Updated: Jun 7, 2020
In this post, you will learn how to bust the myth that autism characteristics never change. Because autism is a neurologic condition impacting the brain, the features often show some shifting as the physical body ages or changes. AUTISM IS ROOTED IN THE PHYSICAL BODY Let's start with the basics. We now know that poor parenting does not cause autism! Instead, autism is a physical condition of the brain likely impacted by many things, including genetics. Autism is an expression of how the brain has connected and developed. Just as some individuals may be born with a heart problem or kidney problem, those with autism are born with developmental difficulty within the brain itself. Some with developmental brain issues struggle with a reading disability or intellectual disability. Those with autism experience neurologic issues with how they experience and interact with the world. THE BRAIN IS A PHYSICAL ORGAN OF THE BODY.
AGING, INJURY, OR ILLNESS MAY IMPACT HOW THE BRAIN FUNCTIONS Physical changes often affect the brain. Although we may wish we could "trade-in" our aging bodies for a "new model," that isn't our current reality. We have bodies that change over time, both in expected and unexpected ways. When our brains change (along with our bodies), the functioning of our brains also change. EXAMPLES: UNDERSTAND HOW PHYSICAL CONDITIONS IMPACT EMOTIONS, BEHAVIOR, AND SENSORY PROCESSING 1. Hormone Changes Chemical changes in the body are known to impact expressions of the brain. The teen years are often known for being more challenging than the "terrible twos!" The adolescent with shifting hormones may be hugging and kissing Mom one moment, and shouting and throwing things the next. The woman experiencing pregnancy (or post-pregnancy) understands that she may not feel "like herself." Those around her may feel she is "too sensitive" or cries for no reason. Then, of course, comes menopause (for females) or (sometimes coined) "man-opause" for males. Aging individuals often notice changes in the sharpness of their thinking skills and their ability to feel emotionally centered. Let's also remember how hormones impact sensory processing. Many pregnant women develop significant smell aversions during pregnancy (colognes, candles, food). This sensitivity is temporary, disappearing as soon as hormones level-off. "Simple" chemical changes in the body change emotions, behaviors, and sensory processing within neurotypical individuals. How much more would we expect the autistic person to struggle during these times of significant hormonal shifts! 2. Intoxication and Hangovers Another relatable example may be to consider how alcohol impacts the brain during intoxication and (the infamous) hangover. The individual who is drinking may find he feels less socially inhibited. With heavy drinking, he becomes impulsive, unsafe, and inappropriate. Alcohol impacts brain functions-- behavior, balance, memory, and more. Sensory processing symptoms characterize the hangover. Lights are too bright, noises too loud, etc.
Temporary chemical shifts impact how the brain functions. Even though the brain is anatomically "the same," there is a temporary shift in function as the result of a chemical change.
The bottom line is that physical changes can impact the way autism is experienced and expressed. These shifts should not be surprising, nor should they be viewed as evidence that the brain is not involved. Remember, the brain changes as do all other parts of the body.
Stay tuned for more posts about how the physical process of the body can impact autism. Read about specific recommendations for "weathering the storm" that these changes may bring. #autism