What is the deal with Autism, anyway??

April is Autism Awareness month.

1 in 110 children are diagnosed with autism today.  

It is an epidemic, and the search continues to find its causes and cures.

And yet the general populous remains largely unaware and sadly misinformed about what autism is exactly, and the unique and painful journey which faces the families who deal with it.  A complicating factor in this whole issue is the “gifted” nature of many autistic kids.  Many times you will find that, while socially awkward and emotionally unavailable, these children are brilliant in one or two areas if someone can figure out how to teach them the way they learn. Take Temple Grandin for example. She is a high functioning autistic who revolutionized cattle ranching and processing in this country with her genius for knowing how animals think and how to be more efficient and humane at the same time. So it can be easy to think, “Hey! Autism is a gift! Just tap into their genius and leave them alone.”

But if you have ever known an autistic child or seen Temple Grandin’s movie, I hope you have an understanding that these gifts come with a high price tag.  When we began to learn how to teach and get into the minds of these amazing kids, we began to learn just how terrifying and painful their world is.  What is a normal noise to us is deafening and horrifying for them. What is an average conversation for us sends them into a panic attack.  What seems a routine change of plans for us spins their entire world out of control and they do not have the resources to deal with it and function and think clearly in the ways that we do. We take that for granted.  These wonderful, misunderstood people are living in a world of physical and emotional pain, and most of them are still completely unreached.

For the last few months, we have been engaged in much research, consulting, questioning and, yes, at times, debating, which direction to take with caring for Jeshuah in light of the possible autistic spectrum disorder.  The heartbreaking thing about ASD is that the medical field is baffled by the outbreak.  They don’t know what to do with it, and they don’t know how to help the families and children dealing with it.  The most they can do is treat the symptoms, but they have no hope regarding the disease.

In my research, though, I have found a different perspective: there is much hope for ASD! New studies are shedding light on its possible causes and, yes, even cures! A major complication in getting to the bottom of ASD is the wide ranging symptoms.  It is literally different for every single case. How do you even begin to deal with the from a medical perspective? That is why there is the broad spectrum of autistic disorders, ranging from mild to severe.

But I take heart when I hear of people like Dr. Kenneth Bock, Dr. Kerry, and Dr. Newhouse making major strides toward getting to the bottom of this myserious and debilitiating epidemic.  Dr. Bock’s research is showing that the root cause of ASD (and you can also lump into that asthma, allergies, and ADHD! Same cause, different manifestations) is an autoimmune disorder. To make it really simple, the immune system, which is supposed to keep the body functioning and healthy, has gone into attack mode–on itself.  The body is so overwhelmed it cannot function properly, and the brain responds by sending out any number of hundreds of distress signals.

Because each of our bodies are unique, just as our fingerprints are, no two bodies react and respond in the same manner.  The result is such a varying degree of seemingly unrelated symptoms that it is baffling to parents and doctors alike.

Praise the Lord for Dr. Bock and others like him, who are determined to look past the symptoms and discover the cause of it all.  Now that he has pinpointed the auto-immune connection, as well as causal factors of toxins in the body and brain, he is isolating effective treatment for people suffering from ASD.

Unfortunately, this is all still so new, it is largely unknown. The general population and, sadly, much of the medical community is still greatly unaware of the strides being made toward healing in this area.  Most parents and children dealing with ASD are met with a sad head shake by their physician and a referral for therapy.  No hope for healing, only resources to cope with it.

While I am grateful for those resources, and we love our occupational and developmental therapists, I am more concerned with seeing my little buddy be set free from his struggles altogether. I do not to learn merely how to function with autism, I want to know if and how we can get rid of it altogether.

This isn’t fun. Watching my little boy turn bright red, face and ears flaming hot for no apparent reason.  Uncovering hives, rashes, and bruises on his little body from mere touches. Burying his head in my shoulder and crying uncontrollably in a room full of people that is overwhelming to him, but not the other kids. Crawling around the house, banging his head repeatedly on the floor and moaning pitifully. Playing with toys compulsively, putting it in and out, in and out, then bursting into frustrated tears because he can’t seem to stop. Stiffening, shaking, ceasing to breathe, then gasping for breath when he sees wheels or circles. Preferring being alone in a dark room to being in the light with people because it is sensory overload for his poor, weary body and mind. Yes, my sweet baby is such a joy in so many ways and seems so very normal in others, but in this list and many others, my heart clenches in fear and sadness for his silent struggles.  Something is not right in my little boy and it causes such suffering that we remain largely unaware of, but he faces every day.

This is why I want to help him. I don’t want to just learn how to cope with it, I want to help his body to heal from whatever is causing such mental and physical distress.  And if there are doctors out there pioneering how we can do that, I praise God for them and will seek them out.

But once again, we walk forward in this reminding ourselves that our hope is not in doctors, treatments, therapy, or ultimate health for Jeshuah.  It is in Christ and him alone. It is in his sovereignty and his goodness. Whether the Lord gives us the resources to see Jeshuah set free of this disorder or not, he is good. Our hope is in the gospel, and that never changes. Praise God for the salvation of our souls, and we pray every day for the salvation of Jeshuah’s. God is good.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, wow – Ashley, I had no idea! And I really had NO idea about Autism in general. THANK YOU for posting about this! I’m really just getting a grasp on it myself, and not out of necessity to study or by our circumstances. But, just because it’s been out in the open more w/ (was it last month) it being Autism Awareness month. Also, I saw a GREAT movie, based on a true story that you might like. Temple Grandin, it’s called. She paved the way for reseach in Autism, much to the credit of her mother, who wanted to give her ways to cope in the world. It’s a great story and I highly recommend it. Anyway, I’m so glad you’re finding answers, and although we may never have ALL the answers, I’m thankful for how you’re ultimately resting in GOD’S sovereignty and love!!! What a GREAT testimony!


  2. Posted by Katrina on April 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    You put words together so well! Brought me to tears (: I can actually hear your voice as I read it.


  3. […] with it. They develop it by the age of three. For more detailed information, see my post on Autism here or check out the resources at the bottom of this […]


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