Dealing with Autism ~ THE DOCTOR IS IN!

By: Dr. Ghassibi 3/23


Autism is making the news more than any other pediatric condition now. What I gathered from trying to understand it follows:

Children with autism are much more sensitive to stimuli compared to children without autism (neurotypical is the term used by autism specialists to refer to people without autism).

Stimuli totally overwhelm these children (Sensory Overload). A neurotypical child can go to a museum and admire the many paintings hanging on the walls.

A child with autism feels attacked by the complexity of the many paintings, the colors, the different shapes, etc. This is why the child will fixate only on one single painting to try to tune out all other stimuli.

Some repetitive behavior, repeating the same word many times, performing a single obsessive action persistently is a way to do one single thing so as the child hypnotizes herself or himself away from all other stimuli in the surroundings. It is a way to regulate her or his mental state. In the past, we used to try to suppress repetitive behaviors, which led to “dysregulation” and a sense of loss of control and panic. Imagine that you have to solve many problems at the same time in a second…

A child with autism who was hurt by stepping on a nail in the past , may repeat the word “nail” many times each time he feels scared of something, even if not related to a “nail”. In her or his mind, the word “nail” is used to tell the parents that the child does not want to feel the pain felt when she or he stepped on a nail.

For me, understanding this helped me see a bit more into the mind of a child with autism. Instead of suppressing an atypical behavior that we think is abnormal, we should see it as normal for the child with autism, accept it and work with it.

Let me add here , unrelated to autism, that a toddler ‘s understanding of some words may be different from their real meaning for an adult. A child can say I “want“ the knife to mean
“Look mommy, there is a pretty knife here “. The mother would frown and scold saying “NO”!

You cannot have a knife”. Seeing his mom frowning, the child would get scared and start crying which gets interpreted by the mother that the child is insisting on getting something forbidden.

If this happens to you, smile and say “Oh, yes, it’s a pretty knife”. You will see that the child will smile and be happy. To her or him, I “want“ did not mean I “want:”, it meant “look mom“ …

High functioning Autism is not an official diagnosis. A child or adult with high functioning autism continues to suffer from sensory overload and may have a meltdown if the overload continues. It all depends on the situation.

P. Ghassibi, md ◊