- Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3
- Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities
- Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more
- Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status. Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the incidence has climbed to an alarming one in 68 children in the U.S.
- Autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.
- Currently there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, the diverse symptoms related to autism can be greatly improved and in some cases completely overcome.
- Autism now affects 1 in 68 children
- Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls
- About 40% of children with autism do not speak. About 25%–30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others might speak, but not until later in childhood
- Autism greatly varies from person to person (no two people with autism are alike)
- The rate of autism has steadily grown over the last twenty years
- Comorbid conditions often associated with autism include Fragile X, allergies, asthma, epilepsy, bowel disease, gastrointestinal/digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, PANDAS, feeding disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, OCD, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, immune disorders, autoimmune disorders, and neuroinflammation.
- Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, yet most underfunded
- A 2008 Danish Study found that the mortality risk among those with autism was nearly twice that of the general population
- Children with autism do progress – early intervention is key
- Autism is treatable, not a hopeless condition
Our scientific understanding of Autism as a biologically-based, treatable disorder has evolved a great deal in recent years, bringing the promise of new hope and development of effective treatments to those who are affected.
Over time, what has emerged is a complicated amalgam of metabolic abnormalities, including mitochondrial dysfunction, immune dysregulation, inflammation, oxidative stress, methylation problems, transsulfuration issues and toxicity in ASD. Dr. Daniel Rossignol and Dr. Richard Frye recently published a review article where they searched the world’s medical literature to identify how many studies implicated these biochemical abnormalities in ASD. Here’s what they found:
- 437 publications examined immune dysregulation or inflammation in ASD; 416 (95%) found an association
- 115 publications examined oxidative stress in ASD; all 115 found an association
- 153 publications examined mitochondrial dysfunction in ASD; 145 (95%) reported an association
- 190 publications examined environmental toxicant exposures in ASD; 170 (89%) found an association
- 62% of the publications in these 4 areas were published in the last 5 years (2006-2010)
- Genetic studies were the most common type of study in the medical literature concerning ASD; these studies accounted for more studies (1,576) than these 4 areas combined
For an extensive, categorized list of relevant research, please visit the Autism Research Institute.
Causes of Autism
Based on parent reports – including parents representing the National Autism Association – sharp regression occurred in their children directly following immunizations. While many parents can provide detailed accounts of regression in their children following vaccination, other parents have reported autism in their unvaccinated children. More sparsely, parents report swift regression following an illness, use of antibiotics, and random chemical exposure – such as carpet cleaning. Though published mainstream science fails to acknowledge a causal link to any of these specific exposures, it’s important that parental accounts be carefully considered.
Most researchers do agree that environmental factors play a role, though there is no one cause of autism identified by mainstream science. In identical twins who share the exact same genetic code, if one has autism, the other twin also has autism in nearly 9 out of 10 cases. There are cases where one twin has autism and his/her identical twin with matching genetic codes do not. It’s important that environmental exposures are considered among all cases, especially cases of regressive autism.
A recent review of the world’s medical literature suggests that underlying biochemical abnormalities are likely involved in environmental susceptibilities and the development of autism including mitochondrial dysfunction, immune dysregulation, inflammation, oxidative stress, methylation problems, transsulfuration issues and toxicity.
According to officials at the National Institutes of Health, while there is most likely a genetic predisposition, there must also be an environmental component to autism. The rapid rise in the rate of autism over the last 20 years cannot be attributed solely to genetics.
The theory that parental practices are responsible for autism has long been disproven. While mainstream science discounts vaccinations as a cause, members of the National Autism Association feel vaccinations have triggered autism in a subset of children, and that an overly aggressive vaccination schedule coupled with toxic adjuvants in vaccines could affect individuals who have a family history of autoimmune disorders specifically. As with any medication, adverse events do happen, and vaccinations are no exception. Research to investigate, and reduce, adverse events in immunized individuals is currently nonexistent.
- Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.
- Other environmental exposures may trigger, or exacerbate, autism in certain children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.
- Pesticide Exposure: Scientists think that chemicals in pesticides may adversely affect those who are genetically predisposed to autism, leading them to develop the full-blown disorder
- Parental Age: A study found that women who are 40 years old have a 50 percent greater risk of having a child with autism than women who are between 20 and 29 years old.
- Pharmaceuticals: Babies that have been exposed to certain pharmaceuticals in the womb, including SSRI’s, valproic acid and thalidomide, have been found to have a higher risk of autism.
- Freeway Proximity: A study found that children born to mothers who live within a 1000 feet of freeways have twice the risk of autism
- Limited Prenatal Vitamin Intake: Women who reported not taking prenatal vitamins immediately before and during a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a child with autism, one study found.
It’s important to do your own research into the various causes that are being investigated. We believe that families should have access to all information including environmental insults, vaccines, and genetics. We also believe that because the onset of autism is triggered by an environmental factor, or combination of factors, autism is preventable and treatable.
Environmental research holds the key to finding the cause and developing effective treatments for those affected.
If you are a parent seeking detailed information on vaccine safety, we recommend visiting the National Vaccine Information Center website.
Signs Of Autism
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social impairments, cognitive impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. It can range from very mild to very severe and occur in all ethnic, socioeconomic and age groups. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Some children with autism appear normal before age 1 or 2 and then suddenly “regress” and lose language or social skills they had previously gained. This is called the regressive type of autism.
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
- No babbling by 12 months
- No Gesturing (pointing, waving bye-bye) by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
- Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
- Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
- Doesn’t follow objects visually.
- Doesn’t point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
- Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
- Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
- Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
- Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
- Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
- Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
- Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
If you are concerned about your baby’s development, ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation. To find a developmental specialist in your area, Click Here or call the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) at 1-800-695-0285.
Is your child hitting his/her milestones? Visit CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early Milestone Checklist
If your child is young and you suspect there might be something wrong, immediately seek early intervention services for your child.
To find Early Intervention services in your state, click here. You can also call NICHCY at 1.800.695.0285 and ask one of their information specialists to give you the number for early intervention services in your area.
How else might you find out about early intervention services in your community? Here are two ways:
- Ask your child’s pediatrician to put you in touch with the early intervention system in your community or region
- Contact the Pediatrics branch in a local hospital and ask where you should call to find out about early intervention services in your area.
It is very important to write down the names and phone numbers of everyone you talk to. You can use this Parent’s Record-Keeping Worksheet developed by NICHCY to keep track of this important information. Having this documentation available will be helpful to you later on.
For additional information on Early Intervention, visit Zero To Three
The Gluten Free/Casein Free Diet is the removal of all wheat protein (gluten), and milk protein (casein) from the diet.
Many parents and physicians have found that implementing the GF/CF diet relieves many of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders.
For more information about the GF/CF Diet please visit: GFCF
SPECIFIC CARBOHYDRATE DIET
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a scientific diet based on chemistry, biology and clinical studies. It is detailed in the book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, written by Elaine Gottschall. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed for patients with intestinal diseases. Many individuals with autism suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases including Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
For more information about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet please visit pecanbread.com.
Remember, each individual with autism is unique. There are many other types of dietary intervention that may be helpful in addition to the two noted above. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist to determine what’s best for your child.
- Special Diets for Special Kids – Lisa Lewis
- Special Foods for Special Kids – Todd Edelson
- Allergy Cooking with Ease – Nicolette Dumke
- Breaking the Vicious Cycle – Elaine Gottschall
- Unraveling the Mystery of Autism - Karyn Seroussi
Research shows that many individuals with autism spectrum disorders have underlying medical issues that frequently go undiagnosed and can cause or exacerbate symptoms of autism.
These medical conditions include Fragile X, allergies, asthma, epilepsy, bowel disease, gastrointestinal/digestive disorders, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, food sensitivities, persistent viral and fungal infections, PANDAS, feeding disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, OCD, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, immune disorders, autoimmune disorders, mitochondrial dysfunction and neuroinflammation. Treating these underlying medical issues can greatly improve some of the behaviors and symptoms associated with autism.
Patients should undergo diagnostic testing and consult with a licensed physician to develop an individualized treatment plan.
NAA recommends finding a physician who will not ignore underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms and severity of autism. There are a number of physicians in the U.S. who specialize in treating children and adults with autism. Until recently, the Autism Research Institute (ARI) maintained a list of clinicians who attended DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) physician training seminars. While the list is not actively maintained at this time, you can click here to view an archive: Clinician List
A new effort is now underway to educate, train and board certify physicians treating individuals with autism. Please visit MEDMAPS for information.
To read more about medical comorbidities in ASD, Click here.
Many professionals feel that early intervention is key in treating autism, and that behavior modification techniques are crucial in a child’s early years. There are several types of behavior modification techniques, including:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
- Verbal Behavior (VB)
- Relationship Development Intervention
Occupational Therapy (OT) is a health service that is concerned with an individual’s ability to participate in desired daily life tasks, or “occupations,” which give one’s life meaning. If a person’s ability to perform these tasks which include caring for one’s self or others, working, going to school, playing, and living independently is impacted by an illness, disease, and/or disability, OT can be important. OT is often paired with Sensory Integration.
HINT: Have your child evaluated by an occupational therapist that is both trained in sensory integration therapy and is certified to perform diagnostic testing such as the SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test). Also consider having your child evaluated by the school occupational therapist and request sensory integration support in his/her IEP.
An individual with autism spectrum disorders may benefit from Physical Therapy if they have any of the following indicators: muscle stiffness or tightness; Delay in obtaining motor skills milestones; Poor balance and coordination; Difficulty in moving through the environment; Postural abnormalities; Muscle Weakness; Pain.
Speech therapy services focus on enhancing or restoring limited or lost communicative skills or oral motor skills like swallowing. Since autism often affects speech and communication, many will need Speech Therapy to help facilitate language. Some individuals may do well with a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and others may do well with augmentative communication devices.
Vision therapy is based on the fact that vision is learned. The ability to see and correctly interpret what is seen does not appear automatically at birth. It develops over a lifetime and is shaped by the experiences a person has.
Music Therapy is the use of music and its elements (such as; sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) by a qualified music therapist. It can be used with an individual or in a group setting.
SEARCHING FOR LOCAL THERAPISTS
FINDING APPS FOR iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone
If you’re searching for apps for your child, you may find it helpful to first download Autism Apps from the iTunes Store. Autism Apps is a comprehensive list of apps being used by people with Autism and other special needs. The apps are separated into over 30 categories, are easily searchable, and include reviews by users.
Also visit Autism Plugged In for a listing of apps and reviews.
FUNDING FOR iPads AND OTHER AUGMENTATIVE COMMUNICATION DEVICES
Click here for a great article from Holly Bortfeld of TACA.
Visit this link at Autism Plugged In.