Recent global figures suggest that 1:65 children are now on the autistic spectrum, an increase from 1:110 back in 2012. This is a significant and alarming increase and still there is no clear indicator as to what really causes autism. However there is much suggestive evidence that genetics, differing brain structures and the environment interplay in causality. This raises the question as to what there might be in our modern environment that is causing such a sharp rise in the identification of children with autism.
Certainly urban environments are far more stressful for sensitive brains than previously, if you were sensitive to sound and light but grew up in a kampong, the light was gentle, the sounds were natural and there were minimum pollutants. Food was also not as full of additives and school, travel and technology did not make as many demands on your attention and physiological processing. In village life you got to walk on uneven surfaces, climb trees and learn about your body in space, experiences that do not happen so naturally for modern day children who grow up in air-conditioning that whirrs, and concrete that does not make so many demands on the vestibular system to help develop body awareness and perception. Modern day brains are getting wired differently and from these sharp rises in the incidence of ASD not always in a good way.
Last month we were training in the role of play for social learning in autism in rural India. Given that social impairment is one of the key symptoms of autism this was very topical and relevant. Understanding how children learn and how children play helps us to understand and to communicate with children with autism, and if we are able to meet them on their own terms and build connections we can help them develop some social communication.
CreateCATT will launch our new online training later this year on “Understanding autism and helping children with autism learn through play” featuring Dr Suvi Pitkola, an expert in working with autism. Do register your interest at www.createcatt.com. The training will showcase case examples filmed at Deepi Special School in rural India.