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Autism from the inside


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Autism, Alexithymia, Dissociative Disorders & Trauma

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Note – This is from a personal perspective

Overview

In secondary school their was an isolated incident of sexual abuse which I was subjected to, this happened in the changing rooms and I have documented about how I had to get closure on this incident myself.

Alexithymia and dissociative reactions are two strategies that have been put forward as coping mechanisms to alleviate painful emotions. Adult studies reveal an association between alexithymia and dissociation. In line with the coping hypothesis, it was predicted that the relationship between alexithymia and dissociative tendencies would be partly mediated by current levels of stress and past traumatic experiences. Dissociation may also be related to enhanced fantasizing, although alexithymia has traditionally been associated with an incapacity to fantasize

Jennifer G. Schnellmann PhD, ELS 2005

Alexithymia has a common overlap with some people on the autism spectrum, in which the person has problems identifying, wording and extracting inner emotional states, having a language processing disorder no doubt hindered my ability to express (word finding and word losing), visual agnosias of varying kinds and degrees which hindered my to get gestalt perception and mentalise and thus extract the information and process it accordingly.

But imagine that as an autie you get tolerated in a mainstream school of bullying, exclusion etc…. so you try your butt off to pass as ‘non autistic’ or at least mirror others…. but on your own out comes your autie self… and over YEARS the ‘acting normal’ self becomes an ‘alter’ and has its own abilities, its preferences, its dislikes, the things its invested in, the things its disinterested in (like all the ‘autistic’ stuff… because it would attract more bullying, exclusion, etc)….

Donna Williams 2012

Dissociation Disorder & Repressed Memories

Coming to terms with my dissociation is to understand where it came from so here is the a list of events that interacted and caused dissociation and dissociative personas which then in tern effect the association of the “core self” which then in turn had an impact on my psychological and emotional development.

  • I was traumatised by children and teachers using functional speech and language at primary school because I could not keep up with it on an interpretive level (this wasn’t done on purpose nor was this anyone’s fault or intention).
  • I was put into adult situations at primary school with no advocate or caregiver present (teachers arranging meetings about “negative” behaviour prior and after functional speech so dissociation, personas and exposure anxiety were triggered).
  • Having body and pain agnosias meant without clothes on and/or pressure points meant I could detach and dissociate quicker.
  • Having prosopagnosia secondary to simultagnosia meant I bonded with the “person in the mirror” in toilets and washrooms.
  • Secondary school involved the use of three personas all with splintering personality types, learning and communication styles and “tasks” both motivational and/or otherwise to “protect” on a subconscious level the “core self”.
  • Only became self aware of being “different” at 16 and later was using word “autism/autistic” at 18, however lacked a self-awareness of my challenges to others and didn’t consciously change and/or suffer from avoidant and/or social anxiety/phobia.
  • PTSD in adulthood and repressed memories of sexual abuse came in later adulthood through nightmares and flashbacks in a distorted and fragmented fashion due to visual perceptual and language processing disorders.
  • Outlets for Alexithymia and emotional regulation came up more prominently in adulthood through art, poetry and creative writing and aided my ability to mentalise.
  • Being Mercurial and Idiosyncratic meant I could create novel, inventive and “odd” ways of distancing myself from emotional difficulties and pain.
  • Being in the “system of sensing” for far longer and still retaining aspects of it meant I valued the world and would sense the energies around me beyond their set interpretive “meaning”.

Accepting What “Brought me to the Dance”

I have no doubt that I have been coloured by my experiences, they mold people, influence, guide them, help them and sadly sometimes destroy them.

I have come to realise the value in experiences regardless of these being positive or negative I still learn from them.

They’re my teachers my reflectors and I refuse to live a half life in which my destiny is to be defined by things that were out of my control and contextual to the knowledge (or lack of) at the time.

Paul Isaacs 2020


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When The Clouds Move In

In the universe of the social media what does one put when someone is so low and depressed? Is it a false currency to type your feelings? Is it not correct to extract your thoughts onto a wider medium? Is it merely seen as a chance to get some sort of gratification or social supply from the amount of reactions and comments that come under your status?

I am depressed at the moment and the depression doesn’t seem to give me time to get grounded, its saps my energy, tailors my perceptions, distorts my mood and thought processes yet I still come out with a smile, a false sense of connecting, being in a room full of people and the walls come crashing in as the bleaked aloneness comes towards your words become ash, people become shadows and you wish to run away from the vessel you live in from day to day.

I have never since my teens felt such a state of melancholy, despair or detachment from the world around, pessimism rises from its tomb, nihilism jabs at my mind and hopelessness dominates as I plunder into the void once again. Maybe if I spoke up more about such feelings I would be privy to a listening ear? Maybe if I shed more tears I would get a sense of comfort from a friend? I know not what the future holds none of us do but at this moment in time the darkness follows me everywhere the omnipresence suffocates my soul and creativity.

Maybe all I want is for someone to see me as a human being, not a catalogue of facts about autism, maybe I would like someone to recognise my challenges and difficulties as I am made to understand theirs? Maybe I just want my perspective to acknowledged and validated regardless of it being right or wrong.

I do not like living a “half-life” between the void and the false pretence of happiness in my current state. If people think I am seeking a hollow sense of attention so be it but writing for me does extract the cusp of the matters, so I say to you if you feel down, low, depressed or otherwise please tell someone it may not sort out the root of the problem but it could be the start of doing so.

Paul Isaacs 2019


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Altered Developmental Trajectories In Autism Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Note this from a personal perspective reflecting on aspects of development

Donna Williams’ wrote a blog which I have included in mine about the connection between “autism and trauma” now these two things are not mutually exclusive. She was very much a person who thought outside of the box and did not her confine her views to rhetoric or fads making for refreshing and reflective reading.

Early Experience “Nature vs. Nurture

Many things part of my autism are to do with early birthing issues such as placental abruption, brain injury, c-section, circumcision due to phimosis in 1991 age 5 and ear infections which lead to grommets and adenoidectomy age 4 in 1990. Many of these factors had an impact on my developmental trajectory some of them are to do with altered states of development which then in turn create a person who nervous system reacts.

Premature 1
What “Makes Up” My Autism?

For me my autism is due to birthing complications placental abruption, prematurity hemiplegia, language processing disorder and visual perceptual disorders making up about 70% of my autism.

The 30% remaining is genetic components such as a family history of dyslexia, mood, anxiety disorders and OCD on my Mother and Father’s side.

Auto-immune disorders of various types are on my Father’s & Mother’s side. Mum had chronic childhood Ezchema, My Nan on my Father’s side had Non-Hodgekin Lymphoma and My Father Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia.

A Broader Perspective Of “Autism”

Looking at the broader palette of what is “autism”? What if people are becoming progressively distant and/or scared of different “Roads To Rome” when it comes to the different factors that come with an “autistic package”. What if things that “look like autism” can actually be apart of what makes someone “non-autistic” and vice versa? Maybe we need stop finding the magic “bullet” for what autism “looks like” and what it is made up of and start looking a specific realities and all that is within them?

People Who Don’t Have Autism?

People who don’t have autism can have things that can be apart of person’s “autism package” to varying degrees – developmental delays, personality types, mental health, environment and learning styles can have an impact on anybody in the end.

Lets Stop Calling it ‘the autism’: Autism and Trauma – what’s the connection?

Donna Williams’ Blog

donna-aged-3-w-door-crpd-230x300

Recent studies in reputable medical journals have linked Autism to seemingly farfetched things like being born to mothers with pre eclampsia, being born prematurely, being born to older fathers, being born to smokers, being born by cesarean, being circumcised under the age of 5.

And as an autism consultant since 1996 I would say that of over 1000 families I saw as a consultant, that a rather strikingly significant number of them claimed to notice the onset of their child’s autism in the week following the child’s first birthday party (being posed for photos, candles, cake, room full of visitors, clown etc). And then of course are the plethora of families who swear their child began developing autism anywhere from 24 hours to 3 months after heavy vaccination schedules. Could these seemingly unrelated things have anything in common? Could it even be there is a cascade effect where the child’s autism is present (subclinical) but not showing following a cesarean birth, then becomes progressively more obvious if the same child gets circumcised, has a heavy vaccination schedule and is then thrown a full on first birthday party? It may sound utterly whacky, but is it possible?

“Children can develop a kind of ̳hard-wired‘ autonomic nervous system response to trauma and its triggers due to the ongoing need to utilise the circuitry to promote adaptive defence strategies. Over time they decrease their capacity to access their social engagement system (since this has not been used successfully in great amounts), and as more and more of the world is perceived as unsafe, they come to rely on their defensive states to negotiate their environments, making social engagement very difficult.

Porges research has revealed that how our nervous system interacts with our environment depends on not just the absence of threat, but the absence of nervous system perceived threat. He has developed the term ‘neuroception‘ to describe our perception of safety not just consciously but also – and often exclusively – at a below cognitive level (Porges 1998, 2001, 2003). It is this neurological response of safety that promotes the ability to utilise our newer system and circuits, whilst conversely, the lack of safety promotes a return to using older circuits to mobilise or immobilize in the face of neurologically perceived danger.

When our nervous system detects safety our system adjusts and makes it possible to enjoy closeness without fear, and keeps us from entering defensive physiological states of mobilised hyper arousal and immobilized hypo arousal, whilst still enable the use of these circuits in safe ways.”

Chronic ear infections have been linked to PTSD so why shouldn’t Upper Respiratory Tract Disorders or gut disorders, even chronic severe constipation in children with immune and autonomic dysfunction equally result in such entrapment with pain from their bodies that some children might develop a neurological developmental response akin to PTSD?

In mild brain injury could the brain similarly interpret as trauma things like chronic sensory confusion/overload, extreme emotional dysregulation, the CNS disorientation from untreated food allergies and intolerances, the entrapment of being non verbal in a verbal world or having a body you can’t make work for you. And as one reached age 2-3 when functioning demands of the environment dramatically increase, could inability to organise one’s senses, emotions, communication, self help contribute to a trauma related cascade that progressively derails development accordingly?

What of the trauma potential to an infant of relentless torment from hyperacusis, or the whooshing sounds of Pulsatile Tinnitus, or severe Tourette’s, even relentless ear popping tics nobody can see, the repeated disorientation, unpredictability and loss of control of constant seizures?

If being born to a carer who is in the grip of post natal depression would predispose a child to not having established that initial bonding, would this leave such a child more predisposed to PTSD than one born to a healthy mother? And what of infants who fail to develop normally whose carer then goes through years of mourning the loss of the ‘normal’ child they had expected? Is this also experienced by the child in a similar way to being born to a carer with post natal depression? And what of the maternal separation of premature babies too small to be held by their mothers?

What of immune deficient or other unwell infants left in the care of hospitalswhere they experienced the absolute vulnerability of and utter foreignness of significant medicalisation in the hands of a range of strangers? With a 45% higher incidence of autism associated with circumcision before age 5, could this be traumatising for those children already genetically predisposed to trauma? Could this be extended to children handed over to doctors for heavy vaccination schedules without any later autism having anything directly to do with the vaccinations themselves?

And what of the trauma of a birthday party? We all have different personality traits. Babies too. Some of us are simply not wired for full on, in your face sociable parties when we are one year old. If our personality traits would later make us an attention seeking, self confident, adventurous party animal there’d be no foreseeable problem. But what if our nature was sensitive, solitary, vigilant, idiosyncratic…

It seems predisposition to PTSD is genetically predisposed. Would there then be children already more at risk from a progressive cascade effect of accumulated perceived traumas that would leave other children unaffected? If the children of older dads are more prone to mental illness would this include a higher predisposition to PTSD?

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is a genetic collagen disorder with overlap with autism. Collagen is the stuff of connective tissue throughout the body, including the vascular system and the brain and is also responsible for immune regulation and brain connectivity but those with EDS also have autonomic dysfunctionassociated with sudden fluctuations in blood pressure (ie floppy veins) due to faulty collagen. These sudden fluctuations commonly get interpreted by the brain as panic attacks. So a child experiencing continual panic attacks caused by autonomic dysfunction would logically also be predisposed to developing chronic fight flight states and associated compulsive involuntary avoidance, diversion and retaliation responses.

Being born c-section leaves the child with lower levels of the calming hormone Oxytocin which is essential to having resistance to heightened threat and anxiety. We also all begin life with a reflex for crawling out of the womb. After using this infantile reflex it becomes neurologically inhibited which leaves us ready for the use of other reflex responses, each essential in the developmental process. Being born c-section leaves this infantile reflex uninhibited.

“Normal performance of primitive reflexes in newborns can be linked to a greater likelihood of having higher Apgar scores, higher birth weight, shorter hospitalization time after birth, and a better overall mental state”.

>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primitive_reflexes

What about if the mother experienced trauma during the pregnancy? If a mother was living in an abusive relationship would the unborn child be experiencing her own trauma as its own? Is the baby awash with stress hormones? Does the baby also feel this same level of threat that the mother is feeling?

Pre-eclampsia and other pregnancy and birth related emergencies have left mothers acutely anxious and sometimes traumatised and pre-eclampsia in particular has been recently shown to have another high association with autism . In response to this blog article I heard from a commenter who drew my attention to the recent links between Paracetamol and both pre-eclampsia and autism.
They wrote:

I would suggest that the missing link is not trauma but the use of paracetamol (acetaminophen, Tylenol). Rebordosa found that paracetamol use during pregnancy increases the risk of pre-eclampsia. Paracetamol is often used in conjunction with vaccines,ear infections and viruses. We have been circumcising for centuries but autism is a new and escalating phenomenon. So how could circumcision increase the risk of autism? What has changed about circumcision in recent times? The use of PARACETAMOL (acetaminophen, Tylenol) with the procedure to treat pain. This practice began in the mid 1990’s, with recommendations by WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It has been shown that infants have significant difficulties metabolizing paracetamol in the first days of life. Paracetamol is known to have a narrow threshold of toxicity under the best of circumstances.

Three studies investigating prenatal use of paracetamolhave found adverse neurodevelopment in the offspring- ADHD and autism phenotypes in 3 year olds. It is not such a stretch to think paracetamol given directly to the infant could also have deleterious effects. This study supports the paracetamol hypothesis set forth by Bauer and Kriebel and highly warrants further investigation.

Could it be that in some cases paracetemol (acetaminophen, Tylenol) derails neurodevelopment pre-nataly which in turn leaves the child neurologically less equipped to handle acute stress and so has an early trauma response to things someone else would not, then once an acute fight-flight states becomes a chronically triggered/regenerated pattern, that becomes the default social-emotional response to such a wide range of new experiences the person is then further developmentally derailed. Paracetemol is also given to babies following circumcision and after the MMR vaccination. Parents have systematically given Tylenol to their infants for teething, for nappy rash, even for trouble sleeping.

In adults, single doses above 10 grams or 200 mg/kg of bodyweight, whichever is lower, have a reasonable likelihood of causing toxicity.[4][5] Toxicity can also occur when multiple smaller doses within 24 hours exceed these levels.[5] In rare individuals, paracetamol toxicity can result from normal use.[11] This may be due to individual (“idiosyncratic”) differences in the expression and activity of certain enzymes in one of the metabolic pathways that handle paracetamol (see paracetamol’s metabolism).

US television adverts of this drug psychologically target carers to ‘care for their child’ by quickly reaching for the Tylenol. These advertisements do then rush through the disclaimer at the end, often so quickly it is hard to process and usually completely out of sync with the reassuring tones used in advertising the product moments before.

IF trauma is found to have the most significant impact on brain development, communication development, social and emotional development presenting as ‘autism’, then what is the future? Would it also mean that autism is both born and made? Would we have to accept that a more mildly autistic child could become progressively more autistic if progressively accumulating further retraumatisation through everything from a bad fitting form of intensive intervention to bullying at primary school, to actual abuse from a carer unequipped to healthily care for a challenged child?

Do we have then develop screening for genetic predisposition to PTSD before a child is put through the same approaches and treatments as those without such predispositions? Would the strategies used to turn around chronic fight-flightstates and involuntary diversion, avoidance and retaliation responses in Exposure Anxiety become the most important first interventions?

I could suggest a protocol something like this:

Possible protocol for turning around chronic fight flight states.

a) inform the carers/diagnosticians about the presentation features of ‘autistic post traumatic developmental disorder’ and that trauma and the sources of retraumatisation can have a range of quite unconventional causes.

b) where possible identify initial traumas in each case and ensure these are addressed

c) identify additional re-traumatisation triggers that keep this being reinforced

d) put in place a treatment plan to address any underlying gut/immune/metabolic disorders and associated pain, sensory perceptual disorders and associated sensory distress, communication disorders, movement disorders, chronic information overload as socially non invasively as is possible to stop feeding chronic fight-flight responses.

e) to bring in omega 3s as a natural mood leveller and L-Glutamine where suited to raise GABA in order to facilitate lower doses of mood levelling/anti anxiety medication necessary to give respite to an overreactive nervous system.

f) to start a program designed to raise Oxyitoxin levels to tame over active anxiety responses: start music, massage, body brushing, art and movement programs, animal therapy, singing, laughter yoga, non invasive touch, to help calm the nervous system, get dissociated people feeling safe back in their bodies.

g) to counsel and support families in retaining the approaches that will progressively turn around chronic fight-flight states and thereby facilitate freed up development of more adaptive information processing, communication, and interaction.

And finally what of identification with one’s autism? What if it turns out that we do in fact ‘all have a bit of autism’ and that traumatisation (and retraumatistion) makes the difference in how much we each end up with? Do all people with autism then have ‘autistic post-traumatisation developmental disorder’? A kind of ‘Traumatism’? And would they want treatment or be happy with how they adapted?

At the end of the day, stress may break some of us, but stress also makes us. Stress trains the brain, trains the body. The trick is to build that slowly, progressively, so it isn’t experienced as trauma followed by continual perceived retraumatisation:

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.
http://www.donnawilliams.net

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.


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Autism, Bullying & Mental Health – Personal Perspectives

This from a personal perspective on Autism and Mental Health 

SITUATIONAL & ENVIRONMENTAL 

From as long as I can remember I was bullied – this came in many forms verbal, physical, emotional/psychological and one instance sexual.

It started at around 5 Years old this point I wasn’t functionally verbal it ranged from instances of verbal humiliation from the local place were I lived, taunts, swearing and so forth to more confrontational approaches such as throwing objects at me, taunting me with nails wrapped in a someone fist (this happened during an altercation at a “kissing gate” which is a gate in a field), threats of harm and death/being killed were even on the cards as well as my family being included as well.

This sort of abuse went on for many years on my local area – it also happened on the way to school via public transport taunts and set-ups were a way of getting my attention but of course it was much more than that.

Family Photo Early 90s 2SCHOOL – PRIMARY EDUCATION 

At Primary School when functionally verbal speech (in year 4) came I was subjected to humiliation by teachers this would include having one to one meetings with the then headteacher. This is were my dissociative disorders started as a way of “self protection” with no parental support (as they were not told of these meetings), being told to walk in “a line”  in a class of silent observant children as this would help with my “walking” and learnt with my first experiences of talking that is was to protect not that is was a way of having a interaction that was balanced nor “normal”.

The last year of Primary School was when I was being bullied by a teacher this cased severe mental disturbances such as anxiety and mood disorders, continued dissociative disorders, depression, somatisation, psychosis (imagining my body “was melting”)  (bad tummies,  stomach cramps, headaches, jaw-ache, toothache) these were perceived to be real by me but they were result at this point of over 7 years of bullying from different places people and origins some I dread to thing where they came from. This lead to me being in mental health services for the first time.

Holiday Early 2000s1SECONDARY EDUCATION 

In the first two weeks bullying started and this took a different turn it would be about my appearance (weight, looks, face, teeth, nose etc) so this lead my down the path of eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, body dysmorphia, emotional dysfunction due to alexithymia and bouts of mutism (due also to information processing and exposure anxiety) and further dissociative episodes  – it also came in the guise of two teachers commenting about me becoming upset and going to the reception in tears. Two teachers used humiliation tactics in front of my classmates with regards to this behaviour of course this was to with emotional processing and went on for approximately a year.

SEXUAL ABUSE

About two years I started having flashbacks (fragmented visions), night terrors and panic attacks what came to a head was an incident of a sexual nature when I was in my mid-teens a form of PTSD emerged with the “false memory”  being “unpicked”. I have no doubt this has had an sub-concious affect on how I view myself, my gender, my sexuality and the way in which I view sex but thankfully I through in this in both coming to terms with it and moving on.

Me Early 20s 1WORKPLACE

From the years of fifteen onwards I had been bullied in the workplace this came in the forms of name-calling, taunts, covert tactics, not being listened too, diversion tactics, gas-lighting to just plain insincerity and nastiness. This can have a dramatic affect how one perceives relationships both personal and professional. This has a dramatic affect on the way in which I viewed work and people in adulthood. I wrote a suicide letter wanting to the end the seemingly endless pain of existing this happened in the late 2000s. And was in adult mental health services.

DAMAGED “GOODS” TO BEING “AFFECTED”

Along with my Autism profile I have had sadly a string of negative situations. I no doubt that it has damaged me, it seems for the last 25 years I have had a torrent of negative behaviours that have affect my perception and my self worth but I live in hope that I can and will get through this and also learn from these situations. I want it to go from damaged to affected. I have the drive to do so.

BE BALANCED & FRIENDSHIP

I value being balanced the clarity in which it brings and the positively that it brings, agreement, disagreement and having a transparent and fluid view on lift – I still wear “my heart on my sleeve” which means I am open and honest about things sadly this can be a problem in certain situations of trust and can has has been used against me but it again goes back to my point of being balanced and regaining connections and perceptions of what true friendships and connections are something that I didn’t have in my early years.

A VICTIM OF NARCISSISM?

I have been from the perspective of being  honest and truthful – an reverse tactics (the “victim” of the circumstance becomes the “nuisance” & “enemy” and must be stopped at all costs! – however how that can be depends on the person in question it can overt to covert and passive-aggressive (via gossiping, mixing lies with the truth and blatant lies) such as avoidance by others or the person’s themselves, getting people “on side”, spying and gossiping and “getting information” this can also lead to the person who is in “right” by character to slowly become the person who is “wrong”.

This blog I can relate to this and the a blog about this entitled Are you being used as a flying monkey for a narcissist? There have been many a time were I have entrusted personal information to people who I thought I could trust only for it to be used against and spun.

Balanced and empathic people will not seek to to do this they will want transparency, fluidised connections and an openness.

CREATIVITY & POSITIVITY 

Through my poems, pictures and writings it has fuelled this aspect of my being and has been both my friend and confidant in all sorts of emotional tides. I am by no means perfect, I want no pity and I am  not a victim through this is what I have learnt the importance of trust, healthy relationships and friendships, failure, truth, being, living and having a laugh at yourself those things to me are important. 🙂

Toyah – It’s A Mystery 

Paul Isaacs 2015