autism awareness month,  RJ Scott,  stephani hecht

Autism Awareness Blog Hop – Is there a connection to Autism and early onset schizophrenia?

I’m delighted to be taking part in RJ Scott’s Autism Awareness Blog Hop.

Giveaway: I’m giving away two e-book copies from my backlist to two randomly chosen commenters on this post. Just leave a comment on this post (wherever you see it) by 30th April to be in with a chance. I’ll use the e-mail address you comment with to contact the winners.

 

Is there a connection to Autism and early onset schizophrenia?

It seems like it would be a simple enough question to find an answer to. But if there is one thing I’ve found out since I entered the medical field is never say every and never say never. That means there are always people out there who can defy the odds medically. So, I began my research. I studied the past history of some of the individuals in question. I interviewed medical professionals in the field. Finally, I pulled on my own past experience with severely impaired adults. Right or not, these or the conclusions I came up with.

 

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the videos of mistreatment of the institutionalized coming out of Willowbrook, so long that some of the youngest among us may not be aware of them at all. Geraldo Rivera (Before he sold his soul to the devil) did an exposé about the mental institutions. Back then doctors encouraged parents of mentally disabled children to put them in one of the places and forget about them forever. The abuses inside were so horrid many believe it led to other mental illnesses including schizophrenia. Just think of what it must have been locked away in what was a pit of filth, predators and disease. I’ve talked to some clients who lived in one and they still shake when they think about them.

 

I interviewed one social worker, one mental health nurse and a psychologist. The social worker just gave me a blank stare. The nurse referred me to the doctor. Since I didn’t get permission to use his name I will just refer to him as Doc. “One explanation could be brain pruning,” he said. “What’s that?” I asked. “Around the age of one your brain does some pruning of synapses. Some believe that’s what causes autism in the first place. The second time it happens is around thirteen and if it doesn’t happen that’s when they think schizophrenia can happen.” When I asked him where I could look this up he shook his head, “It’s an unproven science, so you’ll find some junk science out there. I don’t even personally believe it.”

 

Flummoxed, I went with my third source…me. When I was seventeen, I started working at group homes before moving up to workshops. Did I see a lot of clients there with both conditions….you bet. In fact, we used to dread the day the doctor came to the workshop and changed their meds because that meant a couple of weeks of hell as patients adjusted. But, we have patients who were diagnosed with schizophrenia years after the institution. How do we explain that one away? Plus, schizophrenia is at a low rate for children no matter if they have autism or not. The sad thing is we may never know the answer to this question. Mentally ill and handicapped are the last ones the medical field seems to care about. Until that changes we parents will all continue to flounder in the dark.

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