The Fountains of Fruth: sharing the autistic experience
Copyright 2009, John Manimas Medeiros
A man named "Billy Fruth" is autistic, and you can share his experience. You can walk into a room and feel like he feels, experience his thought patterns, and understand why he is not able to function normally, even though he is very intelligent. In fact, he may appear to be mentally retarded, or "learning impaired" as our updated phrase denotes. His learning appears to be impaired, but what is actually impaired is his ability to communicate with other human beings, and with his environment. What is impaired is his ability to receive signals from the world and focus on one signal at a time. He has this same experience when he is "tested" at school. You will have this same experience if you follow my instructions so that you too can share in the "Fountains of Fruth."
Before I give you the instructions that will enable you to step into a room and know what it feels like to be autistic, or to have "Asberger's Syndrome," let me tell you why there has been an increase in autism in the United States. The reason there is an increase in autism in the United States is because the United States is the chemical capital of the world. The people of the United States have been persuaded, by advertising, of a concept that is diametrically contrary to the most fundamental principle of science. That fundamental principle is that there is no such thing as a cause that has only one effect. The people have been sold the idea that exotic manufactured chemicals that kill weeds, or clean grease off of dishes, or lubricate a machine, or make interesting smells on clothing, or stop a headache, are all "single effect" chemicals. These chemicals are bought by people who apply a concept that is in a sense the opposite of autism. Autism is the failure of the brain to filter stimuli, or thoughts, and pick one, and focus on that one thought, at least for a few seconds, if not for a few minutes, or even for a few hours. Therefore, when you buy a chemical and allow your brain to accept the false idea that the chemical has only a single effect, it only kills the weeds that you want to kill and it harms nothing else, or it only cleans the grease off of dishes and has no other effect, or it only lubricates a machine, or only makes an interesting smell or only stops a headache, you are engaged in a colossally destructive exercise of denial. You are denying all of the science in the world. You are acting on the basis of a belief that is more false than the belief of a primitive dancing around a fire and singing to the god of rain. The fire puts particles into the air, and particles in the air are a contributing cause of rainfall.
There is a wonderful book that should be required reading for every American citizen. That book is Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colburn, Dianne Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers. Our Stolen Future is the story of biologists who went out looking for carcinogens and found something else far more frightening. They found hormone disruptors. The way that a hormone disruptor works is cosmically destructive. A hormone disruptor is a subtle chemical that gets from the environment into the human body, most likely into the human bloodstream. Then, when a female human becomes pregnant, the development of the fetus is changed, deviates from the "normal," by the hormone disruptor. Every stage of development is planned by Nature's genetic system. Every part of the human body, including the brain, develops during particular phases or discrete time periods within the full period of gestation. Therefore, one hormone disruptor might interfere with the development of sexual characteristics, and might increase the occurrence of homosexuality. Another hormone disruptor might be far less subtle in its effects, and could, like Thalidomide, cause a child to be born with short dysfunctional arms that look like the flippers of a seal. So you see, a chemical that functions as a hormone disruptor can get into the human body as a medicine, and not only as an unintended invader. Another medicine that caused a terrible disruption of fetal development was a medicine that was intended to ease the discomforts of "morning sickness." However, pregnant women who took this medicine gave birth to girls who developed uterine cancer at age seventeen. We have a number of medical problems today that appear to have suddenly increased, such as diabetes. Has the increase in diabetes occurred because our diet has too many fats or sugars or starches, or has diabetes increased because the development of a normal pancreas, which produces insulin, is being "disrupted" by a chemical that we have not yet identified?
I believe that the apparent increase in autism is caused by a hormone disruptor. These secretive chemicals are in my opinion the pattern of events that are referred to in the Bible as the "abomination of desolation." There is nothing, no epidemic, no volcano or earthquake or flood that can harm the human species in the same way, with the same depth and scope, as hormone disruptors. Imagine our self-hatred and devastation when we wake up one morning and realize that all of our children are defective because we relied on chemicals to control Nature and make our lives easier. Imagine the world when our most precious treasure is not diamonds or gold, not even health, but a fertile woman who has no hormone disruptors in her body.
Let's keep that thought on hold, like a call waiting on a cell phone, and turn back to having the experience that I believe is caused by a hormone disruptor, the experience of autism. The fountain of fruth is what you would experience if your brain did not possess the necessary ability to filter thoughts, or thought stimuli, and focus on one at a time. The way the brain works is to receive a set of stimuli, at any given time, and examine or integrate each of the stimuli and assign a level of importance to each one, and choose either one stimuli or an integrated (combined) set of stimuli to focus upon. For example, suppose you are sitting in a park beside a pond and you are contemplating the play of light on the water, and the quiet, enjoying your solitude and feeling of comfort and restfulness. You also hear the low voices of other people in the park, and you see children playing out of the corner of your right eye, but you filter out the voices and the children because you have chosen to focus on the restful feeling of your mind and body. Suddenly you hear a very loud sound that your brain recognizes and categorizes as an explosion. Your ears tell you that the sound came from behind you, possibly only twenty feet away. You feel a force of air, a sudden wind coming from behind, brush the back of your neck. Your nose picks up a strange smell, an unusual sulfuric chemical smell, a burnt smell. In a flash your brain filters out all other thoughts and assigns the highest priority to the combined or integrated stimuli of sound, touch and smell that your brain has just received. This sensory experience is even rushed by your brain to emergency sectors. The possibility of an explosion occurring a short distance from your back is interpreted as great danger, the gravest of dangers. Your brain tells you immediately that a harmful object could be coming toward you, an object that could cause you serious injury or even kill you. Your brain has suddenly filtered out all other thoughts. The light on the water, the children playing, the voices of all other people in the park, the sky, the grass, feelings of comfort have been zipped away at lightning speed to some hidden memory bank and replaced with emergency measures. Your muscles receive the fastest signals your brain can send, and you cringe and crouch, make your body as small as you can. Your arms jump to create a protective basket around your head. Only two seconds later you lift your head and turn around and see two teenage boys running away and the residual puff of smoke that results from the detonation of a "cherry bomb" firecracker. Two boys have taken you as their victim, scared the daylights out of you, just for fun. And they also gave you an excellent experience in how the brain works. Your response to a sudden, unexpected stimuli demonstrated your brainís normal and essential ability to receive stimuli, sort them out, choose which to attend to, interpret them, choose again which to attend to, how to respond, and move on to the next event that tells us where we are, what needs attention, and how to act. That is the normal brain. Now lets look at the autistic brain, not having the unusual experience of being near an explosion, but having the ordinary experience of stepping into a room.
In our room, which you can create with your own imagination, every object and literally every "stimuli" that the room produces is a thought inducing "fountain." Think of every stimuli as a squirt or a stream of water coming at high speed and high volume out of a garden hose. The room could be your kitchen, or a friendís living room, or a hospital bedroom. The room could be a den with books on shelves and a television that is turned on, or a work shed filled with tools for carpentry and household repairs. You, being autistic, are going to step into that room. Imagine that every thought that could be "received" in that room is one of those fountains. Consider not only the gross and obvious, such as a chair, a lamp, or a tool, or a magazine cover. Imagine every possible thought that could be stimulated or aroused by every possible stimulus in that room. Consider these subtle examples, which are all examples of thought stimuli that our brains filter out immediately, so quickly and seamlessly that we don't consciously experience the process of receiving the stimuli and sending it away to be forgotten or for possible future reference: the color of the ceiling, the smell of a candle on a shelf, the texture of the lipstick worn by a woman sitting on a chair, the cloth covering the wooden chair, the type of wood the chair is made of, the fuzziness of the carpet, the size of the carpet, the distance from the edge of the carpet to the point where the wallboard meets the floor, the words coming from the mouth of a person who is saying something about the weather, the weather, the clouds visible outside through a window, the faint substance of the glass of the transparent window, the food on the coffee table, the crackers, the similarity of surface of the crackers to the toast you ate that morning, the knife slicing the cheese, the dog barking in the distance, the swishy sound of an electric fan coming from another room, the fold in the pants of a man who is standing in front of you, the cold surface of a glass of liquid that is being handed to you, the words of the man who is handing you the cold glass, the hairs on the back of his hand, a freckle on the back of his hand, the similarity of the back of his hand to other hands you have seen, the bicycles printed on the shirt of the man who is handing you the cold glass, and on and on and on. You can see, if you have even just a little imagination, that I could go on. There are a seemingly infinite number of possible thought stimuli present in the room you have just entered. A thought stimuli is any object or event unfolding that causes your brain to receive, or potentially receive a sensory message -- something seen, heard, felt by the touch, smelled, or some combination of these senses -- that arouses your brain to categorize that sensory stimuli and make an immediate decision as to whether it is to be "shelved" or filtered out, whether it is to be attended to and examined or integrated with other stimuli being received at the same time, and whether or not one of these thought stimuli, or one particular integrated set of thought stimuli, such as the cold glass being placed in your hand, is the event that your brain will focus on, having set aside all others and chosen this one to attend to. Your hand receives the cold glass, you hear the words "Here's your ginger ale," and being focused on this event and having filtered out all other thought, you say, genuinely, "Thank you." That is a normal experience. But if you were autistic, you would have a very different experience. Let's return to the idea that each thought stimuli, that very large number of sensory events in the room which I previously listed, and any more that you can think of yourself, are each a garden hose squirting water on your head. That is what it feels like to be autistic. Every sensory event comes at you and your brain, due to some chemical that disrupted your brain development when you were a fetus, neglected to give your brain the ability to filter out and set aside thoughts that are not needed for the present occasion or a functional social response. Instead of taking the cold glass and saying "Thank you," you look out the window and say "I have a blue bicycle." Your behavior is strange. But no one in the room is terribly upset. They know you. They know that you are strange and that you do not respond to people socially. You respond to something else. You respond to something going on in your brain that is not known to others. You live in your own world, a world in which your head is constantly soaked by the hoses of a thousand squirting thoughts that you cannot control and cannot turn off and set aside so that you can focus on one integrated thought, and respond with one integrated act, and function normally. You may in fact be very intelligent, but your intelligence will rarely if ever be visible to others, because you cannot exercise your intelligence. Your brain must be occupied twenty-four hours a day receiving the torrential rains, the monsoon of thought stimuli that you cannot stop, cannot sort, cannot filter out, cannot control. You respond to them in some way that enables you to barely function, to eat, sleep and eliminate, and to be able to be in the presence of people for short periods, and pretend to be with them in their social situation while you swim almost helplessly through the drenching streams of unstoppable thoughts. You feel much better when you are sitting in an empty white room, with no windows, and no sounds, for a short while. But then, even in that empty room, your brain becomes the enemy. You do not need a room, or any outside world at all to feel the thousands of hoses driving water at your head. Your own brain is a powerhouse of thoughts. You can drown just lying still with your eyes closed, because your brain has thousands of memories and ideas to choose from, to drown you with the fountains of fruth.
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Sources: The loosely identified sources behind this essay on autism include twenty-five years in human services, seventeen years as a social worker, numerous workshops in brain development and behavioral disorders, unnumbered hours of reading in memory and learning, and direct observation of autistic or "behaviorally disabled" children.
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