Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 1: It's a Spectrum

April is National Autism Awareness Month. For April 2012, I will be blogging through a book by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, entitled The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships.

What stood out to me in my latest reading of this book was on page xvi:

"Our differences are both subtle and overt; they stem as much from environment and upbringing as they do from our unique physiologies. Brain researchers have discovered that autism characteristics manifest when neuronal connections that link up the many different parts of the brain fail to hook up. The frontal cortex is the most affected area and the back part of the brain, where memories are stored, is usually more normal. They have also found that the brain areas that process emotional signals from the eyes are abnormal. Variability in the parts of the brain that are not wired properly would explain why behaviors and feelings can be so different among people on the autism spectrum, and why Sean is Sean and Temple is Temple."

I cannot say that I understand this entirely, for biology is not my field. But this explains to me----better than anything else that I have read or heard----why there is an autism spectrum: how there can be variety among people with autism. Whenever I've sat in Asperger groups or read books about Asperger's Syndrome, I've identified with some of the characteristics, but not with others. I've questioned whether or not the label of Asperger's is even helpful, since it can encompass a wide variety of people. But people can have it to varying degrees, and that is based on environment, upbringing, and the organization of the brain. Within my brain, some things may be connected that are not connected in the brain of somebody else with Asperger's, while there are other things in my brain that may be disconnected. I feel that I can read people's facial expressions, for example, and so I differ from many people with Asperger's. But I struggle socially and I gravitate towards repetition, and so I believe that I have the syndrome, at a certain level.

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