Some people may argue that an article about autism does not belong in a blog about enjoying life after adversity such as brain injury. I disagree. Many people think of brain injury as the result of an event and they think of autism as the result of genetics or spontaneous genetic mutations which are not inherited. According to About.com, it is true some “researchers have found differences between the autistic brain and the typical brain. Autistic individuals seem to have larger brains. They also seem to process information differently; in other words, their brains are ‘wired’ differently.” However, the differences between autism and brain injury do not convince me that a post about autism does not belong in this blog.
For example, survivors of autism and brain injury exhibit changes to the brain which are not evident in a “normal” brain. Similarly, improvement to an autistic brain and an injured brain may involve a specific type of stimulation to affected parts of the brain. Most importantly, autism and brain injury create an adversity from which recipients, family, friends, neighbors, care givers, and social workers would like to emerge. We must not ignore the many similarities between autism and brain injury.
According to the May 2013 edition of the American Psychological Association journal Behavioral Neuroscience, a recent study involved 28 autistic boys who were between the ages of three and 12 at the time of the study. ”Researchers placed the boys in two groups based on their age and autism severity. For six months, both groups participated in standard behavioral therapy but boys in one of the groups also underwent daily environmental enrichment exercises.”
The article in Behavioral Neuroscience also revealed that parents of each of the “13 boys in the enrichment group received a kit that contained essential oil fragrances such as apple, lavender, lemon and vanilla to stimulate sense of smell. For touch, the kit contained squares of plastic doormat, smooth foam, a rubber sink mat, aluminum, fine sandpaper, felt and sponges. The kit also included pieces of carpet, hard flooring, pillows, cardboard and bubble wrap that parents laid on the floor to create a multi-textured walking path. Items for the children to manipulate included a piggy bank with plastic coins, miniature plastic fruits and a small fishing pole with a magnetic hook. Many household items were also used, such as bowls for holding water at different temperatures for the child to dip in a hand or foot and metal spoons that parents would warm or cool and touch to the child’s skin.”
The study concluded 69% of parents whose child was in the enrichment group reported improvement in their child’s overall autism symptoms, and 42% of the children in the enrichment group improved so much that their autism score on a standard test improved significantly. Some children in the enrichment group also showed improvement in perception, reasoning, and an eight-point increase in IQ.
According to the Aronoffs, whose daughter Leya appears in the following video, whether a child has “autism, communication issues, attention issues (ADD, ADHD), dyslexia, developmental disorders (PDD), Asperger’s, or even if she/he is just having a hard time in school, Mendability™ could provide relief.” Mendability™ therapy produces pharmaceutical strength results by using a very specific protocol of sensory stimulating exercises – no medication is involved. We got the inspiration to get involved with this therapy because our daughter Leya, who struggled with communication skills when she was young, used this therapy to overcome her difficulties.”
I understand the various cases of autism may have many different treatments. I also understand the various cases of brain injury may have many different treatments. I wonder, hope, and imagine there will be one or more treatments for those who are directly and indirectly affected by autism and brain injury.
What are the differences between brain injury and autism? What are the similarities between brain injury and autism? How is therapy for brain injury similar to the therapy for autism mentioned in this post? Who is affected by brain injury and who is affected by autism?
Thanks to Eyal, Yael, and Chelle who shared the article upon which this post is based; the researchers, investigators, medical professionals, and subjects who were involved in the study; the sponsors, donors and volunteers who made the study possible; Behavioral Neuroscience for publishing the study; and About.com for supplying some of the information used in this post. I also want to thank Leya Aronoff, TEDx Youth at Hollywood, YouTube, and all the people who made it possible for me to include the video in my post.