donderdag 27 november 2008

Autism and Neurotypicality – Simply a Difference of Dimensions

An Article By Perla Messina / Illustration by Perla Messina


Throughout the human history our body has been evolving in an invisible way, by recording and reproducing the last necessary adrenaline level needed to survive the last recorded threat.

To ensure a margin of error the human body not only reproduces the last recorded amount, but adds to that to enlarge its chances for survival. This means that with each generation the highest level of adrenaline produced by the mother’s body is carried over to the fetus through the mitochondria that the fetus inherits from the mother.

That level becomes the basic survival tool kit in the offspring’s life. This means that each generations is equipt with the memory of the last generations highest adrenaline levels, and the possibility to add on this levels and increase them as needed. The offspring’s own adrenaline levels will depend on the basic level it inherited from the mother plus the additional amount that his/her body feels is necessary as a margin of error. The highest recorded level will then become the basic level for the next generation.

This means that with each generation the adrenaline level seen as basic grow exponentially resulting in what Dr. Baron-Cohen found today as the greatly elevated adrenaline levels in fetuses and amniotic fluid!

Besides this evolutionary change in our bodies, another change occurs that is also invisible. This change occurs in the brain. The brain, as it develops within the womb, has the ability to know and recognize the sort of environment that the species will be born in through several factors, that reach the fetus through the mother's body. These factors are processed in the mothers body and their effect passes through the umbilical cord and affects the fetus, as well.

- The mother's diet (research shows that the kind of nutrition that the mother uses can affect the fetus’ gender and possibly also other parameters to ensure better abilities of survival),
- The mother's stress levels. The higher the adrenaline level, through higher stress levels the more the fetus will assume that the surrounding environment where the fetus will be born, is hostile and the more fit the fetus needs to be/become to ensure its own survival.
- The mother's pregnancy, gestation and delivery. This period will be combined with the nutrition and stress levels information to give the fetus the full (three dimensional) picture of what kind of survival tools it needs to have in the form of brain and muscle development to ensure it is fit –if not the fittest–to survive within the environment that it's being born!

What happens in the case of what we call “Autism”?

The diet is affected. The mother of an Autistic, research has shown is most probably also Autostic, and Autistics show an increased preference for foods that contain carbohydrates (sweets, pasta, bread, etc). These foods indicate that the Autistic body is made to consume and produce higher energy levels. The mother will consume these foods and then feel guilty for gaining weight because of the image of a thin woman brandmarked on all women by society. Her diet will change in ways that are unnatural. She will over eat, feel guilty and undereat, feel she is harming the fetus and overeat again and so on.

The stress levels. The higher stress levels produce also higher adrenaline levels, and these show that the Autistic body is capable of increased muscle strength, speed, reduced pain ability, hypersensitivity of the senses (all tools necessary for battle). The higher adrenaline levels have told the fetus that the environment where it's being born is increasingly hostile!!!

Gestation and delivery. The traumatic experience of birth is broadened by thses events since most women with Autism (due to increased adrenaline levels in their own bodies), suffer from complications during gestation that are based on hormonal imbalances, difficult pregnancies, and other gynecological problems. These imbalanced add to the stress levels, alter the diet (binge eating, anorexia, etc), create false alarms of near birth that are recorded by the fetus as a “get ready to be born” alarm that cause the fetus to become slowly immune to such alarms by frequent and repeated exposure. When the time of birth comes the fetus’ immunity to the "get ready to be born" stress, adds to the difficulties and duration of the delivery, creating yet another cause for stress for both mother and child.

Where do all these lead? To a species that is evolving to survive an increased hostile environment! The children born are “ready for battle” and instinctively know that danger lures behind every corner. The primary need for such a brain born ready for battle is to learn how to survive as fast as it can. Speed learning is the key for survival of the fittest when one is born without claws, fangs, and wings!

The Human Brain and its Learning Ability

The human brain is set to learn through the senses. With a priority to the senses of sight and hearing. These senses in the Neurotypical brain take a great deal of space and surface within the brain and use most of the brain’s processing capacity because they are 2-dimensional, while the surrounding environment is 3-dimensional. Each eye and ear sends information in the brain that needs to be processed and combined with an ability that we call Gestalt. The brain takes the data in receives from the eyes and ears that is 2-dimensional and turns them into 3-dimensional using the ability of Gestalt! This is a long and time consuming process, when it comes to a brain that is set for a constant battle with its environment.

The increased levels of adrenaline in the Autistic brain have the following effect. Instead of using the sense sight and hearing as the primary collectors of information and then processing this 2-dimentional information with Gestalt to produce a 3-dimensional image of the environment, the brain changes its primary sense for data collection to a more efficient one that does not need the Gestalt processing to turn info into 3-dimensional. From all our senses, there is one that is 3-dimensional WITHOUT THE NEED of Gestalt to make it such!

The sense of touch is the ONLY primary sense that is 3-dimensional without the need of processing, without the need of Gestalt. This sense offers a more direct and faster, much faster collector of data that tells the brain about the environment. The Autistic brain unlike the Neurotypical brain does NOT use the sense of sight and hearing as primary, but the SENSE OF TOUCH!!!!!!!

This sense of touch acts as a basis upon which ALL other 2-dimensional senses come to add details, such as images, sounds, tastes, and smells. There is one catch in this way of brain processing: The more the 3-dimensional sense of touch is underdeveloped (limited sensory integration) the more the supplementary 2-dimensional senses of sight, hearing, smell and taste cannot find enough or adequate space on this basis to stand upon therefore creating a sense of hypersensitivity, a brain overload that is due to this inadequate space.

The way I can describe this is like a limited patch of ground where an increasing amount of trees needs to grow, resulting in a sort of overgrown jungle, where all plants mingle so wildly that no one can tell where they begin and where they end.

This is why sensory integration is so important to the Autistic brain when it comes to aiding the other 2-dimensional senses that also assist the learning ability of the Autistic brain. A limited sensory integration is based on several factors:

- The mother’s increased stressful life and limited time to spend with baby/child. Mothers that used to breast feed until the child was 3 or 4 years old, had to also hold the child while breast feeding. Modern methods and the use of a bottle, has freed mothers from having to hold their children as long or as often that before. Unfortunately, this decrease in “holding time” has limited the child’s developing brain and its need for sensory integration through the sense of touch.
- The mother’s own sexual life has changed. More and more couples suffer from sexual problems that are based of the stress and increasing demands of society. These result to the following paradox. The less sexual satisfaction, the less love, and the less touch (sensory integration) the mother receives from her male partner, the less she will give to her child. The incorrect assumption that the female is capable to produce never-ending amounts of affection and love is a myth that is causing the human race great damage. The female is a vessel that needs to be filled with “love” in order to give love. The less love it receives from her environment the less it is able to give to her offspring.
- The male dominated society’s effect on women, and subsequently mothers, by turning them into carbon copies of their male counterparts in their battle for survival in a society whose norms are set by the male needs and abilities. The female intuition is ridiculed, the female emotional fluctuations and seemingly instability that results from the female monthly cycle of hormones is seen as a weakness instead of the strength it actually is, and the female need for respect and full equality in decision-making is still very limited compared to male’s.

All of the above, construct a picture that Fraud once called the “refrigerator mother” yet, while it is not the female’s own fault but a result of the need for survival with a society that has rejected her specific abilities and needs, the result is the SAME!

Today’s women are less capable to give their child the kind of love that their child needs from them. The kind of love that involves lengthy amounts of touching, hugging, holding, embracing, caressing, etc. In the increasingly busy lives of women such lengthy processes of tactile and sensory diet are a sheer luxury and the choices these women have are shaped by the pressure they themselves receive from their HOSTILE environment. An environment that makes ever increasing demands on them, that allows their female nature less and less freedom and acceptance. This is environment that dictates the kind of evolution that is needed and will be set forth by each generation, to ensure that the next time round the tables are turned.

The more hostile the environment is, has become and will become for women and their specific, biological, sensory, and hormonal needs, the more their bodies will produce offspring that will be set to survive, conquer and change this seemingly hostile environment by having brains that evolved from a 2-dimentional learning mode and process to a 3-dimentional learning mode and process to ensure not only that their fronts are covered in their daily battle for survival, but also their BACKS!!!

The 3-Dimentional Autistic Brain and its Abilities and Disabilities

The Autistic brain freed from the extra load of Gestalt processing is now able to use it’s abilities in a way that is more efficient and energy-saving. A warrior that needs to survive in a hostile environment cannot waste neither time nor energy in trivial matters.

Thus, the Autistic brain by using the 3-dimensional sense of touch is able to expand its focus on other areas that offer better protection and more chances for survival. This expansion includes two areas. One is the area of systemizing, very well defined and explained by Dr. Baron-Cohen. This is the pure “male” brain function that helps to categorize the environment and label it accordingly as friendly or dangerous, enhancing the ability to recognize what patterns work better towards survival and which do not.

Besides this pure “male” brain, there is another function that is present. This function has been obscured, disregarded and discredited by science. This ability is that of the pure “female” brain, the ability to sense, using intuition, extraordinary sensitivity, even telepathy. This ability works almost as the sonar, that allows bats to fly safely in the darkness and hunt their equally flying prey of insects.

Autistics call this ability the “Tool” and works almost in the same fashion as a radio antenna picking up radio waves from the ether. The “Tool” is a sensation, a "voice" warning us and protecting us like a beam of light that “touches” and senses the space and time in front of us . Because our brain works in 3-dimensions, it is capable to handle time and space in a different way than the Neurotypical brain. Not in the linear 2-dimensional way that the Neurotypical mind does, but in a 3-dimensional way where time and space are endless and everlasting, encompassed within a sphere, the sphere of the universe, where nothing is wasted or lost and all exists eternally freed from the linear 2-dimensional way of thinking that holds the Neurotypical mind bonded in a linear past, present and future.

The abilities of the Autistic brain are not limitless. Unfortunately, while the 3-dimensional sense of touch, gives us certain abilities the other 4 senses lack in abilities in an equal way. Our vision and hearing suffer without the use of Gestalt and the information flows in our brain is fragmented and in myriads of pieces, exposing all details we see and hear in a flat 2-dimensional way that overloads our brain, as it tries to connect these 2-dimensional information not to each other as a brain that uses Gestalt would, but to the existing 3-dimensional basis of the sense of touch.

This automatically means that we have difficulty differentiating sounds that are near from sounds that are far, objects that are near and objects that are far, seeing depth requires Gestalt and our brains do not have that ability. That is why we are clumsy as infants and young children. It is not our body that is clumsy, but our body’s movement when it comes to its relationship to the objects we see and hear around us. It is more difficult for a child with Autism to learn the distance between our body and all other objects that surround it because our eyes are not able to see the depth of field in the same way as the eyes of Neurotypical child!

In some ways, this lack of depth of field makes us fearless because it does not arouse in our brains the typical response of fear as the same input would in a brain that operates mainly on the sense of vision and hearing. Our clumsiness of movement is the symptom of a brain that learns to relate as a WHOLE to its environment through the 3-dimensional sense of touch instead of the 2-dimensional (plus Gestalt) way that the Neurotypical brain uses. Once we learn to relate to distance, speed, movement through the sensation of OUR WHOLE BODY, through the input that enters our brain from the whole surface of our bodies, aided by the less able senses or sight and hearing, we learn to function within our environment as well as the Neurotypicals.

The ways we use to learn and master this ability also follows a different path than the Neurotypical brain. Through stereotypical movements of body, hands, head, and legs/feet, through the waving of hands in front of our eyes, through the rotation of objects within our visual field we teach our eyes to see and recognize the changes in depth of field that we cannot other wise see!

That is also why we do poorly in sports, we cannot catch a ball not because our body is clumsy or slow but because OUR EYES MISJUDGE THE DISTANCE between our hands and the ball!!! The reason we can’t separate sounds whether they are near or far, or whether they are the voice of a person standing next to us and a person in a room next door is based on the same principle and problem. Our brain takes the input from our eyes and ears as 2-dimensional and keeps in as such instead of turning it into a 3-dimensional. Without Gestalt our sight and hearing is as flat and linear as flat can be. We use the WHOLE body sensation to create the 3-dimensions we need out of these senses.

Many of us find ways to learn depth through different activities. I used to bounce a ball against a wall, for hours and hours until I could successfully coordinate my eyes to see the correct distance and tell my hands where to aim and catch the ball. Some others will use different sports or hobbies like origami, that takes a flat surface and creates a 3-D image teaching the eyes, through the movement of the hands (the 3-dimensional sense of touch) how to recognize and record the depth of field within space.

Autism and Neurotypicality, the two Human Species

Unlike all other species we believe that humans are all the same. They are not. Our lives have once been spread out over wide open spaces, allowing each of the two kinds to roam free and live in peace and harmony with the other. In many cases we used each other’s specific abilities to our benefit, by recognizing that some of us had abilities others did not have, recognizing that some could see possibilities where the others could not!

The two species now live piled up together in closed spaces, in over-populated areas and within a system of laws and rules that does not take into consideration our specific differences. We are like the two sides of a coin that is now lying flat on one side, hiding the other. The hidden side is what was diagnosed many years ago as Autism. Autism is not a dysfunction of the brain, nor it is an abnormality of the human development. It is a basic but fundamental difference. A difference of how our brains is built and how it functions.

The Autistics, as they have been labeled, think in 3-dimensions using as primary sense the sense of touch and the tactile input we receive.Our other senses like that sense of sight and hearing function less well because our brain does not use Gestalt (or if it does, it uses it in a very limited and almost dysfunctional way). Thus, our brain sees the forest, with its 3-D basis and then engages our other 2-dimensional senses to see the details and add them to that basis. This allows us to notice details more easily, see tiny differences that would otherwise go unnoticed, disengage parts for better and deeper learning. Our brains need to do this microscopic observation because they are set to function in a hostile environment and even the tiny difference can be proven lethal.

The Neurotypicals, as the Autistics have labeled those who labeled them, think in 2-dimensions using as primary senses the sense of sight and hearing, adding to these the sense of touch, which is the basis of Gestalt since the tactile input creates the holographic or holistic connection of all the 2-dimensional input coming into the brain from the eyes and ears. This means that the Neurotypical brain sees the details first and then combines them together to see the whole. Seeing the forest instead of engaging in the details of trees allows the Neurotypical brain to gather a different set of information about its environment, and relate to it in a different way. T
he Neurotypical brain it is set to function in a non-hostile environment, and see and recognize safety as a given.

I call this difference the difference between the hunter and the herd.

The Autistic brain is that of the hunter, set to recognize differences that will help it seek out and “contact” the ones it sees as fit for its survival. We stand aside and observe, seeking to find specific traits in the others around us, before we seek contact. A good hunter knows when to “attack” and when not. A wrong move can result to an injury that can render the hunter useless, and unable to hunt any longer. This will lead to a certain death. Eventhough we hunt, we do not hunt to kill. We hunt to connect.

We seek and search to find others similar to us, or with traits complimentary to us, to connect and add these traits to ours. More traits, equals more tools, and more tools equals better survival. We are the hunters of fellowship, of friendship and of human contact. We do not herd, we co-operate as an equal with an equal. That is why we are very selective with whom we will co-operate and create a collective of traits and tools, of abilities and interests. This co-operation MUST have a solid basis on equality and respect between the parts that form it. Only under such circumstances can a co-operation be in perfect balance!

The Neurotypical is that of the herd that finds safety in groups, in numbers, in uniformity, ignoring (willingly or not the differences) to ensure homogeneity within the group it belongs. Within the homogenous group, the Neurotypicals also seek traits of similarities and differences. Here the reason is very different. In a herd, not all members can be equal. The Neurotypical brain seeks the 3-dimentionality within the 2-dimentional herd, by creating a hierarchy within the group. The way the Neurotypical herding brain connect is not that of equality but of dominance, of levels and castes.

This model has shaped our existing society and has become the primary way of acceptable behavior. In a homogenous group, hierarchy is based on details that show each other the position of the person on the hierarchy ladder. Wealth and possessions, objects of luxury, fashionable clothes, a fancy car, attributes equally important as the intellectual markings of degrees, titles, positions, and the respect these bring. All these are the necessary attributes that mark the hierarchical position of the holder and separete him from the rest of the herd.

To the Autistic brain such attributes seem trivial and useless, while for the Neurotypical brain the behaviors we need to develop our brains seem stereotypical and equally useless. The two kinds of the Human species have turned their backs to each other, and are dominating one the other. What is normal has been established by the ones who hold the hierarchy, leaving the other, the Autistics at their mercy, while they are no less abnormal than the Neurotypicals the Autistics are now used as prey to feed the herds ever increasing hunger for wealth, domination, and power. The herd has now become a pack of hyenas and the hunters lonely lions at the mercy of the hyenas' feeding frenzy. For how long more?

Perla Messina, one of the Autistics who is tired of the wrong picture Science has of us.

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