Sunday, February 20, 2011

Autism robs a child of their emotional foundation- Dr Oz

Chapter four The Cast of thought

What is our emotional foundation? Or more importantly, if Autism robs our children of this foundation, how do we *get it back*? To answer that question, we need to look at how our emotions emerge in the first place! How do we *think* about thinking?

We know our capacity to think and feel with our own perspective is a human trait. It is something I, as a parent took for granted before Autism came into my life.

This chapter goes into the process of having thoughts…and then perceiving that we are having thoughts. We obviously all have thoughts, and as we are thinking, we know other people who we are interacting with are also thinking. We know that they may be thinking different things then we are, but at the same time we can carry on a nice back and forth conversation or action because we are able to adjust to perspectives. For children on the spectrum, they think, but on in a very rigid manner. Their thinking can be black and white and since it can be hard to understand that other people have thoughts too, it appears that in every interaction, it is all about them or how something affects them.

For an example of this, I was reminded this week of the show Dragnet. If I admit I remember the show I admit my age so I what I will say is I think I was too young to watch it. :) But I remember people talking about it. Anyway, Sergeant Joe Friday would go into a situation and try and get information, and usually was encountered with * emotion*. He ended up having to shift through all the perspective and emotions to get * just the facts*. Of course this is necessary at times, but what if the brain was wired in such a way where it always asked *just the facts”? The world was seen as objective, just knowledge and facts.

The fact is, this would mean the neurology of that person had gaps in their early developmental milestones that prevented their emotional and social foundation from emerging. These gaps, then cause the domino effect of skills being build without the understanding of the social or emotional function of the skill. Knowing that you can think, in comparison to being able to perceive your thoughts and perspetives is at the heart of Chapter 4.

When our brains are comfortable and relaxed, we tend to be able to entertain thoughts, contemplate, or ponder much easier and be subjective in our thinking. We have opinions, feelings, emotions that are all built on what we have perceived.

We move from thought to though, we daydream, we come *back to reality* . WE can take an object, think about it, its color, its size, what we want to use it for. We can take up different perspectives to the very idea of having a thought about something- page 96

How does, and when does *this* start?

On page 99 Hobson talks about Symbolism. Symbolism enables us to think about Absent realities. As I continued to read, he used the example of a painting and what we *see* when we look at it. How do we interpret what the picture or painting is saying. If it is a picture of a memory, we look at the picture and reflect on that time, we ponder and entertain our emotions during that picture. We don’t simply look at the picture and think, Im wearing a blue shirt, there is a dog in the background, etc etc. The picture represents a symbol of our perspective.

One of the assessments within RDI, is reviewing meaningful pictures with a child. It is common for children with Autism to view pictures or paintings as something to label. By keeping track of this process, we can see the progression from the start where the child views pictures as items to label,.. to a representation of their own perspective as the child’s developmental gaps are filled in to what they were doing in the picture and their own perspective..

On poge 103, Hobson asks the question-How does the infant escape her sole view of the world to gain a vantage point from which she can survey the scene from a number of perspectives? I was a little surprised to read that object permanence was the next factor in this ability.

The reason this was fascinating to me is because in my experience with Autism, both as a parent and as a professional, one of the diagnostic criteria in the DSM for Autism is *plays with toys inappropriately.* so right there, we see that the part of the brain that fosters object permanence is affected.

“Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. It is acquired by human infants between 8 and 12 months of age via the process of logical induction to help them develop secondary schemes in their sensori-motor coordination. This step is the essential foundation of the memory and the memorization process.”

Alongside Object permanence and logic, an infant begins to see their world through the eyes of their parent, through borrowing their parents perspective. We see this with a child who checks back with an adult for safety before doing something they are unsure of. We also see this if a child falls or is startled in any way, and looks at his caregiver for their perspective before they react. Sometimes we as parents can hijack those tears if we smile and say Youre ok, compared to giving them a startled face in return and rushing towards them saying oh no are you ok? Alright I’ve done both, I’ll admit it! :) That is a great example of our babies learning about perspective by borrowing OUR perspective first! Great stuff in this chapter!

AN example of logic and perspective borrowing hand in hand is imitation. When you play on the phone and pretend to talk and a baby does imitates, or when a young child plays dolls…children even as they get older process their world through the perspective of their trusted parent The infant is learning about the toy but at the same time that toy is telling them alittle about their mom.

This is how perspective emerges, by the infant gaining a vantage point from which she can survey the scene from a number of perspectives. Page 103

In contrast, a child with Autism has had that neurological path effected in a way that they did not gain ( Or they lost something they once had) the foundational ability to see the world through another’s eyes, and have started down the path to see the world first through their own eyes. This information is crucial in knowing how we can restore development and perspective for our kids! We know that children on the spectrum want to keep their world *their* way, their perspective and easily fall apart when we reach into their world with our perspective. We know this is an important milestone that cannot be skipped when going back and giving our children a chance for a do over in their development.

While I can’t cover everything in this chapter, I wanted to end with talking about the role of language in the progression of perspective.

On Page 111…simularities between language and play words are used for communication in play and perspective. Learning language communicates social understanding. Once a child starts to *talk* they are typically excellent communicators socially and emotionally. They have already began the process of object permanence , symbolism, and borrowing perspectives. They are well on their way of understanding that they have their own perspective while another can have a differing perspective. I blogged about it here

Without these foundations in place or restored is lost, learning language becomes a static skill. This is evidenced by its purely instrumental use for labeling, needs , wants or scripting and not for emotional sharing or perspective. This is also the reason grammar is confused. To give an example, children will repeat the sentence said to them in order to respond. If you ask a child “ Do you want a drink of water” and when they are thirsty again and say to you “ do you want a drink of water” as their means to ask, they are missing the milestones and perspective taking necessary to determine how to change that sentence to express your perspective to their perspective. My own child years ago would continue to say Say when we were asking him to say Water, He did not understand that he was able to drop the “say” These are all indicators that a child does not use language correctly in relation to perspective communication. They do not yet have the skill to switch viewpoints in seeing the world through someone else’s eyes first, and then their own. One of a pet peeve of mine is Autism interventions who work on teaching language without these prerequisites in place. It is a pet peeve of mine because I myself did this to my one child on the spectrum. Once I learned about his developmental milestones needing to be addressed, I had to go back and undo how he learned language ( his chatter about nothing in particular or obsessing over a topic), and work on perspective within communication. By doing this, he now has the tools for meaningful friendships that are only possible with someone who is able to understand that both parties are *thinking and have a perspective” in an activity. For my second child on the spectrum I had learned how to effectively encourage communication within development. He never had any pronoun issues or lack of experience sharing communication.

A mom in the audience of the Dr Oz show said her son had a 4.0 average academically but cannot make a friend. The ability to make a friend starts in infancy…before language or before learning skills, It is rooted in our children’s emotional foundation.

This chapter reminded me why it is extremely important to understand the effect of addressing developmental milestones ( and what happens when we do not) in our children.  Our kids, any child, dx or not, have enough to struggle through understanding childhood... removing certain obstacles to give them a better understanding of the social world is a huge advantage to this wonderful children!!

We won't sit still and let Autism continue to rob our children of the ease of their social and emotional abilities! We are taking back our children and removing as many obstacles for them as we can!!!

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