Helping children with autism and substance abuse is not easy. Both autism and substance abuse are currently thought to be genetic diseases, exacerbated by environmental stress. Although autism and substance abuse occurs in dysfunctional families, a simple application of the “them and “us” mentality does not work, because autism and substance abuse in young children is increasing across the board.
A 2003 study by Courchesne et al at the University of California found that although most autistic kids were born with less than average head size, within the 1st 14 months of life, the head size had increased by up to 84% with corresponding neo plasticity in the brain.
The orthodox view is that the impaired autistic brain is simply making a mass of jumbled connections, unable to “cope’ with the normal environment. Many consider that substance abuse also has genetic origins. Packages are delivered to those in trouble, mainly medications, with limited help to assist their social development, help is limited to dealing with symptoms, and effects.
Largely ignored are the relational dynamics of the early childhood environment.
The holistic view is that it is the early childhood environment that is harming the child, that the child is only responding in the best way that it can to confronting situations.
Children can grow up to be healthy and creative, from an apparently dysfunctional home – but the experience of Romanian orphans suggests that repression and regression are the norm with early childhood trauma. Families beset by racial tension, poverty and lack of education, can from the depths of their despair, still cling to the essential values of human existence and bring their children up right. Many Romanian orphans developed in abnormal ways, or simply failed to thrive due to deficits in the infant environment.
We repress the idea that in “good” suburban homes family dynamics and interactions can be so fundamentally wrong that children are choosing an autistic route in their development, which includes solitary, simple, repetitive behaviors and substance abuse or self harming in place of human relationship.
Everyone needs the love and support of a family, just like we need good food, however sometimes food can be contaminated, and toxic, just as can be some human relationships, embedded in family structures.
Every child in the family is exposed to different dynamics: sex, birth order, family circumstances and inherent personality. The family can be a place oppressive and traumatically restrictive of the child’s right to develop his full potential as a unique individual.
It is not a matter of blaming or shaming but simply cause and effect. People don’t mean to cause trauma to their children, but they can, and often do. Holistic counseling methods can help bring non judgmental understanding and healing of dysfunctional relationships, in the family and in the wider community.
Autism has only recently hit the scene as a modern day disaster, along with increasing substance abuse in increasingly younger children. Apart from military kids, whose stressors are plain to see, parents generally are in denial that they could be a contributing factor. Autism used to be called “infant psychosis”. Infantile psychosis is caused when society conspires to squeeze a football into a box – putting responsibility for the resulting misfit with the ball, and firmly closing the lid.
Holistic counseling helps to mold both the box and the ball to a better “fit”.
Holistic counseling methods can help entire families to get free of unhealthy boxes and baggage, helping children with autism and substance abuse to get a new start in life.