Autism is classed as a behavioral and communication disorder, but increasingly researchers are discovering that neurology—the way we are wired to understand the world— is a crucial part of this disorder. A new study out of the University of Warwick used 3D models and panoramic scans to "isolate the functional differences between autistic and non-autistic brains," reports Science Daily.
First published in the journal Brain, this study analyzed the brains of 523 people with autism (and 452 people without autism) and identified regions of the brain that contribute to autism. As the study's lead researcher, Professor Jianfeng Feng noted: the scientists found reduced functional connectivity in the parts of the brain involved in how facial expressions were processed and how emotions and social cues were communicated.
There's quite a bit more to the study, including the innovative methods that the researchers used and what it holds for future research, but what I'd like to bring out here is simple: the brains of people with autism are different than our "typical" ones. The brains of our kids with autism—our beautiful children who spin, look to the side, process things in their own time, attempt communication as they best can, sit alone sometimes because they need a break, scream, bounce, bite-hit-pinch in frustration— these brains are functionally different than our own. This doesn't make them less. It makes them different. Different is not damaged. It's not diseased. It's different.
I could write and write and write about what this means to me, and how I try to honor this difference daily as I parent my non-verbal 6-year-old, but for now, I'll just offer some further reading
- Discover magazine's article about Temple Grandin's brain, which is a great place to learn more about the functional differences in the brains of people with autism.
Have more questions or comments? We'd love to hear from you about autism, neurological differences/diversity, and how all this shakes out in your lives.
Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons, Liam (6) and Eliot (4). Her writing has appeared in the Autism and Asperger's Digest (2011-2013), Parents, and the book collection Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Parenting Kids with Special Needs. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter @jamiepacton
Early Signs of Autism
Image: Group of Cat Scans via Shutterstock