July 29, 2009
Part 1: Why Do Vitamins and Supplements Work?
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) usually have a number of nutrient and mineral deficiencies. This could be due to diet or physiological abnormalities that cause certain nutrients to be poorly absorbed or misused by the digestive system. Many children with autism benefit from diets that exclude certain foods, but these limited kinds of diets can leave their brains lacking the nutrition that they need to function and develop. Whether the autistic child is on a special diet or inflicts a severely limited diet on his or her self, supplementation can help fill in the nutritional gaps and facilitate progress. The majority of autistic children can achieve higher brain function (like speech, language and social skills), have less repetitive and detrimental behaviors, increase immune system function and improve sleep patterns with the use of vitamins and supplements.
The Gluten-free/Casein-free diet and the Specific Carbohydrate diet seriously limit nutritional intake. This does not mean that you should waver from what is helping your child, but you should be aware that supplementation may be necessary. This is also true for autistic children that are very picky eaters, have texture issues with food or who are obsessive about controlling what they eat. Studies and parents have found out that most autistic children greatly benefit from vitamin and supplement implementation. Great developments have been seen in children that have no food allergies, as well as in the ones that need to be on special diets.
Vitamins, minerals and nutrients that autistic children are often deficient in include the B vitamins: B6, B12, B1, B3 and B5. Vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, folate, biotin, Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), and omega-3 fatty acids are also commonly low. The brain can be greatly hindered by these deficiencies and it is no wonder that most autistic children have a very hard time progressing without nutritional supplementation.
A vast majority of autistic children have an elevated level of oxidative stress. This impairs their immune system and puts their nervous system into a hypersensitive state. The hypersensitive state is thought to be caused by the oxidative stress and a long-term inflammation of the body and nervous system. When the brain is inflamed, it tends to function on a primal level, often staying in survival mode. Cognitive skills, social skills and frontal lobe development are severely hindered when the brain is in this state. Children will often feel the need to exhibit stemming behaviors, which can include vocalizing loudly, tapping, hitting or stroking things, rocking, spinning and other repetitive behaviors. This keeps the brain focused on something other than their hypersensitivities.
Vitamins and Supplements have successfully been used to target inflammation, oxidative stress, immunity deficits, stemming, brain development and higher learning in autistic children.
“Part 2″ of this series discusses which vitamins and supplements target and improve the nervous and immune systems. Vitamins and supplements offer a safe therapy option that has given many autistic children a chance to overcome the challenges of autism. As a precaution, you should always talk to a doctor about a vitamins and supplements regiment before you begin.
July 29, 2009
An autism food allergy is a very serious problem. In fact, autism induced by allergies has recently been identified and occurs when a child’s diet influences his or her autism symptoms. The children who are at the highest risk of an impact from an autism food allergy are those who have regressive autism. Regressive autism is the form of the disorder that occurs when the child’s first symptoms appear at around the age of two after having developed normally until then. Other autistic children at risk are those with behavioral and neurological problems in conjunction with serious digestive problems.
Kids with an autism food allergy struggle to digest essential food proteins such as gluten and casein. Gluten is a protein found in many kinds of grains, such as wheat, and is frequently added to food products during the manufacturing process. Casein is a protein found in milk and is also added to other foods as they are manufactured.
Some children with food allergies are unable to properly digest gluten and casein. These proteins are digested only partially and leave a byproduct to which the children react in a very similar way to the drug morphine. This substance is able to slip through the wall of the digestive tract, a condition known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’, and circulates through the bloodstream and into the brain.
When a child has an intolerance to gluten or casein an altered protein can also be found in the urine after the child consumed food containing these two compounds. It is believed that this occurs as a result of the creation and absorption of the morphine-like chemical created by the body of the child when trying to digest gluten or casein. The child may then behave in a “spaced out” way. Furthermore, it can create somewhat of an addiction in these children, causing them to crave foods containing gluten and casein.
Because children with an autism food allergy struggle to digest food properly, they are also unable to remove toxins and chemicals as efficiently as they should from their body. This can include not only waste in the traditional sense of digestion, but also fertilizers, pesticides, cleansers and detergents, pollution, artificial flavorings and colorings, preservatives, chemical food additives, and other forms of chemical that can build up and become toxic over time.
Symptoms of an autism food allergy usually appear within an autistic child at around the age of three. Though the symptoms may come about as a result of intolerance to pollutants in the food, others will react to chemical additives, and again others will react to the basic composition of the food. Though reactions can be caused by essentially anything, the most common allergies are to foods such as corn, citrus fruits, wheat, dairy and sugar.
Though the symptoms of an autism food allergy may not be obvious to those around the child, medical testing and observation shows frequent diarrhea, bloating, low blood sugar, excessive sweating, redness in the ears and face, rhinitis (runny nose), the inability to regulate the body temperature, and dark circles under the eyes are common.
The only way to treat an autism food allergy is to pinpoint the food of foods that are causing the problem and then eliminate it from the diet entirely. It is important to note that this won’t cure autism, however symptoms will often improve substantially when a diet free of those items that cause a reaction is followed. Parents will still be faced with the same issues in socializing and communicating with autistic children even after an altered diet is introduced, and change will still need to be carefully managed.
To discover which foods your child reacts to, an exclusion diet is a good way to determine what items are potentially contributing to their autism symptoms and digestive issues. However, before starting an exclusion diet ensure you consult a qualified health professional to ensure your child continues to receive adequate nutrition.
Once you have the go ahead, start by eliminating the common culprits i.e. wheat, dairy, sugar, corn and citrus fruits for a two to four week period and then slowly reintroduce the removed items one at a time and monitor behaviors and digestive changes carefully.
This process can help identify those food items that are problematic for your child. An alternative is to have blood testing done to look for antibodies that are produced when an allergic reaction takes place. Your doctor should be able to arrange this for you or refer you to the appropriate professional.
There is currently a study about to get underway being carried out by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston that will be scientifically studying the effects of gluten and casein on autistic children which should help to answer the autism food allergy question.
July 29, 2009
Those who have worked with autistic children have also become aware of the need to help them improve their communication abilities. These children become easily frustrated when they have difficulty expressing their needs and desires. As a result, their parents and teachers become more frustrated as well. Fortunately, there are strategies that teachers can use in order to improve the communication skills of their autistic students.
According to a fact sheet developed by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities “Students with autism or PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) learn better and are less confused when information is presented visually as well as verbally. Interaction with non-disabled peers is also important, for these students provide models of appropriate language, social, and behavior skills. To overcome frequent problems in generalizing skills learned at school, it is very important to develop programs with parents, so that learning activities, experiences, and approaches can be carried over into the home and community.”
Although this seems simple to incorporate into a curriculum, there are many factors that create obstacles for teachers trying to implement these ideas. While the English language is mainly a verbal language, information should be presented visually as well to ensure students’ success. When autistic children have less advanced communication skills than their peers, it inhibits their interaction with one another. Most tools available to teachers require purchase and training, which makes it costly and not feasible for them to be used outside of the classroom.
Although these obstacles are present, there are ways that teachers can help their autistic students communicate better. Thirteen different research studies* have indicated that using American Sign Language (ASL) signs with an autistic child is a successful alternative teaching strategy. Results of these studies have shown:
- increased vocalizations
signs were mastered and used in the appropriate context, even in different atmospheres and with different people
- self-stimulation decreased
•most autistic children acquired better communication – even if they were labeled mute
•sign language was superior to other communication systems for increased vocalization and mastered items for most autistic children
Why do American Sign Language signs work? By incorporating ASL into the classroom and by saying and signing the word together, students are able to absorb information not only verbally, but visually as well. Many signs are also iconic, meaning that they look like the actual object they define. When both autistic children and non-disabled children learn signs (which can be done together), their communication with one another becomes easier. Non-disabled children learn signs very quickly and they enjoy it. In addition, ASL can easily be incorporated in the home, with no cost. Teachers can simply teach parents the signs their children are learning.
These studies have proven that autistic children can improve their communication skills by simply including ASL signs into their daily routine. They will be less frustrated because they will be able to better express their feelings, therefore minimizing the frustration of their teachers and parents as well.
July 29, 2009
As more and more children get diagnosed with autism, scientists and doctors try harder and harder to figure out what triggers autism, how the symptoms vary in different kids, and any helpful trends with the disease. They’re also continually attempting to find a cure or way to alleviate some of the symptoms. One method that has shown most positive results is the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, or hbot.
Autism is usually detected and diagnosed within a child’s first three years, and can severely endanger normal brain development. Children with autism are often socially unskilled, making communication very difficult. Others are prone to acting out or causing injury to themselves or others. Psychotropic medication and changes in diet have all been previous methods of curing autism, but they have had mixed and disappointing results.
The hyperbaric oxygen chamber is used for 40 initial treatments, 60 minutes each at about 1.5 ata, once or twice per day. The hbot delivered better results by far. Children who were undergoing hbot treatment had less aggression and fewer outbursts or incidents of rage. The patients also seemed to interact with their parents more easily and were more able to understand commands. After hbot, their reasoning skills and academic achievement improved markedly.
It’s excellent that something like the hyperbaric oxygen chamber has been created, since this new method of helping children with autism has shown so much promise so far. The hbot has many other uses, too-it has been used to help cure ADD/ADHD, insomnia, memory loss, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and those who have suffered a stroke, head injury, or other wounds.
July 29, 2009
This is a question which has been tossed around extensively, especially during the past couple of years. It has been sort of like watching a tennis match, with parents and school districts asking for assistance and support from the insurance companies and the insurance companies lobbing the ball back to the other side of the court.
There is a good reason why insurance companies are being looked to for paying at least a portion of treatment for children who have autism. Autism is not only an educational issue, but it is also a medical one. To quote one spokesperson from Autism Speaks, a national organization that helps with research and awareness for autism, children with autism are “diagnosed by a neurologist [or other physician], not a schoolteacher.”
Again, this is not to say that autism is not an educational issue because it is. However, the educational issues brought about by autism are the symptoms and results of the disorder itself, which is a medical issue.
Insurance companies have managed to skirt the issue for a long time because schools had to deal with the symptoms and help educate children who had difficulties learning due to autism. The problem is that this does not really make sense and it is not fair.
If a child is born with a hearing disorder and needs implants or with partial or total blindness and needs special assistance, though schools help with their educational programs, it is doctors who diagnose and treat the child’s medical issues and the insurance companies who pay for the treatment, since the parents are paying for medical coverage.
It is only fair, say Autism advocates and parents, that the same be true for children with autism, which can be very expensive to treat and should not be paid for by the schools and out of the pockets of parents who are paying insurance premiums.
Several states have made it mandatory for insurance companies to cover at least a fair portion of autism treatment, and advocates are now asking lawmakers to make it mandatory for twenty more states to do the same.
With autism affecting at least 1 out of every 150 children and creating a financial hardship on many parents and families, it is time for all parties involved – especially insurance companies – to come to the table to look at realistic and reasonable solutions to the issue of covering treatment for autism.