Autism

Autism is a puzzling behavioral disorder that is almost always permanent if treated solely with conventional medicine. In most cases, it develops shortly after birth to about a child in two to three years old, and is often preceded by vaccinations, leading many holistic practitioners and autism advocacy groups to suspect that many cases of autism as caused by the ingredients the vaccines contain. Adding weight to this claim is the fact that autism used to occur in only four or five of every 10,000 children. However, since the rise of today's widespread use of vaccines during early childhood, there has been an alarming increase in autism rates, with the condition now affecting as many as one in 500 children or perhaps even more.

Symptoms

The primary symptoms of autism are withdrawal of the child into his or her "own world" and an impaired ability to communicate normally and appropriately. Autistic children often have a deep emotional need to communicate, but are unable, and in some cases unwilling, to do so.

Another characteristic symptom of autism is an unhealthy attachment to objects instead of to people, including the child's parents. Rocking back and forth, avoiding eye contact, flailing or flopping of arms and legs, and other compulsive behaviors are also common characteristics of children with autism.

Other symptoms can vary greatly. While some autistic children suffer from being mute, others will often carrying on long conversations with themselves that are disjointed, and disturbing to others. In addition, some autistic children are considered mentally retarded—in some cases with IQs of only 70 or below—while others seem to possess greater than normal IQs, with above normal talent in a specific areas like music or mathematics. Studies have also shown that autistic children typically have unhealthy, elevated levels of certain brain chemicals, have abnormal brain-wave patterns, and/or are prone to epileptic-like seizures.

Autistic children who chronically exhibit violent or self-destructive behavior can be necessary if they are subject to violent or self-destructive episodes. Conventional medicine is incapable of curing autism, offering only drug treatments to manage the behavior of autistic children. Drugs such as haloperidol, fenfluramine, and naltrexone are typically employed to suppress abnormal behavior, while antidepressants such as Prozac, or Zoloft are used to keep autistic children calm. Neither class of drugs addresses the root causes of autism and with continued use they can also exacerbate the child's condition be causing harmful side effects.

Less than 25 percent of autistic children are able to properly adapt to the challenges of adolescence and adulthood, and only 5 percent develop into self-sufficient as adults. Of those autistic children who have to be institutionalized, 40 to 70 percent remain so for their entire lives.

Causes

Although a genetic basis for many cases of autism has long been proposed, researchers are only recently becoming able to link specific genes to autism. But genes alone are not the problem, according to most holistic health experts who treat autistic children. Metabolic disturbances also play a significant role in autism, although at present it remains uncertain as to whether or not metabolic imbalance cause autism or are symptomatic affects of it. Either way, addressing these metabolic orders can sometimes lead to an improvement in the child's symptoms and behavior. Research has also shown that, during digestion of foods, autistic children often experience problems in properly breaking down and assimilating peptides (simple proteins such as insulin, endorphins, and other neurotransmitters), causing researchers to speculate that this is one of the reasons autistic children experience abnormal mental functioning.

Other possible causes of autism include fetal alcohol syndrome (alcoholism transferred to the developing fetus by an alcoholic mother), brain stem defects (significantly decreased brain stem size is a common characteristic of autistic children), heavy metal poisoning (especially lead, as well as mercury in the form of thimerosol, a common ingredient in many childhood vaccines), abnormal blood flow patterns in the brain, and viral infections from rubella (German measles) and/or cytomegalovirus.

Other Possible Causes of Autism

Food allergies
Allergies and sensitivities to certain foods, especially wheat, sugar, and cow's milk, are well-known to contribute to behavioral symptoms. Many autistic children have food allergies that can contribute to or increase the severity of their symptoms. These allergens need to be identified and eliminated from the diet. Most traditionally trained allergists are not aware that allergies can affect the brain, so a specialist in environmental medicine should be consulted. Enzyme-potentiated desensitization (EPD) can effectively correct allergies in those with autism; however, this therapy is still considered controversial in the U.S.

Infant vaccinations
Increasing scientific evidence indicates that autism, as well as many other brain dysfunctions may be caused by infant vaccinations. This is particularly so with the pertussis vaccine, used for whooping cough, and the MMR vaccines, all of which contain thimerosol, a form of mercury. Reinforcing the autism-vaccination link is the fact that the incidence of autism began to rise during the 1950s, the time when vaccinations first became popular in the U.S. Since that time, as more and more vaccines have been added to the list of those typically administered to children during their first few years of birth, there has been a corresponding dramatic rise in the overall incidence of autism. Prior to the use of such vaccines, the incidence of autism in the United States was approximately one of every 10,000 children. Today it is one of approximately every 160 children.

Defects in the myelinization process (insulation of the nerve fibers)
This defect can contribute not only to autism itself, but also to epilepsy, which frequently occurs in older autistic children.

Antibiotics
Many children become autistic after receiving antibiotic treatment for repeated ear infections. Chronic use of antibiotics can destroy the normal bacteria living in the intestinal tract, leading to overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans. This, in turn, can lead to autoimmune reactions and food allergies.

Digestive deficiencies
Yeast infections due to poorly digested foods, food allergies, chemical food additives (especially yellow, red, and green food dyes), and a lack of digestive enzymes can all contribute to autism symptoms.

Parasites
Parasite infection, a condition that is quite common yet often undiagnosed in the United States, can also cause or worsen autism symptoms because of how parasites disrupt healthy body and brain function. One of the more common means of parasite infection among children is from their pets or from being around other animals. Correction of the digestive environment (returning it to normal flora) is essential in treating autism. Beneficial bacteria (acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and other species) should be supplemented for six months to one year, especially during and after the use of antibiotics.

Self-Care and Other Treatment Approaches

Auditory Integration Training
Autistics are often highly sensitive to auditory stimuli. For example, rain can sound like rocks landing on a roof. This hypersensitivity can result in a number of problems, including blocking out other sounds, fear of noises and people, and an inability to concentrate. Auditory training has been reported to bring about a wide range of improvements in speech and behavior in many autistic individuals. The technique is based on the work of two French Health Gurus, Alfred Tomatis, M.D., and Guy Berard, E.N.T. Both the Tomatis and Berard methods provide stimulation to the listener.

Berard training involves listening to ten hours of music (in 20 half-hour sessions) played through Berard's electronic modulating device, known as the Ears Education and Retraining System (EERS). An audiogram is first performed to detect frequencies to which the patient is hypersensitive so that they may be screened out of the music. Then the EERS is used to take music from a sound source, filter out specific frequencies found to cause the individual discomfort, modulate the sound electronically in an unpredictable manner, and finally send the sounds back to the ears through headphones to exercise the entire hearing apparatus.

Altering the frequencies of sounds during playback can reduce distorted hearing and hypersensitivity to certain frequencies.

This therapy can result in improved patients and cognition.

The Tomatis method establishes a connection between listening, language, and learning. These skills involve more than just hearing.

Often in a case of autism, learning disabilities, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the ear is unable to process, organize, and manage the thousands of pieces of sound information coming in from the environment.

Following a listening test, a program to improve auditory processing, audio-vocal control, and desire to communicate is developed. Auditory hypersensitivity is lessened, attention is increased, and the nervous system becomes more balanced. When the brain is well charged with electric potential from high frequency sounds, it enables a person to better focus, concentrate, organize, memorize, learn, and work for long periods of time.

The Tomatis program often uses the filtered sounds of the mother's voice, as the child would have heard it in utero. This is done in order to reintroduce the rhythm and intonation of language and the curiosity and desire to tune in. A human's first attempt to listen—and the first desire to listen—occurs as a fetus when it hears sounds of its own mother.

High frequency sounds filtered from sources like classical music provide a great deal of stimulation to the cerebral cortex, which helps children and adults improve thinking and processing. To begin, the Tomatis method is usually given for two hours a day for 15 days. It then continues for at least two additional eight-day intensives. The goal of the treatment is to help patients learn to listen, control speaking, and improve self-awareness and control.

Craniosacral Therapy
This approach manipulates the bones of the skull and the underlying membranes to alleviate pressure and restrictions. The craniosacral system involves a body rhythm, somewhat like a semi-closed hydraulic system, involving the flow of cerebrospinal fluid between the cranium (the bones of the skull) and the sacrum (the base of the spine). Disturbances in the craniosacral rhythm can indicate dysfunction in the body.

Patterns of cranial restrictions consistent with developmental distortions of the brain, spinal cord, and the bones of the skull have been founding autistic children. Meningeal membranes that line the cranium, especially dura mater, do not expand normally with the growth of the brain, thereby interrupting normal development. This may be due to biochemical changes in the dura mater brought on by a stressor episode, such as a virus or an adverse reaction to a vaccination.

Craniosacral therapy focuses on releasing restrictions of the cranium and the underlying membranes through gentle hands-on contact with the bones of the craniosacral system, the ribs, and the vertebral column. The therapist monitors the rhythmical movement in the craniosacral system resulting from the increase and decrease in cerebrospinal fluid pressure. When abnormal motion is detected, the therapist locates the point of restricted movement and brings about a release by gently tractioning and elongating the membranes.

Gentle manipulation seeks to improve motion in the craniosacral system in people with autism and produces improvements in behavior. This can lead to reduction in head banging, which may be an attempt to relieve the compressive force in the head due to the restrictive dura mater. Substantial changes can be seen within 10-20 sessions, given weekly. A concentrated, two-week program, with sessions lasting for eight hours a day for five days, is available for out-of-town patients. Craniosacral therapy can also be taught to parents to perform on their child at home, along with regular consultations with a skilled therapist. Therapy must be continued until the child is fully grown to maintain the benefits.

Diet
Since many autistics have overly acidic blood, their diet should include whole, unprocessed, alkalizing foods such as vegetables. Another dietary factor to consider when treating autism are allergies to peptides contained in cow's milk and gluten. According to one study, when milk and gluten-derived peptides were removed from the diet, language, social interactions, and behavior improved. Some patients received a gluten-free and milk reduced diet, others a milk-free and/or gluten reduced diet, and a third group eliminated milk and gluten from the diet.

After one year, all the study subjects had changed in the direction of the normal spectrum—they were more communicative and showed less bizarre behavior. Other statistically significant changes included: improved attention and social integration, improved motor skills, and a decrease in irrational emotional outbursts. Especially noteworthy was the decrease in resistance to learning.

Noticeably improved behavior of autistic children is possible by using an elimination diet. Any food normally consumed more than once a week is removed from the patients' diets. As symptoms improve, each food is added back into the diet one at a time.

Environmental Medicine
Autism may be due environmental factors. Environmental medicine addresses the role dietary and environmental allergens play in relationship to illness. Research shows higher than normal toxic chemical exposure among autistic children, and the majority of their mothers have a higher-than-usual exposure to toxic household and industrial chemicals while pregnant.

Substances included formaldehyde, toluene, pesticides, and toxins from paints, ceramics, new carpets, and ant and flea sprays. All of the children had allergic sensitivities to foods, inhalants, and chemicals, and exhibited imbalances in key brain chemicals. Further, 40% of the children had nutrient absorption problems, while all had nutrient deficiencies and immune system abnormalities.

An intensive program of nutrient and herbal supplementation, environmental controls, and complete detoxification can help treat autistics. Substances administered include amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, milk thistle (silymarin), gamma globulin, essential fatty acids, and many others. This type of program has resulted in significant improvements in children's behavior and emotions, such as tantrums, disruptiveness, movement, irritability, and relationships.

Nutritional Supplements
Damage to the immune system is common in autistics, often stemming from nutritional factors. High-dosage (megavitamin) nutritional supplementation is playing an increasingly important role in the treatment of autism. In one study, 30%-60% of autistic patients receiving magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements showed significant behavior improvements.

Some studies show behavioral improvement, normalization of brain waves, and improved metabolism. A magnesium deficiency has been shown to cause hearing hypersensitivity and hyperirritability, both associated with autism. The study also recommended the supplementation of zinc, as well as the other B vitamins.

Vitamin C has been shown to significantly reduce autistic behavior such as rocking, spinning, and hand flapping. Dimethylglycine (DMG), a nontoxic chemical found in minute amounts in foods, has also proved helpful in treating autism. Many parents have reported that within days of starting DMG, their autistic child's behavior improved noticeably and better eye contact was observed, as well as an improvement in the child's speech.

Caution

Always seek the help of a qualified health professional if you suspect Autism.

Back to Health Conditions A to Z

 

 


 

 

 

All material © 2010 WellnessWatchersMD. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of WellnessWatchersMD's terms of use and privacy policy. The information provided in this Web site is intended for your general knowledge only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please see your personal physician immediately if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness regimen.