Archive for May, 2017

Is there an Autism ‘Smart Gene’?

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

When evaluating new research, it is important to:
1) Determine if the conclusion makes sense (regardless of statistical values), and
2) Review documented evidence – both pro and con.
That brings me to an article that recently appeared in Nature Genetics, entitled,  ‘Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence’.

Are People with ‘smart genes’
more likely to have Autism?

The Study
Combining data from multiple studies, researchers identified hundreds of minor genetic variations associated with IQ, including many new ones. “The identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue… “

“Significant genetic correlations were observed with 14 traits… Moderate, positive genetic correlations were observed with smoking cessation, intracranial volume, head circumference in infancy, autism spectrum disorder and height.”

The authors concluded, “These findings provide starting points for understanding the molecular neurobiological mechanisms underlying intelligence, one of the most investigated traits in humans.”

The Good
In this study, autism is linked to intelligence, rather than a decades-long belief that, “ASD just used to be called mental retardation.”

This finding offers hope that patients who can successfully shed the sensory and social stigmata, have an additional IQ cushion to achieve success.

The Bad
The story, as generally reported in the media, was represented by this British news headline, “Autism is linked to intelligence: People with ‘smart genes’ are more likely to have the disorder”. To say the least, that’s not accurate.

The manner in which the data was collected and analyzed is complicated. Really complicated. Multiple, convoluted arguments for validation were offered, begging the question, “Why so much information manipulation?”

It is always suspect when science over-emphasizes the contribution of genes to intelligence. Comparable information has been misused for over a century, to ‘select’ for superiority. Therefore, even when discussing this knowledge as it applies to the world of autism, such assertions could prove pernicious.

The Ugly
This finding, if accurate, might represent a future net loss in human intelligence. Given that 2% of males are presently affected, with many who suffer significant impairment to typical socialization, possibly resulting in fewer ‘good’ qualities that make it into the total pool. Autism could be ‘culling the herd’ of ‘smart genes’, if the tide of this epidemic is not stemmed.

Conclusion
Our understanding of how genes lead to visible effects, due to the event(s) in which they are involved, will underlie our future understanding of human development, as well as autism.

Professionals who care for children with ASD are never surprised when parents claim that their kids are bright. It appears that there are other, multiple disturbances in central nervous system processing that lead to symptomatic challenges.

At the least, this association helps confirm such observations, and might provoke novel strategies for discovery.

Parents Helping Other Parents Battling Autism and ADHD

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

The First Warrior Parent
More than 5 decades ago, Dr. Bernard Rimland observed his son’s unusual development, and was determined to understand the cause and treatment of a rare condition called autism. So began a more modern view of the condition, which addressed the tide of children who began appearing with similar challenges. His work started a movement that has ultimately morphed into The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs.

At that time, the predominant cause of autism, promulgated by self-taught psychologist and media darling, Bruno Bettleheim, was the ‘refrigeratory mom’ theory. His experiences in Nazi concentration camps led him to believe that a lack of love in their environment could cause a child to turn off the road to typical human development. Dr. Rimland said, “No way,” and along with other like-minded professionals created biomedical workups with useful interventions.

It took another three decades until Jenny McCarthy popularized that viewpoint, with her outspoken experiences, fighting the medical profession to get proper care for her son. What progress has science made since that battle? Only a few brave professional parent practitioners, such as Drs. Dan Rossignol, Julie Buckley, Anju Usman and Nancy O’Hara, have taken up the slack.

Advancing the Combat
So, in that vacuum has arisen a number of other parent warriors. These are intelligent, dedicated, caring individuals, who have researched the data and applied various treatments to their children, often, trying it out on themselves first. They have observed various amounts of success, depending on their child’s specific difficulties. Some achieve remarkable results, and wish to pay it forward.

One day recently, I got into an interesting email discussion about Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Therapy. That determined Dad found a difference in his own clarity by moving the light from front to back. Wasn’t that OK to try on his child?

Just a few hours later, I had a conversation with a Mom who has been witnessing positive results using Ionized water. Her child was making significant progress, and this generous lady wanted to offer the product – for free – to other parents. “We can help so many more!”

One father has observed improvement with a particular form of Acai berry. Other parents have found good results with MMS, CBD, THC+CBD, Sauna, and Essential Oils, among other treatments.

Few Victors, So Far
I was telling this story to an experienced Mom, and she declared, “See how desperate we are!” Those who vilify Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s heresy over the possible danger of some childhood vaccination protocols ought to consider Dr. Leo Kanner’s role 80 years ago, which established a misguided psychological point of view.

Modern medicine has implicated genetic problems, but doctors fail to order appropriate testing; brain abnormalities, without getting diagnostic labs; and environmental factors, yet there exists little research to establish therapeutic strategies.

New Strategies
The reality is that, both professionals and parents, are experimenting on the children. Without proper studies we cannot know eventual outcomes, of even the most ‘benign’ interventions. We are now learning about conditions that are not only carried from one generation to the next, but 2 generations away. Real science takes time.

A common factor among many of the treatments that I encounter is some form of gut adjustment. Many of the specific supplements help while they are being administered and do not appear to be toxic. However, much of the research has been documented only in other species or conditions, and requires additional scrutiny.

Advice to Medics
Parents, who see progress in their own child, then in others, simply want to guide more families in the same boat. But, you are all NOT in the same boat. Some kids are older or younger, some girls or boys, others with metabolic, genetic, immunologic, gut conditions and various combinations that are different from child to child. SAFE is not SAFE for all, as we have learned from the vaccination dogma.

Even those strategies that work may require additional patient evaluation and testing. If a parent sees untoward effects, watch closely for such important signs, such as dehydration or an extensive rash. By discussing these interventions with a functional doctor, a child stands the best chance for advancement.

‘Alternative medicine’ strives to be inclusive, but the response by professionals to adopt non-conventional strategies may take a bit longer to take hold, as evidence becomes more clear. We are fighting on the same side.

Thanks, Moms, for Your Special Attention

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

There are some great fathers out there, to be sure. Dads, don’t get me wrong, I’ll give you guys your due in June. I’m not judging and I have no idea how I might have done with such a challenging journey as raising an autistic child. I am simply reporting my observation that, by far, the majority of amazing caretakers out there are the mothers.

Dr. Martha Herbert has often begun her scientific presentations with a story about a friend whose adult child awoke from anesthesia and spent hours speaking normally with her mom. The daughter knew how difficult of a child she was and how much hard work her mother had done to get her to this point. After falling back to sleep and re-awakening, the daughter again exhibited her autistic personality. Dr. Herbert uses this example (plus more genuine scientific evidence) to teach that there seems to be a reversibility to ASD, and we have yet to even look at the problem in the right manner (as a whole body disorder). Her message is for moms to keep trying, as will SHE, until there is an answer.

Jenny McCarthy’s “mother warrior” credo has helped recover many children, I am certain of that. Her message has been that the general public cannot necessarily trust conventional medical thinking about the diagnosis, etiology, treatment, and prognosis for this epidemic. You can’t blame her for seeking answers for her son and all of the other children with autism.

So, in many of my posts, I write about planning, medication, special diets, supplements, and therapies. For the moms out there, that’s preaching to the choir. I’m only enumerating such chores as I detail the work that every ASD patient requires. I have learned most of my art – about toilet training, time management, addressing stims, GF/CF, cluster classes, IEPs, sensory conditioning and much much, more – from the insightful and relentless mothers who are determined to help their child recover.

Thank you. Thank you all for letting me examine and help care for your children. It has been one of the best experiences that I have ever had in my professional life.

The only piece of advice that I’ll offer in this post is this, take some time out for yourself and your spouse. I said “some”, ’cause I know that it is sometimes impossible. But, it needs to be more than “none”. The number of intact families in this practice is even lower than the national average.

At this time of year, mothers seek advice about how to continue administering their children’s pharmaceutical protocol, in camp or on vacation. The diet, vitamins, and medications that require prescriptions – all in order to get on a plane. Then, there is the plane! I’m not quite sure how families are able to get anywhere with all of the work that is required.

Mothers are special. Mother’s Day is certainly a deserved holiday.
Moms of Autistic Kids?
Lucky children.

Speech Apraxia and Autism Misbehavior

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

This week (May ’17), Penn State researchers claimed to have disproven a generally-accepted premise with an article is entitled, Tantrums are Not Associated with Speech or Language Deficits in Preschool Children with Autism.

The Study
The authors retrieved information from a previous data collection, which was not intended for this purpose, and reviewed 240 cases. Children, who were 15 to 71 months old, “… whose mental age was sufficient for verbal communication but who lacked speech did not have more tantrums than children with adequate speech. In fact, children with an expressive language age at or above 24 months had more tantrums than children whose speech skills were below 24 months.

Their conclusion is the exact opposite of what we all suspect. “Our findings and those of others do not support the belief that preschool children with autism have tantrums because they cannot speak or because their speech is difficult to understand.”

Discussion
In autism, THE toughest sign to successfully ameliorate is a patient’s inability to produce spoken language. Indeed, professionals who have chosen this undertaking will attest to significant challenges. Proven medical protocols are few, though anecdotal ones abound.

The second most difficult expression of ASD is immature conduct, including tantrums. Behavioral intervention is the proven successful treatment. Conventional medical protocols invoke potent pharmaceuticals with significant side effects and variable results, so alternative strategies have emerged.

For years, parents and professionals, alike, have accepted a direct relationship between these two disturbing symptoms. There appears to be general agreement that, as children get older and smarter, they are increasingly frustrated by their failure to adequately communicate. There is a 30-year body of literature that supports this position.

Why were the findings of this paper
so counterintuitive?

This perspective is supported by substantial research, as well. The authors argue, “The reason may in part be because of the effectiveness of interventions… which use behavioral techniques to teach children to use words, and not inappropriate behaviors, to communicate.”

In other words, if language improves through successful therapy, a child may still have tantrums if that issue is not addressed, per se, as well. Those patients who do not get adequate socialization skills continue to resort to outbursts, in order to get needs met.

The publication lacks several key elements. ‘Tantrum’ is used as an outcome measure, begging the question of whether more serious issues, such as self-injury or aggression, were considered in the definition. Medication usage was not documented. Perhaps, patients who were most disruptive received more drugs without relief or even negative side effects? Additional medical issues were, likewise, omitted from the data. In the diverse ASD population, this could be a highly significant variable.

Conclusion
The outcome of this paper could have been that children who have better language skills are more likely to have tantrums! The authors were careful to leave that out. Plus, the closing sentence includes, “Our findings do not diminish the importance of evidence-based interventions…”

If, as the paper asserts, the reason for fewer tantrums was an individual’s type of intervention, then the conclusion seems to be that Functional Communication Therapy is useful for tantrums due to autism.

Or, one might deduce that each individual diagnosed with ASD is so different in their physical and mental state, that there is no certainty, at this time, to explain why this group showed a null relationship.

Is it true? Could tantrums, “… in large part be intrinsic to autism and not driven by developmental processes, such as language.” Is it important? Why? Perhaps, such insight could provide a more effective and efficient window of treatment options. Furthermore, there is general agreement that traditional measures can play an important role in remediation.

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