|When I was a kid|
We treated infections with alcohol, gargled salt water for sore throats, painted scrapes with “tincture of merthiolate,” a mercury laced antiseptic. We drank water from hoses, chewed lead pencils, ate food off the ground. Kids were fast, slow, smart, dumb, cool, weird.
In my world there was no such thing as “autism” or “learning differences.”
Although the first case of autism was officially diagnosed in 1943, researchers have only recently sought to understand and define it. While educating and involving an ignorant society.
What I‘ve learned: autism exists as varying symptoms along an infinite spectrum that includes virtually everyone. At one end are high functioning, fast thinking savants and intellectuals. At the other end are those with difficulty communicating, housed in bodies that don’t respond to command.
The rest of us lie somewhere in between.
What’s unknown: the definitive cause(s) of autism, how to “fix” it, and if there’s a natural or chemical balance to be had.
When it comes to autism, there are still more questions than answers.
Other things I’m learning about:
Some healthy seeming people walk among us with live streptococcus housed in their bodies all the time. No fever, sore throat or symptoms…except for the nasty part about being contagious. Yeah, there’s that. Dogs are commonly – or rarely, depending upon your health care provider – strep carriers. It can be difficult to clear a strep carrier of the virus.
Strep can hide in a person’s body. Your urethra, for example. Ready to lash out as soon as the latest round of meds are gone. While wreaking havoc in the form of:
Not the cute cuddly black and white bears. This acronym stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections and affects children who’ve recently had the strep virus. Symptoms include tics, rashes, a sudden change in mood and disposition, increased OCD and separation anxiety. Symptoms subside weeks…or months…after the child’s last bout with the virus.
Some doctors believe PANDAS is a made-up ailment, as disputers claim about the next condition:
Studies now indicate the sometimes hyperactive inability to focus/listen/learn associated with Attention Deficit Disorders has a physiological basis related to Parkinson’s Disease. Both conditions are marked by ineffective production and maintenance of appropriate levels of dopamine.
And hyperactivity (the “H” in ADHD) is treated with a stimulant. Which raises the levels of dopamine in the body, easing symptoms of the condition, like, for example:
Speed Processing; It’s a Thing
The rate at which one’s mind operates is an actual, diagnostic condition. There are official tests that quantify the mind’s agility and exercises to improve the speed (in a typically developing brain) at which neurons fire.
When I was young, “retarded” was a clinical description. The “short bus” and her occupants were mysterious and, in our ignorance, a little scary. Nobody talked about “learning differences.” Some people were smart and the rest of us were low IQ, average, slow…or just plain stupid.