Autism and the Challenge of Rapid Motor Planning and Initiation in New Situations


My high school has an old farm because it has a magnet program for intensive studies in veterinary science and agriculture. It is really nice because the students care for the animals. Over vacation we have to feed them. There are rabbits, hens, sheep, goats, a horse and a llama. The goats are intelligent and eager to escape to eat leaves. They have the same lock the sheep have on their pen. The sheep can’t open it but the goats open it with ease. To stay in, they require an additional chain and clasp lock and if it isn’t on just right, they escape.
Today was my turn to feed, water, clean and exercise the animals (that is, I exercise and clean the horse and feed and water the rest). We went to give the goats fresh water and in a flash they opened the gate and rushed out to eat leaves. They group up and run away and resist you too so it can be a struggle to get them back in, and the first ones you catch only want to escape to get back to the leaves and their friends.
I was watching this because I was with my mom who asked me to help her with the gate. I am able to do everything I need to do, more or less, but it felt frustrating today because I saw that I still react so slowly in a moment that required speed. I knew I needed to move fast because she had a goat at the gate and didn’t want to lock up the gate completely since there were more she had to put back in the pen. They struggle to get back to their leaves with great intensity and it is a pain to hold a struggling goat with one hand and fumble with a lock with the other.
Autism is an initiation disorder too. I see where I should go and I stay frozen. Doing new tasks is tough because our bodies need to learn the steps. The steps in this moment would be clear to a neuro-typical body, but not to mine. Though my mind knew what to do, it just wasn’t ready to react in time. This is frustrating personally, but perhaps even worse is that our difficulty initiating certain responses confuses many specialists who then assume we don’t understand logic and basic problem solving.
It isn’t the thinking that’s the problem. It is the ability to react and follow our thoughts that we struggle with. I see my skills have improved, because eventually I got to the gate and held it against goats pushing with all their might to escape again. In the end, we got them all back in. Maybe next time we should let them out on purpose so I can get more practice reacting to emergency situations more quickly.

7 Responses to Autism and the Challenge of Rapid Motor Planning and Initiation in New Situations

  1. I like your idea, Ido of letting them out again to give you practice. What a great experience to work with animals. I appreciate your insight into your own mind and spirit. It truly helps me every time I read what you have to say, to work more compassionately with my students. Especially those that have Autism.

  2. Getting frozen initiation happens to me too – especially when it is a shocking event. I think it is just a typical stress response to allow for our brains to analyze the event to respond appropriately. Your problem solving is absolutely fine Ido!

  3. Hi Ido,
    I just read about you in the newspaper today. You are a true inspiration to all. God bless you. Best wishes all the way from Penang, Malaysia.

  4. Hello Ido,
    A news article written in Farsi directed me to your blog, and as it turns out, I have only two degrees of separation from you. That is, I have met your fellow silent fighter, Carly, who studies at my University.
    I really like how you make your day-to-day struggles make sense to everyone. I think you are very good at clear communication, which is much more difficult than most people realize – in fact, a lot of people think they are good at while they are not at all.
    P.S. Keep it up. Your determination is awesome!

  5. Hi Ido,
    I, too, just read the LA Times article about you and I’m both enlightened and inspired by your story. My 10 yr old son, Ryan, has Autism and he has limited verbal abilities. Ryan LOVES letters (he’s quite fond of the letter “H” as well) and he’s showing us that he is learning to read and spell. My question for you is: which iPad app do you use for the text to speech capabilities?
    I look forward to reading your book and following your blog. Keep up your amazing work. You are helping so many people out there who otherwise don’t have a voice. Thank you!

  6. January 18, 2014
    Dear Ido, if I may call you Ido,

    I read your book today and I thank you for enlightening me in many ways. It is quite a piece of writing! You are a hoot when it comes to “high fives.” By the way, the feel of the book is so nice, physically. The page layout and all that, and the division into subheadings, properly labeled. I am a writer myself (non-fiction) and set a lot of store by the structure of my texts.

    I want to tell you what a pleasure, and relief, it is for me to discover a young leader. I am always vaguely searching for one but they are so scarce. You must have been born to it. Even though one could say you got there via your particular struggle, I don’t think so. I think you care about humanity and would be just as revved up as you are, had you been the most N of NT’s.

    I recently read a book by Adair on “Leadership in Confucianism.” And for no reason other than Youtube offering me it as one of today’s selections (because, of course, they know my taste), I have just listened to “Malcolm X – the Last Speech.” It is 14 minutes of unassailable logic.

    The logic in your book is also unassailable. You can cease worrying that you will be criticized for it. Of course you will be criticized but that just goes to show…. And anyway it’s obvious that you don’t crumble under criticism. You’ve made me feel sorry for the guy who called the magazine to cancel your article. He is in a No-win situation. Poor bugger.

    Ido, would a child who had never been to a swimming pool or the beach have an instinctive knowledge that climbing into the water would be nice? As you know, there are cases of children drowning. You have explained (which I had never thought of) that the pressure of the water is helpful, but I am curious as to this being an innate drive. If innate, then we all have it.

    I mean, per evolutionary theory, there can’t suddenly in the 20th century have evolved a new drive only for the sub-population that got autism. About 30 years ago there was a theorist who said our species may have evolved in the water. I have never given that any credence — and I can’t bear swimming myself – but your report made me think of it.

    Tonight I am going to a 21st birthday party of my friend’s son. I shall read a poem to him. I show it below, as I reckon your father would dig it.
    All the best to you, Young Scholar, and keep on truckin,’

    Mary.Maxwell at alumni.Adelaide.edu.au

    On the Birth of a Son. (By David Campbell)

    The day the boy was born the wall fell down
    That flanks our garden. There’s an espaliered pear,
    And then the wall I laboured with such care,
    Such sweat and foresight, locking stone with stone,
    To build. Well, just a wall, but it’s my own.
    I built it. Sitting on a garden chair
    With flowers against the wall, it’s good to stare
    Inwards. But now some freak of wind has blown
    And tumbled it across the lawn — a sign
    Perhaps. Indeed, when first I saw the boy,
    I thought, ‘He’s humble now, but wait a few
    Years and then we’ll see, — out following a line
    Not of our course at all. And then with joy
    I looked beyond the stones and saw the view.

  7. Oopsie. I meant to say “the most typical of neuro-typicals. So please change my “N” to a “T.”

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