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Decoding an Autism Mystery: Why do Autistic Children Withdraw into Themselves?

Active Autistic Brain

Many autistic children seem to be living in their own worlds, a place they are perfectly happy to be in, withdrawn from their surroundings. Many also have trouble sleeping, are hyperactive and it seems to be impossible to shut off their brains for even a moment. The truth of the matter is that they cannot shut it all off, with the autistic mind working an average of 42% more, according to the latest findings in a University of Toronto and Case Western Reserve University joint study. What does that mean though?

Thoughts on Autism
Autism in itself is an interesting disorder. Many specialists might even prefer to use the word "condition" instead, while the opposite end of the argument might call it a mental disease. I call it disorder, personally, because the brain's structure becomes disordered, with different neurons firing about and a generally larger brain looked at. Furthermore, you have the staunch believers in vaccinations causing autism, a theory I cannot follow as twin studies show an extremely high prevalence among identical twins, compared with fraternal or siblings of different ages. As such, autism is a genetic disorder, aggravated by environmental aspects.

An autistic child's brain simply never seems to stop. This might very well account for much of their behavior, as well as the manifestation of savantism or high-functioning gifted attributes. A diagnosis on the spectrum does not mean a child is of low IQ. They may very well be the smartest children in their classrooms, simply misunderstood and mishandled.

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What the Study Found
The aforementioned study followed up on a previous finding where the brains of autistic children were found to be unique, with different connections made within. According to lead investigator Dr. Roberto Fernández Galán. "Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder.”

The brain is a complex structure in itself and what was discovered is that the "Intense World Theory" is quite certainly correct, referring to the autistic mind as the result of the hyper-functioning of brain circuitry leading to over-stimulation. This means that what is absolutely impossible to comprehend for the neurotypical individual is a daily norm for the autistic, including hyper-perception, hyper-attention, hyper-memory and hyper-emotionality. As such, the theory proposes that the autistic becomes trapped in a limited, but highly secure, internal world with minimal extremes and surprises.

A 42% increase in average brain activity during rest is not a small number. It is mind-boggling and absolutely fascinating when one begins to explore the most minuscule of details, only to find something as magnanimous as this study's results. The brain needs to rest in order to recuperate, but it seems that for an autistic child, it is almost an impossible feat. Some of these tips might help in the long run, but the truth of the matter is that we should probably allow our children to enter their own worlds from time to time in order to find the rest that they require so desperately.

An autistic brain is incredible in its abilities, and I for one hope to see science unravel all the secrets it holds, including why they withdraw into themselves, ensuring better awareness and understanding in how to teach, parent and work with those diagnosed to be on the spectrum, high or low.



I have fraternal twin boys with ASD. One of them often retreats to somewhere beyond reach. The other is constantly moving and talking to himself or anyone who will listen to him. Both have had trouble sleeping at various times. Too bad this research was not around in 1995 when we were trying to figure out what was going on with them. They are now 23 years old! It has been a constant battle since kindergarten to get adults to understand that they think differently and learn differently. The one who retreats sees no reason for social skills but continues to try to learn them to "fit in" in our society.
Excellent article