Processing Disorders are Autism

With all of the professionals who care for individuals experiencing signs and symptoms that are presently classified as ASD, it isn’t surprising that the organization of problems reflects the point of view of each discipline.

To the extent that nomenclature describes identifiable, clearly understood pathways, it can improve our understanding of function (or the lack thereof), as it relates to structure (but not necessarily vise-versa). Often, however, researchers utilize long, complicated terms that merely restate the obvious. Such designations may not provide additional insight, which is sorely needed if we are to reverse the named condition.

Selective eating disorder = picky eater

Visual processing disorder = sees things differently

Auditory processing disorder = hears things differently

Sensory processing disorder = feels things differently

Oppositional defiance disorder = responds to everything the opposite way

Attention deficit disorder = won’t focus on non-preferred activities

Hyperactivity disorder = can’t sit still

ADHD = both of the above

Sleep disorder = takes longer to fall asleep, wakes up frequently, or both

Social anxiety disorder = uncomfortable around others

Obsessive compulsive disorder = repetitive behaviors and restricted interests

Cognitive processing disorder =?Executive functioning disorder = ?Motor planning disorder = ?expressive language deficiency = ?receptive language disruption = ?doesn’t (appear to) learn/listen/remember.

Discussion
Each of these labels accurately reflects some condition frequently experienced by individuals with ASD. Professionals may utilize such information to address a patient’s issues, but it can be quite confusing when complex jargon is invoked to explain an intervention to the family.

“Why is my child exhibiting this aberrant behavior?” Until much more research identifies actual, measurable, specific physiological states, my response is, “Signals sometimes go to the right place and can perform the appropriate function, the wrong place and lead to an incorrect response, or just bounce around and diminish.”

At least, an understanding about, and explanation of, similar terms utilized by other disciplines would ease parents’ concerns that, “Somebody missed something,” about their child.

Conclusion
I recently spoke with a mom who was told about a feedback loop issue in her child with motor planning deficiencies and sensory processing difficulties. Each therapist provided a valid diagnostic label. I suggested that she focus on the skills required in order for her 4 year-old to play with other children.

Rather than invoking esoteric, complicated language as to theoretical cause, the focus should be on assisting patients’ ability to achieve required skills, such as spontaneous speech, self-control, eye contact, motor proficiency and socialization.

Smooth, efficient processing between our body and brain is the goal. In human development, when systems fail to mesh in the correct fashion, what we observe is called autism.

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