Monday, October 30, 2006

Bite Marks and Hair Brushes - Environmental Sensitivity of Autistic Chidlren

In the debate over education of autistic children it is difficult to impress upon professional educators that for some autistic children, who are very environment sensitive, the mainstream classroom is NOT the best learning environment, that for some the classroom is an overwhelming experience that can, as it did with my son Conor, result in self injurious behavior. Conor would come home from school with bite marks self inflicted from frustration.

In Conor's case the local school and district officials cooperated and removed Conor to a quieter location where most of his learning takes place with occasional, well considered, and purposeful visits to the classroom for specific tasks and interaction with other students. Not all parents of autistic children receive such enlightened cooperation when it comes to their children. Some educators simply do not understand that autistic children are environmentally sensitive and can be overwhelmed to the point of self injury by too much stimulation or even change in their environment.

This morning an innocuous event which illustrates my son's environment awareness and sensitivity occurred when he rose a bit early to use the bathroom. I lent my arm to him for support as he staggered to the bathroom. Groggy and half awake he entered the bathroom still staggering a bit when he spotted a hair brush with the bristles face down on the counter. Conor stopped to turn the brush over so that the bristles would face upward as they usually did. The smallest details of his environment do not escape his attention even half awake in the early morning while on his way to perform an urgent task.

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