Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Autism, as it relates to the Spirit and the body

As an occupational theapist, I have been working with special needs children, especially children with autism, for the past 7 years. A large part of my treatment is geared toward helping parents gain a deeper understanding of how to help their child. During this process of training the parents I am very often confronted with questions such as "Why do you think Autism exists? What is the root of the problem? What is the best way to help my child?" I always say the answer to this question is as diverse as the number of practitioners working with children on the spectrum. However, I do hold a perspective that allows my personality and a piece of my soul to express itself as I work with each precious child.

Much research has been done in an attempt to understand the root causes of autism. Thus far no concrete results have been found to explain this phenomenon. My perspective is two fold, which binds the spiritual and the physical realm of understanding on how to best approach a child with autism. When speaking about spiritual awareness and autism I am referring to an unconditional love and total perfection for the human soul. Secondly, when working with these children, I place a lot of emphasis on the crucial role the physical body plays in our development as human beings. I would like to share an excerpt from a book called "The Soul of Autism" by William Stillman, which further defines the importance of combing the spiritual and physical realms when putting the pieces together in relationship to these special children.

"In this particular passage, my dear friend Michael, then 15 years old, discusses his perception of being in the world as an autistic, what he defines as a whole soul being in a broken body as opposed to the commonest incarnation- a broken soul, in a whole body." Page 29

The above passage perfectly underlines the perspective I hold when working with autistic children. The notion of "A whole soul" allows me to see the perfection of the child and sets forth the possibility of a deep and loving relationship in the present as well as for the future, which we will both create. Furthermore, this attitude allows me to see the child as a direct contributor to his own growth and evolution.

Now I would like to say a few words about the physical reality, which is our bodies, and its relationship to children with autism. When the body is not synchronized with the functions of the brain and there is no damage to the neurological structure present, the resulting factor is children who exhibit the behavior we have come to know as autism.
The child’s inability to relate to the body and use it efficiently and effectively becomes an underlying factor that deeply influences all other areas of development. Here is an excerpt from a book called "Smart Moves" by Carla Hannaford who further explains the importance of the brain-body connection in relationship to our function as human beings.

"Thinking and learning is not all in our head. On the contrary, the body plays an integral part in all our intellectual processes from our earliest moments in utero right through to old age. It is our body’s senses that feed the brain environmental information with which to form an understanding of the world and from which to draw when creating new possibilities. And it is our movements that not only express knowledge and facilitate greater cognitive function, they actually grow the brain as they increase complexity. Our entire brain structure is intimately connected to and grown by the movement mechanisms within our body." (Pages 15-16)

We all have our own understanding of how to best help our children. I have shared my own way and continue to gain a deeper understanding every moment that I spend with an autistic child on the best way I can nurture the human soul, which is the essence of an autistic child, who wants to fully experience the sensation of a physical world.

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