About this blog.

My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 24 months. I created this blog to bring meaning to the often-confusing label. Sometimes I have answers. Other times, just more questions.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Change of...ahem...topic.

Thanks everyone for the advice on Brad's latest issue. Still a work in progress here. We've begun an elimination diet - we're eliminating bagels. (Ha!)

I stumbled across this fascinating study. The conclusion is that those with "autistic spectrum conditions" have something approximating eagle eye vision. The study is based on the progressive philosophy that autism is in part difference and not disorder or disease. Dare I say this could be a coveted "biological marker" of autism? See what happens when we focus on the big picture and not just that which needs to be vanquished or cured?

The studied is co-authored by Simon Baron-Cohen, so it has credibility. Yet, I could find no press or wire reports on the findings. I couldn't find much by way of blogging either. Strange.


Quirky Mom said...

It is interesting that this didn't catch the eye of popular press. Thanks for bringing it to your readers' attention!

Biological Psychiatry is a really top-notch journal, and the study is well-done for a first foray into a topic. I'm skeptical at this point because of the size and make-up of the sample (only adult males), but the group difference was striking.

Chuck said...

The reason for only adult males is that they reinforce SBC “extreme male brain” hypothesis which never got a great deal of traction any why this follow up gets even less traction.

Laura said...

Thanks. I'm aware of the SBC controversy, although I'm not sure what to make of it.

Isn't it possible that there is difference in perception among males and females. By testing males, arent't they controlling for this potential variation?

Also, regardless of what you think of SBC, aren't the results compelling?

Chuck said...

Sensory processing studies have been going on for decades, so this is really nothing new in the psychological or ASD arenas. Sight and smell account for the vast majority of sensory processed information for the pure and simple reason of survival. Peripheral vision of motion provides more sensory stimuli then normal, straight on, vision, hence the reason why many ASD individuals “flap” or “stim” in their peripheral line of sight to provide both physical and visual stimulation. None of this is new in the field. This is all textbook 20 years ago when I first learned about ASD.

The study is an atypical textbook SBC.

Laura said...

Chuck, I appreciate your perspective, and that you have more experience than me. My opinions are formed in part based upon Thinking in Pictures, in which Temple Grandin bemoans the lack of research on the topic. The book, updated in 2006, is quite thorough. Sensory processing doesn't appear to be a focus of research.

I also appreciate that sensory processing isn't new - the study itself alludes to its former inclusion in the formal diagnostic manual.

My sense is that sensory processing has given way to cure. But if we focus exclusively on disability and not on difference, we're not getting the full picture.

Chuck said...

At what point are differences disabilities and at what point should they be addressed?

Laura said...

My point is that both difference and disability should be researched and examined. You asked at what point should they be "addressed." If by addressed you mean treated or "cured" (whatever that means), I'd say it's ethical to treat self help and communication impairments but at a certain point the social traits should be respected as difference. And from a social (not research perspective), we need to respect that autism, including the impairments, is an integral part of identity.

I struggled with this - the ethical treatment line - as a parent when Brad's Floortime therapist wanted to get touchy with Brad's face to get him to respond to name. Also, she chides him for putting his hand in his mouth, which is really a form of self-soothing for him. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be material, but I do want to respect Brad's difference and not apply therapy to conform him to his therapist's preconceived notion of normal.

Shari said...

I see another blog topic in your last comment. :-) Struggling here with what is personality and what is "disability."

I have just started reading two books on the Floortime approach: The Child with Special Needs and Engaging Autism. Both by Greenspan. Thank you for bringing this therapy to my attention. I have already read about ABA and RDI. I use our library a lot.

Laura said...

Shari, ha, hold that thought. And you're one up on me because I never read about RDI. Good luck with what ever approach you adopt. Beware of purists and zeolouts - in my experience, being flexible is the best approach, and if that means mixing and matching, so be it...

Patience said...

I would have investigated RDI a bit more if it had existed when my dd needed help. As it was I used floortime done at home by us and she went twice a week to a play therapy therapist. RDI seems a bit like Floortime but more specific and more pushy about modeling and closing circles of communication.
I do think there are kids where you can basically kill yourself working with them and they barely improve (I personally think many of those kids have some degree of mental retardation but it's not PC to say that now) and others where you do next to nothing and they just mature and get better.(and many in the middle) It must be discouraging if you are on the former end.

Laura said...

I'm with Patience in that I attribute a lot of the credit to organic growth - brain synapses connecting on their own. I do think the right treatment can help though. I highly recommend intensive OT.

Chuck said...

“And from a social (not research perspective), we need to respect that autism, including the impairments, is an integral part of identity.”

Replace autism with alcoholism, drug dependency, bulimia, self-mutilation, diabetes, cancer survivor.., in your statement and the statement is still true. All strengths and deficits in a persons’ physical, emotional, and psychological states do affect their identity. Is the positive benefit in a physical, emotional, or psychological state always worth the deficits in the other states that contribute to identity?

Laura said...

Yeah it is a slippery slope, but I think it holds true for mental, not physical conditions. For example, cancer is extrinsic to "self" and not an essential part of identity. The experience of surviving cancer is distinct from cancer itself.

I explored this theme when I reviewed Anthropologist On Mars, by Oliver Sacks.

Here's a link to my review:


And a great quote from the book:

"But the relation of disease and self, "it" and "I," can be particularly complex in Tourette's, especially if it has been present from early childhood, growing up with the self, intertwining itself in every possible way. The Tourette's and self shape themselves each to the other, come more and more to complement each other, until finally, like a long-married couple, they become a single, compound being. This relation is often destructive, but it can also be constructive, can add speed and spontaneity and a capacity for unusual and sometimes startling performance. For all its intrusiveness, Tourette's may be used creatively, too."

Laura said...

I meant to add: a lot of people with diagnosed mental conditions other than autism don't medicate precisely because they don't want to change who they are, or their "self."

This is not a novel debate.

Chuck said...

Physical conditions are as important and sometimes even MORE important to identity. It is quite often the primary reason for behaviors, plans, actions or inactions of the individual.

The quote you used for Tourette's once again applies to most, if not all, life long physical conditions as well.