Friday, January 29, 2010

Autism

Two months before we gave birth to our daughter, a close friend of ours gave birth to a baby boy. It was fun to see our children grow up together and compare notes. However, somewhere along the way, we saw things that led us to suspect that something was wrong. More specifically, we thought that their son showed signs of autism.

Autism is something that scares the heck out of me. It is now one of the most common of diseases with something like one in 50+ kids being born with it according to some of the latest polls. Even scarier, we have no way of predicting it or even knowing what causes it. The good news is that when caught early, and thanks to better detection processes, it can be treated somewhat effectively minimizing any long term effects.

Our friend's son has been getting intensive therapy this past year and a few days ago on a visit, he showed tremendous improvement in his social skills. Six months ago, he would focus on a toy and no amount of calling his name or trying to get him to focus on other things would shift his attention. This time however he actually played a bit with our daughter. His speech, though still terrible compared to peers, including our daughter, can actually be understood now when listening carefully. It was very nice to see these improvement and yet still humbling when comparing some of his other skills with our daughter.

One of the common signs of autism is hyperlexia or a extreme fascination with letters and numbers. This boy is only three and a half years old and yet he already knows how to add, subtract, divide and even multiply and not just verbally but can write it down on paper. To test his ability, his mom wrote 9x9= on a piece of paper and within seconds he had written down 81 right beside it. He also can spell complex words like mosquito or just about anything else you can throw at him. Amazing that he can do tasks that some 9 and 10 years olds can't and yet when it comes time to leave, he was hysterical because he had to leave the number 14 behind because it belonged to my daughter. His parents were embarrassed at the outburst and of course we tried to reassure them that they shouldn't be. We understood.

So why things like world peace, prosperity, etc. are being wished upon for this coming year, I myself will be praying for a cure to autism.

13 comments:

sage said...

It is good that they are making progress, but the illness is a scary one. Glad to hear the treatment is working with your friend's son

R. Sherman said...

Good post. There's so much we don't know about the workings of the human brain and how certain switches can turn on and off. Let us hope/pray for great strides in the neurosciences.

Eutychus2 said...

Ed...
Thanks for reminding me of those with this disease, and the prayers we can give in their behalf; and I congratulate you, and your family on your sensitivity and reaching out to your friends.

geri said...

I think it is every parents of a baby and young child's fear. Like you I wish medical science would find out what causes it, how to prevent and cure autism.

malor said...

It is scary. It is more common on boys. I am praying that my baby will not have it. Some people suspected that it was caused by mercury used for preservative in vaccination. But there was no strong evidence. I wonder if environment has something to do with it. We are more exposed to chemicals now than ever before in history! I hope they find the cause.

Ed said...

Sage - That makes two of us.

R. Sherman - I'm truly surprised they haven't found out what causes it yet. I hope we don't have to wait too much longer.

Eutychus2 - I must confess that if it weren't for my friends, I probably wouldn't think of it so much. But when they are so much like us and we do so many of the same things, it is hard not to think that it could have been our child.

Geri - I know it weighs heavily on my mind and the decision as to whether or not to have another child someday.

Malor - Interestingly enough, the very day I published this post, the doctor who created the myth about the mercury in the MMR vaccine is being investigated for unethical research and may even be charged. Evidently he was being paid by lawyers who were sueing the MMR manufacturers to do the research on MMR and autism. If that is the case and he is guilty, he has probably single handedly caused the reappearence of several treatable childhood diseases from the histeria he created.

Beau said...

It is so hard to see kids struggle, especially with something they have little to no control over. It does make you wonder.

Vince said...

Is the point about the MMR that there is no disadvantage medically from going back to the separate vaccine for Measles Mumps and Rubella(German measles). That there is no proven connection between MMR and Autism is not the point. Surely if you want to bring your kid three times to your GP it's your business, he/she/it will not be shy about charging you for the service.
On Autism, and going on nothing more that gut, I feel it's environmental, either inutero or later. For the parents are picking up on something even if it is not the vaccine.

Anonymous said...

This is a very kindly written post, but cure isn't really the right word. Being autistic is such a critical part of a person's being that to be cured of being autistic would mean to no longer exist. It would sort of like be what would happen to someone if they were given a brain transplant.

Also, don't feel too sorry for your friend's son. The language of the universe is mathematics meaning that this boy may well develop a better understanding of reality than 99.99% of humanity ever does.

Ed said...

Beau - For me, it was also hard to see my friends, the boy's parents struggle too.

Vince - Vaccines have preservatives so going back to three separate shots would mean two more doses of preservative that you wouldn't need to give and two more trips to the doctor with a child who doesn't like shots. While the former has been shown to not have an affect on autism, I would still rather have as little of it in me as possible. With the latter, anytime my kid isn't scared because she knows she is going to get a shot, the better I feel. Both I think are good reasons to get the combined shot.

Anonymous - Since there is no known cause nor is it known why a previously healthy child suddenly changes, a cure may very well be possible. If in the future it may be found that curing autistic people is not an option, hopefully a cure for preventing future people from becoming autistic can be found.

Vince said...

Yes, I get all that. What I do not get is why exactly the insistence on the three in one. Why not go back to the old days of two in one and then another a week or so later. Or that option at least.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I used to get so angry with those who wished to restrict the vaccines that caused pertussis (Whooping Cough) because when I was young, my younger sister had whooping cough and I saw the way it affected her and our family (No one would ever willingly get into a situation where it was necessary for one person to hold a baby and slap it on the back while another had to reach in and rake the flem out of the mouth with the fingers) On the other had, I saw behaviors in my friends and fellow children that are now attributed to autism that were then identified as "weird" or unsocial behavior.
I now watch my friends who have autistic children struggle with treatment, and the children benefit enormously. It is a scary process and sometimes the more we learn the more we find that some things that once were taken for granted can now be treated. I dare say that this is not limited to autism but to many perceptual or behavioral activities. I have six children, the youngest in her late thirties, and though they were all bright and most are achievers, I know that some would now be identified as ADHD or with some other "disease" (none with autism, thank heaven) and I wonder what might have been the effect on them had they been treated by. . . .who knows.

ann said...

Hi:
Four years ago I was diagnosed as hyperlexic. Twenty years earlier I was diagnosed as dyslexic.
In fact I have varying degrees of both. Hyperlexic means lack of comprehension coming from an inability to image words. I was diagnosed by Lindamood-Bell (www.lindamoodbell.com) and discovered I had grade three reading comprehension skills. I took seven weeks of retraining my brain - four hours a day, five days a week at Lindamood-Bell learning how to image. I moved my comprehension level to Grade 9. This process is very painful but produces results. Then I came across the Masgutova Method: http://www.masgutovamethod.com. And, I just wished I had known of this system before going through Lindamood-Bell. I am sure the latter training would not have been so painful. Masgutova focusses on correcting reflexes that don't develop or develop improperly when the child is in utero or the first three years of life. I discovered there were many for me. Now that these corrections have been made my body, mind and spirit are in good shape. I am relaxed even though both the dyslexia and hyperlexia do emerge unexpectedly. If you want to learn more about my experience check out my website:
www.dyslexiadiscovery.com