An excerpt from Dr. Knox's Dissertation:
Celebrate the Children (CTC) strongly embraces contemporary research indicating autism is not a cognitive disorder but more so a movement disorder. In students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the ability to sequence ideas with purposeful movement is a challenging motor task (Hill & Leary, 1992, 1993). According to the National Autism Association (2012), autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that clearly influences movement. In support of this theme, Donnellan and Leary (1995) coined the term “movement differences” to explain this movement disorder as a person having difficulties in starting, stopping, combining, executing, continuing, and switching movements.
Performing dual cognitive and motor tasks is very difficult (Burke, 2005). A movement disorder affects the profile, such as a person’s speech, images, thoughts, perceptions, memories, and emotions. Movement differences make it impossible for an individual to demonstrate competence, particularly through traditional assessment tests (Donnellan & Leary, 1995). According to Donnellan & Leary (1995), the movement disorders are the following (p. 36):
· repetitive movement--self stimulation and repeated actions;
· abnormal facial movement—expressionless, flaccid, or fixed expression, abnormal eye movements, grimaces, teeth grinding, facial tics, lip movements;
· abnormal gait—to fast, slow, halting, peculiar, stiff walking;
· mannerisms—posing, unusual manner of eating, tic-like movements;
· blocking and freezing—lack of movement, difficulty starting movement, stopping during on-going movement, difficulty completing actions;
· unusual postures—odd hand and body gestures, flexion of neck, trunk, or limbs; and
· abnormalities in muscle tone—too little or too much muscle tone, rigid, floppy.
The concept of movement differences is complicated to grasp, especially for schools or individuals with no problems with movement. However, a profound appreciation can be developed by considering it through the eyes of someone with movement impairment. As indicated by Tracy Thresher (2005) during a conference at Syracuse University’s Institute of Communication and Inclusion (ICI) he told his story:
Movement is my disability. Perhaps I look like I do not understand you, but I do. What is hard is for me to show you. Typing allows me to show you my intelligence. More importantly, the typing gives me focus you see Harvey holding my arm. That support helps me focus on typing. The typing then flows from my brain, the words leaping out like flames. Learning just the right amount of physical support is essential, too little or too much and I cannot type the words. The more the facilitator learns very much then hooks into my confidence. . . . This is my biggest problem getting my hand to do what I want it to. Feeling my body in space is not easy. It is lost much of the time and without the facilitator’s physical touch. I have problems with slowing down and I type automatic words. I get going to fact and can’t stop with movement issues like initiation, rhythm and pace, perseveration, impulsiveness, and lack of proprioception. . . . FC is for people like me who have little control over their speech and have problems with controlling their bodies. . . . Typing is my true voice without it I am lost in a world of silence. The facilitator must understand that my speech is not reliable and does not reflect my true intelligence. (Thresher, 2005)
Tracey’s account offers a convincing image to help explain the experiences of students with ASD who also have motor deficiencies. Fortunately, CTC does a great job understanding the connection to movement and presuming nonverbal students are extremely intelligent, which is a significant departure from traditional thinking in many places called schools. (Dr. Mike Knox, Principal at Celebrate the Children)
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.