Clinical and Experimental Restricted Environmental Stimulation

pp 269-279

REST as a Treatment for Children with Autism

  • John Harrison
  • , Arreed Barabasz

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Several studies suggest that average levels of stimulation may be too high for autistic children (C. Hutt, S. Hutt, Lee, & Ounsted, 1964; Margolies, 1977; Schechter, Shurley, Toussieng, & Maier, 1969; Suedfeld & Schwartz, 1983). Alternatively, others attribute the problem to a deprivation of sensory input (Moore & Shiek, 1971; Williams & Harper, 1974). Theories and evidence from clinical observations converge on a characterization of autism as an abnormal reaction to environmental stimuli or a dysfunction in the ability to adequately process average levels of stimuli (American Psychiatric Association, 1987; Fein, Waterhouse, Lucci, & Snyder, 1985; Ornitz & Ritvo, 1976; Wing & Gould, 1979). Bartak, Rutter, and Cox (1975) have shown that individuals with autism have limited or restricted interactions. Theories consistent with this evidence suggest that exposure to average levels of stimuli results in a cognitive processing breakdown and an abnormal (restrictive) response to the environment (e.g., Hermelin, 1976; Rutter, 1983; Shah & Wing, 1986). If these theories are correct, one would expect a reduction in the amount of stimuli these individuals are required to process to result in a reduction of autistic symptoms and a desire for stimulation.