Treating autism as traumatic brain injury

I've been doing research into autism, dyspraxia, how the normal brain works, and how an autistic/dyspraxic brain works (or doesn't work). Traumatic injury to different parts of the brain can cause the same problems suffered by autistic and dyspraxic children. Compare this list of the functions of different parts of the brain and the problems caused by injuries to those areas with these descriptions of dyspraxia and autism.
What is Developmental Dyspraxia?

Developmental dyspraxia is a disorder characterized by an impairment in the ability to plan and carry out sensory and motor tasks. Generally, individuals with the disorder appear "out of sync" with their environment. Symptoms vary and may include poor balance and coordination, clumsiness, vision problems, perception difficulties, emotional and behavioral problems, difficulty with reading, writing, and speaking, poor social skills, poor posture, and poor short-term memory. Although individuals with the disorder may be of average or above average intelligence, they may behave immaturely.

What is Autism?

Autism (sometimes called "classical autism") is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it. Scientists aren't certain what causes autism, but it'’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

This got me thinking. Since children with traumatic brain injuries can recover (sometimes dramatically) has anyone ever thought to treat autistic children as if they were suffering from a traumatic brain injury? I have no idea what kind of treatment children with traumatic brain injuries receive (I still have research to do) but there doesn't seem to be the same level of contentiousness surrounding traumatic brain injuries as there is surrounding autism.

My research thus far also leads me to wonder about the insistence by some that childhood vaccinations and/or thimerosol are the cause of autism. Has anyone properly mapped the areas of the brain that are involved in the various expressions of autism (and other developmental disorders). Has anyone properly identified how the autistic/developmentally delayed brain is different from the typical brain. And has anyone put forth a testable hypothesis as to how vaccinations and/or thimerosol act on the human brain to produce the changes that result in autism and other developmental disorders.

More links
Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders)
Autism Fact Sheet

Dyspraxia in children

So What is Going on in the Brain?
Childhood Apraxia of Speech


  1. Hi, Sam,

    You have a GREAT blog! I stumbled across it when I googled "traumatic brain injury autistic behaviors." We have a 7-year-old daughter who suffered TBI when she was ejected from a vehicle at ten days old. Even though she is a people person (friendly, conversational, and very, very affectionate), she exhibits enough autistic behaviors (inability to play appropriately or imaginatively, hand-flapping, no eye contact, displays extreme distress for no apparent reason) to keep me thinking about the similarities. She has made a dramatic recovery from her original prognosis ("This child may never walk, talk, or see."), but she is still years behind her peers developmentally.

    I am wondering whether you have found out anything more about the correlation between TBI and autism? I have never bought into the vaccination theory. (I have a nephew with autism who's never had a vaccination of any kind.) Since entering (and embracing!) this sub-culture of special needs kids, I have often wondered whether autism is not just another form of injury to the brain. Perhaps there is not "the same level of contentiousness" surrounding TBI, because parents of children with TBI can point to a specific cause of injury -- something to blame. With autism, I imagine that most parents want/need SOMETHING to blame -- thus the contentiousness and thus the vaccination theory.

    I moved on from your autism posts to others and have enjoyed them all. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Let's not confuse a genuine search for
      truth with 'need[ing] something to blame',
      although the two motivations can exist side
      by side. One word is used to label children
      with such diverse presentations caused by
      such a vast range of conditions; would this
      kind of intellectual laxity be tolerated in
      any other field of so-called scientific
      research? How many children have to live
      in isolation and terror, regarded as only
      semi-human, denied opportunity to develop,
      mercilessly drugged, subjected to insults
      which they understand but to which they
      cannot offer a rebuttal, and denied the
      level of medical care others take for
      granted, before doctors and the special-
      needs industry realize that many of
      their theories and assumptions are false?
      Maybe when 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is taken seriously...

  2. Thanks for stopping by Deb. I've been meaning to work up a blog post around your comment as it reminded me of some points I still want to make about autism and TBI and parents needing someone or something t blame for their kids' autism.

    My speculation about autism and TBI comes from a side by side comparison of the behaviours associated with both. I've heard story after story about soldiers and marines with TBI and thought, gee, these guys sound just like my kids! Because of TBI we know what kinds of behaviours are governed by which parts of the brain. The same strategies that help people with TBI work with their new wiring could help people with autism work with the wiring they've always had.

  3. Hello!

    I just came across this blog, as I am too interested in the root causes of autism, with my main research into trauma of the brain due to vaccinations, and the therapies that are possible to release that trauma over time to allow more normal functioning. What I am mainly interested in is more information on actual effects of the vaccinations, and why certain areas of the brain seem to shut down (ie: upper functioning cognitive sections) and others become dominated (RAS Reticular Activation Center which regulates primal functionings). I also am approaching this subject from a spritual level, noting that many of these children are extremely sensitive souls and high functioning on levels we may not perceive and perhaps when vaccinated their systems wiring gets overloaded. Imagine during the booster vaccination as 4 strands of foreign matter are injected into the system, I would imagine that panic/fear responses and primal function would be alarmed in any child, but especially with these kids who seem to have other environmental sensitivities and acute perceptual abilities. Children on the Autism spectrum seem to be "stuck" in a feedback loop inside of their primal/fear body reactions within the RAS. My research is primarily focused on trauma release in the RAS and amydala (the part of the brain which stores trauma/stress events), and eventually applying suggestive and subtle music therapy, helping the child to release and relax, and then integrate and ground into their bodies. I have a sense that these kids like anyone else can benefit from repatterning work and therapy within the brain. I have hope that the autistic spectrum children/adults have a lot of gifts to contribute to this world, and with some assistance they may be able to bridge themselves back into the ability to funciton more readily in our world. I would love more insights into the vaccination trauma conection if any of you have any links or suggestions to add to the research. Thank you!!

    1. You have touched upon some important points. I don't like the labelling system
      commonly used these days because:
      -it hides or denies underlying pathologies
      (one of which can be CNS infection, although I doubt from reading and experience that vaccination is very
      often at fault), so the 'establishment'
      throws up its hands and declares the whole
      phenomenon a mystery: we are talking here
      about sick people who need healing!
      -it hides or denies emotional illness
      in people of lower functional level who
      are perhaps more sensitive to psychological
      injury than most of us and are forced to
      endure it routinely through injustices
      and the limiting conditions of their lives
      -it encourages destructive stereotyping of
      individuals, from which a lot of very bad
      teaching and stupid, demonstratively
      harmful drug treatments result (I would
      say to parents: beware when the experts
      get hold of your kid).
      The paralyzing anxiety you refer to can
      ruin lives and of course is accentuated
      by aphasia and apraxia: how awful must it
      be to think something but not be able to
      say it, to wish to perform an action but
      not have one's muscles at one's command.
      I learned a lot about this from my son,
      who used to communicate very well using
      a typewriter even though his speech is
      severely impaired and his motor skills
      quite spotty. I also learned that his
      verbal reasoning and emotional/social comprehension were at the best of times
      excellent, even exceptional; unfortunately
      he did not have reliable access to his
      assets and most of his thoughts remain
      his own. He most definitely had 'gifts to
      contribute' but if one does not conform
      successfully by age 11 or 12 steps are
      taken to ensure that one is put out to
      pasture. Eventually one is reduced to what
      'naysayers' (my son's term) expect, or worse (self-fulfilling prophecy).
      Regarding the spiritual capacities of
      the 'mentally handicapped', they are made
      in God's image, capable of sin, and
      in need of forgiveness and salvation
      through Christ, just like anyone else.
      Being already at arm's length from
      'the world', might some actually be in
      a privileged position, spiritually:
      '...did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the
      kingdom which He promised to those who
      love Him?'?

    2. I write as a sign of gratitude to God, i am really happy to be alive today and see the break of another day, I lived and suffered with TBI for a very long time after I suffered a terrible crash, I was shy and couldnt say it out because of ego issues. I suffered in silence till I was able to get herbal products by DR Jose Alessio, and with his drugs, prayers and instructions I was treated and now i am a happy survivor! pray to God and follow the instructions of Dr Jose, he has the perfect solutions for Schizophrenia,Traumatic Brain Injuries, Delusions, Brain cancer, Aphasia, Autism, Psychosis and any brain related ailment, you name it!. Do not wrestle with death on your own, contact him

  4. Hello,

    I have an 8 year old Autistic son. I am now convinced that Autism IS TBI that occurred in-utero or at birth or shortly after birth (delivery room). My son's birth was very difficult and he was born by c-section (emergency). Loss of oxygen was noted (blue fingernails). His APGAR was 8.5 due to the blue fingernails. He had a large bruise on the left side of his head. The docs told me that was normal. I wanted a CT scan, but they said it was not necessary. Now I know why - they didn't want his TBI detected. anyway. . .I digress. . .

    I have found that all of the therapies that we have employed for Autism have many similarities to the therapies used for TBI. It just depends what part of the brain has been affected.

    Perhaps more can be done, but when something goes wrong with neurological development, it seems hardwired (no going back - at least with our current medical knowledge).

    I hope we can do better in the future for our children who are born with TBI (Autism).

    Thanks for thinking about this and sharing your ideas.

    another deb

  5. I have a 3 year old son who suffered a TBI when he was 11 months old by a fall. Before realizing the damage that fall did to his brain, we had him evaluated. The dr. diagnosed him with autism. Since then his EEG came back abnormal, confirming the injury. We strongly feel our son has been misdiagnosed with autism when in actuality, it's a TBI. But the doctors keep insisting on autism. It has been very frustrating, but both are similar in symptoms. And because of this, I feel the treatments are similar. An example is hypberbaric oxygen treatment - used for brain injury AND autism, because it produces the same results and improvements in both.

    1. I most certainly do sympathize. Most doctors I have met seem either allergic
      to careful thought about individual cases
      or else too scared to buck the prevailing trends of diagnosis. I think the word
      'autism' ought to expunged from the
      medical (pseudo-medical?) vocabulary
      as it is used to describe so many things
      of so many different origins as to be
      meaningless. Unfortunately real treatments
      for physical, neurological problems are
      denied those who need them the most!
      I see that four years have passed since
      you wrote. My prayers are with your son.
      Mine has had awful troubles stemming from
      myopic 'treatment' and a refusal to
      investigate organic damage from illness,
      drug abuse (prescription drugs: beware
      antipsychotics, which are given routinely
      to 'control behavior', but shrink brain
      tissue and cause movement disorder, thereby
      aggravating the behavior they were intended
      to treat-my son called them 'hell drugs'),
      and head injury. By the way, he's had
      seizures too.

  6. No. Believe me, doctors have considered the vaccine hypothesis -tested it, and found no casual link.

  7. Just ran across your blog. Thank you for saying what I have been thinking all along. My son's birth is very familiar to others posted here...difficult delivery, not breather, low apgars, etc. I thoroughly believe it is brain injury. I think it is so frustrating that there are so many vocal groups that tout vaccine injury and genetics, but so few groups and research into the traumatic brain injury theory. How do we change this???

  8. Thanks for stopping by Sara. To be clear I'm not implying that autism is a traumatic brain injury. I'm just noting that the two have very similar behaviours which gives us clues as to how the human brain works in autistic individuals. It may well be that there are many different ways to be autistic with one or more subgroups presenting with difficulties at birth. But the best research available points to genetic differences that affect brain development in utero. Some of that genetic difference may be apparent early on and some may not become noticeable until later on in an individual's development.

  9. I am so happy to see your blog. We recently had my 11-yr-old son undergo a series of tests by a neuro psych and her conclusion was that she believes he is not actually autistic (he's had the diagnosis for 9 years), but that at some point--pre-natally, genetically, or very early on--he suffered a left-brain injury that mimics autism. Since he was adopted at 4 months--and at that point we were immediately aware of differences in him vs other children his age--we do not have early history on him. But this makes sense to us as he technically fits the autism diagnosis, but presents a variety of anomalies contradictory to the diagnosis.

    I look forward to hearing more from this blog. Thank you.

  10. As a professional that works with many children with Autism,and a few with TBI or in other ways brain damaged (cerebral palsy), I would agree that there are many similarities between many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and TBI. Autism certainly is caused by abnormal functioning in the brain - faulty wiring, which we also see with brain injury. Professionals and researchers are still stumped by what causes Autism, however, from observation - there certainly seems to be a genetic link, as we see many of the same traits in fathers, and often siblings, of our children with Autism, although to a much lesser degree. Other families have found that symptoms associated with Autism decrease when allergens are removed from the diet. Many children with autism have improvements in behavior when eliminating gluten (wheat products) and casein (dairy products) from their diet.

    Vaccinations have been ruled out by several studies since the original "study" (i put it in quotes because of the poor quality of data in the original study) as THE cause of Autism.

  11. I find this all very interesting as well, I am glad I came across this blog. My son was recently diagnosed with Autism. I too, like a lot of others here, believe there is a strong connection between TBI and Autism. My complications began at 30 weeks with high BP, that went untreated after an allergic reaction to the med. I was on hospital bed rest, then induced due to high BP at 36 weeks. After 26 hours of unsuccessful labor, I had an emergency c-section. Where my son was pulled out with forceps and my uterus was inverted. He was blue and had to receive oxygen. He was also jaundice. I see a connection with ALL of these issues and the cause of his Autism. I am now in the process of getting him into ABA therapy because his symptoms are only getting worse with age.

  12. My son was 6 last fall when he suffered a TBI from falling onto his head from about 14 feet. It is a miracle that he is alive today. He has made an amazing recovery so far. He "appears" to be just fine. When other people ask how he is doing, I often find myself telling them that "it is almost like he has autism" because that is the only way people can understand. I am actually looking into autism centers to help him catch up with his peers this summer. Thank you all for sharing.

  13. I got hit by a car as it crossed my motorbike while he was driving dangerously and hit my head at 70mph on his bonnet and flew 25 feet into a tree with a smashed helmet and bled to death. My brain was mashed front to back.

    I never used to like eye contact much, now I cant stand it.

    I never liked pubs or clubs, now they make me feel violent or in danger.

    I was never a wonderful multitasker but now cant hold more than one piece of information at a time and that doesnt last long before its gone (burnt toast anyone?).

    I found out my brothers are autistic/asperges and might explain why £50k worth of tbi therapy has done nothing to improve me and actually dragged the very life out of me for months after.

    I think the therapists wernt getting me as they had no experience with autism and couldnt deal with the abnormal responses I gave. My main therapist saw that her "efforts" of keep pushing me to expend myself had nearly killed me and quit her job.

    I can now barely get myself dinner sorted at age 32 (6 years post injury) but quickly decoded algorithms in psychological tests and have an iq in the top ten percent of the uk still.

    All is not lost your kids could turn out very bright, I was considered a lost cause by teachers but at age 16ish I taught myself in small spaced out chunks and can disassemble laptops and engines, repair them and reassemble and build my own electric transportation devices even though I may be like my brothers and lost half my memory and skills again.

    Oh yes on a final note I did a candida diet after antibiotics (no sugar yeast wheat) while taking varied herbs and probitics etc and doubled my mental energy and memory capacity while clearing some god awful stuff out of my body!

    Do your own research and experiment, you can be your own dr who actually wants to improve things not just put a label on you and apply drugs.

  14. Perispinal Enbrel is a powerful anti-inflammatory for the brain.
    It works for some types of autism.
    Visit Neurological Recovery Guide.

  15. Wow. 10 years ago I couldn't find anything on the possible correlation between early infancy tbi and autism. 22 years ago, my son received a tbi at 3 months, and he does have so many autistic behaviors today. But now I am also noticing an OCD type of posturing he has been doing with his hands, arms and legs (he's putting them side by side as if to compare each to make sure they are both identical or of even length) I'm so glad others have finally noticed the correlation as well. I hope more research is forthcoming from this.

    1. My son fell from a 2nd story window at 17 months and suffered 3 skull fractures. He has looked normal ever since but has many Autistic behaviors. Around here I haven't been able to get him the therapies he needs due to not having an Autism diagnosis because the centers will only treat him if he has full-scope Medi-Cal or want a LOT of money I don't have. Been fighting the system (medical and school) for 5 years now. At this point I just hope my son can learn and grow to become more independent as an adult.


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