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Autism etc.

June 11, 2011

At the recent Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference, I had a table near a woman (name forgotten) selling Robert Melillo’s book Disconnected Kids. After an interesting conversation with her, and after scanning the book, I bought and have read most of it. (The center part is a kind of workbook, not a simple read, so I’m working through it little by little.) I found, without any doubt, some of the most fascinating information about brain hemispheres and absolutely the most encouraging information about autism spectrum disorders that I have ever seen. Since reading about brain functions is a kind of hobby for both me and my husband, any book on this topic has good competition.

Basically, the premise of the book is that autism, asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia, and the rest of the related alphabet soup of learning-disabled sufferings have a cause and a cure. The cause is weakness in particular parts of the brain which failed to develop on schedule and were therefore unable to make proper connections with other parts of the brain; consequently their functions are not properly integrated into the total work of the brain.

The cure is to stimulate the particular part of the brain that is behind and give it a chance to catch up. Stimulating the whole brain equally is not necessarily helpful because the problem is in the imbalance.

Well over half of these problems are in the right brain, and boys disproportionately suffer from them because the right brain in boys is larger and it develops more in the early years of life so any failure of development takes hold early on. In girls, it would take a larger failure of right brain development to cause as much damage. But that’s a very quick summary of a very fascinating piece of research.

The great thing is that for fifteen years, Dr. Melillo has worked successfully with children so that they become able to study, learn, and enjoy their playmates in a normal manner. He starts the book with this quoted exchange from a little girl named Becky, aged 12:

My teacher asked if anyone in the class ever heard of autism, so I raised my hand and said, “I have because I used to have autism.”

My teacher said, “That can’t be because nobody used to have autism; you have autism.” Then I stood up and explained to everybody about Brain Balance and how it made my autism go away.

I will spend some time reviewing this material because it is so important. There is so much suffering out there, and so little hope. Furthermore, even if you don’t have autism, you have a right and a left hemisphere in your brain, and it’s interesting to understand them better. I just love it that he explains the way they work together; we need both!! It is very complex, very wonderful.

Melillo has two books. I have read only a few pages of the second, called Reconnected Kids. Apparently, it is a discussion of how to help the renewed child integrate into his family. Sometimes, we are so defined by a suffering or disability that if it is taken away, we get lost, and he found that he had to address that as well.

Wow! This is what my mom used to call a “happy problem,” — success so great that it actually makes a new problem! We could wish for more of those! They are altogether real and no less demanding, however.

Because Melillo is not a Catholic, or at least his work is in a secular setting, the terms in which he addresses the problems of reintegration could occasionally be a little grating to Catholic home educators, but his insights are altogether worthwhile and exciting.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 11, 2011 1:49 pm


    I’m eager to hear more!


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