Archive for September, 2009

Variant of Healthy Brain Development

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Something that the psychologist Laurent Mottron of Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal said in a recent article in Science News struck me as unusual and good. Bruce Bower, author of the article noted, “Mottron regards autism as a variant of healthy brain development and prefers the term ‘autistic’ to ‘person with autism.’”

This seems a particularly useful way of approaching explorations of autism and aspergers, treating those with this unique cluster of characteristics as normal in the context of their unique organizational structures. The word “healthy” seems rarely assigned to Aspergers and autism as parents and practitioners wrestle with its confounding aspects. Not understanding their etiology at the same time that so many feel helpless to address the condition’s debilitations places people in a position of assigning Aspergers and autism a label suggesting defect.

We need more people with Aspergers and autism to write and talk about their experience providing windows into their unique world view. Humanizing the condition perhaps will strip of people’s tendencies to make it something wrong.

Autistic Analogic Thinking

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Psychologist Laurent Mottron of Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal is quoted in a recent Science News article on a coming paper on analogic thinking autistic children. He notes studies that the autistic display intuition regarding geometric pattern rules. This is important in the context of the autistic often displaying difficulties with sociality (theory of mind), compulsive behavior and commitment to routine, and difficulties thinking symbolically or using analogy.

Mottron notes circumstances where the autistic do seem capable of parsing out relationships displaying an understanding of how one thing can represent another.

Thinking evolutionarily, consider our species just before, during and after the transition to spoken language from non speech communication, and consider each individual wrestling with the an ability to think in a fashion that suggests being two places at once, two times at once, with an ability to think of something’s opposite. This is an ability to exercise a “conscious” mind contrasted with thinking like an “unconscious” mind. One time, one place, no opposites is Freud’s definition of primary process or the way that a small child, an unconscious, a dreaming conscious, or an animal thinks.

Mottron may be teasing out the capabilities of the autistic to think is fashions familiar to most of us. The autistic may not be impaired as much as they are anachronistic, neurologies appearing in an unfamiliar time. Time will tell.

The Autistic Thinking Analogically

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

An article in Science News yesterday that described work by two different studies that offered new information about autism.

Kinga Morsanyi of the UK and Keith Holyoak of L.A. report in a not yet published paper in Developmental Science that autistic children can think analogically, able to compare and recognize relationships when presented in a visual format.

“Our findings indicate that the basic ability to reason analogically is intact in autism,” notes Morsanyi

The article notes that in this study of 23 children with autism none had larger than normal brains. Psychologist Uta Frith, noting that approximately one fourth of autistic children have large brains, suggests that among this group a compulsive attention to detail makes for compromised analogic thinking, visual or verbal.

This single article suggests several issues. First, are analogical proclivities related to brain size? Second, to what degree is symbolic thinking among the autistic inhibited in the areas that information is perceived, processed or communicated? Perhaps the autistic are mostly compromised by a auditory or language derived information, than content that is visually provided. Third, if larger brained autistic can be clearly defined by features different that non larger brained autistic, maybe different etiologies can be teased out by the different assortment of clues.

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