An Autism Urban Legend: Fever Talks (#536)

After almost a week of lazing around, taking frequent naps, eating his favorite foods (except for white rice, which he has summarily turned his nose up at), going for lots of car rides here and there: Charlie, still coughing but otherwise lively and bright-eyed, did not want to go back to school today and the getting him out of his bed and onto the bus required an extra effort.
Charlie had gone to school on Wednesday but he was not really ready; his teacher had called me around noon, her main concern that Charlie had barely touched anything in his lunchbox. Today, he came off the bus with his familiar smile and raced into the house, and (at my request) went to open the door for his ABA therapist. Charlie spent the first twenty minutes saying, in a happy voice, “Bye! Green coat. Time be done, bye bye! Stairs. Wai’ minute. Li’le while”; the therapist was himself happy to note how well and clearly and spontaneously Charlie was talking. As the session progressed, the requests to end it dissipated and Charlie’s voice rung out with “Play witss me. Hahway! ‘tivity schedu-oh.”

After the therapist finished, Charlie still had to wait nearly an hour for Jim to come home. We went to practice piano. I hold my hand just under Charlie’s to tap his wrist and thereby ensure that he plays the keys without error. I was called to do very little of this today, as Charlie’s long fingers went on their own to the correct notes and pressed each steadily. He still plays with the letter names of the notes an octave above middle C velcroed to the keys, though I think his teacher is thinking that the time may be coming when we can start to remove some of these. Charlie who, just some weeks ago was playing only with his index finger, is now using all five fingers (including his heretofore never used pinky), and all on his own.

Charlie sits up straight when he plays, and looks straight at the notes in the music bookx; today, the sickness fading, he played strongly, and with especial confidence, just the same as he had been talking during his ABA session.

It seems to be something of an autism “urban legend” that, when’s one child is sick—has a fever—he or she talks more clearly, lucidly: This is indeed an “old clinical observation,” as noted in the November 2006 Scientific American: “The autonomic nervous system is involved in controlling body temperature; because fever and the emotional upheavals of autism appear to be regulated by the same neural pathways, perhaps the former can mitigate the latter.” Charlie had a fever last weekend but talked little (I suspect because his throat was getting sore). Between his clear as a bell speech this afternoon and his quite masterful playing of the piano today, I am wondering if there might be some after-effects to the fever, too.

I am not sure how long these will last, and I certainly hope that Charlie does not get this sick for some time again. So long as such clear music keeps issuing forth from him, I will be listening.

6 Responses to “An Autism Urban Legend: Fever Talks (#536)”
  1. mcewen says:

    I had noted the fever/’normal child’ phenomenon a couple of years ago [I thought I’d really lost my marbles at the time] I was only later [after researching the matter] that I discovered that clinicians are familiar with this phenomenon.
    For my two it has to be a ‘severe’ fever 104 + for one and 102+ for the other.
    I tell you truly it is the most mind altering phenomenon to witness.
    Best wishes

  2. We’ve noticed this for years with Charlie—-usually the effect is more immediate than this time’s delayed reaction of a few days!

  3. I am so sorry that Charlie has been sick. Finally getting caught up with your posts. I know it is so hard when you don’t know what is exactly going on when they are sick. I always laugh at myself after sharing Sam’s symptoms at the doctor when I think he is sick. Mom’s know, but explaining the specifics for an autistic child is different.

  4. melanie says:

    we always notice it with Michael too, he tried to talk to us the day after he got strep throat. he was trying to form a sentence…….

  5. Julia says:

    Ah, Laura, I have the same thing when I’m trying to make an appointment for my own Sam — the doctor, at least, is familiar enough that when we get there, he has a decent idea of what’s going on. (And Sam is very difficult to diagnose over the phone.)

  6. The past few times Charlie has gotten sick I have been catching what he has… thinking I should wait a day and just talk about how I feel…..

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