Saturday, June 03, 2006

Three A's

I have a fascination with such conditions as Autism, Asperger’s and Alzheimer’s.

I have thoughts about autism, which may be completely inaccurate. I once was a swimming instructor and for whatever reason I had a knack for teaching children with special needs. My experience in the water didn’t match up with my research on autism. Perhaps it was the water environment and that stimulus that put my experience and my reading at odds. I suspect the children I had in my classes were all high functional.

I learned from them. They required a calm and a gentle approach and not the general excited activity of an average swim class. I could feel the tension in their bodies when and activity became too much for them. Also the children I taught were verbal. At first their remarks seemed completely out of place to our activity. As I gained experience I realized their remarks were an attempt in establishing an order to the feelings and stimulus of the lesson.

The indoor pool environment is all wrong for a child with autism. I could easily design a pool that would accommodate their needs. Of course that pool will never be built because who would spend the money on a accommodating those needs. Pools are very well lit, have poor acoustics (echo), and busy. If I designed a pool it would use only underwater lamps, I would line the walls, ceiling, and floors with materials that would absorb sound. The only voice I want the child to hear is mine. Of course I never had that environment to work in.

The world seemed too big for the children I taught. If I could make the world appeared to be smaller then there was an opportunity to learn. If I managed that then teaching them to swim was easy.

In hindsight now, I believe these children had Asperger’s Syndrome. I only became aware of Aspergers 15 years ago. I never experienced an absence of emotion from these children rather the children demonstrated stronger emotions than most. The stimuli of the world were overwhelming, reduce the stimuli to these high function children and they are no different than anybody else. The absense of emotion comes when an over stimulated child shuts down. Frrustration was often predominant, which I prefferred to the child that just turns off completely.

What does Alzheimer’s have to do with this? Nothing really. Just another interest of mine. Used to be the only conclusive diagnostics of Alzheimer’s was an autopsy. That is no longer true. We have ways to take pictures of the brain now. There is a build up a protein plaque in the brain that reduces the function of receiving and sending messages along the neural net. There are ways to reduce this plaque, which will slow down the process of Alzheimer’s. It is no cure and we have yet to discover the cause.


Anonymous said...

I love how you understand and have worked with these children. For a while I worked with a very young child with autism, when I did supply teaching. I worked one to one with him and found that he responded to me. In an ideal world no money would be spent on war and destruction but on helping our world to be a fit place for everywhich need.

Anonymous said...

Your blog posting is very interesting, Bob ... I am meeting with a young person later this week at work whom I would wager, from two telephone conversations, is either autistic or has Aspergers. I will try to respond appropriately to his different way of being and see if there is a suitable volunteer position for him.

Anonymous said...

I just realized I didn't put my name on the blog.

Netty... I am not sure I understood them.. I knew my environment which was the pool.. I undertsand a person has to be comfortable to learn. They taught me that.

Lulu... concrete and specific tasks without a lot of social obligations might be the ticket.

Anonymous said...

For the next year, I'm working on designing a course and writing a manual for adult literacy educators to help them better support & instruct adults with learning disabilities in their classes. Every "check list" I read that gives the signs and characteristics that are indicators of a learning disabiltiy lead me to say, "Oh - there I am.... that explains it, I have a learnning disability". Most people I know are on that list to some degree! Learning disabilities are about how a person processes information - takes it in, uses it, and then puts it out there in the world again. Writers are used to that process, since we do the same thing all the time - we re-fashion what we take in to create something new which we give back to the world. What we give back - if it is art - should be slightly askew. An off-balance vision.

People with learning disabilities have a breakdown somewhere along the way of processing information. Usually in one of the areas of the senses - vision or hearing - or in how they organize or retrieve information (hence memory problems). Their abilities are "uneven" - they are usually very intelligent - a case in point, Albert Einstein.

Anonymous said...

Thank You! Finally, someone who doesn't listen to the dumb stereotypes made about autistic people by the so-called 'experts'.

Very refreshing.