My mother sent me a fascinating article in Discover Magazine by Carl Zimmer, entitled The Brain. A neuroscientist who specializes in autism, Eric Courchesne, has detected a pattern in the MRI scans of individuals with autism. He found that within the first year of life the brains of children with autism are significantly larger than those of same age neuro-typical children. He also found that a neural explosion takes place during that period, which then tapers off by age five and by the time some of those children are teenagers their brains actually had begun to shrink. He goes on to say that this points to the origins of autism occurring during the second or perhaps third trimester of pregnancy. He speculates that it may be a virus and/or some sort of environmental influence that triggers the overproduction of neurons during that period.
This theory is one that Emma’s neuoropsychopharmacologist suggested to us many years ago. I am interested to see where this research will take us.
Someone asked me the other day what books on autism I recommend. There are three specifically that I think are essential reading for anyone interested. The first, Autism and Representation edited by Mark Osteen is an exploration of the various ways autism is represented in film, books and other forms of public media. It is one of the more interesting books written on the subject of autism. The other two are written by the late Clara Claiborne Park about her daughter whom she calls Elly in the first book, The Siege and by her real name Jessy in the second, Exiting Nirvana. These two books were pivotal for me in the years following Emma’s diagnosis. Elegant, intelligent and beautifully written, I cannot recommend any books written by the parent of a child with autism more highly. She was the first to write of her relentless desire to understand, support and help her daughter during that unfortunate period in time when mothers were blamed for their child’s autism. When I learned of Clara Park’s death in July, 2010, I wept.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book