Autism/ADHD/Dyslexia and Brain Wiring…Fibromyalgia and Brain Wiring??

“One of the problems in understanding sensory issues is that sensory sensitivities are very variable, among individuals and within the same individual”, Temple Grandin

I have recently heard interviews on NPR with Dr.Temple Grandin, one of the leading experts in autism. Unfortunately I don’t have HBO so did not watch the movie of her life on February 6th. I have though read The Way I See It and been impressed with her theoretical analysis of Autism, which she says has many of the same characteristics as ADHD and even Dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I am astounded by the many similarities between Autism and Fibromyalgia. There appear to be so many: difficulty with sensory overload, fear as the main emotion, problems with information processing (what we with Fibromyalgia call ‘brain fog’), sensory over-stimulation, problems with too much noise, some sounds, smells and textures can bring about anxiety or even panic attacks…the list seems endless. I have taken the liberty of using some of the exact words of Dr Grandin as they reflect the kinds of words I would use  (and have) to describe Fibromyalgia. It is her view that there is a deficit in brain wiring in Autism. It is highly likely that this is the cause of Fibromyalgia as well. She speaks frequently of an over aroused nervous system, as do most researchers nowadays when describing Fibromyalgia.WayISeeIt

However, I want to be very clear about this:  I AM  NOT SAYING THAT FIBROMYALGIA IS A FORM OF AUTISM, BUT I BELIEVE THE EXTREME OPPOSITE, IN SPITE OF MY VIEW THAT BOTH ARE THE RESULT OF BRAIN WIRING DEFICITS AND SHARE MANY OF THE SAME CHARACTERISTICS THAT CAUSE PROBLEMS . Dr. Grandin describes social behaviour problems in Autism as the inability to know what people are thinking, while those of us with Fibromyalgia have an exaggerated form of empathy and are highly sensitive to nuances, body language and other social cues.From my perspective, the current research on changing the brain will benefit all of us suffering from deficits in brain wiring (either physically as we do in Fibromyalgia, or socially as do those with Autism). Not everyone with Autism and/or with Fibromyalgia share the exact same characteristics, as life circumstances, personalities, gender, geography, social class, culture, race, sexual orientation are so very variable, but enough of us struggle with many of the same challenges, so much so that it is interesting to speculate about our commonalities. I expect many will disagree with the ideas I put forth here as I have absolutely no proof about any of this, nor am I at all clear myself, but the issues are certainly provocative.

I recently met and became friendly with a woman many years my junior who has Multiple Sclerosis. This highly intelligent woman told me her theory on MS. She said she thought it was due to brain wiring deficit. Phew! I asked her if she knew of neuroplasticity. She had not but she described it perfectly as she thought through the ideas about brain rewiring. More food for thought! Too far fetched?

25 Responses to “Autism/ADHD/Dyslexia and Brain Wiring…Fibromyalgia and Brain Wiring??”

  1. Eileen Keddy says:

    I found this very informative and with a ring of truth to it. I say question everything! There must be something to the wiring of our brains to make us feel as we do. I would love to have an explanation as to why we suffer with Fibromyalgia. The constant and compelling symptoms we suffer are astounding. I am glad I found your blog. I just shared it on my Fibro Sense page on Facebook. Thanks

  2. Well, Eileen, maybe we share the same genes since we both have the same last name! But, I really doubt that there is a connection! Thanks for your comments and for being on the same wave length as I am! I hope you read my book and let me know what you think of the theory I developed! Stay in touch. Regards, Barbara

  3. kathy guellich says:

    Hi Barbara…we’re on the same page with this one. On the autism front, I understand first hand the “fog”, or blockage as I call it. I told someone recently, it’s like having a soccer ball in front of you that you desperately want to kick, but have only one leg. The want is there, but the mechanism to perform the task isn’t. Eventually, want will give way to a creative way of getting around the lack of mechanism by creating another via neuroplasticity (i.e. finding a new way to propel the ball forward other than focusing on the lack of leg). I believe that unfortunately, if the brain isn’t aware it has to come up with other options to perform the task, stress builds up due to the feelings which arise from the anxiety of “lack of performance” and over time if not relieved become the cause of a lot of various nervous system disorders. I don’t and can’t believe that any such “diseases” are caused by viruses and the like. The brain’s chemistry and the abilities that arise from them is where I hope research focuses in the future. Talk to you soon.

  4. Thanks Kathy!I haven’t heard brain ‘fog’ (or ‘brain fart’ as someone once referred to it) described in that way as a soccer ball, but I do understand what you are saying. Me too, I hope that research continues to focus on the brain and central nervous system with all these mysterious conditions! Best wishes, Barbara

  5. Jo Clark says:

    I am someone who is not considered completely fitting to a Aspergers diagnosis but have many traits. I suffer with so many of the drug/venom/vaccine sensitivities, anaphylaxis and definitely bad smells, low pain threshold and also a low empathy quotient. I also have Dyscalculia and loads of symptoms of fibromyalgia. I think I could be living proof that I am not someone who has an exaggerated sense of empathy but is wired differently in the brain. I figure it might not be worth mentioning my pain to the doctors and G.P because I like to excercise, use massage, Ibuprofen and diazapam to relieve the symptoms. On days when I have a stomach upset/cramping,brain fogging or simply too much pain and stiffness I don’t seek help anyway but just try and get through it. There is so much controversy about my psychiactric symptoms anyway and I know I would be undoubtedly slaughtered in a meeting with Psychiatrists who can’t understand this multitude of problems, are often negligent and can’t make an all round decision about the right treatment of care. I have been diagnosed with a personality disorder and I stand no chance of being diagnosed with anything else because I am such an unusual case. Unfortunately all these problems are labeled as behavioural and I pretty much give up on finding the correct diagnosis or solution. I know my brain is different and it even came through on a brain scan. This shows how doctors today are going about these clustered symptoms. I don’t think there is hope for people like me. If I had been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, I would have been given better treatment and not be stuck in this inconclusive and poorly labeled mess of a situation. I really hope medical research advances soon.

  6. It is without question a superb thread, I have now gone through quite a chunk of researching recently and consequently i have got to mention it is without question great to come across plenty of unique and truthful reading instead of the type of duplicated rubbish that is scattered all across the internet. I hope there will be a lot more to arrive and i will be positive to browse back soon enough and bring in your rss feed

  7. Hello Jo: You certainly pose some interesting questions and are amazingly articulate about your condition. This brain rewiring issue is paramount. don’t you think? Is it possible for you to see a psychoneurologist or a scientist who is doing brain research? As you point out you are very low on empathy which is the opposite in my view of those of us with fibromyalgia and too much empathy, or at least more than is healthy for us. Having a brain scan and finding out that your brain is different doesn’t seem to have given the so called experts much information to go on. You need one of the neuroscientists who are doing the research in this area and can tell you what the implications are of this scan! There is so much to learn and I hope you are able to get some answers soon. Best wishes, Barbara

  8. MarkSpizer says:

    great post as usual!

  9. Jai Dean says:

    First I’ll say that I found this thread and am so glad that I did. Very impelling questions, information and perspectives. I’m really looking for some direction here, to lead me towards the help that I need. I’m lost, and require an advocate of some kind. Forgive me in advance for the lengthy entry I’m about to make, though I feel that each part is vital in expressing to give a full rounded view of my case. And, I thank those that take the time to read this, and respond.

    I’m 48, legally disabled with Fibromyalgia & Major Depression Disorder stamped on my file. My life was turned upside down at the onset of Fibro symptoms which hit like a ton of bricks. Very sudden, acute, and unbearable. This concerned my employer at the time who maintained that I needed to get a firm diagnoses before returning back to work after having been directed from my Doctor to rest for two weeks. This is what set my personal nightmare into motion and subsequently resulted in my filing for disability.

    I’ve done everything within my abilities to unravel my medical mysteries and take part in working with my doctors to pull it all together. Needless to say, this effort has not proven to be very successful. My Fibro diagnosis was said to have been a “secondary” diagnosis, with the implication that something else was at the root of my health issues of an undetermined origin. The Major Depression aspect is something that I’ve lived with since early, early childhood. Although I am medically treated for depression, I’m convinced that this is not the root of my issues.

    To further complicate matters even more, at the age of (7) seven, I was climbing the ladder on an olympic sized high dive platform diving board. The lifeguard blew a whistle to alert children to get out of the pool for a designated “Adult” swim time. At that precise moment, I became startled, my hands let go of the rails, and I fell approximately 30 feet to a concrete ground beneath me. I have no recollection of the fall itself which I believe to be normal. However, I have glimpses of memory pertaining to a pounding head on the verge of explosion, combined with attempting to open my eyes only to be so disoriented and head twirling that I became instantaneously nauseas, began to present with violent vomiting, and then became unconscious. I was in and out of consciousness numerous times, and suffered a major concussion. This accident occurred on a military base with limited medical availability. To my knowledge, my treatment in the emergency room involved a mere x-ray of my head. My parents were instructed to take me home and observe me for 24 hours, and to watch for behavioral changes. I did not seemingly present with anything to concern them immediately, however I did begin to present with Petit Mal Epileptic seizures (vacant seizures) which grew progressively worse and for longer durations that went unnoticed by my family and school teachers. It took about a year and a half before my parents realized that these episodes were occurring. In this interim, my family was living in Africa, my parents were dealing with the death of 2 year old brother, and simply were not tuned in to what was going on with me. Understandable.

    I was flown to Germany to a military medical facility there where I had my first EEG. It was here that I received the official diagnosis of having Petit Mal Epilepsy. I managed to outgrow this by the age of 15-16. Later, in my 40’s with the presentation of Fibromyalgia, I had seen two different neurologists. Both had been made aware of my childhood epilepsy, and both insisted that I never did have epilepsy, yet neither offered an explanation for what it could have been instead. I had had both an MRI of my brain in conjunction with an EEG. The medical reports documented that I had “inactivity” in my left frontal lobe. There was also the remarks which stated that “it appears that Ms. Dean presents with evidence of having had a craniotomy”. I never had a craniotomy! There is however an apparent separation of skull bone about two inches higher than the temple area on the left. My index finger seems to find it quite easily. I discussed these things with my PCP who informed me that according to his estimation, it is a given that I have suffered a (TBI) Traumatic Brain Injury with lasting effects. And that this could in fact result in the Chronic Pain condition of Fibromyalgia accompanied by Peripheral neuropathy, and dyskinesia.

    By the time I had grown into a teenager, my behavior was termed “Rebellious” with severe aggression. Aggression to the point of being emotionally damaging to my siblings. Emotionally abusive to two sisters, and physically abusive to one. I was the primary source of major family dysfunction. All these years later, the damage and problems that I caused in the past have resulted in the abandonment of my family towards me through this medical life crisis. I carry deep shame about all of this as an adult.

    In my quest to unravel my past, medical and environmental history alike, I have become fixated and determined to find answers to explain the continuous inner torture and entrapment that I feel and experience through the conditions of my life. They appear to me to be the culmination of events, circumstance, facts, and other influences that support my seeming, mental & emotional deficits. I am very willing to do self-examination in an objective way, although my findings are usually very different than the way others perceive me to be. It’s been brought to my attention by others that I am “aloof”, “always sad”, with uncontrolled outbursts at inappropriate times. I’ve been accused of coming off as intimidating to co-workers, using words and verbiage that others do not understand in everyday language, overly emotional and sensitive. Primarily within my experience of myself, not necessarily towards others. Although, I do have a great deal of compassion in the grand scheme of the “world”, I have great difficulty honing in and exemplifying this in personal relationships. Many perceive me to be extremely “gifted and talented” in the arts. Some express their awe at the many things that I am able to do and do exceptionally well, although I don’t see this in myself.

    I see myself as a creative personality. A very frustrated communicator, very loving inside, with shocking outward effects on others that keep me isolated and alone and usually unbeknownst to me. I have had major social anxiety since nursery school that has been present all of my life, and has become progressively worse with age. Panic attacks, challenged sensory perception, problems with non-verbal language, and what I’m discovering recently to be a classic diagnosis of Aspegers Syndrome. Does anyone have any recommendations for the next step I should take? With all the things that I am able to do, the things that I am not able to do prevent me from making forward progress of any kind in terms of independent survival and living conditions. Somebody, PLEASE help!

  10. Lexi Adams says:

    to date, there has been no cure for autism yet and we always hope that stem cell research can cure it-*,

  11. Hi Jai and Lexi:
    Your comments on this blog are very helpful! Jai your story is a sad one. How can we spin it differently? One of the beginning steps would be to read David Burns book on Depression and Panic. He is quite wonderful, actually. Secondly it is helpful if we start training our brains to take another pathway to travel, one which focusses on your brilliance. You are indeed a creative communicator and that is a good place to start. One of the lovely strategies for re-training the brain is to undertake a project you like, that is creative, that is innovative (for you), and somewhat repetitive. Thirdly, every time you feel the beginning of anxiety that borders on panic to undertake some form of movement…even if it is just moving your arms about in various directions or dancing slowly as this immediately changes the brain! Fourthly, meditation daily. All of these things take so much discipline and it isn’t easy. These strategies are my daily challenge. Best wishes! Barbara

  12. Tammy Bradford says:

    I am interested in doing a study on these conections.

  13. How would you do such a difficult study??? B.

  14. SARA CRUMBLE says:

    you would need to do individual life studies and find common denominators or “triggers” seems like a brain injury and or a spinal injury seem likely with focus on the central nervous system coupled with overactive imaginations us fibromyalgians are colourful people to say the least ! pleased to meet you all

  15. Yes Sara: We fibro people are indeed colourful people:-) , Regards, Barbara

  16. Linda Cox says:

    I have fibromyalgia and I have a daughter with Asperger syndrome. I never thought that the two could be connected, but now I wonder. It’s true that we share heightened sensitivities and slow processing.

    I am convinced that it’s essential for those of us with fibromyalgia to retrain our brains. We know for certain that this rewiring can be done; it’s a matter of finding a professional guide to get us to the right tools and techniques, and to practice the discipline for as long as it takes, maybe daily for life.

    I have been using a combination of medications, meditation, mindfulness, and a sleep regimen as treatment for my fibromyalgia, and have had some improvement.

    It is also helpful to recognize one’s stress and emotional attachments, and try to let them go.

    I wonder whether Asperger’s and fibromyalgia have genetic factors in common, and one illness or the other (or something else like them) emerges depending on factors in the womb, the individual’s experiences, and environmental conditions.

    These are wiring problems. Rewiring has to be the answer.

  17. Dear Linda: You pose some very interesting questions and provide some very interesting thoughts! However, it could be that your daughter was born with Asperger syndrome and you developed fibromyalgia as a result of your very caring and empathetic nature. I doubt if we will ever know if fibromyalgia is the result of nature versus nurture. I’m not sure it is necessary to even know that, but the connection between the two at opposite ends of the empathy spectrum is extremely interesting. Best wishes to the two of you, Barbara

  18. Joesph Jurewicz says:

    Dyslexia is not a debilitating disease but of course it can be annoying. tom cruise is also said to have been dsylexic but he is a successful person.

  19. I agree…neither dyslexia nor fibromyalgia are diseases, just issues related to brain pathways!
    Barbara

  20. Amy Evans says:

    Hello all, you have very interesting stories and thoughts on these topics. I am writing as we are in the “looking for diagnosis” stage of possibly having FIBROMYALSIA and DYSLEXIA. I have two daughters who, around the same age (16) came down with a list of symptoms that are leading us on a long chase for answers. The first daughter had sudden onset of VERTIGO and MIGRAINE. She was tested for all ENT issues including an MRI. The medical community we were working with basically didn’t know where else to go, so they told her she would have to learn to live with it. When my second daughter came down with VERTIGO and MIGRAINE, she also had severe CHEST PAIN that radiated out from her center chest throughout her entire body. With her having a heart murmur, we were very concerned that this could be a cause for her. We are fortunate to live near Oregon Health and Science University hospitals and clinics and were able to get in fairly quickly with specialists. She has undergone the same ENT testing as her sister, as well as a full workup on her heart. All tests have come back normal, with the heart murmur declared minor enough to not be a contributor. We are now working with neurology, attempting to treat the vertigo and migraine with sleep and motion sickness medications. These are not helping.
    We were introduced to the idea of FIBROMYALGIA recently when sharing our story with friends and family. We are looking forward to testing for this after an appointment with the neurologist at the end of the month. An additional symptom showed itself on and off for about 2 months before the other symptoms started. This was DYSLEXIA. Again, we are waiting for testing through our school district on this. We believe she may have had the dyslexia all along, but her natural coping skills had been kicked in, actually propelling her into being an advanced reader and prolific note taker.
    Both of my girls have done an amazing job of coping with their issues and pushing on through their lives. Unfortunately, this caused both girls to have to switch to online schooling because of their medical problems causing lots of absences. My oldest has now graduated and my youngest is attempting to return to public school and even some sport activity. I don’t know how they do it!!! My youngest continues to have severe chest pain, vertigo and migraine.
    I guess the point of sharing with you is because I have questions and I’m not sure the doctors will have the answers. I’m sure it’s difficult for them to understand the kind of pain my kids are going through without having lived it. It can be heart wrenching to watch and not be able to do anything to ease their symptoms.
    One of my questions is can fibromyalsia bring out or on the dyslexia?
    Does diet help with treating fibro?
    With my kids having similar but different symptoms, at the same age, does this point to genetics? Would testing for myself be helpful to the doctors?
    Both kids and myself suffer from DEPRESSION and I developed an ulcer at the age of 14, we thought due to stress. My kids don’t handle stress and ANXIETY well either, but we are working at getting them into a “Coping Clinic” at OHSU so they can learn the skills they will need to continue dealing with their pain as well as teach them skills for living with depression and anxiety.
    I would appreciate your input, as the more information and ideas I get, the better prepared we can be.
    Thank you!

  21. Dear Amy: I am certain that fibromyalgia and dyslexia are due to what are perceived to be unusual brain pathways, but a link between the two is not something I could comment on nor could anyone else at this point! Have you read the Barbara Arrowsmith-Young book which I have shown on one of my blogs? I think that would be very helpful for your daughters, although I doubt that at this point you are convinced they have dyslexia.
    Fibromyalgia is an over stimulated nervous system that develops over time whereas it seems that a person is born with dyslexia.
    There is so much confusion over these issues that I would hesitate to give any advice nor am I a neuroscientist and therefore not qualified to make any diagnosis.
    Please keep in touch and very best wishes,
    Barbara

  22. Ricardo Lim says:

    Developmental reading disorder (DRD), or dyslexia, occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret language. It is not caused by vision problems. The disorder is a specific information processing problem. It does not interfere with one’s ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence. Many have above-average intelligence.:

  23. Thank you for your comments Ricardo!

Leave a Reply