168. Navigating the Autistic Brain; A Complex JourneyJan 25, 2024
The episode begins by unraveling the consequences of overload – impaired processing, deteriorating levels of cognition, and the accumulation of stress chemicals that lead to physical pain and panic. Communication becomes a challenge, with language skills weakening, and attempts to reason often exacerbating the overwhelm. The heightened senses of autistic individuals add an extra layer to this complex experience.
Shannon then introduces the concept of the brain as a circuit, illustrating the relationships between the brain stem, limbic system (emotion center), and frontal cortex (thinking center). The metaphorical racecar encounters a double whammy as poor filtering systems bombard the Limbic System with intense stimulation, while weak connections with the frontal cortex render thinking centers unable to control emotional floods. This dynamic often results in strong emotional reactions.
The explanation of how these dynamics contribute to meltdowns, where processing, thinking, and problem-solving skills fall apart, provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by autistic individuals.
She explores shutdown as a protective mechanism when the brain is overwhelmed. Gradual exposure to stress may lead to a shutdown, where one or more senses close down, and the individual becomes lethargic and unresponsive. Unfortunately, this defensive response is often misread as daydreaming or noncompliance, leading to increased prompting and potential meltdowns.
Listeners are encouraged to embrace a deeper understanding of the autistic experience, recognizing that the challenges are rooted in brain-wiring rather than intentional behavior.
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