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Cortisol Levels In Children With Autism

Adrenaline = action (all pumped up with nowhere to go)
Adrenaline is at least partly responsible for the revved-up high. Living on adrenaline energy causes people to burn the candle at both ends. It makes people less flexible and it makes it harder for bright kids to change their moods. 
Cortisol Levels In Children With Autism

When there is a lot of adrenaline, the amygdala - the fight/ flight area of the brain - is very active. In fact this part of the brain can get so active that it takes over almost everything else. It is very powerful. You might know this yourself. Perhaps you've had a day where someone in the morning said something to you that was mean or nasty and you just weren't your usual self for the rest of the day. That is at least partly because you were threatened and your adrenaline levels were raised and your fight/flight mechanism kicked in.
Once a bright kid gets an adrenaline rush, trying to change her behavior is a complete waste of time - until you've lessened the amount of adrenaline. There are clear signs that a bright kid is having an adrenaline rush (see below).

Having a family life where a lot of repetition and rituals occur can lessen adrenaline. Giving an adrenaline-affected bright kid a clear, calm message that "this is the way we do things in this home" helps her to feel safe. Less stimulation, such as quiet times, can also help.

Every so often you might want to increase the amount of adrenaline because it is an energizer. One way to do this is time trials. For example, "Let's see if we can clean up this room in ten minutes, and then we'll play a game." 

Likely signs of high levels of adrenaline 
  • Exhibits silly, "hyper" behavior
  • Has difficulty getting to steep
  • Has lots of energy
  • Runs off if upset
  • Has squabbles and little conflicts
  • Has difficulty in shifting attention 
  • Is reluctant to try new things 
  • Shows lots of busyness but not much gets done. 
Cortisol cowboys and cowgirls 

Cortisol is the other main neurochemical and hormone worth watching out for. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and it gets released with adrenaline. Terrific, huh? Stressed and revved up.

Cortisol lowers language functioning. Have you ever been shocked speechless where you temporarily couldn't put your thoughts into words? What happened was that cortisol flooded into the Broca's area of your brain - the language production center - shutting it down for a time. Bright kids who are under lots of stress often have great difficulty putting their thoughts into words. That's why you sometimes get monosyllabic grunts, especially from teenagers.

Cortisol lessens people's ability to shift gears. It makes them snappy and easily rattled. It also reduces the ability to filter irrelevant information, which partly explains why people who are stressed can find it difficult to prioritize. There are clear signs that bright kids are cortisol cowboys or cowgirls (see below).

Parents of bright kids will often want to lessen the amount of cortisol and, instead, to have a calm and happy life. Alongside family routines and rituals, making children feel safe from violence, ridicule, or humiliation lessens cortisol. Ensuring that bright kids do not have too much sugar mad do drink enough water also helps to reduce cortisol. Getting enough sleep lowers both adrenaline and cortisol.

Fluorescent lighting has been associated with elevated levels of cortisol. Families with bright kids would be better off with indirect lighting such as lamps.

Likely signs of high levels of cortisol 
  • Has difficulty expressing thoughts
  • Is worried and watchful
  • Is easily upset
  • Is on edge 
  • Is defensive 
  • Overreacts to things 
  • May be a bit more smelly than usual (stress makes perspiration more sour) 
  • Finds it difficult to prioritize.
 To find out more, you can check out Cortisol Levels In Children With Autism.