background

My son Lawrence was born in 1990 and diagnosed with Autism in 1992. In many ways his childhood was typical of autistic kids: he did not respond to his name even though hearing tests were normal, never attempted to “share attention” by pointing, developed language in a very abnormal way (initially nouns only), used toys inappropriately, had no pretend play, would not interact with other children, had very poor impulse control, would fixate on inconsequential things and events, could not tolerate deviations from routine, had a very low frustration tolerance, and developed self-abusive behavior in the form of head hitting, and later, hand biting. Luckily, he was able to acquire language; he can read, write, and is verbal. Unfortunately, as he got older his obsessive/compulsive symptoms worsened, and his agitation, anxiety and self-abusive behaviors became more severe, partly just due to his increased size and strength.

Between 1992 and 2005 we aggressively intervened with various therapies, most notably Applied Behavior Analysis and pharmacology. We sought out the most knowledgeable medical professionals and came to Dr. Eric Hollander, Director of the Seaver and New York Autism Center of Excellence, and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Dr. Hollander has been my son’s primary physician for the treatment of the symptoms of his autism for the last 12 years. Other therapies included Music Therapy, Movement Therapy, Auditory Integration Training, Social Skills training, and various dietary approaches.

Despite these interventions, some of which did nothing, some of which helped in certain ways, and some of which made things worse, by 2005 we were still dealing with the same set of extremely serious issues. His OCD combined with his behavioral rigidity and high level of anxiety and agitation often made him a virtual prisoner in his own home. He could not go out into the community without completely melting down, screaming, having to be physically restrained so he would not hurt himself. He would not learn because whenever he would make a mistake he would tear up the paper, break the pencils, and completely melt-down. He would smash himself in the face as many as 20 times a day, sometimes resulting in a bloody nose and scratches to his face. He bit the back of his hand so often and so badly that he developed large, scarred, callused areas that were in constant danger of infection.

All this time I spent much of my free time researching autism and trying to understand the behaviors that were destroying our family. I am not a medical professional (see “about the author"), but I attended all the scientific conferences I could, bought and read textbooks on autism, scoured the medical literature for clues and insights, and spent late evenings on the internet collecting both anecdotal and solid scientific information about autism. By 2005 we were at the end of our rope.