Well THAT explains a lot! (New Neuroscience Research Findings)

“Did you notice how angry your sister is getting when you talk to her like that?”

“Can you see that mom is frustrated when you’re not listening?”

“What do you mean, you didn’t think she was sad? She’s crying!”

These might seem like things only parents with kids on the Autistic spectrum may say to their kids. But as a mom with 2 children who have Bipolar Disorder, it’s the same here… just unpredictably. One day (or week) things seem neurotypical, the next, eye contact is gone and the stimming behaviors are back. My least favorite of the behaviors is how my oldest daughter doesn’t seem to be able to read emotions accurately in friends and others around her.

She’s very verbal, interactive, affectionate…. and somehow just doesn’t read people right no matter how much we practice.

Then, yesterday, I realized why!

In a news release, the Society For Neuroscience revealed new findings on what makes our kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fragile X and Bipolar Disorder act the way they often do. Here are a few of the key ideas that emerged:

  • Children with bipolar disorder look at facial features other than the eyes when determining facial expressions. The findings may explain why they have difficulty identifying emotions, like children with autism (Pilyoung Kim, PhD, abstract 299.10, see attached summary).
  • An enzyme called STEP is elevated in a mouse study of fragile X syndrome. Removing that protein makes the mice more social, suggesting a new therapeutic target (Susan Goebel-Goody, PhD, abstract 238.02, see attached summary).
  • The gene that causes fragile X syndrome is associated with brain structure and working memory in healthy men, a finding that may explain why its loss causes disease (Susan Rivera, PhD, abstract 645.08, see attached summary).

Did you catch that first one? Once I read it, my first thought was “I knew it!” It’s always seemed like there was something else going on with my kiddo. Now I’m wondering how many of the friends she’s lost over time might have really connected with her if she was looking at the most emotive part of their faces.

I guess I have my work cut out for me with this new skill.

Has anyone successfully done that with their child before? What techniques or exercises helped your child most?


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