During a recent webinar for the RDI Learning Community, Dr.Steven Gutstein presented research on the neurology of autism.
1) One study was about the theory of under- connectivity, which Dr. Gutstein compares to internet bandwidth. He explains that it is like trying to Skype with low internet bandwidth, when your bandwidth is too low you cannot get a picture, and instead have to rely on text. The bandwidth is there, but it is only allowing one function. Connections are the bandwidth present in the ASD brain; they are there, but just not very strong.
2) Another study shows that there may be over-connectivity in the brain, which results in too much noise interfering with necessary connections, and basic human processes get overwhelmed.
3) A third study showed results of both connection issues, stating that ASD children have too many connections and adults have too few.
Cutting edge research tells us that autism is a combination of all three. The brain is not tailoring connections in the way a normal brain would for a normal task. What it also shows is that there is not one part of the brain that causes autism, but a combination of irregular connections.
Many researchers conclude that a lack coordination of connections is what impairs the autistic individual’s sense of self and theory of mind. Thus, adults with ASD do not suffer from a social disorder, but an impairment of self-processing which leads to social issues.
On this webinar, a mother talked about the intense 35 hours a week she underwent therapy with her son saying, “After a few years of ABA, my therapist said he was going to test out of the disorder as he no longer had ASD symptoms, but as a mom, I knew in my heart even though he raised his hand in class, he didn’t have the desire to learn.”
“They were assessing him, not for his autism, but for different behaviors, and residual disabilities”, Dr.Gutstein replied, ”We are not dealing with a behavioral disorder; we are dealing with a thinking disorder. Some of these children can do skills in lab setting, but when taken into the real world, it is different.”
What to take from these recent studies is that the autistic mind has connectivity problems which results in a decreased ability to self process, so the solution is to develop the child’s sense of self, competence and decision making. Or as Dr. Gutstein says, “don’t simulate a social interaction…simulation won’t strengthen the connection. Be a part of developing the ability for your child to have one. “
By Esther Tell