Thursday, August 9, 2012


Right after I graduated high school, I got a job at a group assisted living home with 6 men with various neurological disorders including autism. It was a very difficult job, emotionally. It forced me to see the world in a new light. I had just gotten out of high school, where my day to day worries included preparing for college, and stressing over all the girls who were fighting over me. I had no consciousness of this whole other world where day to day struggles included avoiding seizures, or arguments caused by missed social queues at fast food restaurants. The job was difficult at first, but the payoff was invaluable. These men shared a genuine glow, and an unbelievable level of trust and loyalty. And what was most admirable was that they didn't seem to care how the world saw them, which to me seemed so liberating.

I admit I only knew a very limited group of individuals with Autism, and that was also compounded with other neurological disorders. I guess one conclusion I can draw though, is that my prejudices were completely shattered, the way I saw the world changed forever in the most positive way, and I'm grateful for the time I worked with those men.

While researching autism spectral disorder (ASD), one of the first questions I asked was, what causes it? I was a little surprised to discover how much more work there was left to be done on answering this question. According to the website, clearing the fog about 

"Scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with ASD have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with ASD have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest that ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how brain cells communicate with each other, possibly due to the influence of environmental factors on gene function. While these findings are intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study. The theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved. "

This was interesting to me, because I had heard that Autsim spectral disorder was possibly related to tourette's syndrome, a condition I dealt with in my early years. They may be similar in at least one respect. As treatment of tourette's syndrome, my doctor gave me medication to increase my serotonin, which helped make my twitches subside. Years later I'm off the meds and the luckily twitches have stayed away, but I still have low serotonin which causes some depression which I now self medicate with doing or watching stand up comedy or watching star trek.

So how is Autism treated? The same website goes on to say,

"There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children."

Like our guest Steven Yates (Green Circle Award Winner and loving father!) said, no two cases are exactly alike. As was the case with my tourette's syndrome, what worked to cure me probably would not have worked on another kid. It was a long process finding out which neural transmitters were low on, and my case was relatively mild. And other doctors told my parents that their treatment for me would have been completely differently so no one seems to agree on how to treat the brain!

Lastly, we touched on the aspect of prodigy-ism and autism. We tried to show the clip about the math wiz named Jake, which can be seen at I realized a few days later that I had made a short film a few years back about a guy who was overcome with jealousy over his brother, who was a child prodigy. So I hope this is useful in some way. It took some digging.

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