Something New on Autism

  • Posted on April 28, 2007
The Bolles Sensory Learning Method is an innovative non-cognitive approach to developmental learning that utilizes enhanced natural sensory stimulation for remediation of an individual’s emergent faculties. The brain’s ability to process and organize sensations of sight, sound and gravity begins to emerge in the womb and continues into adolescence. Sensory stimulation plays a major role in shaping the structure and functioning of the brain.
Our nation is in an epidemic of autism. The Center for Disease Control claims that as many as one child in 166 born these days suffers from the brain injury of autism. This is a phenomenon of recent years. When I was in medical school in the 1940s, what we today call autism was covered in less than one lecture and was referred to as idiocy, describing a person with a mental age of about three. (Dostoevsky’s novel “The Idiot” is an excellent read about a person who is probably autistic and I recommend it to anyone.) These days the term “idiot” has fallen out of favor and is only used in referring to opponents in the opposition political party. But the diagnoses of autism is a very serious one and has profoundly changed the lives of millions of persons.
The Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston has recently asked me to write an article for their issue of the Medical Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association. The article appeared in the magazine last fall but also appeared, first actually, in my recent book, “Tales from Seventeen Mile Hill”. The article goes into the details of what Jane and I have gone into to rear our grandson Patrick, who has profound autism and has lived with us since age three.

I believe that we have had some success with Patrick’s rearing. Even though he has recently had his 22nd birthday, we are still working hard at this.

For instance, we recently were encouraged with the Walgreen’s plan in Anderson County to open a warehouse that provides jobs for those with mental illnesses such as autism. However, we are initially disappointed with this program. I’m not sure how well trained and knowledgeable those are that are setting this up. On paper it sounds good, but we’ve been disappointed so far. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Now autism is basically a problem of communicating and thereby relating properly to others. With our Patrick, early on we spent a vast amount of money on speech therapy. Frankly I’m just not sure how much help this was, but then we were doing all sorts of things. We like Patrick’s brain and he gives us many pleasures. Early on, when Patrick was more or less a “wild child,” we had him up to Duke Medical School. The head of the pediatric neurology said, and I’ll never forget, “When you have this diagnosis in a family you will also find in the family brilliant children as well.” I’ve pondered this as I watched Patrick’s nine first cousins, like his first cousin Will, who graduated number one in his class at East Carolina University, his cousin Ross Hanahan, who was one the Dean’s List at Georgia Tech, his cousin Julia, who just received a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee. All of Patrick’s first cousins are rather outstanding.

But it’s like the good scriptures tell us , you have to go after the one out of the hundreds, the lost sheep. With this in mind, we have just finished looking into a promising method in an effort to allow Patrick to fit into this world of ours. Jane and I have just spent an afternoon with Christie Jones, a speech pathologist and the only person in South Carolina who is qualified to teach a highly successful and relatively new educational approach known as the Bolles Sensory Learning Method.

The Bolles Sensory Learning Method is an innovative non-cognitive approach to developmental learning that utilizes enhanced natural sensory stimulation for remediation of an individual’s emergent faculties. The brain’s ability to process and organize sensations of sight, sound and gravity begins to emerge in the womb and continues into adolescence. Sensory stimulation plays a major role in shaping the structure and functioning of the brain. The brain can be thought of as a sensory processing machine. So by stimulating the senses we can enhance emergent faculties’ normal subconscious sensory functioning in the brainstem area.

This educational method is highly successful across a wide spectrum of populations because our brains are more alike than they are different. It is a therapy that accelerates sensory integration and develops learning abilities for individuals with acquired brain injury, learning/behavioral problems, ADD/ADHD, developmental delays, autism and birth trauma. This approach re-educates emergent faculties by stimulating the participant’s sensory systems to learn or relearn subconscious reception, processing and integration skills. The beneficial outcomes of the Bolles Sensory Learning Method are long lasting and continue to accrue over time.

We are enrolling Patrick as one of the first autistic students in South Carolina to have this opportunity and we pray it offers him some new hope. Semper Fi.

Semper Fi

William Harvey Hunter, MD

(Dr. Hunter is a Clemson physician, he practices at Oconee Family Practice in Seneca, and Chairman of Clemson University’s Calhoun Lecture Series. He is a regular columnist for the Anderson-Independent Mail.)

Dr. Hunter’s articles can be found on the Strom Thurmond Institute web site at


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Speech-language therapy is the treatment for most children with speech and/or language disorders.  A speech disorder refers to a problem with the  actual production of sounds, whereas a language disorder refers to difficulty  understanding or putting words together to communicate ideas. Language When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, […]

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