What is Autism?
Autism is commonly misunderstood because it cannot be easily defined or described. It is misunderstood because it covers such a wide variety and usually a combination of different behaviours. Hence the name Autism Spectrum. It is rightly called a spectrum because of the very large variations of types of behaviour, combinations of behaviours and the variations of intensity exhibited of each of these. It is also often not easy to diagnose in babies and young children. This article will look at the link between Autism and Sensory Deprivation Therapy.
Behaviours vary greatly from difficulties in social interaction, speech, understanding, tics, repetitive behaviours, orderliness and many many more. The very large number of possible combinations of all of these means that no two people on the Autism Spectrum are the same. If it manifests only in a mild form, many people go through life without ever even knowing it or recognising it. Sometimes they and others are only aware that they are somehow “different” from the average person. However even the so-called average person usually has some behaviour or thought process somewhere on the spectrum if only in a very mild form. Many extremely intelligent or talented or well-known people both past and present have shown characteristics of autism spectrum.
One condition experienced by some on the autistic spectrum is the dislike of strong sensory input such a loud noise. It is mainly because of this trait of low sensory input overload thresholds that prompted researchers to start to study the possible effects on Autism using REST Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique. The first studies were done in the 1960s. These studies prompted the well-known REST researcher Peter Suedfeld to do some more controlled research in 1981. See below. Some of the REST research that floatation therapy refers to was not done using a salt water sensory deprivation tank but rather using a darkened room with minimal sensory input. The first research paper below used this while the second used a salt water sensory deprivation tank.
Autism and REST Research
- REST as a Treatment for Children with Autism. Eight autistic children between the ages of 5 and 11 were studied. Several positive changes in behavioural and cognitive functioning were noted.
- Quality of Life with Flotation Therapy for a Person Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Atypical Autism, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression. Sweden 2013.
The future of autism and sensory deprivation
Both of these research projects showed positive outcomes for the participants with the subject in the second study becoming so taken with the positive changes that she experienced in her condition and her life in general that she made the use of the sensory deprivation tank became an important and regular part of her life.