As someone who is around a high-functioning Autistic child daily, it is easy to see that many of society’s current notions about the disorder, and how it effects the brain and empathy, might be incorrect. This interesting article was sent me that backed up some current feelings we have in this household.

Autism is thought to result from a deficit in the brain’s social region based on research and ideas starting in the 1980 called the “theory of mind” developed by Uta Frith, Simon Baron-Cohen, and Alan Leslie.

They found that autistic children are late to develop the ability to distinguish between what they know themselves and what others know—something that other children learn early on.

What if however, their perspective was just different? What if they were actually taking in so much information, it became difficult to separate and think about things from a different view point?

autism empathy brain

Nationally renowned neuroscientist and father of a high-functioning autistic boy, Henry Markram, is looking into how autistic children might have “mind blindness” (or a failure to take on different perspectives) but not actually lack understanding of others all together. Markhram’s colleague and another neuroscientist, Michael Merzenich, proposed that autism is caused by an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurons.

So Markram started his research at a circuitry level. They studied rats with autistic behaviors and used what we know about VPA drugs, like Depakote, to increase the odds of these specific rats. The networked VPA cells responded almost 2xs as strong as the normal cells. The cells had become hyper-connected. The rats infected were quicker to both frighten and learn. They also had a harder time forgetting because everything that might of given them fear (the room, the feeling, the smell) would re-trigger the same reaction. The VPA rats learn too quickly with too much irreversible fear.

Markram notes how this sounds more like his son as it does with our experiences of Autism. Depending on the child’s individual experiences and make up, being made of these hyperactive cells could explain a lot of different things we know about Autism.

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High Functioning Autism: Signs and Perspective

High Functioning Autism, HFA, as of 2013 absorbed the label Aspergers. This is the result of the DSM-5 (the test to label it) replacing what it was labeled as. There is talk of another test changing these possibilities in 2017, but that is up in the air. This interesting link was sent to me. It compiles a bunch of different individuals with autism and gives you their insight as to what it feel like to have autism. As we know it is important to think what it feels like to walk in another persons shoes, and hearing it directly from them is the best source. Obviously it is a spectrum and each individual has unique experiences, but there is also something that binds them as a group. By understanding them better, we can be better educators, parents, advocates, therapists, and/or whatever other way in which we relate to one another. It is just part of understanding better how all the the puzzle pieces.

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Here are some signs of High Functioning Autism:

  • Inability to build friendship
  • Social awkwardness
  • Clumsiness
  • Hyper-focus
  • Extremely stuck on their routines
  • Lack of/forced eye contact
  • Lack of Empathy
  • Literal Interpretations
  • Difficulty with fine motor (writing, cutting)
  • Selective Muteness

All of these might not apply to your child or your child might have acquired skills to ‘fake’ some of these. Remember each child on the spectrum is different. Also the link above provides great stories that provide insight to adults with high functioning autism. It seems most are leading full lives, so although autism doesn’t fall in the ‘norm,’ and I do suggest getting your child as much help as possible…there are great possibilities ahead.

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autism

Happy World Autism Awareness Day

Autism is now diagnosed even more readily than it was in the past. With more families being more effected, there is only more reason to feel unified. 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is currently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, 30% increase, or 1 in 88,  from 2 years. Here is a great is a great chart I found about Autism. Keep in mind it is an ever changing statistic, so some of the numbers on this sheet are wrong, but the information is still generally usefully.

autism information for parents

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physical disabilities

Physical Disabilities: Mannequins and Models

Here is a unique video about how all individuals are beautiful. It challenges people to rethink what ‘perfect’ really is and explore redefining our own definitions. An organization took on building mannequins based on real people with physical disabilities. These mannequins represent so much more than just what they are. You can see the individuals they represent in the video seem to find great satisfaction and clarity within their own mannequins. Once the mannequins are in the retail windows, you can see people who both enjoy them and some that become uncomfortable with them. There are some professional models emerging into the markets who also have physical disabilities and some stores are taking on the challenge of using mannequins that represent their wider market shopping base. All in an effort to find the beauty in differences and enjoy each individual’s uniqueness. This is a great example to not only the adults involved but also children who growing up with physical disabilities. It shows that they are appreciated, and they too are a vital part of our society.

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autism quotes

Autism Quotes: Seeing the World Differently

I ran across two wonderful autism quotes this week, so I thought I would share them. Hope you find them equally as enlightening. Although those with autism might see the world differently, their view can also be beautiful and what they can teach us can be amazing.

autism quote

autism quotes

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Special Education Infographic for the United States