What do you think the ramifications will be? I wonder.

http://news.yahoo.com/experts-weigh-changes-definition-autism-170206958.html

So mental health experts are messing with the definition of autism and the diagnostic criteria. My mind boggles with what that will mean to the future children being diagnosed, and the children already diagnosed today. How will we be able to accurately track the rise in autism rates and apply research on a potential environmental contributing factor if we throw this monkey wrench into the mix?! And down the road in a few years,  the news reports will  say that autism is on the decline and some government agency will take credit for it. Not because of changes made to our environment or perhaps improved treatment options…but because the diagnostic criteria has changed.

What will this mean to children already diagnosed and receiving services that no longer qualify based on the new criteria? Does it mean they no longer need services because on paper, they don’t have autism, just Aspergers.  What would have happened if this new criteria was around when my son was diagnosed? His diagnosis was high-functioning autism. Would he have received a diagnosis of autism and qualified for the much-needed services he has received over the years? I credit biomedical intervention AND behavioral therapy for his huge gains since his diagnosis.

I’m sure there is some good news in all of this somewhere.  Maybe for the insurance companies that would have to provide services in the states that have adopted insurance reform. I don’t know about this one. I’d love to hear from you and what your take on it is.

Social Skills and Autism

My son’s behavioral agency held a 12 week course for some of their clients on developing social skills with peers that are at the same level developmentally with a similar autism diagnosis. My son was a fortunate participant in this course on social thinking. It was based on the curriculum of Superflex and the Unthinkables created by Michelle Garcia Winner. Her website is www.socialthinking.com and it’s a great resource for parents, teachers, SLPs, therapists and family members.  The Superflex curriculum teaches children on the spectrum fun and motivating ways to develop strategies for better self-regulation across a range of behaviors. It teaches “social smarts” through the various comic book characters that depict behavioral challenges kids on the spectrum face. My son loved this curriculum and his social skills have soared since he attended these classes. Just having the ability to let him know when his behavior is “unexpected” in a social situation helps him tremendously. He identified with some of the Unthinkable characters in the book and understood how others would perceive him as one.

Another resource for teaching social skills is the book Crafting Connections by Autismpartnership.com contributors. Dr. Manny from Foxnews.com loves this book and I really like Dr. Manny. He has a teenage son with autism and features articles on this topic frequently. Watch the video by Dr. Manny on Boosting Social Skills to learn more about this book from its author.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/1163666673001/boosting-social-skills?playlist_id=86892

I have found that my 8 yr. old learns a lot through organized play dates with friends. He now initiates them and has applied his strategies he has learned on dealing with social cues and his behaviors that emerge during the one-on-one interaction with a friend. We are blessed to have some wonderful families involved in my son’s life and he has gained many friends through school, cub scouts, Taekwondo and church. If your child is high-functioning enough, get him/her involved in activities other than school to expand their social networking opportunities. You will need to meet parents of other kids, assess how their child interacts with yours and pursue those opportunities for your child. It has improved the quality of life for my son beyond measure.

Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?

The other night my son with autism posed this question to me. It caught me by surprise, really. He has never talked about this before and I didn’t think he thought that far out into the future. I remember the milestone he accomplished in Kindergarten when he understood the concept of next week or next month. Most kids with autism usually don’t grasp time concept easily.  We take much of our understanding of language and abstract concepts for granted.

Understanding abstract concepts usually develops naturally, but for a child with autism it can cause confusion. Most kids on the spectrum are concrete and literal thinkers and “the future” is a concept that is difficult to grasp. The other hurdle is that your child with ASD may be a visual learner or thinker. If they can’t visualize the future, they don’t understand this concept.

The key to teaching abstract concepts like time, is through visuals. Saying to your child that “We are going to the party on Saturday” will cause confusion if they have no concept of time or how the calendar works.  Showing visuals with a calendar that shows them the current day, number of days until the event and written party on the day of event can help them learn this concept.

We worked with our son on time concepts, past, present and future in his behavioral therapy sessions. He also learned it at school, but it took him longer to grasp it than it did his peers. We’ve known that he understands future concepts for a while now, and he has shown more and more an understanding of it.

For instance, he is in 2nd grade right now, and his older brother just went on a week-long trip with his 6th grade class to a marine science camp. He is looking forward to his turn and talks about how long it is before he is in 6th grade and can go to camp. So it shouldn’t have surprised me when he spoke of the future in terms of when he is grown up, but it did. I just needed reminding that he is going to be grown up one day, and will be just fine.

By the way, my son told me he wanted to be a football player.  I asked him why a football player (since he doesn’t play it) and his reply was “so daddy can watch me on TV”.  Hmmm, maybe my husband’s love for NFL football is contagious. Either way, I’m comforted by this conversation and very hopeful for his future.

A good resource for teaching time concepts on the web is by Lucia Smith, a speech pathologist. Here is the link to her document:

http://pelicantalk.com/autism_files/autism_resources_files/time%20concepts.pdf

Recovery From Autism is Possible

My son is proof that it is possible to take back our children from the grasp that autism has on them.  For those skeptics out there that only believe autism is a psychiatric condition, well, read on. My son was not born with autism. He regressed around age 2 or 3.  I’m not certain exactly when because it was a slow process of regression and delayed development.  Autism gently nudged me over the course of a year.  I came to grips with it by the time my son turned 4.

That’s also when I discovered the Autism Research Institute and information on the biomedical treatment of autism. It made complete sense to me.  After several lab tests, we discovered that my son’s key biochemical pathways were dysfunctional and he was not detoxifying. These toxins caused dysbiosis, oxidative stress, and inflammation in his digestive tract.

What researchers have found, is that in most kids with autism, it is a disorder that affects the brain, immune system and gut.  We have the same neurotransmitters in our digestive tract (gut) as in our brain. They communicate with each other. Also, approximately 60 – 70% of our immune system lies within our “gut”.  Therefore, if your digestive system is suffering from inflammation, oxidative stress and dysbiosis, your brain and immune system are also affected. My son’s autistic behaviors were resulting from his overall biochemistry that was out of whack.  Once we treated his body, his brain started to function more neuro-typical. And he was able to catch up developmentally with behavior therapy.

Based on my own experience, research studies, and other parent testimonials, I believe that recovery from autism is possible. Today, my son is more neurotypical, than autistic.  If you met my son at age 4, and then again three years later, you’d be a believer too.  He’s not fully recovered, but if I had to put it into a percentage, I’d say he’s 85% there.  And we’re not done yet with therapies that can still help him.

Behavior therapies like ABA, DTT, Floortime, and more, can bring your child out of their world and back into your life.  Add biomedical treatments into the mix and your child will be more receptive to the therapies and catch up developmentally much quicker than without them.

Notice the word I’m using is RECOVERY. Not cure. Autism is not something that can be cured with a single protocol by medical doctors. It is a multifaceted, biochemical train wreck that manifests itself through behaviors caused by the brain reacting to the body’s illness.  Jenny McCarthy has said she compares it to being hit by a bus. You can get medical care and heal the body. You aren’t cured of a bus accident, you recover. Same goes for autism. You can get your child back. It’s going to take a lot of effort, time, perseverance and in most cases, money. Hopefully, one day, money won’t be an issue and parents will be able to obtain therapies and biomedical treatments for their child without mortgaging their life. It’s on the horizon. I’ve seen some signs of it.

Autism is treatable. Never give up hope. One day, the skeptics will be believers, and they too will know that recovery from autism is possible.  1 in 110 children are diagnosed with autism. I long to see that statistic change to 1 in 110 children recover from their autism diagnosis. Anything is possible!

I’ve Become a Better Parent, Thanks to Autism

Yes, it may sound strange, but I am a much more informed, aware and understanding parent…thanks to autism entering our lives.  I’ve learned to slow down, not take anything for granted and acknowledge the positive behaviors of my children. Before autism, I didn’t realize a lot of things; like how poor of a diet my kids ate. I thought since I cooked meals and we ate out only on occasion, that they ate healthy. Before autism I didn’t cook with foods that were free of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. The processed food, and the artificial ingredients in their snack food was affecting my kids’ health and behavior. If it wasn’t for autism, I wouldn’t have researched countless hours on diets, supplements and the understanding of ingredient labels.

I also didn’t see right away what exactly “attention seeking” behavior was, until behavior therapy entered our lives. Learning to spot the signs and how to deal with it was an education. And yes, I’m more aware of it now, although it does catch me off-guard every now and then.

Autism introduced us to sensory issues and sensory seeking behaviors. I used to think my older son’s sensory seeking behaviors were just something he did that drove me up a wall. Occupational therapy introduced me to the concept, the reason behind them, and what exercises or techniques that are helpful for my sons’ sensory integration.

One of the biggest challenges I face with autism is my fast pace.  I’m a multi-tasker, and can being doing one thing while rattling off a request or answering a question, all the while planning my next task.  Not good.  I have learned that I must stop what I am doing, walk over to my child, obtain his attention by touch when necessary, and calmly state my request. This works best, but is not always my first instinct. I’m still practicing this parenting skill, and should have it mastered by the time they go off to college.

Autism has been a daily lesson in patience and understanding. I am definitely not a saint in this area, but I am trying…and counting…and breathing deep.  It has helped me understand the needs of other kids in both of my son’s classrooms at school. I’m more tolerant and can see through some of their behaviors and try to get to the core of their issues.  Kids on the spectrum are not the only ones with focus/attention issues, sensory integration problems or social skill deficits.

Lastly, autism has given me perspective on what is important in life. To celebrate the little things, appreciate each developmental milestone and simply enjoy the moment. How many parents can come home from a seven-year-old’s birthday party and be on cloud nine that their child fit in socially and had a wonderful time without any meltdowns?  It’s those little things in life I appreciate that would have passed me by before autism. Thank you autism. For making a difference in my life.

What Autism Means To Me

April is autism awareness month. I think it’s wonderful that we have the ability to create more awareness since early diagnosis is important for the child and family. But the simple fact that we have a dedicated month of awareness means that it’s reached a level that demands attention, and it certainly has caught mine.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.  This statistic keeps increasing.  When my son was diagnosed (in 2007), it was 1 in every 150 children. Before 1980, it was 1 in every 10,000. The Autism Society has statistics that break this down even further:

  • Autism has a 10 – 17% annual growth
  • $60 billion annual cost
  • In ten years, the cost will be $200 – $400 billion

What causes autism?

That’s the $64,000 question.  No known cause has been scientifically proven. Heredity points to it, but no “autism gene” has been found. Many children with autism or those who are at risk of developing autism have a metabolic impairment that reduces their ability to rid their bodies of heavy metals and other toxins. Build-up of these toxins in the body can lead to brain and nervous system damage and developmental delays. That pretty much sums it up for my viewpoint. Yes, I also believe there are true, Kanner autism cases. Genetic. And yes, I believe this metabolic impairment can also be genetic. Which leads me to my point. If I, my husband, or parents have this metabolic impairment, but don’t have autism, then why did this generation of children get it, and not us? Well, there’s a popular saying in the autism community that “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

I believe it’s the increase of toxins in our environment such as pesticides, PCB’s, mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, and antimony. Just to name a few. Our oceans are polluted which makes the fish our children eat polluted. Farming in 2010 is not the farming of 1980. We have genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food supply, pesticide laden soil, antibiotics and hormones in our beef and dairy, and a strong prevalence of corn and wheat in the American diet.  The processed food industry has provided America with an unhealthy dose of harmful artificial ingredients (colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG). Profits are huge, but at what cost?

I don’t know if my son was born with a metabolic impairment or if the toxins triggered it. Thimerosal which is 49.9% ethyl mercury, is the preservative in the vaccines and Rhogam shots me and my son received. Add to that, I had over eight dental amalgams (50% mercury) and had one removed (unsafely) when he was 2 months old and still breastfeeding. Rhogam shots with thimerosal were given to me while pregnant and right after birth. Mercury is passed through breast milk, and neurotoxic to the fetus and newborn.

Studies have shown that ethyl mercury from thimerosal have important effects on metabolic pathways. Laboratory tests confirmed my son’s methylation pathway is impaired. This pathway is involved in the body’s ability to excrete toxins. His lab tests also indicated increased levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony and PCBs. His body was not excreting heavy metals.  He was a typically developing infant and toddler. But by age three or four, he was diagnosed with autism.

How we treated our son’s autism:

For the past two and a half years, we have treated my son’s autism with behavioral therapy and biomedical treatments. He has had chelation therapy to remove the heavy metals, B12 shots and numerous supplements to boost his methylation. We’ve healed his damaged gut with probiotics, zinc and  herbal antimicrobial supplements.

His progress has been incredible. He no longer has meltdowns, tantrums, obsessions, diarrhea, sound sensitivity to everything, night waking, anxiety of new things or change, and doesn’t “stim” anymore. His eye contact has improved significantly, he has a lot of friends including a very best friend at school. In preschool he needed an aide in class. He has been in a mainstream classroom without an aide for the past two years; and is such an intelligent little boy. His expressive and receptive speech deficits are almost gone and his cognition has soared. I credit his recovery to working with a DAN! doctor on biomedical treatments and his behavioral therapy.

What does autism mean to me? That it is treatable. Our children need our help to heal and awareness is the first step. Research, read, educate yourself on how to help your child. Don’t wait for our government or others to do this for you. Take action. Now!

Biomedical interventions 101

By Joanne Allor

I am not a professor, nor an educator. I am a mother of a child with autism, self-educated in the field of biomedical treatments for children with autism and ADHD.  You may find yourself, like I did,  in one of three autism camps out there. One, you just figured out or received your child’s autism diagnosis and don’t know where to begin or what to do to help him/her. Two, you’ve been dealing with autism for a while now and are certain there is something more you can do in addition to behavior intervention. Or three, you’ve heard of the biomedical treatment of autism and don’t get it. What is it?

Biomedical interventions for autism and ADHD heal the body, which in turn, heals the mind.  By addressing underlying health problems, you will see an improvement in your child’s behaviors and the behavioral therapies (like ABA) will take hold. Developmental growth will follow.

Most autistic behaviors are symptoms of the body’s distress, such as pain, frustration, fear and a biochemical disruption.  While treating symptoms can ease distress, we still need to get to the core issues causing it. For example, your child might be experiencing gut pain with bloating, diarrhea or constipation every time he eats wheat or dairy. This may cause aggression, disturbed sleep, repetitive behaviors, etc. Removing these possible allergens and following a gf/cf diet, may ease the distress and bloating, correct bowel function, and eliminate some of the behaviors.  But the core issue still needs to be addressed in order to completely heal the gut and eliminate all the behaviors associated with its dysfunction.  Is there an in-balance of the gut flora due to yeast or bacteria? Are there viruses or heavy metals disturbing the gut? Is it a leaky gut that doesn’t allow for proper absorption of nutrients?

Once I started down the path of “what can I do to help my child” outside of pharmaceuticals, I learned of the Feingold and gf/cf diets.  Then my research led me to The Autism Research Institute (www.autism.com) and their DAN! project. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now!  The ARI trains physicians with research they have gathered on the biomedical treatment of autism. Their guiding principle is simply stated: “remove what is causing harm, and add what is missing.”

So I began with cleaning up my sons’ diet by removing all artificial ingredients (including sweeteners), colors, flavors and preservatives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, and nitrites/nitrates.  Suddenly, both my children became calmer, quieter and less impulsive.  Then I added in a children’s multi-vitamin with high doses of B6 and magnesium called Super Nu Thera, by Kirkman Labs.  My son with autism was 4 years old and still wasn’t potty trained. One week on Super Nu Thera, and he developed “the pee pee dance”.  He was potty trained within a few months with behavior therapy. This was unattainable until then. Believe me, I tried EVERYTHING to potty train him. I was onto something! I found a DAN! doctor on the ARI website and our son’s biomedical journey began.

To help you with your child’s biomedical journey out of autism, see the links below:

http://www.autism.com/treatable/index.htm

http://www.autism-society.org/site/DocServer/Pages_47-50EH.pdf?docID=10452

http://www.tacanow.org/medical/parents-role.htm

%d bloggers like this: