Autism Turned Inside Out
By Marlene Suliteanu, O.T.R.

Say you take your three-year-old, Adam, to a specialist – let’s call her Jane – recommended to you by a trusted and respected friend. His pediatrician called Adam "autistic" and a neurologist diagnosed him with "PDD."
Little Adam has never let you hug him, has no speech, pulls off almost any clothing you put on him, can’t attend to anything for even ten seconds – except, oddly, when he plays barefoot in grass or outside with water and mud – and, also weird, every hair on his head stands straight up. Adam never looks at you or anyone. He’s extremely hyperactive, with good gross motor coordination, so you know there’s nothing wrong with his muscles.
You take Adam to see Jane. You immediately discern unusual aspects of her assessment, like, she asks you not about Adam but about your house, your clothes, stuff like that. Jane seems unusually interested in the fact that you live under major power lines, that you wear shiny synthetic clothes, that you protect your furniture with plastic covers. But that’s puzzling, not shocking. The shocker is that Adam hugs and cuddles Jane – in her lap! – and develops eye contact with her, even completes a three year- old’s puzzle, fully attentive to its challenge.
She’s a wizard? or the Pied Piper? Well, maybe, but the friend who recommended Jane said she also works with adults.

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Can’t picture that? Try this:
The school district has been providing Bob, your twelve year-old autistic son, with special services for the past nine years. He has virtually no language, although he’s blurted out phrases like Video Ranger, Captain Crunch, Taco Bell – out of context. Bob is very thin, frail, with such low muscle tone he needs someone to support his hand in order for him to write his first name, and even then he only makes a sort of sketchy stab at it; likewise to try to draw a circle or a square. And he fatigues easily, still naps every day. He flaps his hands a lot, rocks his whole trunk; worse, he spits on people when he’s agitated. He never looks straight at anyone and in general distances himself from others. He doesn’t eat well – no chewing – and resists most of your grooming efforts.
You take him to Jane. After her assessment, during which Bob displayed all his usual kinds of visual and motor behavior, he of course seems to pay no attention to Jane’s explanation of what she learned about him, nor to the activities she recommends that you do with him at home. For one of those, called Face Tapping, Jane provides you with a diagrammatic representation of the Trigeminal Nerve distribution (Cranial V), likening the drawing to a map for you to follow around Bob’s face. Jane teaches you how to use a rhythmic, alternating-hand, symmetrical, gentle tapping.
Diligent and hopeful, you implement the program Jane taught you. Thirty-six hours later Bob grimaces while you tap on his face. So you ask – because Jane said to be alert to his tolerance to everything you do – "Do you want me to stop? Am I hurting you?" And he answers, "No. Need to talk better."
This is the same Bob who has only announced "Captain Crunch" without any apparent context, till now.
When you pull shut your agape mouth and still the shivers in your elbows, you dash to phone your husband at work, to share this breakthrough. When you and he stop laughing and crying together, you turn to Bob, saying, "It’s your dad. Do you want to speak to him?" You’ve said that, of course, thousands of times before.
Bob takes the receiver for the first time, now, and says into it, "I love you Daddy. I love you Daddy."

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These are actual case histories from the experience of The HANDLE Institute in Seattle. (Read the entire article in the July-August issue of the Autism Asperger’s Digest. Subscribe today!)