My husband, Julian, and I recently watched the 2010 movie, Temple Grandin , and we were deeply moved by her story and the remarkable progress she has made in her life. From a diagnosis of autism and brain damage at the age of two, Grandin went on to complete a doctorate and, using her own experience as an autistic child, to devise the revolutionary “Hug” machine now used to quiet livestock and autistic children. According to her bio in Wikipedia , in 2010 she was listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the “Heroes” category.
I can remember not so very long ago, when a diagnosis of autism was very rare and usually meant bleak prospects for a child. Now, with estimates that 1 in 88 children in America fall somewhere on the autism spectrum , much progress has been made in understanding and helping those with the disorder. Indeed, it seems there’s a new attitude of respect and appreciation for the fresh perspective and talents that autistic people that may bring to the table, much like Temple Grandin’s groundbreaking work with animal husbandry. And more autistic people are speaking up and sharing their experiences: recently Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, featured the book, The Reason I Jump> , a translation of a memoir originally published in 2007 and written by then-13-year-old Naoki Higashida — a Japanese teen on the autism spectrum. A week later Stewart announced that after that episode aired, viewers of The Daily Show drove the book to number two on Amazon with their orders.
It’s clear from these stories that early intervention and supportive services are paramount in helping those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Still, along with the traditional support there are early indications that non-traditonal methods may help, too. In an ongoing study involving autistic people of all ages, William Tiller, Ph.D., has produced some startling results using “intention.” Using the intention of “helping the subjects integrate” and “lowering stress for the subjects and their parents,” all those involved have been amazed at the benefits accruing in just four months. It gives me great hope that more innovative methods of treatment will be forthcoming. Who knows — maybe one of the children in this study could be the next Temple Grandin?
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