Saturday, September 15, 2007

Empathic Smiles.

Yesterday evening I was coming back from taking Hodmandod Senior to the station when I found myself thinking about a photograph we have of our two boys. It is my favourite shot and is on prominent display in our living room: Hodmandod Major is aged about six and holding the hefty Hodmandod Minor (aged about twelve months) on his lap.

Major looks proud and Minor, as usual, looks happy. They are both smiling and it is this fact that they are imitating what presumably the cameraman is doing to them that I was considering as I drove home; the strange phenomenon that every child learns, in his early months, to make eye contact and to smile in response to another human smile. Even an autistic child learns this; even my nephew who is at the lower end of the autistic spectrum (and at the age of thirteen can hardly speak at all) smiled when he was a young baby. But then, just at the time of the first MMR jab (a coincidence, I believe, although my parents are convinced otherwise), this skill, in the autistic child, is somehow lost.

Recently, when I was colouring in my brain book I read that the neurons develop outwards in the developing human brain. They migrate to the surface and then seem to back-track and then, after a few months, some of these outer neurons die off as if they are not needed.

I also read recently in Nature (News@Nature (21 May 2007)) that in the first six months of life a baby can distinguish between different languages just from visual cues of the speaker but this capacity disappears later in childhood. I suppose this is more evidence of unneeded neurons dying off.

Then I thought that maybe this is what happens in autistic children - it would explain the smile and then that empathic skill being lost. Maybe the wrong neurons disappear.

However that musing is not the point of this post. The point of this post is that I wrote a couple of sentences that may be the start of a new book after several months of doing nothing much except editing and I want to celebrate. I was not suffering from any sort of block, merely overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness. So far it is only a sentence or two but it might be a start.


Blogger Jan said...

Yes, Dr D, YES!
Good news, that.

Sat Sept 15, 07:10:00 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

Halloo, Clare--

And very good, too. I hope it is a little thread out of the labyrinth.

When the wrong things matter in the mainstream, maybe it's time to seek another and healthier tributary....

Mon Sept 17, 03:25:00 am  
Blogger Susanna said...

wow, this sounds exciting. This will be the first time I am around from begining to end.

Mon Sept 17, 03:48:00 am  
Blogger badgirl said...

Dear Claire,
It's been so long since I last wrote. As someone who feels that hopelessness all too often, although, gladly it is always followed by something that shines a light onto the path, beckoning my feet to again trip along merrily, I also shout a joyous yippee for the news of your writing bones stirring.
Just a few weeks ago I spent the weekend with a good friend and her autistic son at a beautiful lake east of the Cascade Mountains here in the state of Washington called Lake Chelan. The mother is a bright ball of positive energy, never flagging in her love for that boy. He too knows few words. Being with him reminds me that there are many forms of reality around us.

Mon Sept 17, 07:20:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jan: 'Good news, that' Just reading that makes me realise that expression is quite a local one.
Marly: And what a labyrinth it seems to be most of the time. Some days I think I'll never get out.
S: I hope it really is a start.
BadGirl: That friend of yours sounds just like my brother. He is unstinting in his efforts to make his life as normal as possible. It is really difficult though.
And after the escape from this labyrinth there will be light - I do believe that. I just have to keep going...also very hard.

Mon Sept 17, 04:36:00 pm  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Congratulations - always a great feeling.

Wed Sept 19, 08:07:00 am  

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