Overcoming Social Alienation and Autism in Russia
We are Anna and Arthur, parents of Greg, a 9-year-old boy who was diagnosed with low-functioning autism when he was three. It is hard to imagine, but today our boy is a healthy child. Of course, he does not have the same level of knowledge that children his age without disorders have, but we are all learning a lot and he has been very successful. And the most important thing is that he is now a cheerful, happy, engaging child with no autism diagnosis and no autism symptoms (from allergies to anxiety).
How have we come to this result? It is a very long and interesting story, but today we shall not tell you all the details of our journey! We are going to give new hope to all parents, who love their children and are ready to help create a new future for them. This is not the kind of future in which their children will have to adapt to special schools, special foods and special pills! Nothing special here except for special relationships!
We want everybody to begin to see and feel the problem of autism from a new and different point of view, one that is not commonly accepted in today’s society and clinical research. Our view is that arranging for special education and a special life for autistic children will never bring them to health, to love, or to a full life! We believe that services for autistic people have become a business, a huge money-making machine, and it will only grow to become an even bigger business in the future. And of course, day-by-day this business will need more clients, also known as autistic children.
I am sure that parents today have observed that many organizations are raising a lot of money to help autistic children, but instead of providing answers, we are presented with new questions and the need for more donations! Why is this happening? Because the cause of autism, and the key to overcoming autism, can be seen only from within our biological bodies!
Many of the best clinical researchers are exploring various possible causes of and treatments for autism; however, we believe that none of them are exploring the quality of social contact or exploring a child’s brain from the perspective of social development. Nobody has said, “We are starting a multidisciplinary research project to investigate how social contact develops in ideal situations, how the brain’s biological evolutionary process happened thanks to social interaction, how social contact influences the psychological structure of a child’s mind, and how it affects his or her neurological activity!”
To tell the truth, the absence of such discussions or research investigations is somewhat expected. How could non-autistic people begin to imagine that they are not engaging in the right type of social contact with other people? If we had not come to this kind of crisis in our life, how could Arthur and I begin to understand that we may be socially autistic ourselves? Without this tragedy that we have endured with our son, Greg, how could we believe that something was wrong with us socially? It would have been impossible.
But sometimes life sends us a unique chance to change our own path and the path of our family. For us, this chance came in 2005 when we met Vladimir Matvievski, Ph.D., the founder of an innovative theoretical and practical research community, the Social Autism Research Laboratory in Moscow, Russia.
The laboratory is dedicated to exploring human contact development and to developing a practical transformation procedure to overcome social alienation and autism. In the case of autism (in which there are brain development and social communication problems) experts and practitioners in this community agree that the biological functioning of the brain is affected by a specific type of social contact, which they call direct and unconditional.
As parents within this community, we have changed our lives and daily routines. We have changed the type of contact we have with our children. We have developed an understanding of our own psychostructural states and we foster growth and improvement in the biological functioning of our children. We do it without any medical help, and without the help of speech pathologists or other types of special service providers. We do it everyday with our own hands.
We now know how to gain eye contact with our son, how to get a smile or a word from him, how to get that sparkling in his eyes! We don’t always know and cannot anticipate in which specific and beautiful form his contact with us or friends and family will be. But we always know what type of contact we are constructing, we know how this contact should be presented in the brain and body, and we know how cognitive functions should connect and integrate social and biological processes. We know the moments during which we are socially alienated and the moments during which we are outside of our own bodies, senses and emotions. We know the moments during which we are observing our child’s growth, as we can catch even the slightest change in his face and behaviour, and the moments that make us feel really connected, really together. And we recognize that controlling this social contact and our togetherness is our only real chance for our child to become the human being that he very much wants and needs to be.
We have had a lot of hard days. We have cried, we have experienced difficult thoughts, and we have endured a great deal of suffering. But know that we also have had joy and happiness because we know that our child’s life and his health are not in the hands of other people. We do not depend on others to provide services. We make progress by ourselves. And we are ready to help support all parents who want to know more about this approach by sharing our story, videos and presentations.
We very much want to thank the founders of this online global autism network for the opportunity that they are giving to parents of children with autism spectrum disorders all over the world.
Anna Grigoryan & Arthur Kazaryan
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.