Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Autism



Someone shared the above video on facebook, and I knew I just had to post it here. You should watch it (it's a mere ten minutes) but I'll try to sum up what it says.

It's about an autistic girl who was unable to communicate for eleven years of her life, and who was believed to almost certainly be mentally retarded. Then when she was eleven someone set her down at a computer; she typed "hurt" and "help." Realize, no one had taught her how to write. But she typed those words out. And that was just the beginning.

She turned out to be very intelligent -- and her father said that they were "horrified" because they used to talk about her, right in front of her. I don't think they do that any more.

Now, through the computer, she is able to express herself, and even open up a little window as to why autistic people behave the way they do. To paraphrase her very briefly, she says that they have sensory overload and that their wild antics (waving their arms around, etc.) is their way of dealing with it. And it's not something they can control, either. Carley says that if she could stop, she would. But she can't.

I guess that the moral of the story (to which there is more than I have written) is that just because someone is different doesn't mean you should write them off as being stupid. Because Carley definitely isn't.

2 comments:

Bennu said...

This is absolutely freaking amazing.

I have no education on autism and only know as much as, perhaps, the next random person on the street about the phenomenon, but I've always wondered about it. What I do understand is that it's a developmental disorder that manifests in a broad spectrum of ways and, commonly, with social and communication impairments. I also know that many autistic therapies include the use of sign language or manual codes.

I always reasoned that manual codes or sign languages (the two are very different) must have great success rates with helping autistic patients communicate, which is why they're integrated in so many programs. The reason I figure, though have never done the research to verify, is that what we would call social interaction primarily uses verbal and auditory communication, which are left-brain activities while visual and dimensional (shapes/motion) are right-brain activities. Many autistic kids seems to excel at the right-brain activities (propensities for art, music, sculptures, drawings, mathematics, etc) but suffer or lag in left-brain activities.

I always wondered if this meant that autistic patients, while not necessarily deficient, are "locked" in a certain "mode of operation." I've always thought that if the proper channels could be taught and accessed, people would find that there are WHOLE people inside autistic patients and not "fragments." So if one relied more upon those activities which are controlled by the part of the brain more readily accessible or controlable by the autistic patient, you'd have a better channel of communication.

I also wonder if because of their left-brain impairment and therefore impairments in verbal and auditory processing skills, most autistic patients are viewed by the professional community as "incapable of language" and so, as in the case of Carly, are never taught language despite perhaps being able to use a right-brain orientated language. And, then, I wonder if some of their behavior and/or problems stem from a frustration at the inability to communicate because they were never taught how to communicate with the faculties they have because we, accustomed to left-brain interaction, fail to recognize any other form of communication.

... just wondering.... lol

Sarita said...

A lot of thinking going on there. :) I don't know much about autism, so I can't shed any light on your speculation.