A Book Review: The Ultimate Stranger The Autistic Child

The Ultimate Stranger The Autistic Child

Carl Delacato EdD Academic Therapy Publications, 1974

In the 1930s and 1940s Dr. Temple Fay gathered some younger professionals to form the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potentials in Philadelphia: Dr. Robert Doman (physiatrist) and Glenn Doman (physical therapist) as well as Dr. Carl Delacato (educator). Early on Delacato spent much of his time researching and working with children who had reading and speech difficulties resulting in a number of books. At some point he was asked to turn his work over to others and to move on to another challenge. He began to explore the autistic child and his needs. These men all shared a keen sense of observation and the inability to rest until solutions were found.

In The Ultimate Stranger, Delacato introduces us to the autistic child and gives a history of what we know about autism.

As early as 1943, Kanner had described the autistic child as one who:

    Could not relate / interact with people.
    Could not communicate with others through language.
    Was obsessed with maintaining sameness and resisting changes.
    Was preoccupied with objects in favor of people.
    Had the occasional evidence of good potential for intelligence.

Over the years there have been modifications and additions to that list.

After Dr. Delacato spent time observing these individuals he concluded that all of those "autisms" were actually "sensoryisms." All of those strange behaviors are because of either: too much sensory input; too little sensory input or white noise. Due to injury in the sensory channels (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) there is either too much input, not enough clear input or the child produces his own "white noise" to drown out bad sensory input. The good news is that the same sensory stimulation can normalize the sensory input. Many of the activities that Delacato and the others found helpful in those early days are used today by neurodevelopmentalists and other professionals.

First step: "Read the 'sensoryism'" / observe - Is it hyper, hypo or white noise; Which sense or sense(s) is (are) in play?

Second step: Normalize the sensory input. For instance: The trigeminal nerve enervates all the senses in the head and face area. One activity that normalizes these "sensoryisms" is "Trigeminal Stimulation" - one variation is to lightly touching all of the areas in the neck and head area beginning at the midline and moving away and around. Follow that by firmly touching these same areas. This should be done in short (2 minutes), frequent (2 times a day) for a period of months.

While following the steps above, the parent / therapist must stop all sensory play or "stimming." This type of input is not specific and controlled. It is neurologically disorganizing and may result in regression. The autistic individual becomes so involved in "sensory play" that they can not get on with life / development. A parent / therapist will know the behavior is sensory play if the child resists when told to stop.

Delacato's masterpiece, The Ultimate Stranger - The Autistic Child succeeds in helping us to understand the world of an autistic individual and sets the stage for comprehensive way to address all of the sensory issues.

Article Source: Maggie Dail

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