Regressive autism occurs when toddlers who reach proper
developmental milestones lose language and social skills
they’ve previously achieved.
Journalist Ron Suskind appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss his
family’s experience with regressive autism and how his son Owen just
“started to vanish” when 2 1/2. Watching Disney movies helped his
son recover sufficiently to communicate again, albeit on an autistic
Ron Suskind wrote a New York Times piece called “Reaching My
Autistic Son Through Disney” where he described his experiences with
Owen’s regressive autism.”He didn’t understand the language, but the
exaggerated facial motions,” Suskind said. “We basically had to
become animated characters for a year.”
Watch the full clip with Ron Suskind on HuffPost Live.
According to Dr. Harold Levinson, Suskind has written a
magnificent clinical description of how his son chose Disney
characters and stories to regain his speech and communication, albeit
on an autistic level. And how his amazing family utilized this mode to
help communicate with him during his journey back from a seeming
void. In many ways, this therapy is similar to those uncanny
therapists able to reach schizophrenics psychotherapeutically when
only a few antipsychotics were available. For best results, both somatic
and psychological contact therapies are crucial.
Autism in many ways is akin to schizophrenia and aphasia,. It appears
to be a somatopsychic dysfunction in which a language impairment of
neurological origin triggers psychological responses which cannot be
properly expressed and addressed, nor even understood except by a
rare few such as Suskin. The feelings of isolation and confusion must
be terrifying. Its like being lost in space. And it took a loving, highly
gifted family and outstanding healers to reach him and bring him to
earth. Although his neurology may not have changed, it apparently
was sufficiently freed by identifying and then understanding Disney
characters and content to reconnect with his family and then others.
This led to vital anxiety reduction which no doubt had previously
resulted in a functional stalemate if not a regression.
Needless to say, Suskind’s narrative should be intensely studied by
neuroscientists for vital insights with the same intensity as those using
neuroimaging techniques. Only then will the mysteries of autism be
better understood and more rapidly solved.
About Harold Levinson, M.D. :
Formerly Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University
Medical Center, Dr. Harold Levinson is currently Director of the Levinson
Medical Center for Learning Disabilities in Long Island, New York. He is a
well-known neuropsychiatrist, clinical researcher and author.
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