Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Stomach Hurts: Autism and Gastrointestinal Problems

“It is scary to be alone inside myself. I am saving up all I know so that I will be able to tell someone who will understand. I know my constipation is due to storing up all this information. I have so much of myself inside that needs to come out. My parents as well as my doctor think of my constipation literally. He is constipated so we have to find a cause. I know better than that. They are wrong and I am right, but because I am inside I do not have the words to tell them what is really going on. Ironically, if I had the words, I would no longer be psychologically and literally constipated. When will this horror of a life be over? When will I be outside? I need you to understand my dilemma. I continue to be desperate.”

What is this autistic boy telling us? He is explaining his gastrointestinal problem as a psychological problem. He knows he is right, but unfortunately does not have the words to communicate that in such a way that people will understand him. He considers this a serious, grave and dire predicament.

Let’s understand this autistic child from the perspective of an ‘Incomplete Attachment.’ As I have mentioned previously, children with autism do not have access to the use of the word ‘I’ to explain their predicaments and communicate their feelings. This is especially true when they are in relationship to another person. In the presence of others they may lose their ability to communicate precisely what their needs are. Instead it is common for the individual with autism to act out through their nonverbal communication what is going on inside.

In the case of gastrointestinal problems I believe this is exactly what is occurring. The children are telling us for example what is going on inside of them through their bodily functioning (constipation, diarrhea, etc.). In the case of constipation the child is telling us that there is a lot of him psychologically inside. It is a very creative way to explain his predicament, but only if it can be understood. Once understood as an expression of communication, it can be treated accordingly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Making Sense of Reversal of Pronouns in Autism

“Since I am inside out and upside down everything is reversed. Words come out backwards and incorrectly. Many times I use the word you to refer to me. It is safer to use you because I don't have to take responsibility and it is safer this way. It is not that I don't want to take responsibility, but if I don't have a personality, and I am not a person and I am without self-esteem, how can I use I. The ability to use I comes out of knowing oneself and having confidence, which is something I do not have yet. Please bear with me. I still have a long ways to go. I guess you will just have to remember that when I use you I really mean I. Also remember that I am reversed. In fact everything about me is reversed.”

What is this autistic boy telling us? He is aware that he reverses his pronouns, but cannot do anything about it. He tells us that it is safer to refer to himself by using the word you instead of me or I. He seems to not have any control over his usage of words. He also tells us that he is physically reversed and that is the reason why he reverses his pronouns.

Let’s understand this autistic boy by reviewing his experience through the lens of an Incomplete Attachment. From an Incomplete Attachment it makes sense that he believes that he lives inside of himself and that what individuals on the outside see is the reversal of what he potentially will be. From this perspective, his conscious state of existence is sequestered inside. Conversely, he is in an unconscious state when observed by others. That is why some individuals with autism can be very verbal on paper and when they type, but can also have so-called autistic behaviors that make them seem uncontrollable and bizarre to some. Another example is the individual with autism who seems oblivious to people and seems to not know that others exist. At times like that, he may literally walk over the other person or ignore him.

Furthermore, this reversal of consciousness contributes to what seems to be a reversal of pronouns. When this autistic boy reverses his pronouns he does so because in his present state of existence he does not have access to his feelings. These feelings are sequestered or dissociated, waiting to be recognized and validated through the attachment process. As he becomes more conscious and can use his self in relationship with others he will be able to claim the use of me and finally I.